Best Astro-Photography Lenses for the Sony a7 series

Introduction

Sony A7s | Batis 18mm 2.8 | f/2.8 | ISO6400 | 20s

Landscape astrophotography is something I have been doing for several years with my Sony a7S and a7rII (and D800 before). Luckily over the past few years many lenses have been released that make this task easier than ever. So today we are going to have a look at all the available lenses for your Sony so you can choose the one that works best for your needs.

What is landscape astrophotography?

Sony A7s | Nikon AF-S 20mm 1.8G | f/1.8 | 3 shot panorama |

In landscape astrophotography you will usually try to have a combination of the starry sky (with Milky Way or Northern Lights) as well as some foreground (e.g. landscape) in your frame so we are mostly looking at ultra wide to normal lenses (for stitching) here.


I am not going to talk about deep sky astrophotography, this is a field I have very little experience in and you will need completely different (longer) lenses and rely on a guidance system most of the time.

What lens characteristics are important?

Generally a wide and fast lens makes life easier for us, but the lenses also need to be good wide open with somewhat decent corner resolution and coma correction.
This rules out pretty much all old legacy lenses.
It would also be nice if the lens has low vignetting and if it can easily be focused manually, as we can’t rely on autofocus at night.

A few more notes on the lenses I am going to introduce:

  • For the non native ones you need a very good adapter because pretty much all of these feature floating elements and will suffer from a too short adapter in the corners.
  • The Sigma Art lenses will soon be available as “native” E-mount lenses. At the time you are reading this article they might already be available.
  • I sometimes provided links to the reviews at Lenstip, as they have a look at coma correction and vignetting. But keep in mind vignetting can absolutely not be compared across different sensors or cameras!

What is the best focal length?

aurora borealis northern lights nordlicht nordlichter astro
Sony A7s | Nikon 14-24mm 2.8G | f/2.8

Maybe you already came across this article where I described how to improve your astro-photography pictures by using panorama techniques, nevertheless this is obviously more work and wider lenses are more straightforwarded.

  • 12-16mm lenses are great for single shot astrophotography to get the interesting part of the Milky way as well as some foreground in one shot. These are also best for taking pictures of the Aurora, as stitching is often not easily possible here because of the movement involved.
  • With the 18-25mm lenses you will need to take single row panoramas if you want the sky and some foreground in the frame most of the time. By doing so – and only taking 3 to 5 shots – you will already surpass the image quality of most of the wider lenses.
  • With the 28-35mm lenses you will start to need 2 row panoramas which is quite a bit of work. I only recommend this if you are more experienced in the field of astrophotography and want to further increase the image quality of your shots.
  • With the 50-55mm lenses you are now looking at multirow panoramas which can give great quality images but are also quite a lot of work.

I did not include fisheye lenses here. Some people like to use those for astrophotography because of the wide field of view but it is very hard getting decent framing with these.

Big thanks to Haitong Yu who was collaborating with me on this article! You can check out some of his amazing astrophotography work on 500px, Instagram or Tuchong (this last one is in Chinese).

Laowa 12mm 2.8 Zero-D

sony a7 a7rii a7rm2 laowa venus optics zero distortion wide angle 12mm 2.8 fast coma astro astrophotography
Sony A7s | Laowa 12mm 2.8 | f/2.8 | ISO6400 | 30s

This is the widest yet still fast lens available. Coma correction is not bad either.
Verdict: if you like the really wide field of view this is a decent performer for astrophotography.
I recommend getting the Canon version so you are able to use the Magic Shift Converter if necessary.

640g + adapter | $949 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

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Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

astro photography E-mount fe sony best lenses
Sony A7III | Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art | f/1.8 | ISO3200 | 20s | 10 image stack | ©Haitong Yu

This is on paper the best lens for astrophotography today, but it does come with a few flaws: it is very big and heavy and coma correction is not exactly as perfect as you would expect. Sample variation can be an issue too.
Haitong Yu: Very favourable is the lower vignetting compared to most of the other 14/15mm lenses.
Verdict: if you don’t mind the weight and bulk this is a great lens for astrophotography.

1170g + adapter | $1599 | Review at Lenstip

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Laowa 15mm 2.0 Zero-D FE

laowa 15mm 2.0 fe venus optics review coma astro astrophotography milkyway milky way
Sony A7s | Laowa 15mm 2.0 Zero-D | f/2.0

When this lens was announced my interest in the Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art vanished over night. Because this Laowa makes use of the narrow flange focal distance of the E-mount cameras it is much smaller and lighter than the aforementioned Sigma.
Coma correction seems to be comparable to the Sigma and sample variation can be an issue here, too.
Verdict: at the moment my lens of choice for single-shot astrophotography with Sony E-mount cameras.

