The best wide angle lenses for astrophotography 2020

Feb 1, 2020

Derek Sturman

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The best wide angle lenses for astrophotography 2020

Feb 1, 2020

Derek Sturman

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Colorado 2019, Nikon D850 Tamron 15–30 @15mm

When it comes to Astrophotography, the lens can often times end up being more important than the camera. Good lenses allow you to get sharp images at wide apertures, with little chromatic aberration, astigmatisms, or coma.

In this article we are going to go over my picks for the top of the line of the best Lenses for modern Full frame DSLR cameras available today.

It should be noted that the title of this article could easily be swapped for “My Favorite Lenses for Astrophotography” since a lot of this will be based primarily off of my experience and preferences, and I would highly recommend getting more than one opinion.

The best of the best:

#1 Sigma 14–24 F2.8

For Nikon F

For Canon Eos

For Sony E

For Leica L

#2 Tamron 15–30 F2.8

For Nikon

For Canon

For Sony A

For Nikon F

For Sony E

For Canon EOS

For Nikon F

Zeiss Batis 18mm, 2.8

For Canon

For Sony

For Nikon

California 2019, Tamron 15–30 @15mm

When it comes to Astrophotography there are a lot of options. In all honesty I have not yet had the opportunity to test every available lens for Astrophotography, however I have had some hands on experience with some of the lenses many would consider to be the golden standard like the Nikkor 14–24 2.8.

For the most part when you are doing Single exposures you want to stick to wide angle lenses because anything that is zoomed in too far will make star trailing a lot more evident. Depending on your megapixel count you may be able to go up to 50mm 1.8 if you are shooting shorter exposures. I’m going to keep it simple and stick with wide angles for this article.

Sample image of star trailing.

Usually wide angle tends to refer to a lens that is wider than 50–25mm. I like ton consider any lens that is wider than 35mm a wide angle. For full frame cameras, most wide angles are somewhere in the 14–30mm range, with anything wider than 14mm generally being considered a “fish eye”. There are a few excellent fish eye lenses out there but It wouldn’t be my first choice for any kind of astrophotography due to the extreme distortion.

I personally would recommend something in that 14–30mm range. I personally have the Tamron 15–30 and though sometimes I do wish I had that extra 1mm, the extended range to 30mm actually comes in handy quite often.

Sigma 14–24 F2.8 on Amazon:

For Nikon F

For Canon Eos

For Sony E

For Leica L

The Sigma 14–24 is the direct rival to the Nikkor 14–24, which has been considered by many to be the king of wide angle lenses for landscape and astro landscape photography. Being quite a few years newer than the Nikkor, it does have some small improvements in corner sharpness, chromatic aberration and vignette. Though you probably wouldn’t be able to tell unless you compared them side by side.

Pros:

Slightly better performance than the Nikkor 14–24

Standard 14–24mm giving you that range of focal lengths

Incredibly sharp at F2.8

Cheaper by several hundred than the Nikkor

Available for Canon, Nikon, Sony & Leica

Excellent Coma, Chromatic aberration and corner sharpness

Cons:

Barely less wide than the Nikkor at 14mm

As I mentioned above it does appear that the Nikkor 14–24 has a slightly wider version of 14mm by something less than 1mm but still if you need the absolute widest, then the Nikkor might be for you. I generally consider this lens to be the winner because it not only delivers the much desired 14–24mm with some quality improvements over the longstanding king (the Nikkor) but it is also available for Canon, Sony and Leica which makes it more versatile as a product.

I am hoping to do a head to head battle between this and the Nikkor someday but until then there are several other photographers who have already done so and you can find their videos here:

Also a little personal preference I prefer the Sigmas sunstars to the Nikkors. This may not matter to you or you may prefer the Nikkor sunstars but if you are planning to be doing any of that, you will want to take that into consideration.

Tamron 15–30 F2.8 on Amazon:

For Nikon

For Canon

For Sony A

The Tamron 15–30 has quickly become my favorite lens. I do not currently own the Sigma 14–24 (though in the future I would love to have one in the bag) . However I have had the Tamron 15–30 for several years now, and it has been my primary go too workhorse for most of my landscape and astro images.

Pros:

Excellent performance at F2.8

Excellent corner sharpness

manageable & Very acceptable Chromatic Aberration

Cheaper by Several Hundred than the Nikkor

Added Focal range to 30mm

Appears to be indestructible (in my experience)

Superior color cast to the Nikkor (opinion)

Arguably performs better than the Nikkor in some areas

Available for Canon, Nikon & Sony

Cons:

15mm instead of 14mm

Bulky (kinda bulky and heavy but not by much)

Most of the time the only Two lenses I carry are the Tamron and the Nikkor 70–300 F4 (Which I would replace with the Tamron equivalent in a heart beat). And 90% of the time I am using the Tamron. In all honesty I even find myself trying to change my composition to use the Tamron over the Nikkor because I find its performance far superior.

