The Most Exciting Lenses for Astrophotography at Photokina 2014

Astrophotographers should be excited about many of the new lenses announced this year at the Photokina 2014 conference in Cologne, Germany. We see lots of fast lenses and that’s a very good thing.

Here is a quick list of all the new Astrophotography relevant lenses announced at Photokina 2014, who they’re for and why we’re excited about them.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED

For astrophotography, this is the lens that excites me the most from the Photokina 2014 conference. A fast 20mm lens is super valuable for astro work: it’s super wide angle of view and fast aperture will provide great views of the night sky and collect plenty of light. The fastest 20mm previously available  for DSLRs was the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG RF Aspherical but it is too soft wide open and has too much aberration at f/1.8 for astrophotography. Hopefully Nikon can keep aberrations to a minimum on this new offering. If they can, I expect this lens to be the best 20mm lens available for astro work. The cool thing about Nikon lenses is that they’re easily adaptable to other mounts via adapters like the Novoflex Nikon to Canon EOS or Novoflex Nikon to Sony NEX and others. It’s also reasonably affordable

Fits: Nikon F Mount
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Samyang /Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC

samyang_rokinon_50mm_f1.4

 

This is the lens that we’ve all wanted Samyang to make for years now. It fills a gap in their already very good lineup of lenses and is their 4th lens with an aperture of f/1.4 (the others are the 24mm/1.4, 35mm/1.4, 85mm/1.4). We tend to love the lenses that come from Samyang. They’re typically very affordable, fast and have some of the best image quality of any of the lenses on the market. If it holds true to all their other lens designs, it will hopefully be great at correcting coma and astigmatism which should make for a great astrophotography lens. The only other 50mm lenses available that we recommend for astrophotography are the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*, both of which are markedly more expensive than the Samyang. A 50mm will be best used for making detailed astrophotography panorama stitches.

Fits: Canon EF, 4/3, Micro 4/3, Nikon F, Pentax, Samsung NX, Sony A, Sony E, Fuji X, and Canon M
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Samyang /Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye

samyang_rokinon_12mm_f2.8_fisheye

Also from Samyang is a new 12mm/2.8 fisheye lens for full frame sensors. There are very few fast fisheye lenses available for full frame cameras and the Samyang / Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 should be one of the widest fast lenses that you can buy. With a field of view of 180 degrees from corner to corner, this lens should be great for large sweeping landscapes. We love their 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II  (full review here) version for APS-C mirrorless cameras so we’re excited to see an offering to full-frame DSLRs. We can’t wait to try this lens and apply our defishing method to the images.

Fits: Canon EF, 4/3, Micro 4/3, Nikon F, Pentax, Samsung NX, Sony A, Sony E, Fuji X, and Canon M
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Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8

 

 

The Tamron 15-30mm looks like it will be an affordable super wide angle option for full frame DSLRs. We’re particularly interested at how it will stack up against the comparable (but more expensive) and excellent Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, and the affordable but manual focus Samyang / Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, some of our favorite super-wide angle choices for astrophotography. Tamron has always been second to Sigma in the third party lens market but consistently offers some great products. This offering is particularly unique because Sigma does not offer a fast full frame zoom in this range.

Fits: Canon EF, Nikon F
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Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 DX

 

The older version of this lens, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 II is one of the best lenses for astrophotography on APS-C DSLRs and this updated version is expected to improve upon an already excellent lens. If you’re shooting on an APS-C DSLR body and want a super wide angle lens with autofocus, the 11-20mm should be near the top of your list.

Fits: Canon EF-S, Nikon F DX
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Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R

 

We’re huge fans of Fujifilm’s X camera system, it’s what we used exclusively while traveling through Europe. The Fujifilm X-T1 is small and light, great at low-light shooting and the new X-T10 is a perfect compact camera.  The 16mm f/1.4 is the last most needed lens for the system with an equivalent field of view of a 24mm lens and a fast f/1.4 aperture. It will be the fastest 16mm lens ever made for a consumer camera and it could very well be the best astrophotography lens available for the Fujifilm X System. Can’t wait to try this one out.

Fits: Fujifilm X Mount
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Sony Zeiss FE Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZA

 

Sony’s full frame mirrorless a7 series of cameras are excellent camera bodies but the FE lens system is very new and limited in selection with only a handful of slower zooms and a couple standard primes. The announcement of the new Zeiss FE Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 is the first dedicated f/1.4 lens for the Sony full frame mirrorless cameras so it should hopefully be a good compact choice for users with an a7, a7R or a7S who want to shoot in very low light conditions. An interesting thing about this lens is that it’s going to feature a de-clickable aperture ring with stops from f/1.4 to f/16 and an “A” setting for automatic aperture mode.

Fits: Sony E Mount
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Sony FE 28mm f/2.0

sony-zeiss-fe-28mm-f2

The Sony 28mm f/2.0 should be a compact fast wide angle lens for astrophotography on the full frame Sony mirrorless system cameras like the a7, a7R and a7S. There’s not a lot of information available about this lens yet but it’s likely to be the most affordable full frame lens available for the a7, a7R and a7S. We would have preferred to see something with a wider field of view  like a 20mm or 24mm,  but a 28mm will suffice. Hopefully its performance at f/2.0 has low levels of aberration for astrophotography.

