A Quick Look at Some of Our Favorite Fast Lenses for Astrophotography

The Astrophotography season in the Nothern Hemisphere is about to kick off, and these lenses will help you capture the millions of stars in the night sky.

Right around the end of March is an exciting time for photographers in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only are warmer days afoot, but the Milky Way and all of the beauty and splendor it adds to the night sky finally become visible. Astrophotography is seen as a hard genre to break into by many, but it needn’t be that way. Anyone with a camera made in the last decade and some fast glass can create gorgeous astroscapes with a little practice. After the break, we will take a quick look at some lenses on multiple platforms that are perfect for astrophotography.

Not too long ago, we created a roundup of cameras for astrophotography, but honestly, most cameras these days are more than capable. I know photographers who use an old Canon T3i to capture their Astro shots. Lenses are more important for this genre of photography, and having a little knowledge of the night sky, what settings to use, and knowing how to locate objects in the sky can go a long way. Fortunately, we have an excellent astrophotography guide that can help you with most of this. 

astrophotography

Listed below are some wide aperture lenses that can really aid in helping to create gorgeous night sky shots. The faster the lens the better; you will need to be able to capture a lot of light from the stars which are millions of miles away. The good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune to get great lenses. We have listed lenses from several price brackets to help you make your decision.

Tamron 20mm F2.8 Di III OSD

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Well built
  • Affordable
  • Nice colors
  • Tamron is embracing Mirrorless with a small and lightweight offering.
  • Weather-sealed very well; it survived a few hours in the rain.
  • Autofocuses quickly
  • Priced at only $349

Cons

  • This is one of the most heavily distorted lenses we’ve tested in a while. You can use that to your advantage, or you can correct it in post

Buy now: $349

Canon RF 35mm F1.8 USM IS

street photography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Fairly fast to focus
  • It’s a lens designed to always be on your camera.
  • Image stabilization (very much needed in the system)
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Sharp enough for most uses but not as sharp as most L glass we’ve seen and used. Still, it’s a shocker.

Cons

  • We would have gladly paid more money weather sealing.

Buy now: $499

IRIX 15mm F2.4 FireFly

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Weather sealing
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Accurate focusing depth of field markers
  • Sharp optics
  • Innovative features like the ability to lock the focus with a separate ring

Cons

  • Focusing communication with a Sony FE camera via a Metabones adapter wasn’t the absolute best.

Buy now Canon EF: $375

Buy now Nikon F: $375

Buy now Pentax: $375

Rokinon 14mm F2.8 AF

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Sharp output
  • Accurate autofocus in most situations
  • The clear, crisp color that we’ve come to expect from Rokinon
  • Bokeh when needed
  • Weather sealing

Cons

  • A few inconsistencies with the focus

Buy now Canon EF: $599

Buy now Nikon F: $599

Buy now Sony E: $599

Captured with the Canon EOS Ra and the Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8 L IS USM

Pro Tip: If you really want to get the most out of your camera and lenses when it comes to astrophotography, invest in a star tracker. Due to Earth’s rotation, you can shoot only relatively short exposures before you get star trails. A star tracker will enable you to shoot for minutes at a time without star trails. Star Trackers will also allow you to shoot at lower ISOs, which in turn will result in cleaner images. I use the Star Adventurer pro, but any star tracker will do the job.

Venus Optics Laowa 9mm F2.8

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Decent image quality
  • Sharp
  • Keeps the distortion down a whole lot
  • With a lens like this, you’re either focusing up close and personal or far away; there is no in-between.

Cons

  • The colors are just adequate.
  • Distortion around the corners is a bit annoying.

Buy now Canon M: $499

Buy now Fujifilm X: $499

Buy now M4/3: $499

Buy now Sony E (APS-C): $499

Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Fast aperture
  • Weather sealing to a point
  • Fast autofocus performance for the most part
  • Nice bokeh
  • Sharp, surprisingly sharp

Cons

  • To be honest, nothing

Buy now Canon M: $399

Buy now: M4/3: $398.99

Buy now Sony E (APS-C): $363.99

Fujifilm 16mm F1.4 R WR

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Very sharp wide open
  • Very sharp overall
  • The excellent metal build quality
  • The focusing ring allows for zone focusing
  • Pretty decent bokeh for a lens of this type, despite having nine aperture blades
  • Fast-focusing performance
  • Weather sealed construction
  • Keeps distortion down pretty well

Cons

  • Depth of field scale could have given us more focusing markers
  • More purple fringing than a modern lens should have despite it easily being removed in post-production

Buy now: $999

Sony 24mm F1.4 G Master

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Weather sealed
  • Superb image quality
  • Outstanding edge to edge sharpness, even when shooting wide open
  • Dreamy, circular bokeh
  • Impressive minimal focus distance of 0.79 feet (0.24 meters)

Cons

  • Slight color fringing (easily mitigated in post-processing)

Buy now: $1,398

The Canon EOS Ra with the Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8

Pro Tip: One thing for sure is that you are going to need a few items to be successful at astrophotography. First, you’re going to need a strong tripod so that you can get the longer exposures that are needed. Not sure which one to buy? Check our review section for tripod reviews. Secondly, we highly recommend a dedicated Intervalometer so that you can set up your camera to take multiple exposures. With an Intervalometer and a tripod, you’ll be able to set it and forget while your camera and lens do their thing.

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Damned good build quality
  • Super sharp wide open
  • The fact that its got wide to normal focal length range at a constant f1.8 blows our minds
  • Fast to focus
  • Perhaps the absolute best concert or astrophotography lens that anyone can get their hands on for APS-C

Cons

  • APS-C only; but that isn’t really a con. Sure, everyone wants a full-frame version.
  • Positively nothing else

Buy now Canon EF: $599.43

Buy now Nikon F: $577

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM

astrophotography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Image stabilization of five stops that works really well
  • Plenty of weather sealing
  • Wonderful overall build quality
  • Focuses very quickly
  • Images are ridiculously sharp
  • Great color reproduction
  • Silky smooth manual focus ring

Cons

  • A fair amount of vignetting wide open at f2.8 and set to 15mm
  • A little more distortion than we would like to see, but easily fixed during post
  • The zoom ring is perhaps just a little too stiff.
  • The price is up there with other RF mount glass ($2,299).
  • While the build quality is great, the plastic does feel a little cheap.
  • No gap between the zoom and focusing rings means you’ll turn the wrong one often.

Buy now: $2,299

Pentax 15-30mm F2.8 ED SDM WR

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Fantastic colors
  • Great image quality overall
  • Great weather sealing
  • Feels great in the hand
  • Fairly affordable price point
  • When connected to the camera, it can still fit into most messenger-style camera bags.
  • Fast-focusing, but it’s also a wide-angle lens so you have to expect that

Cons

  • Shows a bit more distortion than we’re used to seeing with wide-angle zooms these days (Canon and Sony especially!)
  • Focusing and zoom ring are a bit too small.

Buy now: $1,296

Olympus 7-14mm F2.8 PRO

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Very sharp
  • Relatively low distortion
  • The small form factor that will make this lens almost permanently attached to your camera.
  • f2.8 is awesome for light-gathering abilities.
  • Fast-focusing
  • Weather sealing
  • Super wide landscapes and buildings at one end while street photography ready at the other end

Cons

  • Bulbous front element is easily affected by the rain or any other sort of precipitation that you take this lens into

Buy now: $1,199

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.