- Quick list
- The best zoom lens overall
- The best Nikon telephoto
- The best Nikon F-mount telephoto
- The best Nikon ultra-telephoto
- The best Canon wide-zoom
- The best Canon telephoto
- The best all-rounder from Sony
- The best Sony APS-C wide zoom
- The best third-party zoom
- The best for versatility
- The best third-party telephoto
- Best zoom lenses FAQ
- How we test
1. The list in brief ↴
2. Best overall
3. Best Nikon telephoto
4. Best Nikon F-mount telephoto
5. Best ultra-telephoto
6. Best Canon wide-zoom
7. Best Canon telephoto
8. Best all-rounder from Sony
9. Best Sony APS-C wide zoom
10. Best third-party zoom
11. Best for versatility
12. Best third-party telephoto
13. Zoom lenses FAQs
14. How we test
The best zoom lenses are a must-buy for anyone, from seasoned astrophotographers to beginners wanting to take their photography skills to the next level.
These expertly design optics, whether they be telephoto or wide-angle, enable you to change the focal length (zoom in or out on your chosen subject). This is helpful for astrophotography in particular as you are obviously shooting very distant subjects, and some of these lenses can rival even the best telescopes in that regard.
Using a zoom lens in astrophotography may require compromises on aperture and exposure time, but the improved image quality justifies these trade-offs and your investment. To help you make an informed decision that suits your needs and budget, our experts have tested and reviewed the top zoom lenses on the market right now. However, if you're not concerned with having a zoom lens, take a look at our best lenses for astrophotography guide which includes primes as well.
If you're looking to upgrade the rest of your photography kit, why not pair your new zoom lens with one of the best cameras for astrophotography? To make up for the extra weight to carry, check out our guides to find the best camera backpack and tripod for you.
The quick list
Below you'll find an overview of all the lenses included in this guide, with some pros and cons to help you find the ones that best suit your needs and budget. In this section, you will find links to read more detailed reviews of the products you're most interested in.
Best zoom lens overall
This telephoto zoom lens from Sony is perfect for deep sky astrophotographers thanks to its huge focal length. It is well-made and durable but comes with a hefty price tag as a result. It's also worth noting it's on the heavier side of zoom lenses, so you'll have to pair it with a good star tracker.
Best Nikon tele
Best Nikon telephoto lens
Complete with a large maximum aperture, great optical image stabilization and customizable Fn buttons, this telephoto lens from Nikon is one of the best zoom lenses for mirrorless Z-mounts. It offers edge-to-edge sharpness and a super optical quality, perfect for astrophotographers.
Best DSLR Nikon
Best Nikon F-mount telephoto lens
While it's far from the newest lens on the market, this telephoto lens from Nikon is a great second-hand purchase for photographers using DSLR cameras. With a large f-stop of f/2.8 to allow plenty of light in, it's a good choice for astrophotographers with Nikon DSLRs.
Best ultra-telephoto from Nikon
This lens is perfect for wildlife and astrophotography, shining with its impressive 500mm focal length and constant aperture. It's not the fastest super telephoto out there, but it represents great value at just under $1,400. It is one of the heaviest lenses we've tested at 5.1 lbs, however, so you'll have to use a quality star tracker with it.
Best Canon wide
Best Canon wide-zoom
While this lens is definitely an investment, the stunning images it produces make the price entirely worth it, in our opinion. It boasts a seriously impressive performance in a low-light environment and excellent eye-tracking. Even though it doesn't have image stabilization, the quality of this bright lens is such that photographers can shoot wide open at f/2.
Best Canon tele
Best Canon telephoto
The Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 is proof that sometimes, more expensive is better. The incredible image quality, sharpness and contrast and the durable build make the hefty price tag entirely worth it, in our opinion. However, the focal range is a bit limited, so you might want to consider something with a bigger range if you're serious about deep-sky photography.
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Best Sony tele zoom
A great Sony zoom lens
The upgraded Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II is a great all-rounder, perfect for anything from wildlife to landscape photography. It might not be the best choice for astrophotographers due to the limited focal range, but it still produces decent shots of the night sky when paired with a star tracker with a good payload.
Best Sony APS-C
Best Sony APS-C wide zoom
While it doesn't have the longest focal length, this lens is a versatile pick that can handle most things you throw at it. The constant f/2.8 aperture allows in plenty of light even at the fullest zoom of 55mm, meaning you get bright results even in low light and when zooming either in or out. It's a great versatile lens for people who shoot a range of photography styles.
Best third-party zoom
Best third-party zoom lens
This Sigma lens offers excellent quality for a fraction of the price of other brands' zoom lenses. The lower price tag doesn't mean it scrimps on features and specs, however: with a constant f/2.8 aperture, it can hold its own against legacy DSLR lenses and even Canon and Nikon's Z and RF mount lenses.
Best for versatility
Best for versatility
This lightweight lens is a great travel lens suitable for photographers on to go. It doesn't have the longest focal or aperture range, but it renders good-quality images and boasts an excellent 10x zoom range. With its on-board image stabilization and ability to combine with any compatible Canon mirrorless' in-body image stabilization it's also useful in low light.