520g | $849 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

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Samyang 14mm 2.4 XP

astro photography E-mount fe sony best lenses
Sony A7III | Samyang 14mm 2.4 XP | f/2.4 | ISO3200 | 25s | ©Haitong Yu

A bit slower than the two aforementioned lenses and inbetween in terms of bulk. Coma correction is better at shared apertures.
Haitong Yu: It has the best rendering I have ever seen for starry sky among any lens. Not only does it correct coma better than any other 14-15mm lenses, it actually keeps some spherical aberration in the image, which makes brighter stars look larger in the image (notice the Orion and the Jupiter in the image). This is highly similar to what can be perceived by naked eyes at the scene.
Verdict: if you are looking for very good coma correction coupled with not so high vignetting wide open this is your lens.

791g + adapter | $799 | Review at Lenstip

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Irix 15mm 2.4

All the aforementioned lenses have similar vignetting characteristics, this is quite a bit worse and also has worse resolution figures.
Verdict: because of the size and because it is not really giving anything over the other lenses I see no reason to get it.

685g + adapter | $425 | Review at Lenstip

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Samyang 14mm 2.8 (older MF version)

kochertal bridge milky way milchstraße brücke deutscher brückenbaupreis
Nikon D800 | Samyang 14mm 2.8 | f/2.8

It is known for huge distortion but also for decent resolution and good coma correction. Unfortunately sample variation is a real issue with this lens, so be sure to try yours out before you buy it.
Verdict: still the best budget option for landscape astrophotography.

570g (E-mount version) | $300 | Reviewsample images

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Samyang 14mm 2.8 AF

It does not share the huge distortion of the MF version, but seems to be worse otherwise.
Verdict: not recommended.

505g | $629 | Reviewsample images

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Sony FE 16-35mm 2.8 GM

This is by far the priciest option on the list. Vignetting is a little higher and it is not as fast as some of the other lenses.
Verdict: a bit pricey, but a versatile wide angle zoom that also works well for astro-photography.

680g | $2198 | Thread at Fred Miranda

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Zeiss Batis 18mm 2.8

carl zeiss batis 18mm 2.8 sony a7s astro astrophotography astroscape coma milkyway milky way star stars
Sony A7s | Batis 18mm 2.8 | f/2.8 | ISO6400 | 20s | panorama from 4 shots

Coma correction is very good as is resolution, but it is more on the expensive side and not as fast as some other options.
Verdict: good lens for astrophotography, but I wouldn’t buy it exclusively for that.

330g | $1500 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

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Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art

The specs look really great but the coma performance of the sample I once tried was not good enough compared to the other slightly less fast 20mm lenses to warrant the weight and size penalty.
Verdict: a good but very bulky lens for astrophotography.

950g + adapter | $899 | Review at Lenstip

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Samyang 20mm 1.8

astro photography E-mount fe sony best lenses
Sony A7III | Samyang 20mm 1.8 | f/1.8 | ISO6400 | 20s | ©Haitong Yu

This is a good performer, but because it is designed for DSLRs it is rather bulky.
Verdict: This is no slouch, but I would rather get the 20mm 2.0 Firin for E-mount.

525g + adapter | $550 | Review at Lonelyspeck

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Tokina Firin 20mm 2.0

The lens has its flaws when it comes to daylight photography (lens flares), but it has high resolution, low coma and is decently priced, so in the end a very good choice for astrophotography.
Verdict: my recommendation in the ~20mm realm.

490g | $699 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8

loxia 21mm 2.8 coma stars milky way astro astrophotography
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8 | f/2.8

Coma correction is very good as is resolution, but it is more on the expensive side and not as fast as some other options.
Verdict: good lens for astrophotography, but I wouldn’t buy it exclusively for that.

394g | $1499 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Zeiss Batis 25mm 2.0

Coma correction wide open is okay and improves when you stop down to f/2.8 to good yet not perfect levels.
Verdict: you can use this lens for astrophotography but there are lenses with better price/performance ration for this application.

335g | $1199 | full review | aperture series

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Zeiss Loxia 25mm 2.4

Coma correction is very good as is resolution, but it is more on the expensive side and not as fast as some other options.
Verdict: good lens for astrophotography, but I wouldn’t buy it exclusively for that.

