What is the best lens for Moon photography? (2024)

By Antoni Cladera

I can't hear you. Did you answer "yes"?

Well, in that case you can accomplish it by planning your shot with an app like PhotoPills and using a telephoto lens.

That's exactly what Robert Gallucci did to capture the amazing picture I used as the cover of this article.

Actually, I'm sure that he thoroughly read our Moon photography guide and followed every single step. And that's what you should do too... :)

To sum it up, follow these steps:

  1. Plan your shot with PhotoPills.

  2. Get the best lens for Moon photography you have at home.

But apart from having a good lens, you should take into account the best settings to shoot the Moon to nail your shot at the first attempt.

Oh, and don't forget that cameras are an essential piece of gear within your camera equipment, so make sure you pair your lens with the best camera to take pictures of the Moon.

And now, let's dive into the subject to find out what's the best lens for taking pictures of the Moon... ;)

"I always look up at the moon and see it as the single most romantic place within the cosmos." - Tom Hanks

Moon Photography: The Definitive Guide

¡Consigue gratis este ebook!

Content

  1. What is the best lens for Moon photography?
  2. How to choose the best Moon photography lens
  3. Your lens choice depends on the Moon picture you want to capture
  4. Moon photography with a wide angle lens
  5. Moon photography with intermediate focal lengths
  6. Moon photography with long focal lengths
  7. How fast should your Moon photography lens be?
  8. Best Nikon lens for Moon photography
  9. Best Sony lens for Moon photography
  10. Best Canon lens for Moon photography
  11. Best Fujifilm lens for Moon photography
  12. Best cheap lens for Moon photography
  13. Cure yourself of GAS

1.What is the best lens for Moon photography?

full moon setting across the Basílica del Pilar, Zaragoza (Spain)
Olympus E-M1 Mark II | 210mm | f/5.6 | 1/125s | ISO 200
Photo by Javi Matoses

"OK Toni, let's get to the point... What's the best lens to shoot the Moon?"

Let me start by saying there's no need to break the bank! :D

The best lens is the one you have, the longer the better...

But...

To nail your Moon pictures, make sure your lens is:

  • Long.
  • Very sharp.
  • Reasonably fast (f number as low as possible).
  • Stabilized.
  • Not heavy.

After years testing and comparing many camera lenses these are, in my opinion, the best lenses to photograph the Moon:

What's more, the crop factor on a DSLR with an APS-C sensor, for instance, brings you closer even further, so your 400mm focal length might increase to an equivalent of 640mm, depending on the brand of camera you use.

And if you wish to go longer, you can always use a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter.

2.How to choose the best Moon photography lens

silhouette of a human figure with camera on a tripod looking at a giant moon
Canon 6D | 600mm | f/9 | 1/125s | ISO 250
Photo by Nuno Martins

Let me ask you a question.

Have you ever tried to photograph the Moon using your smartphone or DSLR kit lens?

If yes, you've surely realized that what seemed a huge Full Moon has suddenly shrunk into a tiny speck of light in your picture.

What a bummer!

As I'll explain in section 3, a standard or wide angle lens can't capture more than a minuscule spot in the night sky.

So if you're looking for outstanding results, then you need a different lens.

But...

What makes a good Moon photography lens?

Here's how to pick the best lens for Moon shots worthy of winning a contest:

  • Pick a (very) long lens. If you want a huge Moon in your frame, choose a lens at least 300mm or longer.
  • Invest in high-quality glass. Forget about megapixels. The only way to produce razor-sharp Moon images is spending money in crystal-clear optical glass.
  • Get a fast lens. The wider the aperture, the more light the lens lets in the sensor. So you can capture more details of the Moon while not producing a lot of noise.
  • Look for stabilization. Choose a lens with some sort of internal stabilization to avoid motion blur.
  • Consider its weight. Try to get a lens that's not excessively heavy. You'll really start to notice that extra weight after carrying it for hours during an uphill hike...

2 hacks to add to your camera lens for Moon photography

In Moon photography, having a proficient long lens is key.

