Best lenses for Milky Way

Best lenses for Milky Way photography in 2021

if you don’t have the best Milky Way camera lens, it doesn’t really matter which camera you’re using.

I’ve been testing and comparing different camera lenses and, in short, these are the best lenses to photograph the Milky Way:

1. Sony 20 mm f/1.8
2. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM
3. Venus Laowa 15mm f/2

4. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
5. Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 S
6. Canon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8
7. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG
8. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
9. Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone
10. Zeiss 18mm Batis f/2.8

  

Mount

System

Focal length

Aperture

Weight

Price

1. Sony 20 mm f/1.8

Sony 20 mm f/1.8 G

Sony

Mirrorless

20 mm

f/1.8

0.82 lb
(373 gr)

$900

2. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG

Best lens for Milky Way photography

Nikon
Sony
Canon

DSLR
Mirrorless

14 mm

f/1.8

2.58 lb
(1170 gr)

$1500

3. Venus Laowa 15mm f/2

Venus Laowa 15 f2 lens for Star photography

Nikon
Sony
Canon

Mirrorless

15 mm

f/2

1.10 lb
(500 gr)

$750

4. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

Best wide angle lens for Milky Way photography

Most Mounts

DSLR
Mirrorless

14 mm

f/2.8

1.43 lb
(650 gr)

$300

5. Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 S

Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 S

Nikon Z

Mirrorless

14-24 mm

f/2.8

1.43 lb
(650 gr)

$2400

6. Canon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8

Canon RF 15-35 f/2.8 L

Canon RF

Mirrorless

15-35 mm

f/2.8

1.85 lb
(840 gr)

$2300

7. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG

Best lens for Milky Way photography

Nikon
Sony
Canon

DSLR
Mirrorless

14-24 mm

f/2.8

1.75 lb
(795 gr)

$1300

8. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8

Good wide angle lens for Milky Way photography

Nikon
Sony
Canon

DSLR
Mirrorless

15-30 mm

f/2.8

2.45 lb
(1110 gr)

$1300

9. Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone

Irix 15mm f2.4 lens for Milky Way

Nikon
Canon
Pentax

DSLR

15 mm

f/2.4

1.34 lb
(608 gr)

$550

10. Zeiss 18mm Batis f/2.8

Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8

Sony E

Mirrorless

18 mm

f/2.8

0.73 lb
(330 gr)

$1500

BEST LENSES FOR MILKY WAY PHOTOGRAPHY

In addition to having a good lens, using the best settings to shoot the Milky Way is crucial to take the best possible images. Also, don’t forget that the camera is fundamental in night photography, so make sure you use your lens with one of the best cameras for Milky Way photography.

Best lenses for Milky Way photography

Having a bright and fast lens is key in Milky Way photography – Sony 20 mm f/1.8

This winning list of the best lenses for Milky Way photography only includes wide-angle lenses for the Milky Way since these are the best to capture our galaxy. Also, these lenses are specifically designed for Full-Frame cameras.

However, throughout this article, you’ll find a list of the best lenses to take pictures of the Milky Way according to your budget and preferences. I’ve included some of the best prime and zoom APS-C lenses and the best Nikon, Sony, and Canon lenses for Milky Way photography.

If you need buying advice, I’ve added a section with some key things to consider when buying a Milky Way lens.

Ready to find the best lenses for shooting the Milky Way?

GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY IN 2021

You'll also receive our PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way!

milky way calendar 2021

1. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G – The best lens for Milky Way photography

The Sony 20 mm f/1.8 is the best lens for shooting the Milky Way. The quality in low-light photography is stunning. It’s fast and sharp even in the corners, with no deformations, aberrations, and other issues common in other Milky Way lenses. It’s also light and compact, and the price is affordable compared to other quality prime lenses.

As soon as I tested it, it became my absolute favorite lens for shooting the Milky Way. You can see some examples of the images I’ve taken with this lens in my Milky Way photography guide.

2. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 – best wide-angle lens for Milky Way

This is probably the best general wide-angle lens to photograph the Milky Way. It offers the two most important features in any lens for night photography: a wide-angle field of view and speed. The only cons are its price and size/weight. Compatible with: Nikon, Sony, and Canon full-frame cameras.

3. Venus Laowa 15mm f/2 – best third-party Milky Way lens

This is one of the best 3rd party lenses for Milky Way photography in mirrorless cameras. It’s designed specifically for night and low-light photography, and it’s very compact and light. It doesn’t require special filters, which is also something to consider if you plan to use it as a general landscape lens. Compatible with: Sony, Nikon, and Canon mirrorless cameras.