393g | $1299 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Sony FE 28mm 2.0

This lens has decent coma correction and is comparably cheap, but the focal length is not optimal and you will probably need to take a panorama for nice framing of the Milky way.
Verdict: if you already have one you should try it out and see if astrophotography is for you.

200g | $450 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art

astro photography E-mount fe sony best lenses
Sony A7s (astromodified) | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art | f/1.4 | ISO6400 | 13s | ©Haitong Yu

Coma correction seems to have been pretty high on Sigma’s priority list for most Art lenses.
Verdict: this is a great lens for astrophotography panoramas.

665g + adapter | $899 | Review at lenstip

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Samyang 35mm 1.4 AF

astro photography E-mount fe sony best lenses
Sony A7III | Samyang 35mm 1.4 AF | f/1.4 | ISO800 | 10s | 5 image stack | ©Haitong Yu

Haitong Yu: This may replace my beloved Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art as my choice for 35mm astro photography. It corrects coma even slightly better, and keeps some spherical aberration to make brighter stars stand out. It is slightly smaller than the Sigma + adapter and as a native FE lens it has quiet and fast AF when you need those. The downsides are more LoCA and vignette wide open, and during day hours you may find more lens flares.
Verdict: a good native option that is comparably cheap.

645g | $578 | Review at lenstip

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Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art

Nikon D800 | Sigma 50mm 1.4 | f/1.4

It has low vignetting, it has good coma correction, it has very high resolution. Unfortunately it is also very big and heavy.
Verdict: probably the best 50mm lens for astro panorama images.

815g + adapter | $949 | Review at lenstip

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Sony FE 55mm 1.8 ZA

astro photography E-mount fe sony best lenses
Sony A7s (astromodified) | Sony FE 55mm 1.8 | f/1.8 | ISO6400 | 10s | panorama from 12 shots | ©Haitong Yu

This is not as good a choice as the Sigma Art, but it is still a very capable lens and obviously way more compact and significantly lighter.
Verdict: compact standard lens for astro panorama images.
I bought it for this specific usage scenario but the focus by wire was driving me nuts so I sold it.

281g | $898 | full review | aperture series

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Conclusion

As you can see there are now many lenses available that are capable of delivering very nice landscape astrophotography shots. Especially the modern fast ultra wide angle lenses (Sigma 1.8/14, Laowa 2/15, Samyang 2.4/14 XP) are making it easy – even for beginners – to take such shots.
If you don’t mind taking just a simple single row panorama a lens like the Firin 2/20mm can give you even better results without breaking the bank.
And if you are running on a tight budget try the Samyang 2.8/14 (MF) or the Sony 2/28.

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

29 thoughts on “Best Astro-Photography Lenses for the Sony a7 series”

  1. So glad to see the Samyang 14/2.4 SP mentioned here. The lens seems to be hiding in obscurity perhaps because of Samyang’s reputation of sample variation (not the case with this lens) and/or confusion with the older 14/2.8. Anyway, the 14/2.4SP is a great lens for Astro and more.

      1. That’s too bad as I think it is a sleeper of a lens. I mostly use it for astro but the few shots I’ve taken for landscape are quite sharp. The rendering is a bit more sterile than, let’s say, my Voigtlander 15/4.5 III but I’d love to see you guys do a full assessment. Too bad we are so distant otherwise, I would lend you mine.

  2. how come no mention of the cv 35mm 1.7 ultron you used in the Dolomites?

    I use the irix 15mm and I think it does a fair job and if you are on a budget it is worth considering… 😇

    cheers, A.

    1. For the Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 you will need a 5m PCX for decent performance for this kind of application.
      This is a bit of a hassle and the set of lens and PCX element will cost more than a Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art which delivers a better performance.

      In the US the Irix 15mm 2.4 is still double the price of a manual focus Samyang 14mm 2.8 while I don’t think the performance is actually noticeably better, so I still find it hard to recommend.
      But I can definetly see people giving it a try after they had 3 decentered Samyangs in their hands (as did I) 🙂

    2. I agree with that, Irix resolution at infinity is quite good, like coma correction, the lens is not designed for the testchart distances which are much shorter… Oh and Nikkor 20mm f1.8 @ f2.5 is great as well.

    1. All Loxias have an astro issue caused by the shape of the apperture. This lens line produce even open sun stars around luminous stars like Jupiter or Venus. This is a no-go in astro imaging. The 50mm Loxia is pronouncing un-wanted sun-stars especially strong. Therefeore my Loxia 50mm ample ended soon in the sales box.