The Tamron 15–30 on my Nikon D850 In California, 2018

Color:

In many of my images I tend to notice that switching to the nikkor 70–300 brings a warmer, greener cast to it. I know this isn’t a very scientific comparison as it is two lenses of completely different focal lengths, however I do find that I am always getting more natural and easier found tonal balances consistently in the Tamron. You may already know that color correcting an image that is too cool is much easier than correcting and image that is too warm, and the Tamron tends to consistently be much cooler making the RAWs much much easier to correct in post.

Is this just my imagination?? well even if it is I have found the Tamron to be tack sharp at F2.8 ALWAYS. After years of heavy use and abuse, I still trust it to be tack sharp at its widest aperture, something I absolutely cannot say about the Nikkor 70–300 (again comparing apples to oranges) . Yet It is still impressive.

Durability:

After several years of non stop use and absolute minimal care (cleaning dust and water spots) . This lens performs at an absolutely acceptable level. I really wish I had tally marks on the thing for how many 6 foot drops onto solid rock in the deserts of southern Utah this thing has survived.

Just to put it in perspective, I once had my camera and lens on my tripod, raised to my eye level at a set of falls located inside of a slot canyon near Zion national Park (you know which ones ;) ). Well I had gone up to this location at something like 6 am to avoid the hoards of college students who flock to this location, and thinking I was totally alone, someone behind me threw a large boulder into the water to make a splash not knowing I was ahead of them around the corner. They did this right as I was dismounting the camera from the tripod to put it back in my dry bag, and the sound startled me into dropping the camera at full height onto the gravel like rock of the river bed. The 1nch or less water in that specific spot (or maybe the drop I’m still not sure) killed my Nikon D810, however the lens was without a scratch.

Tamron 15–30 @15mm Utah, 2019

On another occasion in 2018 I was set up, Again with my tripod at eye level, at a well known bridge near the court of the patriarchs in Zion National Park. This time I was swapping lenses with the camera on the tripod while standing in the river. Well I slipped just when I had the lens up to the camera with the cap off to mount it and it fell right onto the exposed rock in front of me and bounced. The lens hood cracked just a little, and the exterior got a few narly scratches… YET SOMEHOW, the beast keeps on trudging. I honestly would not expect any lens to survive a fall like that, and I thought for sure I had doomed my favorite lens that night. However I was actually able to just pick it up (lucky that it didn’t land in the water and wash away) throw it on, and take my shots with no noticeable loss in quality.

Tamron has not endorsed or sponsored me in any way as of this article (though I am hoping to work with them in the near future as soon as I get my lazy ass back out to shoot again) I simply feel that when someone creates an excellent product, it deserves to be recognized. Of the lenses I have had the opportunity to shoot with so far, I could not be happier with the reliability and outstanding performance of the Tamron. This is why I have been happy using it almost exclusively for the past 3 years.

Cost:

Being several hundred dollars cheaper than the Nikkor… I can’t really see much reason to recommend the Nikkor to you over this. In some cases people have argued the Tamron has identical or superior performance to the Nikkor so, just something to take into consideration.

Sunstars:

Again, not really related to night photography but I prefer the sunstars created by the Tamron significantly, this is personal preference but… just something to consider.

Tamron 15–30 , Wyoming USA 2017

Tamron 15–30 F2.8 on Amazon:

For Nikon

For Canon

For Sony A

Nikkor 14–24 F2.8 on Amazon:

Nikkor 14–24 F2.8 for Nikon F

The Nikkor is the longstanding ring champion and is still used and trusted some of the greatest landscape and astro landscape photographers in the world. If you are looking for a lens with a longstanding proven history of being on of the all time best and trusted by some of the greatest photographers alive.. this is definitely your lens.

However, with a market of newer and more innovative lenses on the market I simply could not place this lens in first. It has been more than a decade since Nikon released this lens and it is slowly meeting its competition.