A wider version of Laowa for Milky Way photography is the Laowa 12 mm f/2.8

4. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 – Best cheap lens for Milky way photography

This is the best quality-priced lens for Milky Way photography. It’s wide, light, fast, doesn’t have a strong coma in the corners, and the best thing is that it’s very cheap. The only con is the lack of autofocus, but it’s always better to use the manual focus when shooting the Milky Way, as I explain in the focus section of my Milky Way photography guide. Compatible with: Nikon, Sony, Canon, Fuji, Pentax.

*Note: If you prefer a longer focal length to shoot the Milky Way, the Rokinon 20 mm f/1.8 and Rokinon 24 mm f/1.4 are also quality options at a great price.

5. Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 – Best Nikon lens for the Milky Way

This is the latest flagship for Nikon mirrorless cameras. It’s the lightest f/2.8 wide-angle zoom lens in the market, and the design keeps light-point sources like the stars round and sharp. If you’re shooting with any of the Nikon Z mirrorless models, this is your lens for Milky Way photography.

6. Canon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8 L – Best Canon lens for Milky Way

This is Canon’s fastest ultra-wide-angle zoom, and it’s designed to work with their mirrorless R models. It’s wide, fast, and the most versatile lens for Milky Way if you’re a Canon shooter. Pair this lens with the Canon EOS Ra Astro camera, and you’ll see the best results.

7. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG – Best Wide-angle zoom lens 

This is probably the best general wide-angle zoom to shoot the Milky Way. It’s robust, sharp, and built with impressive quality. Compatible with: Nikon, Sony, and Canon full-frame cameras.

8. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD 

This is a good wide-angle lens for Milky way photography. The image quality is superb across its entire focal length range, which is difficult to find in other ultra-wide-angle lenses. It’s a bit bulky compared to other fast wide-angle zoom lenses. Compatible with: Nikon, Canon, and Sony full-frame cameras.

9. Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone – Best cheap lens for DSLR

This lens can also be considered as one of the best quality-price lenses for shooting the Milky Way for DSLR cameras. Compatible with: Nikon and Canon Full-frame DSLR models and Pentax.

10. ZEISS 18 mm BATIS F/2.8 – An alternative for Sony E-mount

All Sony users talk about this lens in all Astrophotography forums for a good reason. It has an excellent resolution, contrast, and colors. The body is robust and weatherproof, and it includes an innovative OLED display to check the focus and depth of field. The main con is that it’s only available for Sony Full-Frame E-mount cameras.

Best APS-C lenses for Milky Way photography

APS-C sensors are not the best at gathering light, so pairing your crop-sensor camera with a fast and quality lens is crucial if you want to get the best Milky Way images.

Best prime lenses for shooting the Milky Way (APS-C)

Best wide-angle zoom lenses for shooting the Milky Way (APS-C)

  • Sony – FE 12-24mm F4 G: This is the best wide-angle Milky Way lens to pair with Sony crop-sensor models. It’s not f/2.8, but it’s wide and versatile. Compatible with: Sony.

Best Nikon Lenses for Milky Way Photography

Talking specifically about the best Nikon lenses for shooting the Milky Way, apart from the Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 S, you’ll find these lenses for full-frame cameras:

  • Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8G ED: This is the lens I used for years to photograph the Milky Way. It’s versatile, sharp, and fast. If you’re shooting with a Nikon DSLR, it’s still a great lens, and you can get it at a lower price. However, new lenses offer better functions and results, such as the Sigma 14-24 f/2.8.
  • Nikkor Z 20 mm f/1.8 S: One of the most interesting prime lenses for Nikon mirrorless shooters. This lens is designed specifically for low-light photography, and it’s one of the best Nikon lenses for shooting the Milky Way.
  • Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED: The best Nikon prime lens for shooting the Milky Way. This lens allows you to use a shorter shutter speed while capturing more light. The difference between f/1.4 or f/2.8 in night-sky photography is huge. A similar version of this lens for Nikon Z mirrorless cameras is the Nikkor Z 24 mm f/1.8 S.

Best Sony lenses for Milky Way photography

Sony has some of the best lenses to shoot the Milky Way. Apart from the Sony 20 mm f/1.8 mentioned above, these are my top 3 picks:

  • Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM: Wide-angle scenes, details, time-lapse… this is a very versatile lens to shoot the Milky Way.  I’ve been using it in the field for a long time, and it’s my main go-to lens not only for the Milky Way but also for other night shootings like Northern Lights photography. It’s extremely sharp across the entire range with outstanding image quality. To me, it’s the best Sony wide-angle zoom lens for shooting the Milky Way.
  • Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM: This is the fastest and most versatile ultra-wide-angle zoom for Milky Way photography. It’s heavier, bulkier, and more expensive than other Sony Milky Way lenses, but the possibilities are endless. It’s also the perfect option for shooting Milky Way panoramas and time-lapses.
  • Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM: The 24 mm G Master model is more expensive, especially for being a prime lens, but it’s widely considered as the best Sony Milky Way lens in terms of image quality and performance. It’s also a good lens for filming the Milky Way,  thanks to its f/1.4.

