Best Nikon Lens for Astrophotography (Our Top 8 Picks for 2023)
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The lens you choose to use with your Nikon camera can absolutely transform the quality of the images you get. There are lots of great options to choose from that can take your astrophotography to the next level, especially if you are still using the kit lens that came with your camera.
Our top pick is the Samyang Aspherical Wide Angle Lens with Auto Confirm Chip. It’s a reasonably priced prime lens that is specifically designed for astrophotography.
Best overallSamyang Aspherical Wide Angle Lens
Best Telephoto LensNikon AF-S NIKKOR Lens
Budget OptionNikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
Related post: Best Canon Lens for Astrophotography
Best Nikon Lens for Astrophotography in 2023
Best Overall — Samyang 16mm f/2.0 Aspherical Wide Angle Lens with Auto Confirm Chip
Samyang Aspherical Wide Angle Lens
This is a DX lens that works well with cameras like the Nikon D3300 or D3400. It’s a fast f/2.0 lens with a focal length of 16mm.
The Samyang Aspherical Wide Angle Lens is a DX compatible lens. That means that it will work with any DX Nikon cameras like the D3300 or D3400. You can also use it with any DX Nikon’s. You’ll just get cropped sized images as a result. Even so, this is a great option for most people and comes at a reasonable price.
This is a wide-angle lens that gives great views of the night sky. With a 79.5 degree angle of view, this is a great option for taking photos of the Milky Way.
The optical components are made of high-quality glass. The basic components are UMC (ultra multi-coated), and in the mix, there is an aspherical lens, a hybrid aspherical lens, and the final element is made from ED glass.
With a f/ratio of f/2.0, this lens is fast enough for static astrophotography of the night sky.
Best Telephoto Lens — Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR Lens
This telephoto lens from Nikon has a maximum aperture of 200mm and goes well with a range of different Nikon cameras, including the D90 and D850.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR Lens is the best Nikon telephoto lens you can get your hands on for astrophotography. This is a high-quality lens with a lot of versatility.
The focal length ranges from 70 – 200mm. This gives a f/ratio range of 22 – 2.8. In other words, this lens is fast enough for static astrophotography as well as having the versatility to slow down and work well with a go-to mount.
This is an expensive piece of kit. So, it’s very reassuring to know that it’s also waterproof. You can take this lens out on every adventure without worry that the elements are going to find their way inside.
For a telephoto lens of this caliber, it’s surprisingly compact. You don’t need to worry about being overbalanced. With the advanced focusing and anti-vibration features, you can easily go without the tripod for shorter exposure images.
This is an extremely high performing lens. If you have been looking for a top-notch telephoto lens for your Nikon camera, then you are not going to find anything better than this. When it comes to astrophotography, it gives you the range to capture the milky way or focus on individual features of the night sky.
Budget Option — Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
This is an FX format prime lens with a focal length of 50mm. It’s compatible with most Nikon cameras, including the D500, D750, and Z6.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens is a surprisingly high performing lens for such a reasonable price. While this is a 50mm lens, it offers a speed of f/1.8. This combination gives you a wide range of astrophotography options. It’s a great option for getting creative with your milky way photography.
This is an FX format lens. That means you’re going to be able to get the best performance from your camera no matter what size sensor you have. The fact that you can get a great FX lens at this price is not to be underestimated.
This is an AF-S lens. That means that the autofocus feature should work with any modern Nikon camera. With astrophotography, you don’t tend to rely on autofocus, so this may not be a big consideration. However, it does mean that this lens is very versatile and will be fit for a wide range of applications beyond astrophotography.
Best Prime Lens — Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Ultra Wide Angle Fixed Lens with Built-In AE Chip
Rokinon Ultra Wide Angle Fixed Lens
This 14mm Prime lens gives you a range from f/2.8 to f/22. It’s a DX lens, so it goes well with cameras like the D5500 and D90.
This Rokinon Ultra Wide Angle Fixed Lens is a great quality prime lens. It’s a fixed focal length of 14mm. At the maximum aperture, you get f/2.8. With that speed, it’s fast enough for static astrophotography.
It is a DX lens, so it is not the best option if you have a full-frame camera. It will work with any full frame Nikon, but the camera will switch to a crop ratio automatically.
