If we were to equate photography to the art of writing novels, then low-light photography would be the equivalent of writing a novel with a broken pencil stub. As you can imagine, this is often a demanding task and can easily leave you frustrated.
On the flipside, though, it’s actually possible to convert those dark moments into some of the most amazing scenes. But to do that, you need to have the right lens for the job.
So, what are some of the challenges you need to keep in mind when shopping for the right glass? Well, in our view, you need to ask yourself where you just need a standard lens for night photography or one that can be used for Milky Way Photography.
Night Photography vs Milky Way Photography
Night photography is a general term referring to any sort of photography that especially takes place under the cover of darkness. It might be late-night concert photography, landscape photography and so forth.
Milky Way photography, also known as astrophotography is a form of night photography only that in this case, one focuses on capturing events in the skies. The night sky provides its fair share of challenges and for that reason, a special lens is needed for this specific kind of photography.
For that reason, the lens for night photography review below contains a detailed breakdown of the specific kinds of lenses you’d needed in each one of those two scenarios.
Table of Contents
- Night Photography vs Milky Way Photography
- Best Lens for Night Photography 2020- Comparison List
- 8 Best Lens for Night Photography
- Best Lens for Milky Way Photography 2020 - Comparison List
- 7 Best Lens for Milky Way Photography
- 1. Sigma 18-35mm Lens F1.8 Art DC HSM for Canon
- 2. Nikon Lens AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Nikkor E ED VR f/34-8 Zoom DSLR Camera,
- 3. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens GM OSS
- 4. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 Lens IS USM for Canon DSLR-Cameras
- 5. Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens AF-S NIKKOR G ED
- 6. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Lens AFA012C700 Wide-Angle Di VC USD for Canon EF Cameras
- 7. Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Lens Di VC G2 for Nikon FX DSLR Camera
- The Buying Guide for Night (Milky Way) Photography Lens
- Which One IS The Best?
- Final Thoughts
Best Lens for Night Photography 2020- Comparison List
Night photography comes with its fair share of challenges. In particular, it’s always a challenge to get the best form of lighting during the wee hours of the night. So, what would be the best way forward in such cases?
You want to settle for a lens that lets in as much light as possible. A large aperture is an important basic requirement as well. So, let’s take a look at some of the lenses that rival for the top position in this competitive niche.
8 Best Lens for Night Photography
1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens
From our research, we concluded that this lens is the best-selling lens from Canon. We can attribute this to the fact that it has a combination of many excellent qualities in one affordable unit.
First, it is tiny and lightweight, weighing only 160g and measuring 69 by 39mm. It has a plastic shell with a stunning matte finish. The focusing ring is relatively wide, and it operates very smoothly. To top up on this classy look is the metal bayonet which has replaced the plastic mount on the older STM model.
The lens accepts a 49mm filter thread while the inner barrel extends while focusing. The Autofocus action utilizes the Gear-type motor which is slower and louder than the Lead type motor. The AF is however smooth.
Its optical design consists of six elements in five groups and has a decent flare resistance as well as an outstanding bokeh.
2. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E VR lens
This lens is very popular, and this is mainly due to its versatility meaning that you can use it for a variety of purposes, starting from portraits and events to landscape photography.
The lens has a sturdy build quality which is designed to make it durable. The barrel is made out of magnesium material and has a Bayonet mount. It is fully weather-sealed to cap off an impressive physical quality.
One of the main unique features of this lens is the Vibration Reduction (VR) technology which makes the lens a strong performer when shooting in dim conditions. The front and rear elements have Nano and Fluorine coating to make the lens dirt and moisture repellant as well as very easy to clean.
It is incredibly sharp throughout the focus range as a result of the fast aperture of f/2.8. The aperture contains nine diaphragm blades which will play a significant part in the lens producing a fantastic bokeh.
The optical design consists of twenty elements in sixteen groups, two of the elements being ED elements while three are Aspherical elements and will contribute to the flare-resistance property of the lens.
It utilizes the AF-S Silent Wave motor for a fast and silent autofocus action.
3. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens
This lens was introduced in February 2012 and was designed APS-C as well as 35mm camera bodies. Canon introduced it as an update of the Canon 24-70mm L lens.
