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Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander

  
 
pythonz
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


I primarily do landscape photography and the Nikon 14-30 and 24-120 F4 are my two favorite lenses for their amazing image quality and versatility. However, I've found myself wanting in the category of sunstars, especially on the 14-30 where they don't really begin to show until F16 where diffraction has a very noticeable impact on contrast and sharpness. I've heard they're slightly better on the 14-24 F2.8, but not by much. The Z lens lineup in general doesn't seem to do sunstars very well.

I started looking into Voigtlander lenses as a potential alternative with their straight aperture blade design, which have been shown to produce the type of look that I'm going for. I recently picked up the Voigtlander 21mm F1.4 and 110mm F2.5 for the Sony E-mount along with an adapter to use on my Nikon Z7ii and did 3 separate tests to compare the sunstar rendering and overall look with the two Z lenses.

To emulate a landscape environment where one would expect to start seeing sunstars, I took 4 images of each scene on a tripod from F5.6 to F16 in 1-stop increments. Shutter speed was adjusted to keep the exposure consistent. The images were exported from Capture One with all adjustments set to 0 aside from sharpening/noise reduction values being set to my current defaults and kelvin/tint values being manually set for consistency (some had a noticeable green/magenta tint).

For all tests, the Nikon image is at the top and the Voigtlander is at the bottom

Test 1: Nikon 14-30mm F4 @21mm vs. Voigtlander 21mm F1.4

Main conclusions from this test:
Nikon 14-30: sunstars don't really appear until F11, but become noticeably larger at F16. The sunstar rays fade as they taper outwards.
Voigtlander 21: sunstars are visible at F5.6 and continue to grow sightly until F16, where the sunstar suddenly loses its defined shape and becomes hazy. There are fewer rays than the Nikon 14-30 at all apertures, and they end in sharp points rather than gradually tapering outwards.

Because the sunstars appear much earlier on the Voigtlander, it's possible to get well-defined sunstars in images before diffraction starts having a noticeable impact on image quality. I consider this a pretty big advantage - looking at some of my previous images taken on the 14-30 where I stopped down to F16 for noticeable sunstars, I can't help but feel like detail and sharpness are lacking, even after post processing. The Voigtlander would've been great to have in those situations.





Test 1 - Scene taken with Nikon 14-30 @21mm, F5.6

  NIKON Z 7_2    NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens    21mm    f/5.6    1s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  







F5.6 - sunstars are already visible in the Voigtlander image on the bottom







F8 - sunstars on the Nikon begin to appear, the Voigtlander sunstars appear slightly larger and brighter







F11 - the sunstars on the Nikon become more defined







F16 - sunstars on the Nikon become larger and better defined, while the sunstar on the Voigtlander becomes hazy. In my opinion, the Nikon looks slightly better here







Nikon @F16 vs Voigtlander @F8 - the sunstars are of similar size here, but the Nikon is showing less contrast and sharpness due to diffraction







Nikon @F16 - Best aperture for sunstars on the Nikon 14-30 @21mm, global view

  NIKON Z 7_2    NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens    21mm    f/16.0    8s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  







Voigtlander @F11 - Best aperture for sunstars on the Voigtlander 21, global view

  NIKON Z 7_2    21mm f/1.4G lens    21mm    f/11.0    4s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  



Edited on Feb 19, 2024 at 03:46 PM · View previous versions



Feb 19, 2024 at 05:30 AM
pythonz
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


Test 2: Nikon 24-120mm F4 @99mm vs. Voigtlander 110mm F2.5

Main conclusions from this test:
Nikon 24-120: at 99mm (I tried to match the focal length of the Voigtlander but was somewhat off), bright points of light take on a hazy appearance until F11. Pointed rays emerge at F16, but they appear somewhat faint in this test example
Voigtlander 110: like the Voigtlander 21, the sunstars are already visible and well defined at F5.6. They grow in size with every stop, and at F16 they're at their largest.

