Friday, 28 July 2017

Best DSLR lens for astro milky way photography

Selecting a DSLR or lens for a particular type of photography is never easy, speaking from personal experience. Photography is an expensive hobby, which is the reason we want to get the best out of every dollar spent. I am writing this post to help my readers know the various options available in the market for ultra wide angle lenses. Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 ultra wide angle lens is still a part of my night photography or astrophotography gear. It is one of the best purchases I ever made when it comes to photography.
An ultra-wide angle DSLR lens is a lens having a range less than 15 mm for a cropped (APS-C) sensor. For a 35 mm film or full frame camera, the value is 24 mm. In simple terms, an ultra wide angle lens covers an extremely wide area. This makes even bigger mountains look smaller when an ultra wide angle lens is used. 

Milky way shot
Milky way shot using Tokina 11-16 mm

There are so many third-party manufacturers of lenses in addition to the existing major brands such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji. After this comes the battle of lens compatibility between full frame cropped sensor cameras. I have made a list of available ultra wide-angle DSLR lenses with description text explaining their compatibility with a cropped sensor and full-frame DSLR cameras. 

An ultra wide angle lens can be used for milky way, northern lights and star trail photography. Another good use of an ultra wide angle lens is landscape photography to give the image a panorama feel. Tokina manufactures good ultra wide angle lenses, and they are well known for their sharpness and less distortion. A few of the well known Tokina lenses for astrophotography:
Tokina 14-20 mm F2 -> APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Tokina 16-28 mm F2.8 -> Full frame/FX. Full frame sensor lens.
Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 -> APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens. Nikon version doesn't have auto-focus.
Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 II -> APS-C/DX. Nikon auto-focus version.
Tokina 11-20 mm F2.8 -> APSC/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Tokina 12-24 mm F4 -> APSC/DX. Cropped sensor lens.

After Tokina, Rokinon (also known as Samyang) is the cheap and best choice for manual focus astrophotography lenses. Here are a few options from Rokinon:
Rokinon 14 mm F2.8. Full frame (FX) sensor lens.
Rokinon 24 mm F1.4 Full frame (FX) sensor lens
Rokinon 12 mm F2. APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Rokinon 16 mm F2. APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens

Lastly, there are the original Nikon and Canon lenses. 
Nikon 14-24 F2.8 Full frame sensor lens.
Canon 10-22 mm F3.5-4.5. Cropped sensor lens. 
Sigma 8-16 mm F4.5-5.6 APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Canon 16-35 F2.8 L. Full frame lens. 

I haven't tried all of the above lenses, but Tokina lenses haven't disappointed me yet. The pic in this blog post was taken with a Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 lens. It stays on my DSLR 80% of the time. 

What's your favourite go-to ultra wide angle lens?


  1. Beautiful photography. And the article was so informative. I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. Thank you Mimi, glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Any photographer can see the subject before taking an image by the mirror through Digital single-lens reflex camera. When taking an image the mirror will swing up and light will go to the sensor instead. That's really cool! Thankd

  4. Can we use the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS to get the milky way photo!!! If so what is the aperture and focal length needed ?

    1. Hi Ankana,
      Yes, you can. F3.5, 18 mm, ISO between 800-1600 and shutter speed between 10-12 seconds. Hope this helps. Most important thing to take a milky way photo is less light pollution, so get to a place with really dark skies.

  5. Did not knew we can do such thing. You do learn something new everyday.

  6. Nice to see someone just loves to use the snap,click and development cameras! Digital is a lazy way to shoot!

  7. wow, I've always been interested in photography as a hobby - cool new info is appreciated!

  8. Excellent shots my friend. I'm not much into this kind of photography yet. I guess I'll give it a try sometime.

  9. I love photography I have got into it recently and I love it. Thanks for the new info.

  10. I️ love my Rokinon 14mm f2.8, use it on my Sony a7