But there are 2 tricks that you can apply to "increase" your lens' focal length:

  • Use a camera with a cropped sensor.
  • Add a teleconverter.
Use a camera with a cropped sensor

The crop factor on a mirrorless or DSLR camera body with an APS-C or Micro 4/3 sensor brings you closer even further.

So, depending on the brand of camera you use, your 400mm focal length might increase to an equivalent of 600mm (APS-C 1.5x cropped sensor) or 800mm (Micro 4/3 2x crop factor).

The downside of course is that those cameras have less detail than a full frame camera body.

Add a teleconverter

A teleconverter is an optical element which you can couple with the lens and the camera to increase the focal length. Keep in mind that you need to use a teleconverter designed for the lens you plan to use.

Unfortunately, a teleconverter negatively impacts lens sharpness and decreases its maximum aperture:

  • You're adding an extra piece of glass between your scene and the sensor so you risk capturing a softer image.
  • A 1.4x teleconverter generally reduces your exposure by 1 stop, while a 2x teleconverter cuts 2 stops.

3.Your lens choice depends on the Moon picture you want to capture

diagram with different examples of the moon size inside the frame based on the focal length used

One question fellow photographers regularly ask me is how I make the Moon look so big.

Well, there are 2 major factors that you should take into consideration:

  1. The shooting spot determines the size of the Moon relative to the subject size. So the further away you are from the subject, the bigger the Moon will look like.

  2. The focal length determines the Moon size in the frame. And that's because a telephoto lens compresses perspective.

So if you want a:

  • Moon as a dot, use a wide-angle lens (10-35mm).
  • Small Moon, use intermediate focal lengths (35-200mm).
  • Large (or huge!) Moon, select long focal lengths (>200mm).

Let's see together the different types of lenses you can photograph the Moon with and how big the Moon will look in your frame.

4.Moon photography with a wide angle lens

crescent moon with Earthshine next to a juniper
Canon 5D MK IV | 16mm | f/11 | 20s | ISO 100
Photo by Eduardo Marcos

Do you want to photograph an attractive landscape photo that includes the Moon as a secondary subject in your composition?

In that case, use a wide angle lens (10-35mm) to get a larger angle view of the scene in front of you. That way you'll include more of the environment where the Moon isn't the main subject.

Also, include a powerful foreground. To do this, get close to your subject and it will have a larger size in the photo.

On the contrary, the Moon will appear very small. It will be a tiny spot of light in the sky.

The photo above is a good example of a situation where you want to use more of a wide angle lens for your Moon shot.

PhotoPills Advanced depth of field tool
PhotoPills Planner - The Moon is aligned with the Torre Sevilla on 05/04/2023 at 08:38 pm and is 198.1 m above the Black Pin (see top panel). The Field of View tool allows you to view the field of view (FoV) with a 35mm focal length on the map.
PhotoPills Augmented Reality view
PhotoPills Planner - Thanks to the Augmented Reality view you can visualize on your smartphone the position of the Moon relative to the Torre Sevilla.

Planning the field of view is essential in Moon photography because, depending on the focal length you use, the field of view determines what will be inside the frame.

As you see from the screenshots above, you can use PhotoPills to plan the field of view (FoV).

Here's a video in which Rafa explains how to do it step by step:

So, according to PhotoPills, if you use a Nikon Z6 with a 35mm in landscape mode (horizontally) and focusing right at the distance to the Black Pin:

  • Your horizontal FoV will be 11.37 km.
  • Your vertical FoV will be 7.57 km.

If you want to learn how to do it step by step, have a look at section 20 of our photography planning guide.

And when you're in the field, at the Red Pin position, use the Augmented Reality view (AR) on the Planner to visualize on your smartphone the position of the Moon.

5.Moon photography with intermediate focal lengths

sunrise and moonset at the same time over Monte Resegone, Lecco (Italy)
Sony a7 II | 81mm | f/14 | 20s | ISO 160
Photo by Lorenzo Ranieri

Although this may sound like the basics, I see so many people sticking to a 300mm zoom lens (or longer!) and not even trying anything else...

In my opinion, this is a mistake because you're limiting yourself and you may even miss out on some great looking photographs.

