Best Lens for Night Photography: Top Choices for Stellar Nighttime Images

For avid photographers, the pursuit of capturing the perfect nighttime scene can be a captivating challenge. Night photography offers a unique opportunity to portray the world in a different light, or rather, the subtle nuances of low light.

The key to mastering this art lies in using a camera that performs well in low-light conditions combined with an ideal lens. Choosing the right lens is crucial as it dictates the amount of light that enters the camera and the clarity of the images produced in dimly lit environments.

Silhouette of photographer at sunset on the beach using camera on tripod - Man taking picture in low brightness conditions standing by the ocean - Concept of travel, hobby and photography equipment.
In low-light conditions, a high-quality lens is key to capturing the perfect shot.
© Akhenaton Images/Shutterstock

When shopping for the best lens for night photography, one should consider factors such as lens speed, focal length, and image stabilization.

A lens with a wide aperture, such as f/2.8 or wider, allows more light to reach the sensor, making them ideal for low light conditions. The focal length affects the field of view; wide-angle lenses are excellent for capturing vast landscapes, while telephoto lenses can be used for zooming in on distant subjects. Additionally, image stabilization helps to minimize blurriness in photos taken without a tripod.

Equipped with the knowledge of what to look for in a lens and using a camera adept in low light, photographers can venture into the night knowing they have the tools to produce stunning nocturnal images. Moving forward, we’ll explore the top lenses that will enable you to harness the beauty of the night sky and urban landscapes under the stars.

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Top Picks for Night Photography Lenses: Summary Table

Note: For more details about each lens, click on a model name below.

Model NameImageOur RatingAmazon Price
Updated on 04/22/2024 12:02:04 PST
Launch DateSample ShotsBuy from AmazonLast UpdatedAmazon (Int.)Buy from B&HBuy from AdoramaAll Buying Options
Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WRFujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR
89.2
$899.002015/09Flickr Sample Shots$899.00 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$899.00 from B&H$899.00 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USMCanon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM
88.3
$2,299.002018/09Flickr Sample Shots$2,299.00 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$2,299.00 from B&H$2,299.00 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USMCanon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM
87.5
$2,099.002019/08Flickr Sample Shots$2,099.00 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$2,099.00 from B&H$2,099.00 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G EDNikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
87.4
$1,746.952007/08Flickr Sample Shots$1,746.95 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$1,746.95 from B&H$1,746.95 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GMSony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM
86.5
$1,298.002018/09Flickr Sample Shots$1,298.00 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$1,298.00 from B&H$1,298.00 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar TSony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar T
86.5
$898.002018/09Flickr Sample Shots$898.00 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$898.00 from B&H$898.00 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WRFujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR
71.1
$1,849.002017/01Flickr Sample Shots$1,849.00 from Amazon.com26/03/2024 11:01:53Not in the US? Check the price on Amazon near you.
Supports AU, BE, CA, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, NL, PL, SG, ES, SE, and the UK.
$1,849.00 from B&H$1,849.00 from AdoramaSee All Buying Options
Learn more about how we rate products…

At PhotoWorkout, our 2024 product ratings offer a thorough and dependable guide to help you choose the best cameras and lenses. Our unique rating system is designed to provide a well-rounded evaluation, considering several crucial factors. Here’s a brief breakdown of our rating process:

Customer Reviews: The core of our rating system lies in customer feedback from major retailers. We prioritize actual user experiences and satisfaction levels in our scoring.

Review Volume Bonus: Products with a significant number of reviews get a slight boost in their score. A high review count often signifies a product’s reliability and popularity.

Age Factor: We adjust scores for older models, acknowledging that newer products may have more advanced features or enhancements.

Price Consideration: We recognize the importance of value for money. As such, very pricey items might see a modest deduction in their score to balance their cost factor.

Our final score is displayed on a clear 1 to 100% scale. A higher percentage reflects a superior overall rating, derived from customer satisfaction, value, and current technology trends. This straightforward system ensures you get a clear picture of how each product stands in the market.

1. Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR

Best Fuji
Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR

We think the Fujifilm XF16mmF1.4 R WR is a stellar choice for anyone requiring a wide aperture lens, especially beneficial for low-light and night scenes.

Pros
Exceptional low-light performance due to F1.4 aperture
Weather-resistant construction perfect for outdoor shooting
Quick autofocus system enhancing usability for spontaneous shots
Cons
Heavier than some alternative lenses, possibly affecting portability
Premium pricing may not suit all budgets
Limited to Fujifilm X mount, reducing cross-brand compatibility

Recommended Camera Bodies

The Fujifilm XF16mmF1.4 R WR lens stands out as a strong performer for night photography. Its wide aperture excels in dim conditions, allowing photographers to capture sharp images with ease. The weather resistance ensures it can endure challenging weather during night shoots, a feature outdoor photographers will find highly beneficial. Meanwhile, the swift autofocus allows for quick adjustments, a critical factor when the perfect moment lasts only seconds.

Despite its prowess, the lens does come with a few considerations. The solid build and premium glass increase its weight, which might deter those who prefer a featherlight kit. Also, the cost could be a stumbling block for budget-conscious photographers and hobbyists. Furthermore, its compatibility is exclusive to Fujifilm’s X-Mount system, posing a limitation for those with cameras from other brands.

In conclusion, the Fujifilm XF16mmF1.4 R WR lens is an excellent option for night photography enthusiasts who require exceptional image quality and robust construction, provided its weight and price align with one’s expectations and camera system compatibility is not an issue.

2. Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM

Best Canon
Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM

We recommend the Canon Wide-Angle Wonder for its exceptional low-light performance and versatility in night photography.

Pros
Stellar image quality at a bright f/2.8 aperture
Effective image stabilization up to 5 stops
Quiet and smooth focusing suitable for video and stills
Cons
Significant investment for hobbyists
Weight may be cumbersome for travel
Potential for some distortion at widest angles

Recommended Camera Bodies

Capturing the night sky or cityscapes after dark requires a lens that can handle low light and deliver sharp, clear images. The Canon Wide-Angle Wonder excels here, with its f/2.8 aperture allowing ample light to hit the sensor, resulting in crisp night shots without pushing ISO too high.

When shooting handheld in dim conditions, camera shake can ruin a photo. This lens mitigates that risk with up to five stops of optical image stabilization. Photographers can confidently shoot at slower shutter speeds, increasing the camera’s ability to capture light without the blur.

In the quiet of the night, the last thing you want is a noisy autofocus system. Thanks to the Nano USM motor in this Canon lens, focusing is both swift and silent, making it a good pick for capturing nocturnal wildlife or quiet moments without disturbance.

On the flip side, its robust build and superior optics come with a higher price tag, which might be a hurdle for those not making an income from their photos. Additionally, the lens is a bit hefty, which is less than ideal for long treks or all-night shooting adventures.

Moreover, like with most wide-angle lenses, there’s a chance you’ll encounter some barrel distortion at the widest setting. Nonetheless, these are trade-offs for a lens of this caliber, one that many photographers find to be a worthwhile addition to their kit.

3. Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Also Great
Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

For photographers who seek stellar performance in low-light scenarios, the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM emerges as a top choice.

Pros
Remarkable aperture for night photography
Robust build quality and design
Smooth and precise autofocus system
Cons
Substantial investment for budget-conscious buyers
Heftier construction compared to similar focal length lenses
Absence of stabilization might affect handheld shooting

Recommended Camera Bodies

With its f/1.2 aperture, this lens grants us the ability to capture images in very low light, maintaining clarity and detail. Embracing nightscapes, starry skies, or dimly lit streets has never been more achievable. The generous aperture not only permits more light to grace the camera’s sensor but also produces a dreamy bokeh effect, making it splendid for portraits under the moonlit sky.

We have found its construction to be solid, exuding quality and durability. The advantage here is in the longevity and the handling of this high-performance prime lens — it feels professional and is built to last. Given its capabilities, the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L is a dependable sidekick for any serious night photographer’s toolkit.

