Best cameras for Northern Lights

Best lenses for Northern Lights photography in 2021

Without the best Northern Lights camera lens, it doesn’t really matter how good your camera is.

Photographing the Northern Lights is my passion and I’ve spent years shooting the Aurora using different camera lenses. Today, I can sum up the best lenses to photograph the Northern Lights:

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 NORTHERN LIGHTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Apart from having a good lens, using the best settings to shoot the Northern Lights is fundamental in capturing the best possible images. Also, don’t forget that cameras are essential in night photography, so make sure you pair your lens with one of the best cameras for Northern Lights photography.

Best Camera and lens for photographing the Northern Lights

Having a fast lens is key in Northern Lights photography – Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8

This winning list of the best lenses for the Northern Lights only includes wide-angle lenses since these offer the best field of view to capture the Aurora. Also, all these lenses are concretely designed for Full-Frame cameras.

Nevertheless, in this guide you’ll find a comprehensive list of the best lenses to take pictures of the Northern Lights according to your budget and preferences. I’ve included some of the best zoom and prime APS-C lenses, and the best Nikon, Sony, and Canon lenses for Northern Lights photography.

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

Let’s get started with the best lenses for shooting the Northern Lights!

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1. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G – The best lens for Northern Lights photography

The Sony 20 mm f/1.8 is the best lens for photographing the Northern Lights. The quality in low-light photography is stunning. It’s fast and sharp even in the corners, with no deformations, aberrations, and other issues commonly found in other Aurora 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 night photography lens. The field of view and aperture are also perfect for filming the Aurora and shooting Northern Lights time-lapses.

2. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 – best wide-angle lens for Northern Lights

This is by far the best general wide-angle lens to photograph the Northern Lights. It offers the two most important features in any lens for Aurora photography: a wide-angle field of view and luminosity. The only cons are its price and weight. Compatible with: Nikon, Sony and Canon full-frame cameras.

3. Venus Laowa 15mm f/2 – best third-party Northern Lights lens

This is one of the best 3rd party lenses for Northern Lights 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 something to consider if you plan to use it as a lens for landscape photography. Compatible with: Sony, Nikon and Canon mirrorless cameras.

A wider version of Laowa for Northern Lights photography is the Laowa 12 mm f/2.8

4. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 – Best cheap lens for Northern Lights photography

This is the best affordable lens for Northern Lights photography. It’s wide, light, fast, it doesn’t have a strong comma in the corners, and the best thing; it’s fairly cheap. The only disadvantage of this lens is the lack of autofocus, but it’s always better to use the manual focus when shooting the Aurora as I explain in the focus section of my Northern Lights photography guide. Compatible with: Nikon, Sony, Canon, Fuji, Pentax.

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

5. Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 – Best Nikon lens for Northern Lights

This is the latest fast wide-angle model for Nikon mirrorless cameras. It’s the lightest f/2.8 wide-angle zoom lens on the market, and it’s designed to capture the maximum quality in low-light conditions. If you’re shooting with a Nikon Z mirrorless camera, this is your lens for the Northern Lights.

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

This is Canon’s fastest ultra-wide-angle zoom, and it’s designed for their mirrorless R models. It’s fast, wide, and the most versatile lens for Northern Lights if you’re a Canon mirrorless shooter. Use this lens with the Canon EOS Ra Astro camera, and you’ll see otherworldly 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 Northern Lights. It’s sturdy, sharp, and the glass is 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 Northern Lights photography. It offers excellent image quality across the entire focal length, which is rare in other ultra-wide-angle lenses. The main con is that it’s bulky and the heaviest Aurora lens on this list. 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 one of the best cheap lenses for shooting the Northern Lights for DSLR cameras. Available for: Nikon and Canon Full-frame DSLR models and Pentax.

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

This lens is not as popular as the other models but it doesn’t mean that it’s worse. It offers an excellent resolution, contrast, and colors. The body is robust and weatherproof to withstand extreme conditions, and it includes an OLED display so you can easily 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 Aurora photography

APS-C sensors are not the best for low-light photography and for capturing light, so pairing your crop-sensor camera with a good fast lens is important if you want to get the best Northern Lights images.

