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The 25 Best Astrophotography Targets for a 135mm Lens

Updated: Jun 20

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

Messier 45 The Pleiades star cluster DSLR Astrophotography Canon T3i Orion Telescope
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about M45 and our image of it.


 

Want to learn all aspects of astrophotography in the most efficient way possible?


Premium Astrophotography online course and processing guides

The Galactic Course includes a membership that gives you unlimited access to all our premium astrophotography content including all courses and all processing guides. Make life-long friends and learn at your own pace, and get tips from instructors who want to see you succeed and progress under the night sky.


 

VI - The Seagull Nebula (IC 2177)


Magnitude: 15.2

Constellation: Monoceros


The Seagull Nebula (IC 2177) is a beautiful and colorful nebula located in the constellation Monoceros. It spans an area of approximately 100 light-years and contains a mix of emission, reflection, and dark nebulae.


This is a great astrophotography target for a 135mm lens mostly because of its large apparent size in the sky. The Seagull Nebula has such a nice color palette, with red emission regions, blue reflection areas, and dark dust lanes, making it an exciting object to process. With your 135mm lens, you'll also be able to get a glimpse of the much smaller Thor's Helmet Nebula nearby.


The Seagull Nebula and Thor's Helmet at 135mm. Credit: Vasile Unguru

IC 2177 Seagull Nebula astrophotography 135mm lens
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about IC 2177 and our image of it.


 

VII - The Veil Nebula Complex (Cygnus Loop)


Magnitude: 7

Constellation: Cygnus


The Cygnus Loop, also known as the Veil Nebula Complex, is a large supernova remnant located in the constellation Cygnus. It is one of the brightest and most detailed objects in the night sky.


It has a very large size, spanning an area of more than 3 degrees across, which makes it an ideal target for wide-field astrophotography. The Cygnus Loop has a wide range of colors and textures, with beautiful filaments of gas going in different directions.


The Cygnus is usually best captured in bi-color narrowband astrophotography (Ha + OIII) as it is very rich in both of these gases. If you are a beginner and only own a color camera (like a DSLR or a cooled OSC), you can still image this target in broadband and get great results from a dark site. If you'd like, you can also get a duo-band filter and obtain the best final results.


The Cygnus Loop with a 135mm lens. Credit: Paddy Gilliland

astrophotography of the Cygnus Loop, Veil nebula with 135mm lens

 

VIII - Sadr Region, or Anywhere in Cygnus Really


Magnitude: Varies

Constellation: Cygnus

The Sadr Region, also known as IC 1318, is a massive area made up of Hydrogen Alpha gas in the constellation Cygnus. Cygnus is known for being one of the most active regions in the sky, and so you will find plenty of things to shoot in this large constellation, almost anywhere you point your camera.


IC 1318 in particular has a lot of details with gasses interacting and creating nice shapes, like the colorful Butterfly Nebula. This area includes bright wisps of gas and dust that are just begging to be photographed by you.


A 135mm is truly perfect to capture the nebulous regions of the Cygnus constellation. Try aiming at the star Sadr if you'd like to start off with the Sadr Region, and then have fun shooting the surrounding areas!


The Sadr Region and more with a 135mm lens. Credit: Mohamed Usama Ismail

Cygnus Sadr Region 135mm lens Astrophotography
 

IX - The North America and Pelican Nebulae (NGC 7000 & IC 5070)


Magnitude: 4

Constellation: Cygnus


Let's stay in Cygnus just a little while longer and hit 2 birds with one stone with two magnificent nebulae. The North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula are right next to one another and will fit very nicely in the frame of your 135mm lens.


These nebulae are large, bright, and very popular among beginner astrophotographers. You can expect the data to be easy and exciting to process, with tons of details to bring out and bright colors to play with.


Like other emission nebulae in this list, this would be best captured with either a modified DSLR/Mirrorless camera, a clip-on Hydrogen Alpha filter, or a cooled camera with narrowband filters.



NGC 7000, IC 1070, and more with a 135mm lens. Credit: David McGarvey

North America nebula and Pelican Nebula astrophotography with a 135mm lens
 

X - The Blue Horsehead Nebula (IC 4592)


Magnitude: Unknown

Constellation: Scorpius


The Blue Horsehead Nebula (IC 4592) is a reflection nebula with an apparent size of about 10 arc-minutes. It looks like the head of a horse seen from the side and gets a blue color from the bright blue star that shines light against it.


IC 4592 is a great target for astrophotography using a 135mm lens because it also has so much dust expanding from the side, which will likely fill up your field of view. This dust is very faint though, and so it is difficult to process and reveal if you are a beginner.


If you plan on capturing this target, we recommend that you first hone your skills on easier objects, and then capture the Blue Horsehead from a dark site away from any light pollution. You'll want to spend many hours on this if you want to get the faint dust and take your time during processing.


The wide aperture of the Rokinon/Samyang 135mm lens will help in this case, so shoot at f/2 for a full night and you likely will have enough good data, assuming you imaged under dark skies.