Taking advantage of the landscape around you when photographing the Moon also helps you to add some foreground or even middle ground. These layers are great to add depth and scale to your photograph.

Depending on the lighting, you can also capture some excellent silhouettes of the things around you with the Moon acting as their backdrop too.

So if you prefer to use a short to medium focal length (35-200mm), keep in mind that you'll have a narrow angle of view, and the Moon will appear more or less big in the frame.

Therefore, the landscape you can include in the frame will also be narrow. So you can lead the viewer's eye to a certain area, the most interesting one ;)

PhotoPills Advanced depth of field tool
PhotoPills Planner - The Moon is aligned with the Torre Sevilla on 05/04/2023 at 08:38 pm and is 198.1 m above the Black Pin (see top panel). The Field of View tool allows you to view the field of view (FoV) with a 150mm focal length on the map.
PhotoPills Augmented Reality view
PhotoPills Planner - Thanks to the Augmented Reality view you can visualize on your smartphone the position of the Moon relative to the Torre Sevilla.

As I explained in section 4 and you see from the screenshots above, you can use PhotoPills to plan the field of view (FoV).

So, according to PhotoPills, if you use a Nikon Z6 with a 150mm in landscape mode (horizontally) and focusing right at the distance to the Black Pin:

  • Your horizontal FoV will be 2.65 km.
  • Your vertical FoV will be 1.77 km.

If you want to learn how to do it step by step, have a look at section 20 of our photography planning guide.

And when you're in the field, at the Red Pin position, use the Augmented Reality view (AR) on the Planner to visualize on your smartphone the position of the Moon.

6.Moon photography with long focal lengths

orange full moon above the Barcelona's airport control tower in Barcelona (Spain)
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | 500mm | f/8 | 1/15s | ISO 800
Photo by Ramón Pérez

There's a sentence that I like to say during the PhotoPills workshops and expeditions:

"If you want a big Moon, you want a big lens".

So if you're serious about Moon photography and are willing to invest, then consider super-telephoto lenses, which are lenses over 200mm (usually between 400mm and 800mm).

With these lenses you'll have a very small viewing angle. In other words, there will be little landscape in your composition. Only the Moon and the subject will be in the frame.

They are the best options. Their level of magnification lets you capture lots of details, including those of the lunar surface.

The only downside is that they can be (very) expensive.

PhotoPills Advanced depth of field tool
PhotoPills Planner - The Moon is aligned with the Torre Sevilla on 05/04/2023 at 08:38 pm and is 198.1 m above the Black Pin (see top panel). The Field of View tool allows you to view the field of view (FoV) with a 400mm focal length on the map.
PhotoPills Augmented Reality view
PhotoPills Planner - Thanks to the Augmented Reality view you can visualize on your smartphone the position of the Moon relative to the Torre Sevilla.

As I explained in section 4 and you see from the screenshots above, you can use PhotoPills to plan the field of view (FoV).

So, according to PhotoPills, if you use a Nikon Z6 with a 400mm in landscape mode (horizontally) and focusing right at the distance to the Black Pin:

  • Your horizontal FoV will be 995.03 m.
  • Your vertical FoV will be 662.43 m.

If you want to learn how to do it step by step, have a look at section 20 of our photography planning guide.

And when you're in the field, at the Red Pin position, use the Augmented Reality view (AR) on the Planner to visualize on your smartphone the position of the Moon.

7.How fast should your Moon photography lens be?

silhouette of a man reading next to a tree under a full moon in Linares (Spain)
Nikon D7200 | 460mm | f/8 | 1/100s | ISO 200
Photo by Miguel Ángel Avi

Another feature that you should take into account when looking for the best lens to take pictures of the Moon is its luminosity or how fast the lens is.

Remember that the luminosity of a lens is measured by its aperture (the f number).

Thus the lower the f number, the faster (or brighter) the lens.

In other words, this means that the sensor captures more light. And this is particularly important when shooting under low light conditions because a faster lens allows you to work with lower ISOs and create an image with little noise.

Moreover, lenses with wide apertures let in sufficient light so the details of the Moon are fully visible.

