Why the Zeiss 21mm Distagon T* lens Rocks for aurora photography
I’ve always liked Don McLean’s song “Starry, starry night”, about Vincent van Gogh. This scene made me think of it, with the profusion of stars broadcast across the sky. I love the night sky and am so glad I live in a place that offers a light-pollution-free experience of the star-studded theater overhead. It is possible to photograph the aurora borealis in all moon phases, but the sky absent of a moon will render this starry sky look. While out photographing last week, I was amazed at how warm it was for early March. I did not even use hand warmers, which is very rare for me. And by warm, I mean around 10 degrees F. While the March season is fantastic for aurora, the cold weather can hinder your performance. One of the main challenges is getting your lens in critical focus and if this requires the use of live view – which is the case with my Nikkor 14-24 lens mounted on a Canon body – then it requires bare hands for a while to apply tape once focus is secured. If this is not ringing clear to you, I’ve written about it in detail in my recent eBook on How to Photograph the Northern Lights. But this night, I wanted to try out another lens that ranks high for aurora photography in all essential categories: The Zeiss 21mm Distagon T*
- Optical Quality – Extremely sharp
- Ease of use – i.e., Super easy to focus
- Price – Very expensive!
- Speed – f/2.8, Fast enough for aurora
- Wide angle – Expansive at 21mm
Besides the obvious concern for quality – the biggest advantage of this lens is that when you turn the manual focus ring to infinity, it actually is infinity, unlike the other autofocus lenses on the market today. Because of this, there is no pre focus measures that need to be taken and no messing around in the dark trying to use live-view to secure solid, critical focus. For this reason, I’d like to make it a mandatory lens for the participants of my photo tours, but who can require a $2000 lens! It is expensive indeed. It can be rented however, at about $150 for 2 weeks from www.borrowlenses.com. It is available in mounts for Canon and Nikon. If you want a fool-proof, critical focus lens for your next aurora trip, this is it.