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The 25 Best Astrophotography Targets for a 135mm Lens

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

For guides about the best astrophotography targets for each season, be sure to visit our Tutorials page.

Best astrophotography targets for a 135mm lens

The best targets for astrophotography are the ones you can capture with your current camera setup. If you have a 135mm lens, you're in luck! We've compiled a list of 25 deep sky objects to photograph! Make sure to check out our other posts that cover the best targets for each season, this way you will never run out of Astrophotography objects to shoot all year long!

Orion constellation rising in the sky. Visible are Orion's belt, Orion's sword, and Betelgeuse also known as Beetlejuice

A 135mm lens is in our opinion a must-have for any amateur astrophotographer. It is smaller than a telescope, easier to use, and much more affordable! Most importantly, it will allow you to get the perfect fit on some of the largest deep-sky objects in the sky.

A 135mm lens has the perfect focal length for many targets, specifically the huge nebulae that rise in Summer. The only season that is not as exciting at this focal length is Spring, as almost every interesting object in the sky is a galaxy that is best shot with a long focal-length telescope.

Our favorite 135mm lens is by far the Rokinon/Samyang 135mm f/2. The Rokinon and Samyang version are the same product with different names, but they're from the same company so it doesn't matter which one you get. We wrote and filmed a complete review of the Rokinon lens so be sure to check that out for more information.

Rokinon 135mm lens for astrophotography

In short, the Rokinon 135mm f/2 gives excellent results for both full-frame and cropped sensor cameras and is fairly affordable compared to its competition.

It does very well in low light environments, and yes, the stars in the corner of your frames will look round even when wide open at f/2!

Here's where we go over what we believe are the best targets to capture with a 135mm lens. Below are 18 deep-sky objects, 5 constellations, and two other types of objects, which come out to a total of 25 different ideas of targets you can capture!


Best Deep-Sky Astrophotography Targets for 135mm Lens

I - Rho Ophiuchi

Magnitude: 4.6

Constellation: Ophiuchus

Rho Ophiuchi is a beautiful and popular target for astrophotography without a telescope. It is a molecular cloud complex made up of both bright and dark nebulae located in Ophiuchus near the bright star Antares. Antares is not in Ophiuchus but instead in the constellation Scorpius. Rho Ophiuchi is a great astrophotography target for a 135mm lens and is best captured in the Summer months.

Rho Ophiuchi photographed with a 135mm lens and DSLR.

Rho Ophiuchi is bright with a magnitude of 4.6 which makes it easy to capture on camera. The bright parts of the nebula will show up well even in single shots, and the dark clouds will provide a nice contrast.

It is also very fun to process as you can bring out the fainter details and the colors of the complex very well.

We captured this target twice, once with a 50mm lens and once with a 135mm lens. As you can see above, the size of Rho Ophiuchi is just right for a 135mm lens and it fits perfectly in the field of view. You can watch our full video below showing how the image was shot. It is also a great target at 50mm because you will be able to include a part of the Milky Way band next to it!


II - The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31)

Magnitude: 3.44

Constellation: Andromeda

Messier 31, also known as the Andromeda Galaxy, is the most popular galaxy to photograph in the sky. It is one of the three easiest beginner targets and one of the few that can be seen with the naked eye from Earth.

M31 has a size that spans over 6 times the size of the full moon, it is much larger than most people think! Because of that, it is a great fit for wide-field astrophotography with just a DSLR camera and lens if you do not own a telescope.

Messier 32 and Messier 110, two of M31's satellite galaxies, can also be seen in pictures taken with a DSLR camera lens despite being much smaller than the main object.

The Andromeda Galaxy is located in the constellation of Andromeda, not too far from another large galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). M31 is moving towards us at high speeds and will collide with the Milky Way in about 3.75 billion years. You can learn all about that in our Andromeda Galaxy information post.

Messier 31 at 135mm. Credit: Elmiko

Messier 31 astrophotography with a 135mm DSLR lens

Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.


III - The Triangulum Galaxy (Messier 33)

Magnitude: 5.72

Constellation: Triangulum

The Triangulum Galaxy is a great target for astrophotography using a 135mm lens, especially during the Fall season when it rises high in the sky. It's located near M31, the famous Andromeda Galaxy, and is one of the easiest galaxies for beginners to photograph thanks to its size and brightness.

Like the Andromeda Galaxy, M33 is also moving toward the Milky Way and is on a similar collision course. M33 can also be captured with an even wider lens, like 50mm for example, where you'll be able to include both M33 and M31 in the same frame. With a 135mm lens, just center the Triangulum Galaxy in your frame and shoot it by itself. You should then stack and crop your image so that the galaxy can show up well in your final result.

Messier 33 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Fritz

M33 the Triangulum Galaxy astrophotography with a 135mm lens

Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.


IV - The California Nebula (NGC 1499)

Magnitude: 6.0

Constellation: Perseus

NGC 1499, also known as the California Nebula, is a cloud of gas (mostly Hydrogen Alpha, but also Oxygen III) in the Perseus constellation. it is a great target for a 135mm lens because of its large size and elongated shape. The nebula is famous for having the outline of the state of California, which is easily seen when photographed.

Located in the Orion arm of our galaxy, NGC 1499 gets its glow mostly from another bright star, Xi Persei. The nebula appears bright in images, but spotting it with a telescope can be challenging, even for experienced astronomers.

The California Nebula is mostly made of Hydrogen-Alpha gas, so if you're using a DSLR camera it will be easier to capture with a Hydrogen-Alpha filter. You can also use a duo-band filter as these will reveal both Ha and OIII. Oxygen III is definitely present in the California Nebula but is much more difficult to show than Ha.

With a 135mm lens, you can easily capture the California Nebula wide-field and if you feel like a challenge, you can even try to include the nearby M45 cluster in there if you do a mosaic. The best time to capture NGC 1499 is during the Fall and Winter months.

NGC 1499 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Makár Dávid

NGC 1499 with a 135mm lens for astrophotography

Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.


V - The Pleiades (Messier 45)

Magnitude: 1.0

Constellation: Taurus

Very close to the California Nebula is the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters.

Messier 45 is the largest, brightest, and easiest target to photograph for beginner astrophotographers. It is four times the size of the moon and is very easy to find in the sky, even from a light-polluted place.

The Pleiades look fantastic in both close-up shots and wide-field photography, so it is a great target whether you own a telescope or not. With a 135mm lens and from a dark site, you will be able to reveal all the beautiful gasses behind the main bright stars, as well as some faint IFN all over the field of view. The IFN is much more difficult to reveal than the cluster gasses, so be sure to spend many hours capturing data before stacking it all.

M45 at 135mm. Credit: Almos Balasi