The Best Lenses for Photographing the Stars & Milkyway

Star Photography

Full Frame Prime Lens Options

★ Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Watch my video review - $1599.00 (autofocus)

  • Widest aperture lens at this focal length (allows for shorter exposures and or exposures with low ISO shooting the stars, Milky Way and Aurora Borealis
  • Sharp, minimal distortion
  • Autofocus (versatile during the daytime)


  • Expensive
  • Some Coma on brighter stars, wide open
  • Heavy with bulbous front end

Despite some Coma wide open, this is the BEST lens you can buy for shooting the stars - nothing else is this sharp, this fast. Watch my video review for more information and sample images. 

★ Irix Firefly 15mm f/2.4Watch my video review - $400 (manual focus)

  • Sharp, minimal distortion
  • Locking focus ring
  • Glowing Lens markings for night time shooting
  • Focus click at infinity
  • Customizable focus


  • Uses 95mm filters

I struggle to come up with anything bad to say about this lens. Sure it uses 95mm Filters and all but the thinnest filters will add some vignetting but it is one of the only lenses on this list that even takes screw on filters. It is very easy to work with in the dark, the locking focus ring and the click stop at infinity focus are helpful when shooting the stars. It is as sharp as the Sigma too! All of this for just $400!

★ Rokinon 24mm f/1.4$429 (Manual Focus) 

  • Faster Aperture
  • Full Frame compatible
  • Takes Filters
  • Lovely walk around focal length for general photography


  • On crop 24 = 36mm, less exciting for wide starry skies
  • Manual focus only

On a full frame, 24mm is often plenty wide enough for a nice starry sky or milky way shot. At f/1.4 this is a fast lens, is useful for daytime landscape shots with a normal filter size of 77mm but manual focus only does limit the versatility of this lens and it isn't the sharpest option here.

Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS Lens$429 (Best Option for Crop DSLRs)

  • 16mm on Crop - nice and wide


  • Crop Only
  • No filter threads - Costly filter system for daytime use

The widest & best option for crop users on the list (I don't love the fisheye look for stars or milky way photos) This small, light and affordable lens is hard to beat but the slightly faster IRIX firefly is sharper and offer some nice features that make it worth the sacrifice of a few mm.

★ Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 HD Fisheye Lens with Removable Hood$232 - $299

  • This lens is VERY wide with the typical fisheye look
  • Very affordable.


  • Crop Only
  • No filters
  • f/3.5
  • Fisheye even more limited in use.

I don't love the look from a fisheye lens for the stars or milky way shots but if you do this would be the lens to grab.  The good news, it is super affordable!

★ Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS$299 - $399 (Best for Mirrorless APS-C or smaller)

  • Very portable
  • Takes filters
  • Fast f/2.0


This tiny lens is great for mirrorless crop sensor photographers shooting Sony, Fuji, Panasonic or Olympus. It takes filters, is very affordable and lightweight, not quite as sharp and offers a little more distortion than the IRIX or Sigma but excellent still.

Ultra Wide Angle Zooms

(see linked video below)

★ Tokina 11-16 f/2.8$430 Best value ultra wide angle zoom for crop sensors

  • Versatile lens
  • Excellent Value
  • Accepts 77mm Filters


  • Some distortion and Chromatic abberation
  • Not as sharp as the primes listed

The Tokina 11-16 for Canon and Nikon is one of the best value lenses on this list. It's not the sharpest and certainly has more distortion than the primes but it is a versatile lens with a good range and offer autofocus along with filter use making it possible to tackle a variety of situations.

Additional Lenses to Consider - 

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens - Sharp, fast and relatively little distortion for an ultra-wide zoom lens and accepts regular filters AND is travel-friendly. - B&H Photo for $1,999.00Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD - One of the few ultra wide full frame lenses that offer stabilization. If you are careful you can handhold this at almost a second exposure. Not really helpful for stars/Milkyway but still useful. More distortion and not as sharp as the Canon listed above or the Nikon listed below but still a versatile lens . though be aware it's HEAVY - B&H Photo for $1,099.00Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens - The gold standard for ultra wide angle zooms.Incredibly sharp and useful though it is big and heavy - B&H Photo for $1,896.95


Related Videos

Affordable Ultra Wide Angle Zooms for Crop Cameras

Canon 10-18 vs Canon 10-22 vs Tokina 11-16Learn more about the Tokina 11-16 vs the Canon 10-18 and Canon 10-22