One of the most appealing features of this lens is that it’s an ultra wide-angle lens. It offers a full 115.7 degree field of view. This is ideal for getting amazing images of the whole night sky.
The optics inside this lens are some of the best you can find. There are two ED lenses, along with numerous aspherical and hybrid aspherical elements.
If you’re looking for a good quality prime lens and don’t mind not having the Nikkor name, then this is an ideal option.
Best Manual Focus Lens — Samyang 10mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Lens with AE Chip for Auto Metering
Samyang Ultra Wide Angle Lens
This lens has a focal length of 10mm and a speed of f/2.8. It’s a DX lens, so it will work well with cameras like the D3400 and D5600.
This Samyang Ultra Wide Angle Lens is a great lens for anyone who is willing to go without autofocus. When choosing a lens for astrophotography, autofocus isn’t usually at the top of the wish list, so this isn’t a big ask. There’s something to be gained from getting hands-on with a quality manual focus lens like this one.
This is a good wide angle DX lens that gives you 110 degrees field of view. It’s a great lens that allows you to get the whole milky way into a single shot.
The lens contains a good number of high quality optical elements. There is one ED lens and two aspherical ones. The build quality on this piece is exceptional, and it’s a reliable and effective lens.
If you have a DX camera, this is a fantastic option. The only big drawback is the lack of autofocus. If you plan to use this for more than astrophotography, then it might be an issue. However, for astrophotography, this is one of the best lenses you can go for.
Best Ultra Fast Lens — Sigma 14mm F/1.8 Art DG HSM Lens
Sigma Art DG HSM Lens
This 14mm lens offers a speed of f/1.8 and is compatible with full frame cameras like the D3200 and D850.
The Sigma Art DG HSM Lens is a great example of a third-party accessory that can outperform the branded equivalents. Sigma has a growing reputation for producing outstanding optics. This lens only serves to build that reputation.
This is an ultrafast lens at f/1.8. With this much speed, you can drop a full stop and still be fast enough to take static pictures with no star trails.
This is part of Sigma’s art range. All of which are high performing lenses which minimize coma and chromatic aberration to give superior quality results.
The HSM (hypersonic motor) provides fast and smooth focusing, which you can override at any time. A simple adjustment of the focus ring gives you fine manual control.
This is a fast ultra-wide lens that is one of the best lenses for astrophotography that you can buy. The biggest drawback is the price. But for what you get, and how long it will last, it really could sell for a lot more.
Best Ultra Wide Angle Lens — Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
This option gives you a 114 degree field of view at its widest aperture. It’s full frame, so it works with most Nikon’s, including the D850 and D500.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is an ultra-wide zoom lens. It gives you a maximum angle of 114 degrees. That is more than enough to get the whole milky way in a single frame.
Not only is this a wide lens, it’s also a super sharp one. All the way to the corners, even at the highest speed, you will get pin-sharp images. This is a result of the high-quality optics it contains. It has 2 ED glass elements along with 3 aspherical lenses and 1 Nano Crystal Coat.
With a focal length range of 14 – 24 mm, it’s a good candidate to use for long exposures, as well as for static images.
The biggest drawbacks to the lens are the price and the weight. The price is worth it because it is a high-quality lens. The weight can be more of an issue. However, if you are using a tripod for your astrophotography, then the weight stops being so much of a concern.
This is simply one of the best lenses for astrophotography that you can find.
Best Zoom Lens — Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED
Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED
This lens has a zoom range of 55 to 200mm. It’s aDX lens, so it is compatible with cameras like the D7200 and D3200.
The Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED is the slowest option on this list. With its best speed at f/4, it’s not a great option for static astrophotography. Unless you want star trails, where it comes into its own is narrow field astrophotography.
If you combine this with a tracking, equatorial mount, you will be ready to take some magnificent pictures of the night sky. You can focus on just the object you want and get some sharp and well-framed images.
This is a great option for astrophotographers who are just starting out. It’s a reasonably priced zoom lens that will let you try your hand at different skills. All without having to sell your car to pay for it!
What to Consider When Buying a Nikon Lens For Astrophotography
If you use a telescope for your astrophotography, then you may already be familiar with the f/ratio. This is also known as the lens speed. It’s a measure of how long of an exposure you need to get a good picture—the faster the lens, the lower the f/ratio, the shorter the exposure time required.
