Best Budget Lens for Astrophotography (200$-700$)

Astrophotography is considered one of the most challenging and demanding photography genres. The reason being it requires fast wide lenses and excellent knowledge of light and post-processing techniques to produce the kind of results that can turn heads. They also have to consider aspects such as light pollution, the field of view, and composition that they need to capture and decide which deep-sky objects they’re planning to capture before arriving at a location.

Therefore astrophotographers put as much emphasis on the preparation bit as on the actual image-making process. Then there is the process of photo editing, which also assumes importance.

I shall discuss the process of image-making some other time. In this discussion, I am going to emphasize the gear-related aspects. We’ll figure out which fast aperture lenses are best for astrophotography on a budget.

Many beginner photographers feel that high ISO camera systems are the trick to shooting high-quality astrophotography. Although the camera body is an integral part of the whole process, it isn’t all of the equation.

The trick lies in the lens, whether you’re using mirrorless cameras or DSLRs. The best option for milky way photography is the wide angle lens system with a fast aperture.

What is the best focal length for astrophotography?

The best focal length for astrophotography is 12-24mm if you’re on a full-frame camera.12mm is a wide-angle focal length, offering a large angle of view and capturing stunning visual treats without getting into the domain of fish-eye lenses.

I have also selected a few lenses for the APS-C format that are best for the job. I will come right to them.

What are the  best budget lenses for astrophotography

  • Rokinon 12mm f/2.0
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  • Sigma 16mm f/1.4
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
  • Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8

They are listed in ascending order of price, so you’ll see the most affordable lens first.

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0

The Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 is a manual focus lens designed specifically for crop sensor cameras with an effective focal length of 18mm on a 35mm format equivalent. The lens is wide enough for some interesting perspectives.

This is a prime lens; therefore, you cannot zoom in and out. You must take a few steps backward or forward to change the composition.

The 98.9-degree angle of view can capture the beautiful night sky. Manual focusing isn’t an issue with astrophotography, as most photographers use manual focusing to lock their focus.

The fast f/2 aperture allows the lens to capture a lot of light, which helps to cut down the exposure time and capture beautiful images without light trails.

The construction of the lens includes 12 elements arranged in 10 groups, containing three extra-low dispersion elements and two aspherical elements to suppress chromatic aberrations, color fringing, and spherical aberrations.

Additionally, the lens features a Nano Coating System specifically used to counter the effects of flares and ghosting. Though this is unnecessary for nighttime photography of the milky way or other deep-space objects, it’s good to have for shooting landscapes, architecture, etc.

Features

  • Manual focusing lens
  • Fast aperture of f/2.  

Pros

  • The lens comes with aspherical elements for sharper images
  • Extra-low dispersion elements have been used as well
  • Nano-crystal coating ensures the suppression of ghosting and flares

Cons

  • Manual focusing lens
  • No image stabilization

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

This lens has been designed for full-frame camera systems and offers an angle of view of 115 degrees, giving you a breathtaking view of the night sky.

The lens has a special chip that works with the camera’s focus confirmation, auto-exposure, auto-metering, and auto-white balance functions for enhanced user convenience.

The construction of the lens uses 14 elements arranged in 10 groups. These include two ED elements and one hybrid aspherical element.

The hybrid aspherical elements ensure that the lens can counter the impacts of spherical aberrations. The ED elements counter the effects of chromatic aberrations.

Features

  • Manual focusing lens
  • The hybrid aspherical element ensures sharper results
  • Multi-layer coating to reduce flare and ghosting
  • Specialized chip for focus and other functions

Pros

  • 14mm wide lens
  •  Multi-layer coating
  • Specialized chip for focus confirmation and other functions

Cons

  • The aperture is only f/2.8
  • Manual focusing lens

Sigma 16mm f/1.4

Designed for the APS-C mirrorless cameras across several mounts, including Fujifilm X-mount and Canon EF-M mount.

Don’t bother mounting this lens onto full-frame systems, as this lens is designed to work with crop camera systems only.

The construction of this lens includes 16 elements arranged in 13 groups. These include two Special Low Dispersion elements and three F low Dispersion elements. These take care of chromatic aberrations and color fringing.

Additionally, the lens features two aspherical elements that take care of spherical aberrations.

The lens comes with weather-sealing gaskets, making it easy to work with in inclement weather. There are no risks of the lens’ internal parts getting wet in the rain.