Pros:

Excellent performance in low light

Excellent performance at wide angle and low aperture

Widest of all the options

Long standing trusted reputation by some of the greatest photographers alive

Outstanding wide angle corner sharpness and more active lens calibration software based around this lens

Cons:

Most expensive of the list

Older than the others

Strange sunstars (opinion)

Nikkor color cast (opinion)

Nikon F mount Only

Don’t get me wrong if you already have the Nikkor it is still an excellent lens, one of the absolute best on the market.. but if you are looking to add a new lens to your bag, I don’t see much reason to pick the Nikkor when you can get the sigma with improved performance for cheaper, or the Tamron with similar performance for cheaper. This lens is still an Excellent choice for Astrophotography, I just think that Nikon needs to update it in order for it to remain competitive with the Sigma and Tamron.

Sigma 14mm F1.8 on Amazon:

For Sony E

For Canon EOS

For Nikon F

The ultimate lens for Aurora Photography.

This first of its kind, the Sigma 14mm 1.8 offers extreme aperture at extremely wide fields of view. This lens is one of the most ideal choices for photographers who plan on photographing the northern lights primarily.

Due to its wider aperture, you can capture shorter, less blurred exposures of the aurora with less noise. This is what I estimate to be the area where this lens really shines.

Pros:

Extreme wide aperture F1.8

Wide angle 14mm combined with wider aperture range

available for Nikon, Canon and Sony

Excellent performance at extreme apertures

Cons:

Slight Astigmatisms caused by the extreme aperture

Coma caused by wide apertures

14mm only

In the end I think this is potentially the greatest lens available for Aurora photography specifically. However for astrophotography in general F1.8 is great! but I find 2.8 completely sufficient and even prefer it for its sharpness and quality benefits.

When using a lens with an aperture as extreme as this, there are definitely going to be some sacrifices in quality. The Sigma keeps these to a bare minimum for a lens this wide which is excellent, this is just something you should consider when looking into the 14mm 1.8.

Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 on Amazon:

For Sony E

Admittedly I have no experience with this lens. I have only heard quite a bit about it. This lens appears to be another very Solid option when it comes to picking a wide angle, and it always appears on astrophotography forums for Sony Users.

Pros:

Medium Wide focal length

Nice F2.8 aperture

Great alternative option for Sony users

Reputation of quality lenses

Cons:

Sony Users only

Not as wide as the others

One focal length

To avoid misinforming you I won’t speculate on this lens too much. From what I know about it is a very reasonable choice for astrophotography. As always I would advise seeing what other opinions on it you can find.

Rokinon 14mm F2.8 on Amazon:

For Canon

For Sony

For Nikon

If you are on a tight budget, this is going to be my very first recommendation to you. Don’t be discouraged seeing this lens here at the bottom of the list, this is a list of the greatest lenses (in my opinion) of all time for astrophotography. The fact you can get into that market at a price like this is incredible, and having this lens doesn’t make you any less of a photographer just because of a few numbers on a tag.

The Rokinon is exceptionally capable for what you pay for it. I think it should be noted that with some post processing work, 99% of people would never notice the difference of images created with this lens and the Sigma 14–24mm when viewed online.

Pros:

Cheapest option on the list by far

Very high quality for the money

14mm wide

Sharp at F2.8

Small and easy to pack

Available for Canon, Sony & Nikon

Cons:

Slight issues with focus in some models

Coma is more heavy

A little more chromatic aberration and quality issues

only 14mm

In the end, if you want into the astrophotographers elitist gear club and just don’t want to fork out the cash for the very expensive pieces of glass up above.. well this is certainly and excellent option for you.

Especially for someone who is just starting out, in all honesty this is more than sufficient and many people would consider this to be a totally acceptable level of performance. That will be up to you to decide based on where you plan to take your images.

Please note that all of the lenses I have reviewed here are for Full frame cameras, and that this is only the opinions and research of a single photographer. I would always recommend getting more than one opinion, however I can assure you that the top three on this list will always be in the top tier of greatest wide angles available today.

If you feel I missed something or didn’t mention a lens, please comment below so we can all learn and grow together! I will do my best to respond too and follow the comments on these articles so that we can all stay up to date.

About the Author

Derek Sturman is a Utah-based astro and landscape photographer. You can find more of Derek’s images on his website and follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here and is shared with permission.

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17 responses to “The best wide angle lenses for astrophotography 2020”

  1. The Moeller Avatar
    The Moeller

    I recently picked up a 15mm Venus laowa f2 and it’s pretty nice. I’ve tried a few lenses so far, and while the RF 15-35 is superb, the price isn’t. Pretty sharp even at f2 and I don’t see any ca

  2. Seth McKiness Avatar
    Seth McKiness

    Rokinon 12mm F2 and Laowa 9mm are good Mirrorless options

  3. Edward Bushman Anderson Avatar
    Edward Bushman Anderson

    Nice to see he covered Micro Four Thirds formats in his article. Typical full frame biased article… yet again!

