Best Lens for Night Photography

Best Lens for Night Photography

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What is the best lens for night photography?

If you’re looking for the best lens for night photography, then you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I will cover the most important things you should look for when trying to select the best lens for night sky photography, and include examples of the best Canon lens for astrophotography, and the best Nikon and Sony lenses too.

Before we start, I’ll cover a little background to help you know what you are looking for when you do your own research, but if you’re short on time and just want to skip straight to the best lens for night photography Canon, Nikon or Sony, then take a look below.



1. Best Lens for Night Photography

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens

 Best Lens for Night Photography 

  • Outstanding Sharpness Across the Frame
  • Very Wide f/1.4 Max Aperture
  • Excellent Auto Focus System
  • Minimal Coma and Chromatic Aberration
  • Reasonably Priced Compared with its Competition
The Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens is the finest astrophotography or night lens that you can buy, with superb sharpness across the lens and almost no coma, combined with a very wide maximum aperture of f1.4. As this is a Sigma lens, it is produced in mounts for all major camera brands, meaning you can get this as a Canon lens, a Nikon lens, or a Sony lens.

By far the best lens for night photography is the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens.

Although Sigma lenses have traditionally been regarded as somewhat inferior to lenses manufactured by the leading camera brands, like Canon or Nikon, with their Sigma Art series of lenses released over the last few years, they have really pushed the boat out and are now delivering far superior products, at least when it comes to astrophotography.

This lens delivers outstanding sharpness from corner to corner, with minimal coma and a very wide maximum aperture of f1.4 giving a bright view finder, and the option for you to reduce ISO in your photos. Combined with the excellent auto focus, and the fact that this lens can be used on both full frame and crop sensors (albeit with a longer apparent focal length), means this lens has almost no downsides.

Perhaps the only negative you could point to would be that the lens is fixed focal length, and not a zoom. In return for a fixed focal length though, you get much better image quality than any zoom lens can provide.

Thanks to it being a Sigma lens and not limited to one brand of camera, this is the best Canon lens for astrophotography, as well as being the best Nikon and Sony night lens.


2. What Makes a Great Lens for Night Sky Photography?

Before we get into the comparison and full reviews for the best night photography lenses, I’ve included a checklist of what makes the best low-light photography lens below in order of importance, so that if you want to continue your research, you can use this to compare lenses. I used this list to review the lenses covered in this article, checking each lens against each point to determine which is the best.

  1. Image Quality: This looks at the overall quality of a night picture that you can take with the lens, from the sharpness, as measured both across the lens and in the center, to how much light the lens will allow through (ie. the max aperture), and the level of artifacts and noise generated by the lens, as measured by coma and chromatic aberration. Some example questions you can ask are below:
  • How sharp is the lens from corner to corner? – Many lenses are only sharp in the center when used with the aperture wide open, but edge sharpness increases as the aperture is stopped down.
  • What is the maximum aperture? – If you want to use the lens at short shutter speeds and low ISO at night, you will need a wide maximum aperture (eg. f/2.8 or below).
  • Does this lens minimize Coma & Chromatic Aberrations? – Coma is seen as blur in point sources of light, usually in the edges of the frame. You will notice this particular with stars in night sky photography, as they get stretched into straight lines pointing to the center of the lens. Chromatic aberration is where you see color halos on the edges of objects, as the lens fails to refract light equally across the color spectrum. Unlike coma, chromatic aberration is very easy to fix in Lightroom or Photoshop.
  • How much vignetting does the lens exhibit? – All lenses will vignette your photo to some extent, meaning that you get darker borders surrounding the photo. This will be less of an issue if you use a full frame lens on a crop sensor camera, and in any case, this is relatively easy to fix in Lightroom or Photoshop, although too much vignetting will cause a degradation in image quality.
  • Usability:
    • How is the construction quality & weather sealing? – When you spend a lot of time taking taking night photos, you will undoubtedly be out in all weathers, including heavy rain that can get into electronics like cameras and cause minor short circuits. I have experienced this several times, but full functionality always returns after the camera and lens dries out. Nonetheless, full weather sealing should prevent this happening in the first place.
    • Does this lens have image stabilization? – Although you will in most cases likely be using the lens on a tripod, if you are more interested in people photography at night, then image stabilization is a must.
    • What is the usability in the dark like?
      Can you see all the switches and distance markers on the focusing scale? Is the lens easy to use, even with minimal lighting?
  • Price:
    • Is the lens fairly priced based on the details above?

    The relevance of the list above depends largely on the type of night photography you are doing. I have assumed that you are looking for the best lens for night sky photography, otherwise known as astrophotography, where you essentially photograph landscapes outside at night, with the stars visible. For this kind of night photography, including Northern Lights photography you will be wanting to look for a wide angle lens with a larger aperture (although a maximum aperture of f/2.8 is usually sufficient).

    If you are intending to photograph people at night with your lens for night photography, you may instead want a zoom lens with image stabilization, and a very wide aperture is less likely to be useful to you.


