Lenses for Night Photography

Owning the right combination of lenses is perhaps even more important for night photography than owning the right camera. You need lenses with wide apertures that can let in a lot of light. I recommend lenses that have apertures at least as wide as f2.8, as this will help minimize noise.

Wide Angle Lenses






Tamron 15-30mm f2.8
This is a remarkable new lens that produces images of similar (or even slightly better) quality as the legendary Nikkor 14-24 lens. It also costs about $700 less than the Nikkor, and is compatible with Canon, Sony, and Nikon Cameras. One disadvantage for night photography is that it is not quite as wide as the Nikkor. But for the price, this may now be the best lens out there for night photography.
Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
If you're on a budget and want just one lens for night photography, I recommend this one. It costs around $350 and produces very good quality images at night. The wide angle allows you to capture a lot of the sky and provides a lot of depth of field. There are Rokinons available for most camera bodies.
Nikon Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G
For a long time, this was the best wide angle lens available for night photography. However, the Tamron 15-30 has given it some serious competition. But the Nikkor is 1mm wider, allowing you to capture a little more of the night sky. If you own a Canon, you can buy This Adapter so it will work on your camera.
Sigma 20mm f/1.8
I wouldn't recommend a 20mm lens as one of your first lenses for night photography. However, if you find that a 14mm is often a bit too wide for your shooting style, you can consider adding a 20mm lens.
Nikon Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G
This new lens cost a little more than the Sigma 20mm, but initial reviews are very positive. It may be worth the extra cost if you own a Nikon and find that a 20mm lens suits your shooting style.
Rokinon 24mm f/1.4
Before buying this lens, I recommend getting a 14mm lens for wide angle shots and a 35mm or 50mm lens for stitched images. If you find you need a focal length between these two, this Samyang is a great option and there are versions for most cameras.


Medium Focal-Length Lenses






Rokinon 35mm F1.4
A 35mm lens is great for creating stitched images, as I explain in my Night Photography Guide. As usual the Rokinon produces great images at night at an affordable price. (Do not get the "Cine" version of this lens, as that is optimized for video.)
Sigma 35mm F1.4
The Sigma 35mm is a great lens that produces a little better quality images than the Rokinon. However, it does cost about twice as much.

Rokinon 50mm f1.4
A 50mm lens can produce stitched image that are twice as large as a 35mm lens. As a result, you're able to get even better quality images, though it does require more effort to take and process all of the images. Once again, the Rokinon produces very good quality images at 50mm. (Do not get the "Cine" version of this lens, as that is optimized for video.)
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
The Nikkor 50mm produces very good quality images and costs barely over $100! It can produce some noticeable coma in the corners of images taken at night. But for stitched images, you can get around this by cropping off the sides of the image before stitching it (there's more info on this in my Night Photography Guide).
Nikon Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G
This lens was built with night photography in mind. It was specifically designed to minimize coma and vignetting, even at f1.4. It does cost around $1,600, but may be worthwhile if you want to capture very large stitched images with superior quality.
Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM
Like the Nikkor 50mm, this lens costs a little over $100 and produces very good quality images. It can also produce some noticealbe coma in the corners, but again you can get around this by cropping the edges of images before stitching them.


Telephoto Lenses


Rokinon 85mm f1.4
I'd only recommend this lens for experienced night photographers who want to create huge stitched images at night. A 35mm or 50mm lens will be more than adequate for most stitched images you want to take.
Tamron SP 150-600mm
A telephoto lens is not very practical for most nightscapes that include a foreground and the night sky in the image. However, it can be useful for photographing just the sky and capturing lunar eclipses or perhaps a comet. It can also be useful for capturing natural light sources here on Earth that you can't get too close to, like lava or forest fires.


Fisheye Lenses


Sigma 8mm f3.5 Circular Fisheye
Fisheye lenses produce a lot of distortion, but can also capture an extremely wide field of view. This circular fisheye captures a 180 degree field of view across the entire image and renders the image as a circle with a black border around it. If you point this lens straight up, you can capture the entire night sky and the horizon will be rendered as a circle around the edge of the image.
Rokinon 12mm f2.8 Fisheye
This is a diagonal fisheye, which captures a 180 degree field of view from corner to corner but not across the entire image. It renders the image as a standard rectangular image rather than a circular image. It's reasonably priced at around $300.


Lenses for APS-C (cropped) Sensors


Tokina 11-20mm f2.8 DX
If you have a camera with a cropped sensor, I still recommend all of the lenses listed above, as they'll also work on APS-C cameras. If you ever upgrade to a full-frame camera, you'll still be able to use the same lenses instead of buying new ones. However, the full-frame lenses don't provide as wide of a field of view when used on a APS-C camera. Therefore, for your widest lens, you may want to get the Tokina 11-20mm, as it can produce very good quality images at night.
Rokinon 10mm f2.8
Like most Rokinons, this is a manual-focus lens that can produce excellent results at night. It doesn't have the zoom capabilities of the Tokina 11-20, but it is a little wider, which can sometimes make a big difference at night.


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