Sigma 135mm f1.8 A Fantastic Portrait Lens Before we get into the specifics of this lens let’s chat for a minute about portrait lenses. Some of you might be thinking - I thought the 50mm lens was the best for portraits. And some of you might be thinking - I thought the 85mm was best for portraits, and those focal lengths are really nice, along with the 24, 35, 200 and, the 135mm. Generally, it is accepted that longer focal lengths provide a more flattering look for people. Some of you might not like that over simplification because truthfully it is the distance from subject to the camera that really impacts the look you get. SO a better way to describe this- a lens like the 135mm allows you to fill the frame with your subject and be at a distance that gives very pleasing results. That coupled with the fact that Sigma 135mm ART offers f/1.8, is exceptionally sharp wide open AND is weather sealed. And like the other Sigma lenses in the ART series is well built, has no issues with flaring or chromatic aberration. I also found autofocus to be snappy. The Sigma 135mm ART is also relatively affordable at $1400 which leads me back to my original statement - this is quite possibly the best portrait lens for outdoor photographers who own Canon or Nikon cameras.

this is quite possibly the best portrait lens FOR OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO OWN Canon or Nikon CAMERAS.

Inside I think you will find yourself running out of space except for the tightest headshots, unless you have a larger studio space. And while I did mostly shoot and test this lens on a Sony a7Rii using the Sigma MC-11 adapter, I can’t recommend it, Eye AF works but it is slow and autofocus, in general, is slow with more hunting than I would like. My MC-11 firmware is up to date with the Sigma 135 on the compatible list but it seems to need more work. On Canon or Nikon you will be just fine though it's possible you will need to do some micro focus adjustments and or use the Sigma dock that this lens is compatible with. While I have not personally compared the Sigma 135 f/1.8 to the Canon 135mm f/2 I know from reviewers I trust that the Sigma is sharper, especially at the edges and doesn’t have issues with chromatic aberration that you do see in the Canon. And the Canon 135L is not weather sealed.Buy the Sigma 135mm ART from B&H Photo $1,399Full Raw Downloads
Outdoor portrait photographers who like to shoot backlit or get shots with wonderfully creamy bokeh that are rich in colors and contrast - this lens is awesome, however, If you are a Sony user hoping to use this with the MC-11 adapter, I can’t recommend it at this time.What’s your favorite portrait lens?My Favorite Portrait LensesBuy the Sigma 135mm ART from B&H Photo $1,399 (your use of these links supports our work here - we could not do this without you!)

Sony 35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens - Image Samples

Quick Review - Sony 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens.Sony 35mm f/2.8 ZA LensSpecs:

  • f/2.8 to f/22
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • 4.23 oz (120 g)
  • Integrated Lens Hood
  • 49mm filter size
  • $798.00
Pros: Sharp, high-quality lens in a lightweight and portable packageCons: Cost, Only f/2.8 (see used link below for savings)Sample Images -  (Full size RAW to download)

Tamron has announced a pair of full-frame f/1.8 primes

Tamron has announced a pair of full-frame f/1.8 primes that will be part of a redesigned SP series. The SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD and SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD are both full-frame-compatible lenses offering image stabilization (VC), fast maximum apertures, good close focusing distances AND, according to Tamron, high quality optics.The design team at Tamron has clearly been watching Sigma - the  look of these lenses is very similar to the ART line at Sigma and that's a good thing.  They do add a moderate amount of weather sealing not offered in the ART line from Sigma. The Canon and Nikon mounts also offer image stabilization - not often seen in primes this fast.SP stands for superior performance. Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VCTamron 45mm f/1.8 VCPrice will be $599 each and available at the end of September. (Sony mount* available later this year) This sounds reasonable for lenses of this caliber and speed with VC.   A few more specs worth detailing more-The close focusing capabilities are impressive. The 45mm can focus as close as 11.42" (.29m) and the 35mm can focus as close as 7.87" (.20m). That close with that wide an aperture will give you VERY shallow depth of field.9 aperture blades should provide smooth bokeh (the more blades the smoother the out of focus circles. The Old nifty-fifty had just 5 blades and you could often see pentagonal shapes of bokeh)Lens hood included!They are calling these lenses weather resistant.  I will mention that Tamron has one of the best warranties in the bsiness with 6 years for US buyers and quick repair turn around time.Preorder at B&H Photo Video45mm f/1.8 for Canon $599 | Nikon $599 | Sony A $59935mm f/1.8 for Canon $599 | Nikon $599 | Sony A $599 