Best Canon lenses for Milky Way photography

If you’re looking for the top Canon lenses to shoot the Milky Way, any of these 2 primes for Canon DSLR can be a nice addition to your kit:

  • Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM: This is probably the best Canon lens for shooting the Milky Way. It’s wide and fast enough to capture sharp stars and the Milky Way in a few seconds.

What makes a good Milky Way camera lens?

There are some key things to consider when buying lenses for Milky Way photography. Some of the most important are:

Prime lenses are the best lenses in Milky Way photography. They offer the highest possible quality for a specific focal length, and they’re faster than zoom lenses. Also, they’re generally cheaper. Their main disadvantage is that they’re less versatile.

Zoom lenses are more versatile, allowing you to shoot at different focal lengths. On the flip side, they are bulkier, heavier, more expensive, and can’t match the quality of a good prime lens for a specific focal length.

Wide-angle lenses are the most popular option for shooting the Milky Way. Shooting the Milky Way with these lenses tend to be easier since they can gather more light and you can use a longer shutter speed. They also allow you to capture the Milky Way along with a great area of the scene, perfect for shooting Milky Way astrolandscapes.

Medium range and long focal lengths are usually aimed at capturing details of the Milky Way. Using a focal length like 50 mm or longer, you can focus on specific nebulae and regions of the Milky Way.

This is the most important feature in a good lens for shooting the Milky Way. The short shutter speed and high ISO necessary to shoot the Milky Way requires using the fastest possible lens. You can shoot the stars using lenses at f/4.5 or even narrower apertures, but you’ll see the best results shooting with lenses at f/2.8 or below.

To put it simply, this refers to how blurry your image looks in the corners of the frame. High-quality lenses with low coma can capture rounded stars as sharp points of light in the entire frame, while low-quality lenses with heavy coma can capture sharp stars in the center but blurry stars in the corners.

A large aperture is another key factor in getting images with more coma.

The wider and lower-quality the lens, the more distortion tends to be in Milky Way shots. This is an important  thing to consider when choosing a lens for Milky Way photography; if you shoot panoramas, try not to use ultra-wide-angles or the stitching/proportion will be more challenging to adjust.

Some cheap Milky Way lenses capture images with a strong vignetting in the corners. This is something you can fix in post-processing to a certain extent, but, generally, the less vignetting in a Milky Way lens, the better.

Conclusion

Choosing the best camera lens for Milky Way photography is not easy, but it’s fundamental if you want to capture the best possible images.

Once you have a good camera for shooting the Milky Way and know the best camera settings in Milky Way photography, having the right lens will be the key factor in having a sharp and quality shot.

Best lenses for Milky Way photography

Having the right lens is fundamental for taking the best images – Sony 16-35 mm f/2.8

Some Milky Way lenses are expensive, so a good tip is to rent a Milky Way photography lens for your trip. This is also a good option for testing a lens before purchasing.

In my case, I always rent my Milky Way photography lenses with Lensrentals, which operates in the US. Their rentals are cheap and straightforward. Plus, if you rent your equipment through this link and use the Lensrental promo code ATLAS15, you will get a 15% discount.

Night photography gear camera and lenses rental

For example, the one-week rental of the Sony 12-24 f/2.8 GM is $93, while the full price of this lens is $2,998.

You can check other camera rental companies in your location in our guide to Camera lens rental.

I hope this guide helps you choose the best Milky Way lens according to your needs. If you aren’t sure if you can shoot the Milky Way with your lens, or if you have any other questions, feel free to reach out in the comments 😉

Happy Captures and clear skies!

GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY IN 2021

You'll also receive our PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way!

milky way calendar 2021

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COFOUNDER & PHOTO TOUR LEADER

Dan is a professional nature and landscape photographer, photography educator, and co-founder of Capture the Atlas. His base camp is in Philadelphia, USA, but he spends long periods of time exploring and photographing new locations around the world.

Apart from shooting the Milky Way, the Northern Lights, and any landscape that can stir powerful emotions, he enjoys leading photo tours to some of the most remote places on Earth.

You can find more about Dan here.

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2 thoughts on “Best lenses for Milky Way photography in 2021

    • Dan Zafra says:

      You have a very good lens for Milky Way photography Beth! You can learn how to make the most of your gear following our Milky Way photography guide, I’m sure you can take incredible shots with that lens 😉

      Happy shooting and clear skies!
      Dan

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