However, the qualities we praise do weigh heavily in the literal sense. Lugging around this lens during extensive, on-foot night expeditions could be taxing after some time. Additionally, for those working without a tripod, the lack of in-built image stabilization means extra care must be taken to avoid camera shake in low-light conditions.

In summary, we must acknowledge that this Canon lens is a prime candidate for low-light photography. It should be on our radars not just for its optical brilliance but for the professional-grade build and performance which absolutely justify the investment over time.

4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Best Nikon
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

We consider this lens a remarkable tool for night photography and highly recommend it for its excellent low light performance and robust build quality.

Pros
Superb edge-to-edge sharpness
Exceptional low-light capabilities
Durable and moisture-resistant design
Cons
Heavier than many competitors
Lack of image stabilization
High-end price range

Related Posts

Capturing night scenes requires a lens with exceptional light-gathering ability. This lens’s fast aperture helps us photograph in low light without sacrificing clarity. Advanced optics, such as ED glass and Nano Crystal Coat technology, work together to minimize aberrations and flare, ensuring crisp images.

Durability is a key concern for us photographers who shoot in various conditions. This lens boasts a construction that resists dust and moisture, giving us peace of mind when shooting under the starry sky or in unpredictable weather.

Opting for this lens comes at a premium price point, which may be a consideration for budget-conscious photographers. Additionally, while the lens offers phenomenal performance, the absence of image stabilization means we must be extra careful to avoid camera shake during long exposures or use a tripod for the best results. Despite its weight, which may be cumbersome during long sessions or while traveling, the image quality and build make it a worthwhile investment for serious night photography enthusiasts.

5. Sony 24mm F1.4 GM

Best Sony
Sony 24mm F1.4 GM

We recommend this lens for its exceptional performance in low-light conditions and ability to produce crisp, clear images with a beautiful background blur.

Pros
Outstanding low-light performance with F1.4 aperture
Compact and lightweight for superior handling
Produces beautifully smooth bokeh
Cons
Premium pricing reflects its high-end status
Limited to a single focal length, lacking flexibility
Some may prefer zoom lenses for different framing options

Recommended Camera Body

Photography enthusiasts looking to capture the beauty of the night will find the Sony 24mm F1.4 GM to be a prime piece of equipment. Its wide aperture allows for a considerable amount of light to hit the sensor, making it ideal for low-light scenarios. The lens’s advanced optical design ensures that images are sharp from edge to edge, emphasizing every detail in the night sky or urban landscapes after dusk.

Even with its professional-grade capabilities, the lens remains remarkably portable. The balance between size and weight allows photographers to shoot for extended periods without fatigue, a clear advantage for those who prefer handheld shooting as they chase the perfect nocturnal scene.

Our appreciation for the creation of bokeh by this lens is worth mentioning. When opened up to its maximum aperture, the lens generates a quality of bokeh that provides a dreamlike quality to images, isolating subjects with a painterly background that’s free from distracting elements.

In summation, the Sony 24mm F1.4 GM distinguishes itself as a top choice for night photography. Standing testament to Sony’s commitment to quality, this lens delivers stunning visuals that meet the high standards of professional photographers and committed hobbyists alike.

6. Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar T

Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar T

We think this lens is a prime choice for night photographers who value clarity and artful bokeh in their images.

Pros
Exceptional low-light performance with a large F1.8 aperture
Dust and moisture resistant design, enhancing durability
Quiet and swift autofocus, beneficial for discreet shooting
Cons
Lacks optical stabilization, which may impact handheld shooting
Fixed focal length limits compositional versatility
Higher price point could be a barrier for budget-conscious photographers

Out in the quiet of the night, a lens that can harness available light is indispensable. The Sony 55mm F1.8 Sonnar captures scenes with a precision that elevates low-light photography. A wide aperture not only admits more light but also allows for a shallower depth of field, making subjects stand out with a softly blurred background.

Taking on the unpredictable conditions of night shooting, one appreciates the robustness of this lens. It stands up to the elements, a companion as reliable as the stars themselves. The quality of construction suggests a tool that has been crafted with dedication and attention to detail.