IC 4592 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Konstantin Firsov

Astrophotography of IC 4592 the Blue Horsehead Nebula with a 135mm lens
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about IC 4592 and our image of it.


 

Want to learn all aspects of astrophotography in the most efficient way possible?


Premium Astrophotography online course and processing guides

The Galactic Course includes a membership that gives you unlimited access to all our premium astrophotography content including all courses and all processing guides. Make life-long friends and learn at your own pace, and get tips from instructors who want to see you succeed and progress under the night sky.


 

XI - The Orion Nebula (Messier 42)

Magnitude: 4.0

Constellation: Orion


The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, is one of the most popular and visually impressive objects in the night sky. M42 is the closest stellar nursery to Earth, it is very bright, especially in the core where the Trapezium star cluster resides.


M42 is probably the best nebula you can capture using a 135mm lens if you are a beginner. It will appear very easily on your frames even with low exposure times and is simple to process overall. If you're up for a challenge, try to also reveal the much fainter dust that surrounds the nebula and expands all the way towards the Horsehead Nebula.


M42 and IC434 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Toshiya Arai

Messier 42 The Orion Nebula DSLR Astrophotography Canon T3i Orion Telescope
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about M42 and our image of it.

 

XII - The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434)

Magnitude: 6.8

Constellation: Orion


The Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33, is a popular dark nebula located just in front of a sea of bright Hydrogen Alpha gas. IC 434 is photographed alongside its neighbor, the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) and the small blue reflection nebula NGC 2023. Those three nebulae are all interacting with each other and will be in your frame for sure unless you decide to use a very large telescope.


At 135mm, the Flame Nebula is very impressive, being so close to the massive star Alnitak and surrounded by faint dust, just like the Orion Nebula. For the best results, use a Hydrogen-Alpha filter, so that the red gases behind the head of the horse become much more visible. This object is also a great target for even wide-field astrophotography using a 50mm or 85mm lens. With this lens, you'll be able to get the whole Barnard's Loop instead of just the Horsehead / Orion Nebulae together.


M42 and IC434 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Gernot_Obertaxer

The Orion Nebula and Horsehead Nebula with a 135mm lens
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about IC 434 and our image of it.


 

XIII - The Witch Head Nebula (IC 2118)


Magnitude: 13

Constellation: Eridanus


Discovered in 1909 with the rise of astrophotography, the Witch Head Nebula is another large Winter deep sky object perfect for a focal length of 135mm. Located only 2.6 degrees East of Rigel, the 7th brightest star in the sky, IC 2118 is officially located in Eridanus, despite Rigel being part of the Orion constellation. With a magnitude of 13, the Witch Head Nebula is very faint, making it difficult to image unless you are under a dark sky free from light pollution. It is also a challenging target to process considering the gasses are faint but Rigel glows very brightly just next to it.


During the Winter months, the nebula rises high in the sky, following Orion, making it available to capture for a long time. You can easily spot this object by simply aiming your camera and lens at the bright star Rigel.



IC 2118 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Elmiko

The Witch head Nebula astrophotography with a 135mm lens
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about IC 2118 and our image of it.

 

XIV - The Rosette Nebula (NGC 2237)

Magnitude: 9.0

Constellation: Monoceros


The Rosette Nebula is another large object that can be photographed without a telescope. It is a great target at 135mm, and you can even include the nearby Christmas Tree Cluster / Cone Nebula in your view if shooting with a full-frame camera!


The Rosette Nebula is a diffuse emission nebula in Monoceros. It has a size of about twice the size of the full moon. At the center of the Rosette is a bright open cluster of stars, shining its light on the gasses within the object. We suggest using a duo band filter for this object if you have one, as it is made up of a lot of Hydrogen Alpha gas along with Oxygen III. If you do not own a filter, be sure to capture this target far from light pollution.


IC 2118 with a 135mm lens. Credit: Achim Schaller

NGC 2264 and NGC 2244 with a 135mm lens
  • Click on the author's name to see the high-resolution image and technical information.

  • Read our full blog post about NGC 2237 and our image of it.

 

XV - The Christmas Tree Cluster and Cone Nebula (NGC 2264)

Magnitude: 3.9

Constellation: Monoceros


NGC 2264 is located in the Monoceros constellation 2,600 light-years from Earth. It is actually two objects in one, the Christmas Tree Cluster, which has the shape of a Christmas tree, and the Cone Nebula, which is packed with nebulosity. Two other objects, the Fox Fur Nebula and the Snowflake Cluster are also in that area.


The Christmas Tree Cluster is a perfect target for beginner astrophotographers with a 135mm lens or a small telescope. It is large, bright enough to easily be captured, and includes four targets in one! You can also include the Rosette Nebula nearby which makes for a great wide-field image.


