Photographing the Milky Way handheld with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens

Dec 4, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographing the Milky Way handheld with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens

Dec 4, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Only a few short years ago, the idea of handheld photographs of the Milky Way would’ve been a thing of fantasy. Now, though, thanks to fast ultrawide glass and the super high ISO performance of today’s cameras, it’s a whole different story. This is proven by photographer Alyn Wallace. He shoots the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens on his Sony A7SII in this video where he does exactly that.

YouTube video

Alyn is using the Canon EF mount version of the lens along with the Sigma MC-11 adapter. He treks off into the Elan Valley, one of the darkest parts of Wales in order to test out his idea. To shoot the Milky Way handheld – which he admits is a bit of a mad idea. But he wants to try it anyway. And, why not?

First, Alyn figures out how long he should be able to comfortable handhold. With the typical 1/focal length rule, that means about 15mm. But the Sony A7SII has in-body image stabilisation. This means potentially he could go up to about 4 stops slower, or a full second. The trick, though, is still to get a good steady stance and handholding position. Lens & camera stabilisation is not infallible.

The noise levels at the ISO 25,600-102,400 range he was shooting were quite high. But, with some noise reduction in post, they clean up extremely well, which speaks volumes about the lens’s clarity.

It’s like I stuck a black hole on the front of my camera, and it’s just sucking in all the light and swallowing it up.

Alyn did also shoot some the old fashioned way, from a tripod, too. And the results are pretty amazing, too.

ISO 12,800, f/2.2 25 seconds

Alyn does notice a little bit of coma, corner softening, and some star stretching due to lens distortion. But he does say that for his workflow, it’s not going to be much of a problem. If you’re spending this much on a lens, though, it’s good to know.

There’s a more complete writeup on Alyn’s thoughts over on his website. So, definitely head on over and check that out. But it looks like the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 is a winner, all things considered.

 

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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