The night offers a lot of interesting scenery just as much as or maybe even more than what you see in daylight. However, one big problem is that taking photographs under low light conditions can end in a very noisy picture or even blurred ones. In recent years, camera brands have offered their own best lens for night photography. These lenses help in immortalizing the beauty and mystique that the night brings.
Features of the Best Lens for Night Photography
The combination of technique and equipment is a huge advantage for night photography. Without the other, a photographer would be nothing. Especially when taking photographs at night or in low light environments. So, you should be investing in knowledge and equipment at the same time.
The Best Lenses For Night Photography In 2020
What makes a great low-light photography lens?
For those new to night photography, the following are some important features that should be in a lens designed for use when shooting at night or in low light conditions.
- Wide focal lens – A wide focal lens allows you to take pictures that capture a bigger part of the scenery. If you are into night sky photography, having a wider focal lens lets you take in more stars in your photograph without cutting off some of those celestial bodies.
- Large aperture – Lenses with a large aperture allows more light into your camera sensor.
- High sharpness – A lens with high sharpness is a must for night photography. It is an essential feature as there is a tendency for weak sharpness in images taken during the night or in an environment when lighting is poor.
- Low vignetting – The night is already enough to make your pictures dramatic. That said, it is a must to opt for a lens that does not offer much vignetting. Photographs taken during the night or in low light conditions are already dark so editing them will only result in a picture full of noise or grain.
- Low coma – In photography, coma is the state when there is a comet-shaped blur in an image of a point of light, which is caused by a spherical lens aberration. Coma should not be confused with chromatic aberration but is more similar to astigmatism, where points of lights are stretched into short straight lines. Having a good lens with less coma allows your photograph to have less smear at its corners.
But each should be at the same level to make the most of each other. So, you also need to do some reading to make sure you are using your equipment properly. By having the right technique and knowledge of how your camera and accessories work, you can take advantage of what it offers.
Is a 50mm lens good for night photography?
Yes, using a 50mm lens helps a lot when capturing pictures in low light conditions. You no longer need flash to capture your subject at night. Why? 50mm lenses offer higher available shutter speed at any ISO due to the faster aperture of its lens.
Is there a recommended setting when taking pictures at night?
Yes, the manual setting is the way to go when taking pictures at night or in low light settings. Why? Having your camera in manual mode allows you to customize every setting. You have greater control over how your photograph will turn out when in manual mode. Given that there is little to no light, it is a must to adjust settings like exposure by yourself. If you are not as confident using manual mode, you can opt to use Aperture Priority mode but never settle for automatic mode.
Additionally, most photography enthusiasts recommend that you shoot in raw format. Pictures taken at night are mostly composed of extreme dynamic range issues. When compared to pictures shot in JPEG format, the raw format allows for a wider range. Also, you can easily deal with noise when capturing raw photographs.
What is the 500 rule in photography?
The 500 Rule refers to the technique used by photographers to avoid blurry photographs of the night sky. The rule states that you should use the longest shutter speed that is equal to 500 divided by your focal length. For example, if you are using an 11mm lens, the shutter speed should at be at 45.5 seconds, while shutter speed should be at 31.3 seconds for those on a 16mm lens and those using 50mm lenses should have their shutter speed at 10 seconds.
Five of the Best Night Photography Lenses
This Canon wide-angle lens is one of the two fastest wide-angle lenses offered by the Japanese camera brand. It is a popular option for nightscape photographers as it delivers less distortion at 24mm, produces sharper images and offers a flatter field. The EF 24mm f/1.4L II comes with the following features:
- A focal length of 24mm
- 8 round diaphragm blades
- 77mm filters
- Depth of field scale
- 3.29” diameter x 3.42” extension from the flange
- 0.8 feet minimum focus distance
Now, let’s check whether this Canon lens has what it needs to be a night photography lens. First, it is pretty easy to switch from auto to manual mode. Just grab the ring and adjust while taking photographs. In terms of autofocus, it is fast enough but do not expect an instant reaction. It is as fast as Canon’s other 24-70/2.8L II lens at 24mm. Manual focus is just fine as it is capable of taking 135 degrees turn from alpha to the closest distance. In terms of coma, there is a noticeable coma when taking a picture at f/1.4. However, there is a remedy for this if you go away by f/2.8 to f/1.4. The build is also good with this Canon lens. It is made out of plastic with anodized aluminum hood mount, a rubber cover metal in its focus ring and metal internals.
- Versatile lens perfect for not only nightscape but also landscape and portrait photography.
- Smooth focus ring.
- Easy switch to manual mode.
- Very visible coma in corners of the picture.
- The angle is too wide that it is what you capture is not visible on the viewfinder.
- Autofocus is not 100% accurate.
