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What Lens for Astrophotography & Aurora?

It seems I can’t go a day without seeing this question at least asked once on a Facebook page or in a forum, so I thought I’d create the go to ‘list’ for lenses that are best suited for shooting the night sky and Aurora’s.

Of course there are many factors to consider when purchasing a lens so I have limited the list below to common lenses used and proven in the field. I have structured the list based on the angle of view and the type of body it will be used on either a full frame or crop. I am only focusing on Canon and Nikon, however brand like Samyang are universal, and can be purchased with mounts for Sony and others.

If you are looking for a lens for your camera this list would be a good starting point.

Lenses with a ‘B’ have a bulbous front element and standard 4×6 filters will not fit.

 Full Frame BodyCrop Body
Ultra WideSamyang 14mm f2.8 B
Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 B
Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 B
Canon 16-35mm II f2.8
Canon 14mm f2.8 B
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 B
Nikon 16-35mm f4.0
Sigma 15mm f2.8 (fisheye)
Zeiss 15mm f2.8
Samyang 8mm f2.8 B
Tokina 11-16mm f2.8
WideSamyang 24mm f1.4
Canon 24mm f1.4
Samyang 14mm f2.8 B
Samyang 16mm f2.0
Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 B
Sigma 18-35mm f1.8
Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 B
Canon 16-35mm II f2.8
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 B
Nikon 16-35mm f4.0
StandardSigma 35mm f1.4
Samyang 35mm f1.4
Samyang 50mm f1.4
Canon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Nikon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Samyang 24mm f1.4
Sigma 35mm f1.4
Samyang 35mm f1.4
Telephoto*Samyang 85mm f1.4Samyang 50mm f1.4
Canon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Nikon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Samyang 85mm f1.4

*Normally deeper space work or stitching involved requiring motorised mounts.

BPD_1814

I can’t say it enough, foreground!

The other night I was out shooting an Aurora with a friend of mine, and we were discussing what can make or break a shot. What is it about some scenes that make a photograph popular?

To be honest the Aurora Australis is not all that hard to shoot, you join a Facebook page, find out when the actions happening and the weather is clear, then go out and setup your camera pointing south with the settings everyone is willing to freely give you. The result? Well we have all seen them, the countless shots from decks and backyards.

BPD_1844So, what am I waffling on about? Imagination, creativity, beauty and effort. Yes, effort. A good shot does not happen when you drive into a carpark and proceed to setup your camera next to your car. A good shot takes research, framing and most importantly good subject matter. A good Aurora is not good enough by itself (yes there are exceptions to the rule), a good shot draws you in on many layers, first it may be the Aurora, but then your eyes start to wander as you look at the other subject matter and composition.

It’s very important to make sure your shot is level, and you use the proven framing techniques, and that the rest of the shot enhances the main subject matter, in the case of an Aurora maybe it’s reflections on water, interesting foreground subject matter or some lovely rolling hills. Also, try to avoid to much subject matter drawing your else away from the central theme, or bad subject matter.

Anyone can shoot a car, anyone can even shoot a nice expensive and exotic car, but it’s never going to look nice unless you place the car in surroundings that enhance the featBPD_1843ures of the car, and of course, shot in a way that enhances the cars features.

In the days before digital cameras you knew you only had one, maybe two rolls of film for a shoot, consequently much more time was spent on planning and setting up shots. Today there seems to be this idea that quantity is going to make up for quality. Sometimes I may only shoot 6 pictures, and at most I generally never go over 50.

The best shots are always the ones that have been researched, pondered upon, then with the subject matter framed correctly.

Could you go out and ONLY take 24 different shots?

BPD_0597

Sigma 16-20mm f2, Yes Please.

The rumor of the Sigma 16-20mm f2 ART lens has been circulating for over a year now, and it’s looking less likely that we will see it, for a number of reasons:

  • It was reported that if the lens were to be released it would have been announced last year.
  • A 16mm lens at f2, particularly to ART standard would be expensive, very expensive, and it would house some seriously big pieces of Glass. Even a 20mm f2 lens would rival others like Nikon’s 20mm f1.8 which is an expensive prime.
  • The 16-20mm may be considered to be a very short zoom range, and by it’s nature seem impractical. It’s understandable that the market for this lens may be small. If it was considered to be unprofitable I guess that would not produce it.

Well, the issues aside I personally would love to see f2 @ 16mm. I admit given it’s likely price tag it will have a very small market, mainly to those that shoot landscapes where there is little light. As a person who regularly shoots the night sky and the Aurora Australis I would love to see this lens.

So Sigma, if your reading this PLEASE produce this lens and if you need someone to test it I’m here waiting. 🙂 I’d be more than happy to shoot the southern sky and tell of it’s greatness; because lets face it, if it’s going to be an ART lens it’s going to be awesome.