However, for those spontaneous, handheld moments under the moon’s glow, the absence of built-in stabilization can be challenging. It puts a greater emphasis on steady hands or the need for a tripod. Additionally, a fixed focal lens requires photographers to move physically closer or farther from subjects to compose the perfect shot.

For those who are drawn to the nocturnal hours, this lens offers a near-silent autofocus system, a feature that harmonizes with the tranquil nightscape. Disturbance is minimal, and one can remain as inconspicuous as a shadow, capturing the raw essence of the night.

Boldly pushing the envelope of night photography, the Sony 55mm F1.8 Sonnar is an optic that rewards with remarkable sharpness and an almost poetic rendering of light and shadow. It becomes evident that this prime lens has secure standing among the night photographer’s essential tools.

7. Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR

Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR

We think this lens is well-suited for photographers who prioritize image quality and versatility during night shoots.

Pros
Versatile focal range for various compositions
Fast and quiet autofocusing capabilities
Weather-resistant construction
Cons
Heavier than prime lenses, potentially cumbersome
F4 aperture may not be the fastest for low light
Limited to medium format Fujifilm camera systems

Nighttime photography requires a lens with high optical quality to capture detailed and sharp images in low light conditions. Our experience suggests that the Fujinon GF32-64mm zoom lens meets these needs with its robust construction and versatile focal range.

Given its construction of various high-quality lens elements, it can render crisp images across the entire frame. This can be especially beneficial when capturing the intricate details of night scenes, which often require excellent edge-to-edge sharpness.

However, the F4 maximum aperture, while sufficient for various lighting conditions, may not be the fastest available. Photographers who often shoot in very low light may need to rely on higher ISO settings or longer exposure times, which could increase the noise in images or require the use of a tripod.

The weather-resistant design is a significant advantage for outdoor photography. It enables shooting in less-than-ideal weather conditions without worrying about the elements damaging the equipment. This can be invaluable for night photographers who might encounter dew or light rain during long exposure shoots.

In summary, the Fujinon GF32-64mm zoom lens offers a compelling balance of image quality and versatility for night photography, despite its few compromises that are noteworthy for informed decision-making.

Buying Guide

When selecting a lens for night photography, we must consider several key features that impact performance in low-light conditions. Here, we outline the important factors to guide your choice.

Aperture

The lens aperture is crucial; wider apertures (lower f-numbers) allow more light to reach the camera sensor. For night photography:

ApertureLight Intake
f/1.4Very High
f/2.8High
f/4Moderate

Lens Speed

“Lens speed” refers to the maximum aperture of a lens; faster lenses have larger maximum apertures and are preferred for night shooting.

Sensor Compatibility

Our camera’s sensor size affects our field of view. A full-frame sensor offers a wider perspective compared to a crop sensor, which applies a magnification factor to the lens.

Focal Length

Depending on our subject, the focal length can vary. For expansive nightscapes, a wide-angle lens (24mm or wider) is often ideal. For astronomical photography, a longer focal length may be required.

Image Stabilization

Image stabilization compensates for camera shake, allowing us to use slower shutter speeds without motion blur. This is beneficial for handheld night photography.

Build and Size

Durability and weather sealing are important, especially for shooting in adverse weather conditions. The size and weight of the lens should be comfortable for long shooting sessions.

Price

We should balance features with budget; investing in quality is beneficial for low-light performance but assess what features are necessary for our specific needs.

By weighing these features carefully, we can choose a lens that suits our night photography preferences and ensures crisp, well-exposed images even in challenging lighting conditions.


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About the Author
Close-up portrait of Andreas De Rosi, founder of PhotoWorkout.com

Andreas, with a background in economics and marketing, heads PhotoWorkout's editorial team in Berlin. Starting his photography with film at 14, he's developed his craft through courses and hands-on experience, focusing on travel photography. Currently using a Fuji X-S20 among other cameras, Andreas blends academic and practical insights to shed light on the latest trends in photography. Connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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