      Clearly the best 50mm performer in the FE family is Sony Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 ZA. Except vignetting it is already open practically perfect.

  3. Very interesting article! I really like the shot with the Nikon 20/1.8 and the one with the shed. Currently I use the Loxia 50/2 and Samyang 14mm t3.1. The quality of the Samyang is indeed terrible. My first sample had some issues but was well centered, my second sample had to be repaired since it got decentered over time… Performance is good though.
    The Loxia’s coma correction is indeed not perfect but well enough for me. It shows indeed sun stars around very very bright stars, but to be honest, I like the effect 😉 https://flic.kr/p/FEmrXD
    The Firin 20/2 looks like a nice less wide lens for astro work.
    Thank you for the article!
    Kind regards, Juriaan

  4. Oh uhh, the Tokina ATX 90mm f2.5 is an unexpected great astro lens,it can be used wide open! No coma. other good performers, the best Pentax A* ED 200mm, Sigma Art 135 and 85mm, cheap and great Samyang 135mm f2. + Nikkor AIS 180mm ED, Nikkor 105mm f2 DF not bad! and there are some more.

  5. Have you tried the OTHER Sony 16-35 f/4? I haven’t tried astro photography but I do own this lens.

    Worth a try? Thanks!

    1. I have used it and got decent results so for occasional astro photography it can be a decent results. Not as good as those with dedicated lenses but good enough for many.

  6. I got a used Irix 15mm Firefly and use it with Sigma MC11 Adapter.
    280€ seemed like a very good deal since i get native ibis and exfi data with it. (What you don’t have with the Laowa and the Samyang).
    Apart from that you can use 95mm screw on Filters, GEL Filters and can lock the Focus, it is 2.4 instead of 2.8 and in reality you will end up with the same price than the Samyang because you can confidently buy it used, which is not possible with Samyang´s sample variation.

    And the fire fly version is actually only 608g for Canon.

    1. A short search on google revealed that also that Irix 15mm seems to have severe sample variation issues.
      This unfortunately applies to pretty much all of the fast wide angle lenses, so I would be very cautious with buying any of these used.

  7. Nikkor 20mm f1.8 (@ 2.5) and Sigma 15mm EX fisheye f2.8 are great astro lenses as well, concerning Sony-adapters you need the proper thickness on the Nikkor. Nikkor 24mm f1.8 can be used wide open. Oh a D750 body performs better than the new Sony A7 iii , compared it last may in the Pyrenees. A7 had more ampglow and some strange artefacts in the RAW-data + less sensitive to H@ (red nebulae)

  8. If you get bored, check out a Canon FD SSC 35/2. Didn’t spend a ton of time with it but shocked me with its good resolution, coma performance and flat field. Only widish legacy lens I’ve come across that works well.

  9. The Sony FE 35mm 1.4 is even better than the Sigma. I’ve used it for Astro panos. Also, another vote for the Sony FE 50mm 1.4 planar, this lens is off the charts amazing. I typically stop down to f2.0 and it’s rendering is the best I’ve seen for astro.

  10. This is a great article, thank you! Astro is my main focus and although I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I like I’m passionate about it. This convinced me to pull the trigger and pick up a Tokina 20mm, but I wish this lens could have been better in the flare department… If Laowa had a 20-ish lens with similar performance to their 15mm and similarly priced I’d get that in an instant.

    1. I tried a few copies of the Tokina and I couldn’t get one that had acceptable performance across the frame. All of my copies were decentered to some degree, similar to what Phillip described in his review. I don’t have the budget for the Loxia right now so I went with the Samyang 20mm instead. It’s big and the corners never really get razor sharp but it has little-to-no variance across the frame, it might be one of the better build Samyangs. It needs to be stopped down to 2.8 for perfect stars but I’m OK with that.

  11. I’m not an expert but I’ve had what I consider very good results with the humongous (and expensive) Zeiss ZF.2 Distagon T* 15mm f/2.8, which I use on a Novoflex adapter equipped with their ASTAT-NEX tripod collar. Do you know how it compares with the other lenses in your quite informative review?

    1. By now that Zeiss is a slightly dated design compared to the lenses mentioned here.
      As it is big, very expensive and not overly fast I would not recommend buying one for this task.
      Nevertheless, if you already own it it should give you satisfactory results.

  12. What adapter have you used with the Samyang 14mm XP? There are many who with the second generation of A7`s worked well and with the third not.

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