The optical design includes a blend of UD and Super UD glass elements as well as aspherical glass elements. The aperture consists of nine rounded diaphragm blades for a fantastic bokeh.
We can confidently inform you that this is one of the sharpest lenses by Canon, featuring a constant aperture of f/2.8. Diffraction starts setting in at f/11 though not so damaging. Even at f/22, the effects may be stronger, but the impact on the quality of the image is quite minimal.
Chromatic aberration and corner-shading are very well-controlled while the distortion is barely noticeable and you can always correct it via post-processing software.
The AF action is swift and silent, thanks to the Ultra-sonic Motor (USM) feature. Further, you can always alter the focus outcome by turning the focus ring.
The lens is entirely water and weather-resistant, thanks to the rubber gasket seals. The body construction is entirely metal, and this significantly adds to its weight.
The petal-shaped lens hood comes with a bayonet mount for attaching on to the camera body.
4. Nikon 14-24mm AF-S NIKKOR f/2.8G ED lens
This lens was introduced into the market in August 2007 and is one of the best wide-angle lenses by Nikon. You will find it useful in wide-angle photography such as fashion, architectural and landscape photography.
The aperture includes nine-rounded diaphragm blades which will be vital in producing a beautiful background blur.
The optical construction consists of 14 elements in 11 groups, including two ED elements and three Aspherical elements to ensure that the lens delivers maximum sharpness while keeping chromatic aberrations at the most minimum level.
Additionally, it includes Nano Crystal Coating and Super Integrated Coating to give it impressive ghosting and flare resistance. It is also fully weather-sealed and moisture and dust-resistant.
The lens utilizes the Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to ensure that the AF action is not only quiet but is fast and accurate as well.
It also has an M/A focus mode which enables you to switch between auto and manual focus operations comfortably.
5. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens
This lens was announced in September of 2012, and it fits in the Art category of lenses. It is quite versatile, and you can use it for portrait, landscape and travel photography as well.
The lens is an outstanding performer in low light conditions, and we can attribute this to the large aperture of f/1.4. The aperture consists of a nine-blade diaphragm, and this will help in creating a pleasant background blur.
Its optical design consists of 13 elements in 11 groups, two of the elements being SLD and FLD glass elements which will contribute to correcting chromatic axial aberrations, which tend to lower the quality of the image.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens has a very high-quality build, featuring an all-metal construction starting from the barrel to the mount. It is built like a tank and leaves an excellent feel in the hands.
The autofocus action is swift, quiet and accurate, thanks to the Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM). It is also extremely sharp even when used at the widest aperture.
The lens also has an impressive flare and ghosting resistance, and we can attribute this to the advanced Nano-coating technology.
6. Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Prime lens
This lens is compatible with DX and FX format digital camera bodies and will provide an effective field of view of 75mm on an APS-C sized sensor.
The lens is constructed out of thick plastic material, and this makes it very light at just 155g. It is tiny and compact, so it will not take up much space in the camera bag.
It has a rubberized focus ring measuring roughly ½ inch wide, and it utilizes a series of ribs designed to align themselves with the lens body.
It is incredibly sharp at apertures of f/2.8 and below while you will experience some softness at wide open apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.
It deals well with chromatic aberration which is more pronounced at the wider end of the range. The minor CA can always be corrected to lead to more explicit images.
Vignetting is minimal as well and is only visible at f/1.8 or f/2. Distortion is non-existent when mounted on the sub-frame D200 while it is negligible at 0.1% on the full-frame D3x.
Finally, it has a magnification of 0.15x and is not suited for macro work.
7. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens
This lens was announced in August 2015 as an update of the Canon 35mm f/1.4L which had been in existence for about a decade and a half. Canon has made several additions to the original design, and we shall go through some of the outstanding ones.
First, it is amazingly sharp wide open on both full-frame and APS-C cameras. You will experience minor corner-softness at f/1.4 on the full-frame and the sub-frame, softness is non-existent.
Distortion is also non-existent, although there is some barrel distortion of (maximum of +0.2%) on the full-frame cameras.