Although autofocusing isn’t mandatory for shooting astrophotography, the lens comes with a stepping motor-powered autofocusing mechanism.

Features

  • Fast maximum aperture of f/1.4
  • Stepping motor for smooth autofocusing performance.
  • 16mm wide angle lens

Pros

  • Maximum aperture is very quick f/1.4
  • The effective focal length is 24mm on a 35mm format
  • Weather-sealed construction.
  • Stepping motor powered autofocusing.

Cons

  •  Some amount of purple fringing is present.
  • Corner sharpness is soft at wide open.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is another APS-C lens that offers an effective focal length of 17.6 to 25.6mm on a full-frame camera. The lens construction includes 13 elements arranged in 11 groups. It has two aspherical elements and two SD low-dispersion elements.

The first element takes care of spherical aberrations, and the second takes care of chromatic aberrations and color fringing.

On top of that, the lens features multi-coated elements to suppress the effects of ghosting and flares.

Another highlight of this lens is its internal focusing design. That means the barrel length of the lens does not change when the lens focuses.

It doesn’t matter too much for astrophotographers but means a lot to landscape and macro photographers.

The lens’s optical performance reveals that corner sharpness is slightly softer and wide open at 11mm. Center sharpness is decent at the same level. I have also noticed some purple fringing, especially at the corners. Stopping down the lens improves corner sharpness, but chromatic aberrations are still present.

Features

  • Internal focusing design
  • Two aspherical elements
  • Two SD low dispersion elements

Pros

  •  One-touch focus clutch mechanism
  • Autofocusing lens
  • Internal focusing mechanism

Cons

  • The focus clutch mechanism takes a while to get used to

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8

This lens is designed for the crop camera systems of major lens mounts and offers a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 27-52.5mm.

It is the most expensive one in the pile but it’s definitely worth the price.

It has 5 special low-dispersion elements that take care of the chromatic aberrations and color fringing and 4 aspherical elements to suppress spherical aberrations.

Thanks to these unique constructions, its sharpness is exceptional.

Super multi-layer coating is also added to ensure that the lens can counter the effects of ghosting and flares. This improves the images’ overall color contrast and enhances the colors.

The lens can maintain its shape even under extreme temperatures because it’s made of thermally stable composture material. The lens zooms internally, meaning the barrel length remains the same.

What made it a game changer when it rolled out is its super wide f/1.8 aperture. It can considerably shorten the exposure time for shooting the night sky.

Not to mention it also allows the user 17mm of flexibility to play within the composition.

Features

  • Maximum aperture of f/1.8 across the focal length.Designed for crop system cameras
  • Constructed out of thermally stable composite elements

Pros

  • The maximum aperture is f/1.8
  • Super multi-layer coating
  • Aspherical elements.
  • Special low-dispersion elements
  • TSC elements ensure that the lens does not lose shape in extreme temperatures.
  • Built out of metal, the build quality is excellent
  • Compatible with Sigma USB docking for firmware updates
  • Internal zooming lens
  • Full-time manual focusing

Cons

Autofocusing is slightly off at times with Nikon bodies.

Why do we prefer wide-angle lenses to telephoto lenses for shooting night sky photography?

One of those reasons is that with a wide-angle lens, you can capture a larger slice of the night sky. Now, I am not discounting telephoto lenses or techniques where we use telescopes with cameras to capture stunning close-up shots of heavenly bodies like the moon, Mars, etc. Those are fantastic images and wouldn’t be possible without a long focal length. But having said that, there is something else that makes us prefer wide-angle lenses: the potential exposure time.

Stars are not exactly the brightest of objects. So, most people prefer to use a long shutter speed to capture them. But there is a limit to how long your shutter speed can be before star trails appear. You know, because of the rotation of the Earth.

The limitation of telephoto lenses is bigger because their narrower field of view can exaggerate the movement of the stars.

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About the Author
Rajib Mukherjee
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. The first time he ever clicked an image was with an Agfa Click IV back in 1984. A medium format film camera. From that auspicious introduction to photography, he has remained hooked to this art form. He loves to test and review new photography gear. Rajib travels quite a lot, loves driving on Indian roads, playing fetch with his Labrador retriever, and loves photography. And yes, he still proudly owns that Agfa Click IV!

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