On average, a quality Moon photography lens starts with an aperture range that goes between f/4-5.6, while faster lenses can go up to f/2.8, or even f/1.8.

The downside is that the faster the lens, the higher the price will be. So it's really up to you to establish how fast your lens should be, especially if you have a camera body that doesn't produce a ton of noise... ;)

8.Best Nikon lens for Moon photography

crescent moon through the torch of the statue of liberty, new york city (USA)
Nikon D500 | 600 (900 in 35)mm | f/8 | 1/2s | ISO 200
Photo by Jennifer Khordi

If you shoot with a DSLR or have an FTZ/FTZ II mount adapter for your Z-series camera, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to super-tele prime and zoom lenses.

However, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S brings an amazing super-telephoto lens to Nikon's Z-mount stable.

Highlights include top-notch glass to minimize ghosting and flare, and the lens features a telephoto-friendly 5.5-stop optical VR (Vibration Reduction) system. It's also compatible with Nikon's Z 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, although you'll have to live with a narrowing of aperture rating at the long end of the zoom range to f/8 or f/11, respectively.

Fast and accurate autofocus tracking is essential in Moon photography. The Z 100-400mm performs superbly well in this respect, while sharpness in practical terms is boosted by the highly effective VR system. The net result is that you can expect an excellent hit rate in demanding shooting scenarios.

Unfortunately, it's a weighty lens with a hefty price tag. You can get more outright reach by spending if you use a Nikon or independently manufactured F-mount lens with an FTZ or FTZ II adapter.

Pros:

  • Superb image quality.
  • Fast autofocus and 5.5-stop VR.
  • Compatible with Z tele-converters.

Cons:

  • Large, weighty construction.
  • Pricey to buy.

9.Best Sony lens for Moon photography

orange moon rising behind a huge iceberg with a red sail boat in Greenland
Sony a7r IV | 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/50s | ISO 3200
Photo by Albert Dros

Thanks to its G Master credentials, the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM is reasonably compact but goes large on performance.

It's designed to combine excellent sharpness with soft bokeh, and succeeds in its aims. That's despite a modest aperture rating of f/4.5, shrinking to f/5.6 towards the long end of the zoom range.

While the size and weight are ideal for handheld shooting, the combination of a 400mm focal length and f/5.6 aperture can make camera shaking an ever-present danger.

With that in mind, the lens is fitted with image stabilization, which works with all Sony APS-C and full-frame camera bodies. Furthermore, the optical stabilizer can work in tandem with camera bodies that feature IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization).

The construction also features plentiful weather-seals along with a moisture and grease-resistant fluorine coating on its front element.

All in all, it's a potent lens that delivers superb image quality, but it's pretty pricey to buy.

Pros:

  • Great sharpness and contrast, with nice bokeh.
  • High-end handling characteristics.
  • Compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

Cons:

  • Pricey to buy.
  • Lacks the reach of Sony's FE 200-600mm zoom.

10.Best Canon lens for Moon photography

pink full moon rising behind the Basilica of Assumption and Saints Cyril and Methodius in Velehrad, Czech Republic
Canon EOS 6D | 191mm | f/9 | 1/40s | ISO 200
Photo by Zbynek Hrubos

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II series telephoto zoom lens offers an extremely high level of performance.

This lens is specifically designed for capturing the night sky and its objects in crisp detail. So it's an ideal choice for Moon photography.

The optical design and the autofocus and image stabilization systems are all updated and uprated, making this Mark II version a solid, pro-grade performer.

The optical path includes top-grade fluorite and Super UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass. This delivers sharp images throughout the entire frame and reduces chromatic aberration in high contrast situations that you'll encounter when photographing at twilight or near dawn or dusk.

Another feature is its Air Sphere Coating (ASC), which significantly reduces backlit flare and ghosting for even better images. ASC also makes it highly resistant to dust and water, so you can take your photos in any condition without worrying about the elements.

It's a really nice lens but very pricey compared to the more consumer-focus Sigma and Tamron 100-400mm alternatives.

Pros:

  • Extremely sharp throughout the zoom range.
  • 3-mode, 4-stop image stabilization.
  • Fast & reliable focus.
  • 1:3 magnification.
  • Great handling and build quality.