It utilizes the ring-type Ultrasonic Motor to make subtle and small focus adjustments. By turning the focus ring, you will deliver the manual focus override of the AF.
The optical design includes 14 elements in 11 groups, one of which is a Blue Spectrum Refractive Optic, one UD elements, and two aspherical elements. The rear surfaces also have Canon’s Sub-Wavelength Coating (SWC) to make it flare and ghosting resistant.
Lastly, the build is equally impressive, with a fully-metallic weather-sealed barrel and a gasket sealing at the lens mount. The matte black exterior gives it a stunning appearance.
8. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens
This model was released in 2010 by Sigma, and you can rest assured that it will deliver you the best performance. First, it is incredibly sharp, even wide open at f/1.4 (full-frame body) and there will be no corner-softness.
The CA is also kept at a minimum and only shows up as magenta fringing at the edges of high-contrast regions.
The AF operation is high-speed and accurate, and we attribute this to the electronic Hyper-Sonic Motor. The process is also very quiet.
The build quality is very fantastic. The barrel is made out of Thermally Stable Composite material from Sigma which gives the lens a very solid feel. The lens features a glossy, matte black finish for an outstanding and classy look.
The optical design consists of fourteen elements in twelve groups, two being FLD elements and one being an Aspherical SLD element.
The focusing ring is rubberized and has a ribbed texture for smooth operation. Last but not least, it comes with an LH927-02 petal-shaped lens hood.
Best Lens for Milky Way Photography 2020 - Comparison List
The kind of lens you invest can to a large extent determine the kind of image quality you’ll end up with. And when it comes to astrophotography or situations when you need to capture the Milky Way nightscapes, functionality is key. And below now is a run-down of some of the best lenses for night sky photography.
7 Best Lens for Milky Way Photography
1. Sigma 18-35mm Lens F1.8 Art DC HSM for Canon
Sigma 18-35mm Lens is one of the best lenses out there for Milky Way hunting. Its combined features make it one of the best lenses for milky way photography or astrophotography if you wish.
The 18-35mm focal length is ultra wide to a standard which allows you to capture quite a big portion of the sky, more so, because the Milky Way is huge sometimes stretching across the entire sky. In addition, the focal length range is quite wide allowing you to adjust to changing night situations.
Further, this lens has a wide aperture of f/1.8, which is quite large, allowing in light at night. Just as importantly, the aperture range is between f/1.8 to f/16 which provides flexibility, because all night skies are not the same.
Also, the lack of chromatic aberration makes it a respectable lens for night photography.
2. Nikon Lens AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Nikkor E ED VR f/34-8 Zoom DSLR Camera,
Nikon Lens AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Nikkor is a good lens to use if you live in the southern hemisphere for capturing the Milky Way during winter and also spring evenings because it is when the Milky Way is in the middle of the sky.
The wide zoomable focal length of between 70-300mm makes this a short to normal and up to a hyper telephoto lens and best for capturing distant objects. Zoomable is so wide and great for varying your photography style.
Although, the maximum aperture is medium, and may limit this lens capacity in low-light situations, however, the VR image stabilization enhances the lens’ low light capabilities. This makes it suitable for doing night photography.
More importantly, the lens has drip and dust resistant features, and great for the outdoors.
3. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens GM OSS
The visibility of the Milky Way is affected by many factors. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens is recommended if you live in the Southern Hemisphere and during spring evenings or late winter when the Milky Way is not spread out in the sky but quite visible in the middle of the sky.
The zoomable focal length of 70-200mm makes the lens a short telephoto to a normal telephoto lens. The focal length is quite ideal for long-distance photography. It packs an aperture size of f/2.8 which is good for low-light conditions and practical for astrophotography.
What’s more, because of the moisture and dust resistant capabilities, this lens is dependable outdoors.
More so, the lens has Nano AR coating which suppresses any reflections, flare, and ghosting for sharp images and makes the lens good for other types of photography too.
4. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 Lens IS USM for Canon DSLR-Cameras
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 is your go-to lens for the best shots of the Milky Way if you also want to capture the expansive sky. It has a wide angle with a fairly fast aperture.