Full Specs

SP 45mm F1.8 Di VC USD Specifications

Focal Length: 45mmMaximum Aperture: F1.8Angle of View (diagonal): 51°21' (for full-frame format) : 34°28' (for APS-C format)Optical Construction : 10 elements in 8 groupsMinimum Object Distance: 0.29m (11.4 in)Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:3.4Filter Size: 67mmMaximum Diameter: 80.4mmLength: for Canon 91.7mm (3.6 in): for Nikon 89.2mm (3.5 in)Weight: for Canon 540g (19 oz): for Nikon 520g (18.3 oz)Aperture Blades: 9 (circular diaphragm)Minimum Aperture: F16Standard Accessories: Flower-shaped lens hood, Lens capsCompatible Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Sony*

SP 35mm F1.8 Di VC USD Specifications

Focal Length: 35mmMaximum Aperture: F1.8Angle of View (diagonal): 63°26' (for full-frame format): 43°29' (for APS-C format)Optical Construction : 10 elements in 9 groupsMinimum Object Distance: 0.2m (7.9 in)Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:2.5Filter Size : 67mmMaximum Diameter : 80.4mmLength: for Canon 80.8mm (3.2 in): for Nikon 78.3mm (3.1 in)Weight: for Canon 480g (16.9 oz): for Nikon 450g (15.9 oz)Aperture Blades: 9 (circular diaphragm)Minimum Aperture: F16Standard Accessories: Flower-shaped lens hood, Lens capsCompatible Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Sony**Available in Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts - sadly that is the Sony/Minolta mount not the FE mount for the a7 series. Sony mount also does not offer VC - all sony bodies are stablized.

Announced Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

Canon has announced an updated version of their 35mm f/1.4 L prime lens.  The original, released in 1998, was not up to current standards and did not make the list of recommended lenses for Canon's latest high MP DSLRs the 5DS and 5DSr.   The new version looks sharp and offers new, Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics element to refract the shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum (blue light) in order to significantly reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing.35mm lens blackPriced at $1799 - Available in early October. Pre-Order now from B&H Photo | AmazonI am curious how it will compare to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens that sells for just $899. We love our Sigma lenses and found the Sigma 35(compared to the original Canon 35mm) and Sigma 50 to be sharper than their Canon counterparts. Watch my comparison of 50mm lenses.  You do get weather sealing with the Canon L lenses, not with Sigma and I expect this fancy new Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics will control CA well but honestly I don't find the Sigma to suffer much.   Which would you pick and why?Canon vs Sigma battle 35mmSigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens vs Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens - Leave a comment below with your pick.  And don't forget APS- shooters, you have the very nice Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 as an option. Watch my Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Review.  

Canon Prime Lenses & the new 24mm EFS lens

With the release of the new Canon EFS 24mm f/2.8 STM lens it is worth taking a few moments to share my thoughts on good prime options for Canon cameras. What is the best prime lens for you? Why should you own a prime?At the end of my recent EFS 24mm Review I share thoughts on the handful of affordable Canon prime lenses. Watch my review Prime lenses for Canon mentioned in the video:

Affordable Canon Prime Lenses

Canon EFS 24mm f/2.8 STM:Crop sensor only pancake lens - extremely small with excellent image quality and a decent maximum aperture. When compared to the kit there is not a huge difference in aperture at 24mm (Canon kit lenses have a maximum aperture of f/4 at 24mm) but the quality is better, less vignetting and chromatic aberration, slightly sharper but overall difference when viewed side by side is nearly indistinguishable. Why buy this lens? It makes your camera MUCH smaller and provides a nice quality walk around focal length that does do better for moving subjects (street photography) in lower light. $149Buy the Canon EFS 24mm from B&H PhotoVideo | AmazonCanon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM:Virtually identical in size and wait to the 24mm but EF so it is compatible with full frame cameras/sensors. I love using mine on my 5D mark III as a general walk around lens (on a full frame 40mm is almost identical to 24mm on a crop sensor) Because you have a little more focal length here you can more creatively control your depth of field - on a crop sensor this is a decent portrait lens. Typically sells for $149-199Buy the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM from B&H PhotoVideo | AmazonCanon EF 50mm f/1.8:This is the plastic fantastic or nifty fifty. Made ntirely out of plastic the build quality is not impressive but for just over $100 you get f/1.8 and decent quality, especially if stop down to f/2 or f/2.8. On a crop sensor this lens can feel limiting, especially indoors. But if you want creative control over your depth of field this is the easiest and cheapest way to get there.Buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 from B&H PhotoVideo | Amazon