Best prime lenses for shooting the Aurora Borealis (APS-C)

Best wide-angle zoom lenses for shooting the Northern Lights (APS-C)

  • Sony – FE 12-24mm F4 G: This is the best wide-angle Aurora 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 Northern Lights photography

Speaking specifically about the best Nikon lenses for the Northern Lights, apart from the Nikkor Z 14-24 f/2.8 S you can find:

  • Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8G ED: This is the lens I used for years to photograph the Northern Lights. 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. You can see the Aurora images I’ve taken with this lens in my Northern Lights photography guide.
  • Nikkor Z 20 mm f/1.8 S: One of the best 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 Northern Lights.
  • Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED: The best Nikon prime lens for shooting the Northern Lights. 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 Northern Lights 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 lens for shooting The Northern Lights

Sony has some of the best lenses to photograph the Northern Lights. Apart from the Sony 20 mm f/1.8 mentioned above, these are my 3 picks:

  • Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM: Wide-angle scenes, video, time-lapse… this is a very versatile lens to shoot the Northern Lights. It’s also my main pick for other night shootings like photographing the Milky Way. I’ve been using it in the field for a long time, and 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 Northern Lights.
  • Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM: This is the fastest and most versatile ultra-wide-angle zoom for Northern Lights photography. It’s heavier, bulkier, and more expensive than other Sony lenses, but the possibilities are endless. It’s also the perfect option for shooting Aurora panoramas and time-lapses.
  • Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM: The 24 mm G Master model is more expensive, but it’s widely considered the best Sony Aurora lens in terms of image quality and performance. It’s also a good lens for filming the Northern Lights using the wide f/1.4 aperture.

Best Canon lens for the Northern Lights

Speaking of the top Canon lenses to shoot the Northern Lights, both of these 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 Northern Lights. It’s wide and fast enough to capture the movement of the Aurora.

What makes a good Northern Lights camera lens?

There are some fundamental things to consider when buying lenses for Northern Lights photography. Some of the most important are:

Prime lenses are the best lenses in Northern Lights photography. They offer the highest 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 the Aurora at different focal lengths. On the contrary, they are bulkier, heavier, more expensive, and can’t offer the same quality as a good prime lens for a specific focal length.

Wide-angle lenses are the most popular option for shooting the Northern Lights. Shooting the Northern Lights with these lenses tends to be easier since they can gather more light and they also allow you to capture the entire Northern Lights show when they spread across the sky.

Medium range and long focal lengths are usually aimed at capturing details in the Northern Lights. Using a focal length like 50 mm or longer, you can focus on a specific area where the Northern Lights are “dancing”.

This is the most important feature in a good lens for shooting the Northern Lights. The super short shutter speed and high ISO necessary to shoot the Northern Lights 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.

If you have the chance, my recommendation is to use a f/1.8 lens. This difference is very significant in intense Aurora shows where you might need to take 1-second exposures at night.

To put it simply, this refers to how blurry your camera’s image are in the corners of the frame when capturing the stars. High-quality lenses with low coma can capture 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.

Using a large aperture is another key factor in capturing pictures with more coma.

The wider and lower-quality the lens, the more distortion you’ll see in your Northern Lights shots. This is something to consider when choosing a lens for the Northern Lights, especially if you’re shooting the Aurora over buildings, trees, or similar elements.

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

Conclusion

Choosing the best camera lens for Northern Lights photography is not easy, but it’s critical if you want to capture the best possible images.

Once you have a good camera for shooting the Northern Lights and know the best camera settings in Northern Lights photography, using the right lens will be the key factor in getting a sharp and quality image.

Best lenses for filming the Northern Lights

Having the right lens is fundamental for taking the best Aurora images – Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8

Some Northern Lights lenses are expensive, so a good tip is to rent a Northern Lights photography lens for your particular trip. This is also a good option for testing a lens before purchasing it. This is something I usually do before my Lofoten Northern Lights photo tours.

In my case, I always rent my Aurora photography lenses with Lensrentals, which operates in the US. Their rentals are cheap and straightforward to process. Besides, 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 near you in our guide to Camera lens rentals.

I hope this article helps you choose the best Northern Lights lens. If you aren’t sure if you can shoot the Aurora with your lens, or if you have any other questions related to Northern Lights gear, feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Captures and clear skies!

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- PHOTOGRAPHING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS - 

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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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