The focal length of 17-55 varies from Ultra Wide, to Wide and to Standard providing quite a wide zoomable range to provide variety in your photography. In addition, its maximum aperture of f/2.8 is fast and also perfect for night photography. Further, it has a minimum aperture of 22 to offer different photography styles.
The lens has image stabilization to minimize the effects of image shake in all lighting conditions. Even if it is not a budget lens, worth noting is that it comes with a one-year warranty from the manufacturer.
5. Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens AF-S NIKKOR G ED
The combined features of the aperture size and focal length make this is a superb lens for Milky Way Photography.
It has a focal length of 14-24mm which is an ultra wide to wide angle and great for taking shots of the huge sky with the Milky Way.
Most importantly, the lens has an aperture size of f/2.8, which is reasonably a large aperture size. The lens’ maximum aperture suits low-light situations and is fitting in astrophotography. Also, it has a minimum aperture of f/22 to vary your photography style.
Further, the lens is designed with a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) which you can use for autofocusing.
6. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Lens AFA012C700 Wide-Angle Di VC USD for Canon EF Cameras
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Lens has a lot to offer astrophotographers.
The lens has 15-30mm focal length which is an ultra-wide angle. Taking awesome shots of the Milky Way requires a focal length with a wide angle when the Milky Way is spread across the extensive sky. Additionally, the focal length zoom range is wide and you can zoom as is appropriate for particular night conditions to take different shots.
Also, its maximum aperture size of f/2.8 enables the lens to be used for night photography as it allows more light in.
7. Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Lens Di VC G2 for Nikon FX DSLR Camera
Photographing the Milky Way requires different lenses depending on various factors, for example, if you are on a mountain peak you may need a different lens from someone in a lowland.
Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Lens has a 70-200mm focal length which is a short to a standard telephoto lens that is ideal for capturing distant objects. It will offer interesting shots of the Milky Way when it is centered in the sky.
It makes a good lens for shooting the Milky Way in Southern hemisphere especially during late winter or spring evenings.
Not to mention, that it has an aperture size of f/2.8 which is practicable for doing night time adventures because it is large enough to allow light to enter in.
Best of all, it can be used for other photography needs because it is a good portraiture lens.
The Buying Guide for Night (Milky Way) Photography Lens
Nightscape photography presents you with a fair share of challenges. So, your best bet is to work with the lens that knows what it takes to get the job done, perfectly. Some of the factors worth keeping in mind in this case include:
What exactly defines a high-quality lens? Well, in our view, a top-quality lens is one that’s easy to manually focus when used in the dark. You generally want to bank on a lens that’s capable of delivering sharp details.
Most importantly, your best bet in terms of quality is a lens that’s capable of minimizing the appearance of unwanted artifacts such as coma and chromatic aberration.
Also, you want to rest assured that the manufacturer of choice is in a position to produce high-quality stuff. Indeed, quality assurance can be an issue if you gamble with an unproven brand.
The Kind of Features Supported
What kind of features does your chosen lens support? For instance, does it support the use of filters? Does it allow for a wide variety of camera mounts? Also, you want to examine if it comes with an auto aperture or not.
Zoom vs Prime Lenses
Which one of those two is perfectly suited for shooting under the cover of darkness? You might be wondering. And well, we think that both lenses can still get the job done.
What actually matters is the kind of focal length that you settle for. The next thing that matters the most if the kind of aperture you settle for.
A fast aperture e.g. f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2.0 would be the best one for the job. It helps to maximize the light being emitted by the stars to deliver some incredible shots.
Which One IS The Best?
In our view, the best lens for night photography would be the Canon EF Lens with f/1.8 Aperture and 50mm focal length. The tiny lens is not only affordably priced but also puts up a great show even in dimly lit conditions.
The Sigma 18-35mm HSM Lens with f/1.8 aperture would, in our view, be the best lens for Milky Way photography. It quite easy to focus and in our view, holds great potential for capturing sharp images.
A lot has changed in the world of night photography over time. But one thing remains unchanged – the need for some top-notch quality shots. So, when shopping for the perfect lens, be sure to always prioritize quality over any other features or factors.