Cons:

  • Some barrel distortion at 100mm.
  • Quite weighty.
  • Very expensive to buy.

11.Best Fujifilm lens for Moon photography

eclipsed moon rising behind the Church of St. Primoz, Eslovenia
Fuji X-T1 | 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/6s | ISO 200
Photo by Sergio Arias

The Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM really covers the distance in Moon photography, for which the super-fast autofocus system and 5-stop optical stabilizer also play into your hands.

In addition to this and thanks to the crop factor of Fujifilm's X-mount mirrorless cameras, this lens delivers a boosting reach of up to 609mm in full-frame terms.

The lens comes with a dedicated aperture control ring, in addition to zoom and focus rings, a linear stepping motor autofocus system, optical image stabilization and a weather-resistant construction, making it an excellent choice for photographing during inclement weather conditions like rain or snowfall.

Additionally, this Fuji camera lens offers superb quality pictures with edge-to-edge sharpness – its fluorite elements reduce chromatic aberration in your photos.

Finally, the effective zoom range of 152-609mm gives you powerful reach and, if that's still not enough, the lens is compatible with Fujifilm's 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

All in all, its performance is excellent in all respects.

The only downside is that for an APS-C format lens, the Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM is a heavyweight in all respects.

Pros:

  • Excellent optics.
  • Rapid autofocus system.
  • 5-stop optical stabilization
  • Extensive weather-seals.
  • Teleconverter compatibility.
  • Includes removable tripod foot and hood.

Cons:

  • No AF-on/hold buttons.
  • Fairly weighty at 1.4kg for a mirrorless lens.

12.Best cheap lens for Moon photography

silhouette of two lovers kissing in front of a full moon in Hucking Estate, UK
Fuji X-T1 | 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/6s | ISO 200
Photo by Kirk Paton

Sigma has reinvented the budget telephoto zoom in the shape of this Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG lens. This full-frame compatible Sigma gives extended reach while maintaining a conveniently lightweight build.

The lens also boasts a 4-stop optical stabilizer that makes it easier to shoot in low-light situations all while keeping your photos sharp.

And speaking about sharpness, the Sigma proves very sharp in the 100-300mm section of its zoom range, but doesn't drop off much at 400mm.

The plentiful controls and shooting modes enhance handling and overall performance and image quality are impressive, making the lens great value at the price.

Therefore, it's a sound choice for Nikon, Sony and Canon DSLRs of both APS-C and full-frame formats.

Pros:

  • Powerful telephoto reach.
  • Fairly compact and lightweight.
  • High-tech features.

Cons:

  • No optional tripod mount ring.
  • Sharpness could be better.

13.Cure yourself of GAS

So here you have it – a guide to help you choose the best lens for shooting the Moon.

The selection above includes my top picks for Moon lenses in 2023, and I hope this gives you several options to consider – whether you're new to Moon photography or you're a seasoned professional looking to upgrade your gear.

But remember that you don't need some secret sauce (yum!) to shoot visually interesting pictures of the Moon.

All you need is a decent-quality camera, the best lens for Moon photography, and of course some practice.

Yes, great glass can make the difference.

But it's just one component of Moon photography, though. And it's not paramount.

There are a host of other elements to consider, including planning, working on your composition, and choosing the adequate Moon photography settings.

So cure yourself of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and stop having the wrong impression that if you somehow buy a new lens, you'll somehow become more creative.

Not for a second.

Use the gear (lens) you have at home and start planning your Moon shot with PhotoPills!

 

Antoni Cladera is a landscape photographer commited to the environment. Artist of the Spanish Confederation of Photography and member of the Spanish Association of Nature Photographers (AEFONA). He's part of the PhotoPills Team.

Special thanks to Sandra Vallaure, a great photographer and friend, for her tremendous help in making this article possible.

Note: Some links on this page are affiliate links. What does this mean? If you buy/rent using these links you're helping support us and it costs you nothing extra. Thank you for your support.

Moon Photography: The Definitive Guide

¡Consigue gratis este ebook!

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