When using a fixed tripod, the lens speed is critical. If your lens is too slow, you’ll end up with star trails. To avoid this while still getting good quality pictures, you ideally want an f/ratio of 2.8 or quicker.
It’s worth remembering that you often lose some quality when you use a lens right at the edge of its capability. Typically the best quality images are taken when you use the lens at a full stop lower than its best speed. So if it’s rated at f/2.8, you’ll get the best picture when you use it at f/3.8.
If you use an equatorial mount with go-to capability, then the lens speed becomes less important. The tracking mount will reduce the appearance of star trails. You then just need to keep in mind the 500 rule. This states that the longest exposure you can take before you get distortion and trailing is 500 divided by the lens’s focal length.
The aperture size and the lens speed are related to each other, so generally, you’ll find that the lenses with a larger aperture size also have a faster speed.
When it comes to astrophotography, larger aperture size is often the most desirable option. The bigger the aperture, the more light you’ll get, so the more detail you’ll have. However, you can take some fantastic pictures, even with smaller aperture sizes. It just changes the types of images you can take.
Camera Sensor Size
Your Nikon camera will either be an FX or a DX camera. This refers to the size of the sensor. FX is the full frame sensor while DX is the APS-C or crop sized sensor. You need to know which you have to match the lens you get to your sensor size.
Some cheaper lens options are very tempting. However, if you have an FX camera and use a DX lens, the camera will switch to a crop mode, resulting in a reduced resolution. It will still work, but you won’t get the full benefit of the FX sensor in your camera.
If you have a DX camera, you can use either type of lens with no problem.
The glass used in the lens has a massive impact on the quality of the images you’ll get. The best lenses will contain glass that doesn’t disperse the light. This keeps it tight and the image sharp. Lenses that have any components made with UD or ED glass are always going to perform better.
Ud (ultra low dispersion) and ED (extra low dispersion) glass keep the light tighter and more focused. The more elements in a lens that are made with this glass, the better the lens will be.
Once you choose to go with a Nikon camera, you can find that your field of vision narrows to only looking at NIKKOR lenses. They are, without question, high-quality lenses, and there is a wide range to choose from. You can easily stick to NIKKOR lenses and find everything you need.
However, there are plenty of third party lens options that can offer you some more options and often at a slightly lower price point. You can still get great quality, you’re just not paying the extra for the brand name.
Number of Optical Components
In order to get a large amount of magnification within the small size of a camera lens, you need to use more optical components. However, the more components that are used, the less light gets transmitted. Each time light passes through an element, some gets left behind. So, the fewer elements, the more light will be transmitted.
So if you are torn between two similar lenses, you can look at the number of optical components. The one that had a smaller number will probably be the better choice.
Zoom Lens vs Prime Lens
One of the big choices you’re presented with when choosing a lens for astrophotography is whether to go for a zoom lens or a prime lens. Both of them allow you to alter the lens speed; they just do it in different ways.
With a zoom lens, the focal length of the lens changes as you zoom in. This allows you to more easily fill the frame of your camera with your desired image. With a prime lens, the focal length is fixed, and the aperture size changes. This lets you easily change the lens speed within a very compact lens arrangement. Both are good options; it’s mostly a matter of preference.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use an old NIKKOR lens from a film camera with a DSLR?
As long as the lens you are planning to use was made after 1977, you can use it with your modern Nikon camera. That was when the company began to use their standard coupling system. So even these older styles of lenses will couple with your modern camera.
However, you may not be able to use all of the functions with your newer camera. For instance, you may have to manually focus the lens rather than rely on autofocus. You can use it to take pictures, though.
What’s the difference between an AF, AF-S, and AF-P lens?
AF lenses are ones that come with autofocus. In order to use autofocus, you need to have a motor to drive the mechanism in the lens. Some Nikon cameras have motors built into the body of the camera, while other, more compact models don’t have them.
AF lenses are compatible with Nikon cameras that have motors in them. If you don’t have a motor in your camera, you can use these lenses, but you will only be able to focus them manually.
AF-S and AF-P lenses have a motor built into them. You can use these lenses with either type of camera. The difference between the two is the type of motor that’s in them. AF-S lenses have a silent wave motor, and AF-P lenses have a pulse motor. The AF-S is generally a faster focusing lens, while the AF-P is a smoother focus, so it is better for video.