Sigma is a brand known for producing a wide variety of lenses for cameras released by major manufacturers like Canon and Sony. The Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM is one of its offerings for full-frame cameras and can also fit those with APS-C sensors. It brands itself as capable of delivering wide, bright and sharp photographs. This lens comes with the following features:
- A total of 9 diaphragm blades
- F16 minimum aperture
- 94.5 degrees angle of view
- 27.6 cm / 10.9 in. of minimum focusing distance
- 1:7.1 of maximum magnifications
- Weight of 950 grams
This Sigma lens is for those photographers looking for wide-angle focal lengths. Its focal length capability suits those who like to take pictures of landscapes, cityscapes, buildings, and nightscapes. Its wide aperture also brings in the advantage of capturing decent looking pictures even when there is low or no light present. It can also allow you to blur the background even when shooting at night or in a low light environment.
- Great for night photography.
- Wide angle-wide aperture.
- No noticeable coma in pictures.
- Lacks zoom capability.
- No filters.
- A bit heavier compared to other night photography lens.
As a known manufacturer of cameras and accessories, Nikon continues its expertise in producing great accessories with the AF-s FX Nikkor 20mm. The Japanese manufacturer describes this lens as its fastest ultra-wide angle lens, which is perfect if you will be using it for nightscapes. The AF-S FX NIKKOR 20mm comes with these features:
- Ultrasonic focus
- Wide-angle lens
- Maximum aperture of 1.8
- A minimum focal length of 20 mm
- 77 mm photo filter thread size
This Nikon ultra-wide camera lens continues to offer what landscape, architectural and nightscape photographers love about this lens. This new edition of the 20mm f/1.8G comes with a new optical design as well as 1.3 stops speedier compared to its predecessors. It also has the ability to allow you to capture your images in a wider scope. On top of that, it now comes with a newer and modern high-resolution sensor. However, you would be limited in focal length if you opt to get this Nikon 20mm lens. In terms of its build, the 20mm f/1.8G comes in textured plastic exteriors, a metal mount, and a rubber gasket on its lens. It is also bigger than expected. But its size comes with an advantage as it allows for better handling of the lens while working on the camera.
- Ultra-wide angle.
- Modern high-resolution sensor.
- Lacks in focal length.
- Poor bokeh capability.
- Noticeable coma when shooting at f/1.8.
If you have a DX-format camera and love night photography, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G is the best Nikon lens for night photography. This prime lens is capable of delivering stunning pictures. This power comes from the fact that it comes with a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture that’s useful for low light conditions and creating blurry backgrounds. Aside from the fast aperture, these are the following features that come with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm:
- An aspherical lens that minimizes coma and other types of lens aberration
- Nikon Super Integrated Coating
- Exclusive Nikon Silent Wave Motor
- Rounded 7 blade diaphragm
- Engineered for Nikon DX-format cameras
The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G has what it takes to compete in the budget night photography lens market. Its biggest selling point is its ability to produce sharp images that also have great micro contrast and color rendition. The lens also performs great when using autofocus and is pretty accurate when shooting in low light environments. Additionally, it comes with good optical properties for a camera lens at this price range. Like most night photography lenses, this Nikon lens also suffers from ghosting/flare common among wide-angle aperture lenses.
- Able to produce sharp images.
- Great optical qualities.
- Good autofocus function.
- Not good when using its bokeh functionality.
- High vignetting.
- High chromatic aberrations.
Canon has another entry on this list. It shows how the Japanese manufacturer is a go-to brand for most photographers. The Canon 22mm f2 STM compact system lens differentiates itself from others in this list with its weight. This night photography lens is packed with the following features:
- F/2 maximum aperture
- Lead screw-type stepping motor
- Lead screw-type stepping motor
- Standard view
The ease of use and being lightweight are probably some of the reasons that would get you to purchase this lens. The 22mm f2 STM is perfect for night photographers who would rather have a lightweight and well-built lens. Despite its weight, the 22m f2 STM is a capable lens that could match the performance of lenses included in this list. It stands out most with its ability to autofocus. The latest firmware update allows you to instantly change to manual mode by adjusting the focus ring. In terms of images produced, this Canon lens was able to capture good images with mid-range sharpness. However, there are still visible corner shading and chromatic aberrations, especially when using it at maximum aperture.
- Capable of producing sharp images.
- Low geometric distortions.
- Noticeable corner shading and chromatic aberrations.
- A fair amount of ghosting/flare.
Which Lens Grabs the Prize in the Best Lenses for Night Photography Category?
The 24mm f/1.4L II from Canon emerges as the best lens for night photography. This lens is one of the best Canon lenses for night photography. You can easily control its manual mode by adjusting it on the focus ring even when using the camera in action. Additionally, its price makes it a steal of a purchase considering that it is a versatile lens that’s not only great for nightscapes but also a portrait, landscape, and architecture photography.