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Would you rather people post and recommend gear they haven’t tried and don’t actually use? Where’s the use in that? What are your micro four thirds recommendations? :)

      1. Edward Anderson Avatar
        Edward Anderson

        I just feel if you’re going to cover the topic in an article then I think one needs to “cover the topic” and not just touch on objectives that suit the writer, but also the reader.

        As to your question on what would be best for micro four thirds – Well for “Night Sky” photography (Astrophotography is the use of a telescope to photograph celestial bodies) I think either the Olympus 7-14 or PanaLeica 8-14 would probably be the best bet. If affordability was an issue and you don’t mind manual focus the Rokinon 12mm would also do the trick.

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          I’d rather people cover the topic with gear they actually know well and use and can provide an informed opinion on. To expect any single person to have access to all of the cameras and lenses ever made just to be able to account for every possible combo of gear that every potential reader might have is just asinine.

          The topic was covered based on the author’s knowledge, experience and gear available. He also didn’t mention any Fuji, Hasselblad or Phase One medium format lenses (or Fuji APS-C, or Nikon Z, or Canon RF, or Canon EF-M, or Sigma SD, or etc.). Are you equally as upset about that?

  4. Bill McLaughlin Avatar
    Bill McLaughlin

    Why does everyone call this astrophotography? It is great but is not astrophotography… It is night landscape photography. True astrophotography is of astronomical objects in detail..

    1. Chip Avatar
      Chip

      I pretty much agree. Another moniker I’ve seen used to address the type of photography discussed in this article is astro-landscape, with or without the hyphen.

    2. marcellus2 Avatar
      marcellus2

      Astroscape is the word you are looking for.
      Use a declicked Rokinon fisheye for astroscaping. Very good around 4-5. There is no distortion since you take a Pic of curvature.

  5. Echo Auxgen Avatar
    Echo Auxgen

    For Sony mark II cameras and above the sensors are ISO Invariant meaning noise level from ISO 800 to 51200 are mostly the same, so most any lens can be used. I have the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 and is heavy and big, I enjoy the SEL1224G f/4 the most it is super/ultra wide making a small Milky Way with a wide Astroscape also gets a great panorama with with the fewest frames across and if early season only one level but an easy two level mid season. IF, If you want light filters you can use a lens mount filter or the better sensor cover filter. The one thing not mentioned is the SS for each different MM lens, Easy to use PhotoPills Spot Stars NPF rule Accurate and Default for camera and lens mm, even a wide f/# will be a shorter SS!! Another is SEL1635Z f/4 sharp pinpoint stars. For astroscapes start low cost (do not say cheap, all are good glass) and stay at SS stated with NPF rule, also use NR for a cleaner image in camera – it is only a single image and a few extra seconds, late January (this year) and if early February is there an hour before blue hour to rush it!!!

  6. DaddyWarTrucks Avatar
    DaddyWarTrucks

    The Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 G2 is a BEAST…not talkking about size either. I love my copy…I use it for Landscape/Astrophotography/Architecture AND Street photography.

    1. Steve Miller Avatar
      Steve Miller

      I have the previous version and it’s incredible. Wonder if the G2 is better.

      1. DaddyWarTrucks Avatar
        DaddyWarTrucks

        It is…I had and loved the first Gen but the Gen2 is just another lens all together…way more than just an upgrade.

  7. Rob Paden Avatar
    Rob Paden

    I surprised the author didn’t mention more fast wide angle lenses. A good 24 / 1.4 or even an 1.8 are great for Astro. This reads more like click bait then an honest review.

  8. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    Is this a best wide angle lens for nikon? I really can’t find anything out there on the new Canon RF 15 30 yet. For astrophotography purposes. I’d like to know if you have seen any yet?

  9. Leander Berg Avatar
    Leander Berg

    Really just get a cheap lens and a tracker. That costs the same and allows you to take truly amazing pictures instead of using wider apertures with lower focal lengths to try and mitigate blur. A tracker costs 250-450€ and allows to even mount telephoto lenses and take Minute-Long exposures.
    Also you can always just stack images. Just use Photoshop and auto-align them and you’ll have most of the benefits of any expensive solution. You need to stack anyways, even with a tracker, to get multi-hour exposures.

  10. Ray Qadri Avatar
    Ray Qadri

    Since you are Nikon bandwagons you completely ignored Canon 14mm f2.8 L II and Canon 11-24 4.0. I have used both of these for commercial projects and Zi would use the same for delivering Stunning Astro, Architecture, landscape and cityscape photography.