Fits: Sony E Mount
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Zeiss Otus APO Planar T* 85mm f/1.4

While a little bit long for the more common sweeping landscapes that we’re used to shooting at Lonely Speck, the Otus 85mm f/1.4 is sure to live up to its steep price tag by offering the sharpest and cleanest image of nearly any 85mm lens. The Otus 55mm f/1.4 is already one of the best standard primes available and we anticipate the 85mm version to be even better. This lens should be excellent for super detailed panorama stitches and for capturing smaller night sky objects.

Fits: Nikon F and Canon EF Mount
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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PROolympus-m-zuiko-digital-ed-7-14mm-f2.8-pro

The M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 has been in development for years now and should prove to be a top astrophotography choice for those with a Micro 4/3 camera. It will offer an extremely wide field of view and should be fast enough for astrophotography.

Fits: Micro 4/3
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Conclusions

We’re super excited to try out a select few of these lenses as they are released. Photographing the Milky Way is growing in popularity and lens manufacturers seem to be making a lot of suitable lenses for this photographic specialty.

It’s disappointing  that there were no announcements of suitable fast wide angle lenses from Canon. The current Canon EF lens lineup is doesn’t offer any really great choices for astrophotography in our opinion. Most of the fast wide angle lenses from Canon have far too much coma and astigmatism when shooting wide open and as a result we tend to not recommend them for astrophotography. Luckily for Canon users there are a lot of current and new lens offerings from third party lens manufacturers like Samyang / Rokinon, Sigma, Tokina, Tamron and Zeiss.

We were anticipating the announcement of a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art lens but it was never revealed at Photokina. Perhaps we’ll see it an other exciting products from the upcoming CP+ conference in Tokyo.

We hope to review a few select lenses from this list and more as they are announced. Are there any products that you want to see reviewed on Lonely Speck? Let us know in the comments.

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Thanks so much for being a part of our astrophotography adventure.

-Ian

34 Replies to “The Most Exciting Lenses for Astrophotography at Photokina 2014”

  1. Dear Ian
    I tested the Nikkor 20mm f1.8 in New-Zealand, it’s a great performer in astrophotography, even wide open, it behaves very decent in the corner. If you stop down to f2.5 the coma is nearly gone. I tested it on a D800 and a D750–> suberb astro-body very usable up to Iso 12800 -even on jpg- New Zealand has some of the darkest skies on earth 🙂 I’m still processing the time-lapses, they will be shown on youtube. Nice lens since it’s lightweight when you’re hiking in the mountains.
    I use a Samyang 14mm / 35mm , 85mm / Sigma 15mm , Sigma Art 50mm for timelapsing
    Bjorn

    1. Bjorn – do you have any posted imagery from your 20mm/1.8 taken on full frame? I’m wondering if I have a duff copy as I though the coma correction was pretty weak in the corners and not that well controlled by stopping down. I used a D750 and my corner frames looked a lot like the ones on lenstip.com. Maybe I am expecting too much – it would be useful to see what you regard as “decent”. Thanks! (I shot using the settings from the Milky Way calculator here, and also for about half the time on a higher speed to check I was not confusing things with star trails).

  2. Hey,
    Love the site! I like several others are looking forward to your review of the Nikon 20mm f1.8. Considering the specs I just haven’t really found anything talking about this lens for astro work.

    Keep up the great work

  3. Hi Ian,

    I just discovered your website and I am absolutely delighted with it, I really appreciate all the information you offer us in it.
    Some time ago I’m thinking about buying a Nikon mount lens for astrophotography (I own the D800) .When Nikon announced the new 20mm f1.8 at Photokina 2014, I thought it was the most appropriate for this discipline. Now I’m not sure if that is correct or whether it would be better to have a shorter focal length lens despite losing more than one f-stop in order to cover a larger area of sky (and include the Via Lactea). What would be better, Nikon 20mm f1.8 or Samyang 14mm f2.8?

    What do you think about a fisheye lens, specifically the also new Samyang 12mm f2.8? Could be used instead of the previous two or be just a complement?

    Thanks again for your work.

    1. Hi Armando
      Concerning the 20mm f1.8 Nikkor and 14mm Samyang, I own both, and like both. For Samyang select a good copy! It can be used from 2,8. I’ll some up a kind of review fot Fulframe:

      Nikkor some coma in the extreme corner at f1.8, it’s nearly gone at f2,5. In DX no issue at all. Bright lights, nearly no flares and if you close diafragm a bit you can get nice crisp starbursts. It happens when you’re time lapsing the night sky and the moon pops into the image. Samyang, has more light fall off, a bit lower coma, but is less resistant for bright sources in and around the frame. It’s more phrone to flare.

  4. The Zeiss 35/1.4 is going to be an exciting terrestrial lens, if it’s anything like the ze/zf versions. When I had the ZE 35/1.4 it did perform nicely on star fields as well. Wasn’t there a rumor of a 14-24/2.8 Sigma ART with front filter threads?… or was that not announced (yet)?

  5. So…. The Nikon 20mm f1.8 has been available for a while any news on how it handles in the real world? Particularly interested in how coma does in FX corners (have seen some mixed reviews).

    1. Pablo, test shots I have seen from the 20/1.8 show almost no coma. I’m working on getting a hold of one in the coming weeks so stand by for the review.

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