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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More Low Coma Lenses for NightScape Photography

Comparing for coma aberration —the same stars in the night sky (image edge enlarged to 100%). Most general photography camera lenses do NOT reproduce stars as "points" of light. They suffer from coma aberration. Coma is most apparent near the edges of the image, especially when a lens is used at its maximum or widest aperture. The expensive ($1,800) Canon lens on the right is bested by a $600 Rokinon lens on the left, which is specially designed to reduce coma. ~ © Royce Bair
At only $299 (some camera mounts are higher), the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens is one of the most popular low coma ultra wides on the market (shown mounted to the Sony A7r II via a $99 Fotodiox EF-Sny(E) Fusion Smart AF Lens Mount Adapter —enabling me to use my older Rokinon lens with a Canon mount) ~ © Royce Bair

This is my second list of low coma lenses that I recommend for starry night photography. To receive my recommendation, the lens must be able to reproduce stars near the edges of the image with very little coma aberration, even when the lens is used at its maximum aperture, which should be f/2.8 or wider. One can get by with an f/3.5 or f/4.0 lens, if it has low coma, but these lenses lack the versatility a faster lens offers.

Low Coma Zoom Lenses

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED - $1,899.95 MSRP • Nikon mount
A classic. Highly recommended for Nikon full frame (FX) camera users who can afford this great lens. I used the economical Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 for two years with good results, until I closely compare the images from my workshop students who were using the Nikon 14-24mm. The Nikon lens was better built (allowing for heavy professional use), and its images were a little sharper, had better image contrast, had much less vignetting (light fall off near the edges), was easier to manual focus, and of course had auto focus as well as auto diaphragm control for daytime use. Some of my Canon colleagues were even buying the Nikon and adapting it to their Canon cameras, even though they lost electronic coupling and all the automatic controls.  Keep in mind that the large front element on this ultra wide lens (as well as the Tamron 15-30mm and Rokinon 14mm) make attaching filters difficult (there are no threads), if not almost impossible.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM - $1,499.00 MSRP • Canon mount
Highly recommended for Canon full frame camera users. This lens is a great all-around performer, albeit my tests have shown it to be just a wee bit softer wide open (f/2.8), near the edges, than the Nikon or Tamron 15-30mm, but still sharper than the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. I also found its coma (near the edges, when shooting at f/2.8) to be just a little more objectionable than the other three lens. Although the Canon EF 16‑35mm f/4L IS USM has Image Stabilization and is $500 cheaper, this is still the better lens for night and general photography, if you can afford it. It’s 108º angle of view is 2 degrees narrower than the Tamron 15-30mm and 6 degrees narrower than the Nikon 14-24mm or Rokinon 14mm. Unlike the Nikon 14-24mm and the Tamron 15-30mm, this ultra wide angle lens does accept front screw on filters (82mm), which is a big plus for many photographers. I recommend the continuous use of a clear filter for this lens as the weather seal works best when a filter is in place, due to the lens’ focus design. A normal thickness UV filter causes some vignetting at 16mm, so I’d recommend a thinner filter, like the B+W 82mm XS-Pro UV.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD - $1,199.00 MSRP
Nikon mount • Canon mount
Highly recommended for both Canon and Nikon full frame cameras. It can also be used on Sony mirrorless E-Mount cameras like the a7s II and the a7r II, by purchasing the Canon mount and using a Metabones adapter. This ultra wide angle zoom lens has become my personal favorite for both starry night and general photography. The construction on this lens is very solid, maybe a little too good (it weighs 100g more than the Nikon 14-24mm and about 460g more than the Canon 16-35mm). Coma is very low, as is almost every other lens aberration. Sharpness and contrast are superb. Many, who have compared this lens with the venerable Nikon 14-24mm, give a slight edge to the Tamron in almost every category (here’s an example). The Tamron is about $700 less than the Nikon 14-24mm and about $300 less than the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II. The Tamron also has image stabilization (branded as “VC” or Vibration Compensation), a feature both Nikon and Canon lack. My own tests with this lens showed that the VC feature usually allows me to handhold this lens at least two and even three shutter speeds slower than without VC. On the minus side, the 15mm angle of view was 110.5 degrees compared to 114 degrees for 14mm, and that 3.5 degree coverage difference is occasionally missed when I’m in a tight situation. However, I’ve also appreciated the extra 6 millimeters of closeness I get on the other end of the zoom range (30mm vs. 24mm).

Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8 - $489.00 MSRP
Nikon mount • Canon mount • Sony Alpha mount
Highly recommended for Canon, Nikon and Sony users with cropped, APS-C size sensors. This lens is an incredible value. As far as I know, the Tokina 11-16mm is the world's fastest ultra wide lens for the small or cropped format cameras. It's also well made, very sharp and performs better than Canon’s 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 (about $650), Nikon’s 12-24mm f/4 (almost $1,000), and far better than the Sony 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 DT (about $800) — and with lower coma than any of these three lenses. Light falloff or corner vignetting is also quite low.

Low Coma Prime Lenses

NOTE: Many of my prime lens recommendations are for the Rokinon brand (also branded as "Samyang", as both are made by Samyang Optics in South Korea). These lenses have low coma and high optical performance for their price; however, they do not have auto focus, auto diaphragm or electronic coupling (so there is no EXIF info transferred to the camera). Since NightScape photography requires manual focus and using your camera's manual shooting mode, this is usually not a problem, albeit you'll have to write down the f/stop you were using, if this information is important to you ;-)


Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Ultra Wide-Angle Fisheye for Micro 4/3 - $349.00 MSRP
Micro Four Thirds mount ~ priced at $249.
This fisheye lens gives you a 180° view with dramatic, exaggerated perspective when used with a Micro 4/3 camera. With hybrid aspherical lenses, multi-layer coating and a built-in petal lens hood, you'll be able to produce sharply defined images with a minimum of flare and ghosting.

Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II  - $399.00 MRSP
Canon EF-M mount • Sony E mount • Sony E mount (silver) • Fujifilm X mount • Fujifilm X mount (silver) • Samsung NX mount • Samsung NX mount (silver) ~ all lenses priced under $300.
This fisheye lens is specifically designed for APS-C sized image sensors. It provide a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 12mm and a full 180° angle of view. Its fast f/2.8 maximum aperture is beneficial for working in low-light conditions. The lens' design features a built-in lens hood and a UMC coating has been applied to the lens elements to reduce surface reflections and prevent lens flare and ghosting for improved light transmission and more contrast-rich imagery.

Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 HD Fisheye with Removable Hood - $399.00 MRSP
Nikon mount • Canon mount • Sony Alpha mount • Pentax K mount ~ all lenses priced under $280.
This fisheye lens gives you a 167º view with dramatic, exaggerated perspective when used with an APS-C camera, or a powerful circular image floating in the frame when used with a full frame camera. Hybrid aspherical elements and multi-layer coating produce sharply defined images with a minimum of flare and ghosting. The 8mm lens focuses as close as 12" (30.48 cm) from the lens. This version of the 8mm f/3.8 Fisheye lens comes with a removable lens hood that will offer glare reduction and lens protection, but can be removed to offer an increased and unobstructed angle of view when shooting with full frame digital cameras.


Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS - $599.00 MSRP
Nikon mount • Canon EF mount • Canon EF-M mount • Sony E mount • Micro Four Thirds mount • Fujifilm X mount • Pentax K mount • Samsung NX mount ~ all lenses priced under $420.
This wide-angle lens designed specifically for use with APS-C sized image sensors. It has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 16mm and a broad 105.9° angle of view. One extra-low dispersion element and two aspherical elements have been incorporated into the optical design to minimize chromatic aberrations and distortion in order to produce sharper images. A Nano Coating System (NCS) has been applied to the lens elements in order to reduce surface reflections and prevent lens flare and ghosting for improved light transmission and more contrast-rich imagery.

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS - $499.00 MSRP
Canon EF-M mount • Sony E mount • Sony E mount (silver) • Micro Four Thirds mount • Micro Four Thirds mount (silver) • Fujifilm X mount • Fujifilm X mount (silver) • Samsung NX mount • Samsung NX mount (silver) ~ all lenses priced under $400.
This high speed wide-angle lens is designed specifically for use with APS-C sized image sensors. It has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 18mm and a broad 98.9° angle of view. It’s fast f/2.0 maximum aperture is beneficial for working in low-light conditions. Three extra-low dispersion elements and two aspherical elements have been incorporated into the optical design to minimize chromatic aberrations and distortion in order to produce sharper images. Additionally, a Nano Coating System (NCS) has been applied to the lens elements in order to reduce surface reflections and prevent lens flare and ghosting for improved light transmission and more contrast-rich imagery.

Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC Fisheye - $599 MRSP
Nikon mount • Canon mount • Sony Alpha mount • Sony E mount ~ all lenses priced under $440.
This lens provides a 180º diagonal angle of view on full-frame cameras for an ultra-wide angle, distorted perspective. The f/2.8 maximum aperture is effective in low light situations. The lens' sophisticated optical design consists of 12 lens elements arranged in 8 groups including three elements made of low dispersion ED glass and two aspherical lens elements to minimize coma and chromatic aberrations. Highly effective nanocrystal anti-reflection (NCS) coating applied together with UMC coatings improve light transmission and reduce ghosting. Its internal focus system keeps the front element from extending during focus.

Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS - $499 MSRP
Nikon mount • Canon mount • Canon EF-M mount • Sony Alpha mount • Sony E mount • Micro Four Thirds mount • Fujifilm X mount • Pentax K mount • Samsung NX mount ~ all lenses priced under $380.
This high speed wide-angle lens is designed for use with APS-C sized image sensors. It has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 25.6mm and a 79.5° angle of view. A fast maximum aperture of f/2.0 is effective in low light shooting and provides shallow depth of field. With two aspherical lens elements and one extra-low dispersion element, chromatic aberrations are minimized and sharp, color-accurate images are the result. UMC lens coating facilitates even light transmission and reduces ghosting and flare.

- - -
This page is under continuous update. Please return for recommendations and reviews on the follow lenses:

Rokinon 14mm Ultra Wide-Angle f/2.8 IF ED UMC
Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8
Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art
Nikon 20mm f/1.8G
Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC
Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art
Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC
Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art
Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 UMC



 






6 comments:

  1. "These lenses have low coma and high optical performance for their price; however, they do not have auto focus, auto diaphragm or electronic coupling (so there is no EXIF info transferred to the camera)."

    Actually, for some mounts that's not quite true. Samyang/Rokinon lenses in Pentax K-mount have the "A" position on the aperture ring that lets you control the aperture from the camera body and record it in the EXIF; I have the 35/1.4 and it works great. I believe that higher-end Nikon bodies can do the same if you set the lens to its smallest aperture, though I've never shot Nikon so I am not positive.

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  2. Do you have any opinion experience with the Sigma 18-35mm 2.8 lens? Wondering how this lens would work for Milky Way photography. Thank you.

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  3. I tested Sigma 12-24mm f4.5 on Nikon FX and the coma @12mm f4.5 is not too bad. Better than Tokina AT-X Pro 16-28 f2.8 @16mm wide open.

    ReplyDelete
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