    3. Best Lens for Night Photography Canon

    Use the below table to quickly compare the best Canon night photography lenses. This table was compiled with the assumption that you are looking for the best Canon lens for star photography, astrophotography, or night sky photography. All of these lenses can be used on both full frame and crop sensors, but note that on crop sensors you will have to multiply the stated focal length by 1.6 to get the actual focal length.

    Product Average User Rating Pros / Cons Image Quality Usability Cost Check Price
    Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens
    4.4 / 5
    • Minimal chromatic aberration & coma; fantastic image quality; very sharp corner to corner
    • Fixed focal length
    +++++ ++++ $$$
    Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens
    4.6 / 5
    • Very sharp images; Canon high build quality & weather sealing; good focal length for night photography
    • Very expensive; fixed focal length
    +++++ ++++ $$$$$
    Sigma 24-35mm F2.0 Art Lens
    4.3 / 5
    • Zoom lens; good control of chromatic aberration and coma for a zoom lens; sharp
    • Max f2.0 aperture; lower image quality as a result of the zoom
    +++ +++++ $$$
    Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
    4.8 / 5
    • Most wide angle zoom lens; very good image quality; Canon high build quality
    • Max f2.8 aperture; compromised chromatic aberration due to the zoom
    ++++ +++++ $$$$$
    Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art Lens
    4.3 / 5
    • Cheapest Canon night photography lens; excellent image quality and sharpness for the price
    • Not a very wide angle lens; fixed focal length
    ++++ ++++ $$

    4. Best Nikon Lens for Night Photography

    Use the below table to quickly compare the best Nikon night photography lenses. This table was compiled with the assumption that you are looking for the best Nikon lens for astrophotography, night sky photography, or star photography. All of these lenses can be used on both full frame and crop sensors, but note that on crop sensors you will have to multiply the stated focal length by 1.5 to get the actual focal length.

    Product Average User Rating Pros / Cons Image Quality Usability Cost Check Price
    Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens
    4.4 / 5
    • Minimal chromatic aberration & coma; fantastic image quality; very sharp corner to corner
    • Fixed focal length
    +++++ ++++ $$$
    Nikon FX NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8 Lens
    4.8 / 5
    • Very sharp images; reasonably priced; good focal length for night photography
    • Coma and chromatic aberration correction only ok; fixed focal length
    ++++ ++++ $$$
    Sigma 24-35mm F2.0 Art Lens
    4.3 / 5
    • Zoom lens; good control of chromatic aberration and coma for a zoom lens; sharp
    • Max f2.0 aperture; lower image quality as a result of the zoom
    +++ +++++ $$$
    Nikon NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens
    4.7 / 5
    • Most wide angle zoom lens for Nikon; very good image quality and corner sharpness; excellent for landscapes
    • Max f2.8 aperture; compromised chromatic aberration due to the zoom
    ++++ +++++ $$$$
    Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art Lens
    4.3 / 5
    • Cheapest Nikon night photography lens; excellent image quality and sharpness for the price
    • Not a very wide angle lens; fixed focal length
    ++++ ++++ $$

    5. Best Sony Lens for Night Photography

    Use the below table to quickly compare the best Sony night photography lenses. These are all Sony E mount lenses. This table was compiled with the assumption that you are looking for the best Sony lens for astrophotography, night sky photography, or star photography. All of these lenses can be used on both full frame and crop sensors, but note that on crop sensors you will have to multiply the stated focal length by 1.5 to get the actual focal length.

    Product Average User Rating Pros / Cons Image Quality Usability Cost Check Price
    Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens
    4.4 / 5
    • Minimal chromatic aberration & coma; fantastic image quality; very sharp corner to corner
    • Fixed focal length
    +++++ ++++ $$$
    Sony FE 20mm F1.8 Lens
    5 / 5
    • Very sharp images; fantastic Sony low light lens; good focal length for night photography
    • Relatively large and heavy; fixed focal length
    +++++ ++++ $$$
    Zeiss 18mm F2.8 Batis Lens
    4.8 / 5
    • Fantastic image quality; very low chromatic aberration; light and small
    • Expensive; max f2.8 aperture
    +++++ ++++ $$$$$
    Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art Lens
    4.6 / 5
    • Cheapest Nikon night photography lens; excellent image quality and sharpness for the price
    • Not a very wide angle lens; fixed focal length
    ++++ ++++ $$

    6. Best Night Photography Lens Reviews

    Take a look at the reviews for all of the night photography lenses we have looked at above. All of these lenses are available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts unless otherwise indicated.

    I have grouped lenses together from the same manufacturer, where the only appreciable difference is their focal lengths.


    Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens

    Sigma 24-35mm F2.0 Art Lens

    Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art Lens

     Best Lenses for Night Photography 

    • Pros:
    • Outstanding Sharpness Corner to Corner
    • Low Coma and Chromatic Aberration
    • Better Value than Canon or Nikon Manufactured Lenses
    • Wide Maximum Apertures
    • Cons:
    • Not Small or Lightweight
    • Zoom lens has lower image quality due to the zoom
    These Sigma lenses have almost no real flaws, and are all excellent for astrophotography or star photography. The two prime lenses (the Sigma 20mm and Sigma 35mm) stand out with their exceptional image quality and minimal chromatic aberration and other artifacts, although the zoom lens (the Sigma 24-35mm) is a very close second.