The main cluster and the Fox Fur Nebula are relatively simple to capture, without requiring too many hours of total exposure time. Although extracting the red color from the gas may take some effort, it can be accomplished without needing a Hydrogen-Alpha filter.


First discovered in 1784, it wasn't until the day after Christmas in 1786 that the nebulosity surrounding the cluster was observed. NGC 2264 is situated in the Monoceros constellation, within the Orion arm of the Milky Way, and is positioned 2,600 light-years from our solar system.


NGC 2264 and NGC 2244 with our 135mm lens

NGC 2264 and NGC 2244 with a 135mm lens

 

Astrophotography Targets with a 135mm lens during Spring "Galaxy Season"


Spring season is by far the worst time to do wide-field astrophotography. Spring is also known as "Galaxy Season" because the sky is just filled with galaxies, and does not have any large nebulae for amateur astrophotographers to shoot. People who own a telescope with a long focal length usually have the most fun during Spring.


Despite this, 135mm is not that wide, so we technically could photograph a few deep-sky objects as long as they appear large enough in the frame to be worth the trouble. Below we'll give you three ideas of targets to photograph during spring.


Before we start: If Spring just started, and you're not sure what to shoot tonight, be sure to finish off some of the Winter nebulae that are still up! Some nebulae that stay in the sky for a while during the Winter-Spring transition are:

  • The Orion Nebula

  • The Horsehead Nebula

  • The Cone Nebula

  • The Rosette Nebula

  • The Seagull Nebula

  • The Jellyfish Nebula


If you've imaged all these in the past, or they're already too low on the horizon, then move on to the following:

M51 (Credit: Tharsis82), M101 (Credit: halsmaulwurf), and Polaris (Credit: Frank Breslawski) taken with a 135mm lens.


The Whirlpool Galaxy (Messier 51)

Magnitude: 8.4

Constellation: Canes Venatici


M51 is a spiral galaxy located about 23 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is popular because it is interacting with a smaller companion galaxy, and is slowly consuming it.


The Pinwheel Galaxy (Messier 101)

Magnitude: 7.9

Constellation: Ursa Major


M101 is a spiral galaxy in Ursa Major, about 21 million light-years away. This one is famous for being larger and brighter than most galaxies during Spring and for its asymmetrical shape.


Polaris

Magnitude: 1.9

Constellation: Ursa Minor


This is not a galaxy, but a star! Polaris, also known as the North Star, is a bright star located in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is popular in wide-field astrophotography because of all the IFN (Integrated Flux Nebula) visible around it. Dark skies are crucial if you plan on imaging this target, or you will not be able to reveal any of the surrounding gas.


 


Other Good Targets to Photograph with a 135mm Lens


Besides large deep sky objects, the 135mm can also be a great fit to capture several constellations, and, of course, the moon. We suggest picking one of these if you're running out of target ideas, which is likely to happen around Spring time if you've already imaged the targets listed previously.


 

Constellations with a 135mm Lens


Several small constellations will be able to fit in your frame when pointing your camera and 135mm lens at them. A couple of larger ones, like Cassiopeia, are possible with a full-frame sensor. This is great if, like us, you want to challenge yourself to not only image deep sky objects but also all 88 constellations.


The best constellations to capture with a 135mm lens are in our opinion:

  • Cassiopeia

  • Canes Venatici

  • Corvus

  • Lyra

  • Triangulum

The image below shows Cassiopeia imaged with our Canon Ra and outlined. It fits perfectly with the lens on a full-frame camera!

Cassiopeia annotated astrophotography 135mm lens

 

The Moon with a 135mm Lens


The very last target in this guide will be the moon! Disappointing? Maybe, but that's still a target that deserves to be mentioned here.

Moon astrophotography with a 135mm lens

The moon has a decent size at 135mm, we'd say it's probably the minimum focal length to use if you want a nice picture of our natural satellite.


Instead of just pointing your camera up and taking a picture of the moon by itself, we suggest trying to be creative and including some type of foreground in the frame. At 135mm, we'd say that mountains or other natural formations would look great in your moon shot, so give it a try!


On the left is an uncropped picture of the moon taken with our 135mm lens. We decided to attach this shot taken straight out of the camera here so that you can see what type of framing to expect and how small the moon will look in your images.


 

Final Thoughts


All these great targets show that a 135mm truly is a nice addition to any astrophotographer. Deep-sky objects are available all year long, with even some nice constellations to capture, as well as the moon. Sure, Spring will be the most challenging season at this focal length, but it can still be fun.

Astronetics for 135mm lens astrophotography

If you intend to do astrophotography with a 135mm lens quite a lot, we suggest getting an Astronetics mount.

This will allow you to use your lens just like a telescope, with easy attachments for an auto-guider, an ASIAir, and an electronic focuser. This is how we use our own 135mm lens and it makes things much easier.


Have you been doing astrophotography with a 135mm lens recently? Attach your images so that everyone can see your results! If you can think of additional targets that are great fits for this lens, be sure to let us know as well.



Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter



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