Slightly more expensive prime lenses for Canon cameras

Sigma EFS 30mm f/1.4:My top pick for most versatile focal length and widest aperture goes to the new Sigma EFS 30mm f/1.4. You pay $500 but get one of Sigma's newest series lenses with HSM focusing(fast and smooth) and a wide open aperture of f/1.4, and the lens is sharp at that aperture. If you want a street photography lens this is it - downside - cost and weight (approx. 1lb)Buy the Sigma EFS f/1.4 DC HSM from B&H PhotoVideo | AmazonCanon 35mm f/2 IS:If you want a nice wide aperture but you also want image stabilization, especially for those shooting handheld video - the Canon 35mm f/2 IS provides everything you need. Offering a versatile focal length with a wide f/2 aperture and very capable IS in a compact package that weighs just 12oz or 335gBuy the Canon 35mm f/2 IS from B&H PhotoVideo | AmazonFor video work the Bower/Samyang/Rokinon (these lenses are virtually identical between manufacturer) lenses offer excellent features. You can use them for photo but 100% manual focus only can be tiring.  Some of these lenses are VERY WIDE  - Click here for some Bower Options

Expensive non-prime lens that acts like a prime lens

I need to mention the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 - this is a zoom lens (albeit limited range) that offers incredible sharpness and fantastic aperture across that range.  Downsides - it is HEAVY (1.8 lbs 811g) and expensive $799 but it is the equivalent to carrying around a handful of prime lenses and certainly more convenient. Watch my full review of the Sigma 18-35.Buy the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 HSM from B&H PhotoVideo | Amazon  

Review: Canon 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens- Best Prime For Crop?

I take a detailed look at the newest pancake lens from Canon, the EFS 24mm f/2.8 STM lens. Why should you buy a prime lens like the 24mm when you already have that focal length in your kit lens. Should you buy the 24mm, the 40mm or the 50mm - or maybe the 35 or the Sigma 30 - Many choices, I help you decide what is right for you.Watch the Video Review of the Canon EFS 24mm STM LensA few sample images (more comings soon)

Canon 24mm EF-S f/2.8 Available Now

Now Shipping priced at $149. Preorder from B&H Photo Video or Adorama. This is going to be a fantastic little walk around prime lens- Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for full review (coming next week)canon_ef-s_24mm_f2pt8As discussed in an earlier podcast we will see a new EF-S lens from Canon in November, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8, It looks identical to the 40mm f/2.8 and I am psyched that Canon is making more of these tiny(and affordable) but excellent lenses. The 40mm is very sharp even wide open . The one change here is the 40mm is EF, compatible with full frame and this 24mm is EF-S, only compatible with crop sensor cameras like the T5i, SL1 and 70D.   24mm on a crop sensor is a wonderful walk around focal length. 24mm * 1.6 = 38mm.

  • EF-S Mount Lens/APS-C Format
  • 38mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • One Aspherical Element
  • Optimized Lens Coatings
  • STM AF Motor Supports Movie Servo AF
  • Micro-Stepping Drive Aperture Mechanism
  • Full-Time Manual Focus Override
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm
  • Slim Design Measures Less Than 1"-Thick
  • shortest shooting distance is 0.16 M (40mm is .3 M)
  • maximum magnification is 0.27X
  • 22.8 mm thickness Weight 125g (40mm is 22.8 and weighs 130g)

Are you interested?  It needs a nickname. Preorder from B&H Photo Video or Adorama or Amazon $149.00

6 Reasons You Should Own a Prime Lens

Yes the video is just 5 reasons but in this post you get a bonus 6th reason you should own a prime lens. Watch, read and let me know your thoughts on prime lenses in the comments below.

What is a prime lens?

A prime lens has a fixed focal length; it doesn’t zoom. Why would you want a lens that doesn't zoom? 5 Reasons below!

What are the advantages of prime lenses?

  1. Prime lenses often offer very wide maximum apertures, ideal for isolating your subjects from the background and capturing beautiful bokeh(background out of focus).

Screenshot 2014-07-06 12.18.09

  1. Those wide apertures also allow you to maximizing the light entering your camera. Keep your aperture wide and you can then keep your shutter speed higher or your ISO lower. This makes prime lenses a good choice for low light photography.

Screenshot 2014-06-30 14.56.12

  1. Because of their smaller and simpler construction, prime lenses have fewer moving parts which means less distortion and better quality images than your typical zoom lenses.
  1. Reasons 1 through 3 means you get a better value for your money as primes are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than zoom lenses.
  1. They are often smaller and lighter compared to typical zoom lenses - making primes a great choice when you want to travel light.

Screenshot 2014-07-06 12.28.47BONUS REASON

  1. Forcing yourself to use a prime encourages you to move to achieve the frame you want, as opposed to the lazy zoom in out and approach and moving and thinking critically about your framing is a good habit to build as a photographer.

Let me know in the comments your favorite prime lens and your favorite reason(s) for attaching a prime lens to your camera.I have recommended prime lenses for Canon and Nikon and 5 tips for sharper images