Lenses for Astrophotography

Astrophotography Lens Test

A test of wide-angle lenses for astrophotography on FX format. The shots were taken from suburban conditions, the camera was mounted on a static tripod without guiding. The left image is always the full frame, the middle one is the center, and the right one is the upper left corner of the image.

A few years ago I did a similar test on DX using different lenses: http://salzgeber.at/articles/lens_test/nikon.html

Click on the thumbnails to get a bigger view.

AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

Another lens of Nikon’s recent f/1.8 G  line. While showing a bit of coma at f/1.8 it is already good at f/2.8 and very good at f/4.

AF-D Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8

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An old design from the 1990s, it shows coma and chromatic aberration.

Samyang 14mm f/2.8

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The lower right corner is actually much better,  some of those lenses are a bit decentered. I think this is not only true for third party lenses, the 20-35 also shows quite differing quality in different corners.

Tokina AT-X 12-24mm f/4

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This is actually a DX lens, but from 18mm to 24mm it also works quite ok on FX format.

Samyang 8mm f/3.5 fisheye

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On DX it is a full-frame fisheye, on FX the image circle can be seen partly. For astrophotography purposes I actually like this lens better on DX, I use it on FX for virtual 360° panoramas.

AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D

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For decades this focal length was considered “standard” and many cameras were sold with a 50mm lens. Optically it is a quite simple design, yet quite fast. At f/4 it is very usable for astrophotography. On DX it is also useful for portraiture.

AF-Nikkor 85mm f/1.8s

This is my favourite portrait lens, but it is also plenty sharp, and while it has issues with chromatic aberration and coma when used wide open, it is very good for astrophotographical purposes at f/4.

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AF-S NIKKOR 24–85 MM 1:3,5–4,5G ED VR

A consumer oriented FX Zoom is not really made for astrophotography, but I think it is still quite usable. The corners have quite strong light fall-off, and coma is clearly visible. Therefore cropping is advised for critical image quality. Live focus is of course more difficult, as the maximum aperture is only f/3.5 at 24mm and f/4.5 at 85mm.

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Ai Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5

This is a very old lens from about 1979 but it is plenty sharp and shows only mild coma and a gradual light fall-off. The maximum aperture makes this lens not very desirable for astrophotography, but it is better at f/3.5 than the AF-D 50mm at f/4.

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Ai Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 (pre 1982)

Even though this lens is also quite old, it seems that the optical design is very similar to the AF-D 50mm lens. As these manual lenses can be had very cheaply, and you will not use autofocus for astrophotography this is a great light-weight addition for any astrophotographer. With 50mm focal length, the lens is suitable for constellation shots.

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AF-S Nikkor 70-200 f/4

This is probably the best Nikon lens I ever had, it is very sharp already wide open and shows very little optical abberrations in the corner. It is much better for astrophotography than the 180mm f/2.8 I had before.

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