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Astro Photography - What lenses are best?

MarkJames 5 2 United Kingdom
8 Oct 2020 6:16PM

I wondering what lenses are best for astro photography and if you can upload examples of astro photos you may have taken.

Also, would you always edit them in lightroom?


sherlob Plus
15 3.2k 130 United Kingdom
8 Oct 2020 10:42PM
It very much depends on what type of astrophotography you are interested in. For example, if you are interested in taking astro-landscapes perhaps including the Milky Way or a star trail then you ideally need a fast super wide lens (to fit more of the stars in). If on the other hand you are interested in photographing specific distant objects in the night sky e.g. nebula or Andromeda then you will need a fast telephoto (and probably an equatorial mount for your tripod). I love shooting the Milky Way and use a Irix 15mm f2.4 for the job. I started though with a much cheaper Samyang 14mm f2.8. Many folk also rate the Canon 50mm f1.8 and is a very cheap lens to buy (albeit it isn't super wide).

There are plenty of really good tutorials on astro photography on the web. A good place to start is LonelySpeck.com - albeit don't limit your search to just here. Also, remember that just about every aspect of astro is challenging: your location, camera craft and the post processing. To illustrate: the shot of the Milky Way below was taken in truly dark sky area of South Africa (the Addo Game Reserve). The image is a composite and can be argued to be a tad unrealistic in consequence - in my experience if anywhere is dark enough to enable a truly clear view of the stars you will not be able to see much foreground detail (although in this case the light from the hut did enable me to see some). Here the FG image was taken at ISO800 and is a 5min exposure at f2.4 (this helps illustrate how dark it was). The sky is "stacked" an astro post processing technique to remove noise from very high ISO images. In this case I used 15 8sec exposures at f2.4 ISO6400. I combined these (stacked them) with 15 dark frames. How stacking works is not something I'd like to post about here - especially as there are so many good online tutorials on the techniques and software needed. Once I had my stacked image I needed to blend (composite) this with the FG in PS.

It is worth adding that you don't always have to go to such lengths to get half decent astro images - albeit this very much depends on your intended use. Furthermore, near objects such as the moon can be photographed relatively easily, handheld and with nothing more than a telephoto lens.

Enjoy your explorations. Its frustrating and difficult at times, but can be rewarding and totally addictive. Be warned.

10 Oct 2020 6:48AM
This may surprise you, but it also depends quite heavily on what camera you are using. For example, most current model Pentax DSLR's have an outstanding astrophotography mode (capability). Much the better camera when compared to others for this purpose.
mattw 17 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
10 Oct 2020 9:22PM
Quite a wide topic Mark - the 'best' lens will depend on what type of camera you have, and what type of shot you are going for.

Ideally you want one with a fast max aperture though.

This was taken on a full frame camera with a Samyang 14mm F2.8 lens:
cheddar-caveman 17 1.2k England
27 Feb 2021 4:33PM
I just use my Sony RX10M4, usually at around 500mm for DSO's but wide angle for the Milky Way, mounted on a SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount.
Only started in September but have managed some quite acceptable examples so far.

The Andromeda Galaxy

Orion Nebula
4 Mar 2021 1:43PM
It really depends, but a solid wide angle lens that is ranging from 70-200mm, that's not fixed (so you can obviously adjust). I find prime lenses to be more clearer but a good versatile lens that is high quality does wonders.

I use a sigma f/2.8, 70mm to 200mm lens myself. If you want more tips for astrophotography, I've written a pretty solid guide on how to do it.

This one below I did on the sigma I mentioned.

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