    Any of the Sigma Art series of lenses would be perfect for night photography, assuming they are of a reasonably wide focal length and have a wide max aperture.

    The fact that they are significantly cheaper than comparable Canon or Nikon lenses makes them an even better deal.


    Best Canon Lens for Astrophotography Reviews

    Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

    Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens

     Best Canon Lenses for Night Photography 

    • Pros:
    • Fantastic image quality
    • Low artifacts and chromatic aberration
    • Canon high build quality
    • Excellent weather sealing
    • Cons:
    • 16-35mm very large and heavy
    • Both lenses very expensive
    Only for Canon cameras.
    Both of these lenses offer superior image quality and performance, at the cost of a high price, approaching double that of the comparable Sigma lenses. The 24mm lens does not show any appreciable chromatic aberration, although some coma is present in the corners of the 24mm lens when the lens is used wide open. The 16-35mm lens variant has a reduced capacity to deal with chromatic aberration and coma, as would be expected from a zoom lens, and is also quite heavy and large at 1.74lbs and 5 inches tall, although this should not be much of an issue for night photography.

    Where Canon shines is in the build quality, from the superb weather sealing, to the smooth feel when turning the focusing ring. You know that when you buy a Canon lens, you will be treated to a premium product.


    Best Nikon Lens for Astrophotography Reviews

    Nikon FX NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8 Lens

    Nikon NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens

     Best Nikon Lenses for Night Photography 

    • Pros:
    • Very sharp images
    • 20mm lens very small and light
    • Low artifacts and chromatic aberration
    • 14-24mm lens is very wide angle
    • Cons:
    • 14-24mm much larger and heavier than it looks
    • Not as good value for money as Sigma lenses
    Only for Nikon Cameras
    The Nikon 20mm lens is one of the smallest and lighest lenses we have looked at here, at 0.78lbs and a height of just over 3 inches. This lens is reasonably priced, although you will likely see greater coma and chromatic aberrations than on the Sigma lenses.

    The Nikon 14-24mm lens is a super wide angle lens that is not a fisheye, and so is suitable for night sky and landscape photography. It’s large and heavy at 2.14lbs and over 5 inches in length, and the max aperture of f2.8 cannot compare with other star photography lenses. You will lose some image quality in exchange for the zoom, but this is a worthwhile trade-off in this lens due to how wide this lens can go. This lens is ideal for you, if you are looking for a lens that can do double duty as a great landscape lens, with some night photography thrown in.


    Best Sony Lens for Night Photography Reviews

    Sony FE 20mm F1.8 Lens

    Zeiss 18mm F2.8 Batis Lens

     Best Sony Lenses for Night Photography 

    • Pros:
    • Outstanding image quality from the Zeiss lens
    • Very sharp corner to corner for both lenses
    • Excellent night sky photo lenses for Sony
    • Specifically designed for Sony cameras
    • Cons:
    • More expensive lenses
    • Still slightly behind the Sigma lenses in value for money
    Only for Sony Cameras
    The Sony 20mm is a full frame lens that is pretty long (nearly 8 inches), but delivers an excellent performance in terms of image quality for night sky photos. It is almost exactly the same price as the Sigma 20mm, and is in practice very similar. My personal preference is towards the Sigma lens, thanks to its smaller size.

    The Zeiss Batis 18mm lens is a truly outstanding night photography lens, as you would expect from a quality manufacturer like Zeiss. The lens may look quite basic, but it in fact has some innovative modern touches, like an OLED screen where the focus scale would be in other lenses, on which you can view the depth of field, amongst other things. The lens is very small and light, and pretty much unparalleled in image quality. It is only kept off the top spot by virtue of price, and that it is only available for Sony cameras. But this is the best Sony lens for night photography, particularly if you have a full frame body.


    7. Common Questions about Lenses for Night Photography

    What is the best lens for night photography?

    The best lens for night photography is the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens, which is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. This lens exhibits fantastic image quality and minimal chromatic aberration and coma. See the review of this lens above.

    What is the best aperture for night sky photography?

    If you are photographing stars and want to capture star trails, then you generally want to set your lens to the widest aperture possible, depending on how accurately you can focus your lens on infinity. If you are wanting to photograph a landscape, or have objects on the ground that you want to include, you will likely want to stop your lens down to around f8. As long as you can keep your ISO down, then you can increase shutter speed to compensate.

    What are low budget beginners lenses for night photography?

    The cheapest lens for night photography for Canon, Nikon and Sony reviewed here is the Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art Lens, although if you are willing to deal with a number of compromises in order to get the cheapest lens possible, then the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens, the Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens, or the Sony 50mm f1.8 would suit you.

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