Astrophotography used to be about the most specialized photographic endeavor there was. Dedicated hobbyists gathered at designated dark sites and spent hours setting up their precision instruments--telescopes, finely-machined tracking mounts, cases of eyepieces and various filters designed to enhance selected heavenly objects or reduce the effects of light-pollution.
Adding photography to the mix brought an order of magnitude more complexity due to the need to prepare dedicated rolls of film through a process called gas-hypering and then, to get full-color images, make a series of exposures through different color filters-exposures that were frequently more than an hour long--and then combining the images in Photoshop. If any individual aspect of the system failed, a whole night's work would be ruined.
That was then...today things are different...
Today, anyone with a camera capable of clean high ISO images and a good lens that's sharp at its wider apertures can be experiment with astrophotography with startlingly-good results. Ian Norman of LonelySpeck.com recently reviewed the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA for astrophotography. While some reviewers can be a bit haphazard in their approach, Norman is methodical. Extremely methodical. He publishes a Practical Guide To Lens Aberrations And The Lonely Speck Aberration Test on his site. Anyone interested in optics will find it quite interesting to say the least. Here's what Norman concludes about the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA:
"The Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is extremely sharp and shows very good aberration performance wide open at f/1.8. Stopped down to f/2.8, it’s simply excellent."
"t’s the best standard prime I’ve ever used and I’ll likely keep it in my kit for the foreseeable future. Highly Recommended."
Check out the full review at LonelySpeck.com.
You can get special pricing on the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA during the Sony Lens & Accessory Event.