Best third-party tele
Best third-party telephoto lens
This affordable telephoto lens from Sigma has more than acceptable image quality even for astrophotography. With a maximum focal length of 600mm, it has the biggest focal range on our list of the best zoom lenses. On the downside, it is quite a heavy lens and the maximum zoomed-in aperture of f/6.3 can feel quite limiting.
The best zoom lenses we recommend in 2023
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The best zoom lens overall
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G Master OSS
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want a versatile lens: the zoom and wide aperture means this is suitable for astro and daytime photographers alike.
✅ You can invest in a well-built lens: it has quality ergonomics and is designed very well.
❌ You're on the go a lot: At 4.7 lbs, this is a hefty piece of kit that requires a good star tracker and tripod.
❌ You're on a budget: Although it's not the most expensive lens on this list, it will still set you back close to $2,000.
❌ You want to shoot wider astro shots: The 600mm maximum zoom costs you a bit of light as the aperture can only be opened as wide as f/6.3 once you crank it in.
🔎 The Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G Master OSS is a versatile telephoto zoom lens perfect for deep-sky astrophotographers and daytime photographers alike. The impressive zoom and aperture range combine to create pin-sharp images, even at 600mm zoom. However, the hefty weight means you'll need a decent tripod and star tracker to support it. ★★★★½
Topping our list of zoom lenses is a real titan of a lens from Sony. Catering to both astrophotographers and daytime photographers, this high-quality lens is perfect for capturing deep-sky images at night or for shooting wildlife, nature or sports during the day. This makes it a versatile bit of kit with a wide appeal.
Design: This lens has a couple of drawbacks. It's relatively heavy at 4.7 lbs, which can be challenging to handle when attached to a heavy camera. To achieve the best professional results, you might need to invest in a powerful star tracker, which will further increase the overall cost. In addition, you'll also need to invest in a quality tripod in order to carry this level of payload.
Performance: This is a lens that stands up incredibly well to the torture test of being shot with the aperture wide open, which is essential if you're considering using it for astrophotography. The center of the image is almost absurdly sharp, even when fully zoomed in at 600mm. The maximum zoom achieved by this lens is an impressive feature. Admittedly, using the maximum zoom does cost you a little light as the aperture can only be opened as wide as f/6.3 once you crank it in, which will cost you either shutter speed or ISO (or a bit of both).
Functionality: When you think about the potential weight of a 600mm lens with a faster aperture and the image quality that modern sensors can deliver, the trade-off is worth the price. Especially if you have a recent full-frame camera that can produce good image quality at high ISO settings. This lens provides significant magnification, opening up spectacular photographic opportunities. And with the Sony, you can get all this for under $2,000.
|Design||A very hefty lens.|
|Performance||Absurdly sharp, even at 600mm.|
|Functionality||Offers fantastic magnification for astrophotography.|
The best Nikon telephoto
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want the highest possible image quality: the quality of the images achieved with this lens is nothing short of phenomenal.
✅ You need a lens for all weather: astrophotographers are often shooting out in all types of weather, and this lens can certainly handle that.
✅ You want a lens with autofocus: a handy feature for astrophotography shots, the autofocus on this lens is fast and quiet.
❌ You're on a budget: all the features and the amazing image quality come with a hefty, hefty price tag.
❌ You want close-up shots of celestial objects: If you're interested in detailed shots of the moon, you might need to resort to a lens with a bigger zoom or a teleconverter.
🔎 The Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S-Line is a flexible telephoto zoom lens that delivers sharp images of incredible quality. With autofocus and image stabilization, it predictably also comes with a very high price tag - but we think it's worth your hard-earned money if your budget stretches that far. ★★★★½
Design: Designed to be the best zoom lenses for mirrorless Z-mounts, the S-Line lenses claim to offer edge-to-edge sharpness and superb optical quality when shot wide open, which we found to be true in our Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200 f/2.8 S review.
Deep-sky astrophotographers may argue that extreme focal distances are the main priority for them and that this lens doesn't live up to that at only 200mm. However, the advantage of the 3.1 lbs weight of this lens is that it won't overwhelm the majority of star trackers and the images come out sharp enough to withstand all but the most aggressive of crops.
Performance: The performance of this lens is nothing short of fantastic. The autofocus is fast and quiet, and it is equipped with Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology (read: built-in stabilization) which makes it ideal for shooting astro even handheld as it can counter the weight of the lens. It's not the best for close-up images of celestial objects such as the moon but unless you have a teleconverter, most lenses aren't up to that task.
Functionality: The Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S-Line stands out as one of the top zoom lenses available for several reasons. It features a wide maximum aperture, optical image stabilization and customizable Fn buttons for added versatility. One unique feature is the OLED panel on the top, replacing the traditional focus distance marking ring. This panel can be set to display various information like focus distance, aperture size, focal length, ISO or depth of field. Additionally, the lens includes a control ring for even more creative control.
- Read our full Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200 f/2.8 S review.
|Design||3.1 lbs weight won't overwhelm most star trackers.|
|Performance||Fast & quiet autofocus.|
|Functionality||Constant f/2.8 aperture great for astrophotography.|