The situation here is somewhat similar to the 14-30 compared to the 21, except the 110 holds its defined sunstars all the way throughout the aperture range from F5.6 upwards. In my opinion, the Voigtlander 110 does better sunstars than the Nikon 24-120 at every equivalent aperture.





Test 2 - Scene taken with the Nikon 24-120 @99mm, F5.6

  NIKON Z 7_2    NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens    99mm    f/5.6    1/1s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  







F5.6 - sunstars are already visible in the Voigtlander image on the bottom







F8 - Voigtlander sunstars appear slightly larger and brighter







F11 - Voigtlander sunstars continue to grow







F16 - Nikon sunstars finally appear, but aren't as defined as the Voigtlander's







Nikon @F16 vs Voigtlander @F8 - the sunstars are of similar size here, but the Nikon is again showing less contrast and sharpness due to diffraction







Nikon @F16 - Best aperture for sunstars on the Nikon 24-120 @99mm, global view

  NIKON Z 7_2    NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens    99mm    f/16.0    6s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  







Voigtlander @F16 - Best aperture for sunstars on the Voigtlander 110, global view

  NIKON Z 7_2    112mm f/2.5G lens    112mm    f/16.0    6s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  



Edited on Feb 19, 2024 at 03:43 PM · View previous versions



Feb 19, 2024 at 05:35 AM
pythonz
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


Test 3: Nikon 24-120mm F4 @24mm vs. Voigtlander 21mm F1.4
Despite the focal lengths not matching, I decided to test these two lenses anyways since I figured they were close enough to be comparable

Main conclusions from this test:

Nikon 24-120: at 24mm, sunstars begin to emerge at F5.6 but are somewhat hazy. At F8, the rays become longer and brighter, and by F11 they look quite similar to the Voigtlander. At F16, they are sharp and well-defined. When it comes to the 24-120, it seems like sunstars appear earlier and take on a stronger look when shooting with wider focal lengths. Unlike the 14-30, the rays of the 24-120's sunstars form sharp points at the end. They look quite similar to the Voigtlander but have more individual points due to the aperture blade count of the 24-120.
Voigtlander 21: the sunstars are visible at F5.6 and grow slightly with each stop. By F11, the Nikon 24-120 @24 catches up, and at F16 the sunstars on the Voigtlander lose their defined shape. It's hard to imagine a situation aside from doing long exposures where stopping down to F16 on the Voigtlander 21 would be advantageous.

The Nikon 24-120 seems to produce better sunstars at the wide end, with a strong shape appearing at F11. I'd say the Voigtlander produces better sunstars up until F11, but the Nikon takes the lead at F16





Test 3 - Scene taken with the Nikon 24-120 @24mm, F5.6

  NIKON Z 7_2    NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens    24mm    f/5.6    1/1s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  







F5.6 - like the other tests, sunstars are visible on the Voigtlander image from F5.6. They're visible on the Nikon as well, but they look relatively faint and have a bit of a double-pointed appearance







F8 - sunstars grow on both, but especially on the Nikon where they now resolve to single points at the ends. The Nikon still has a fainter appearance compared to the Voigtlander







F11 - sunstars on the Nikon become larger again and take on more contrast. The two look more similar now, but the sunstars on the Voigtlander are still more pronounced at a global level







F16 - sunstars on the Nikon are now well-defined, while on the Voigtlander they appear hazy at F16 like they did in the first test







Nikon @F16 vs Voigtlander @F11 - the sunstars are very similar here, but the Nikon has slightly less contrast and sharpness due to diffraction. The gap is narrower than in the other tests







Nikon @F16 - Best aperture for sunstars on the Nikon 24-120 @24mm, global view

  NIKON Z 7_2    NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens    24mm    f/16.0    6s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  







Voigtlander @F11 - Best aperture for sunstars on the Voigtlander 21, global view

  NIKON Z 7_2    21mm f/1.4G lens    21mm    f/11.0    3s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  



Edited on Feb 19, 2024 at 04:00 PM · View previous versions



Feb 19, 2024 at 05:38 AM
pythonz
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


The EXIF for images taken with the Voigtlander 21mm is showing as 21mm F1.4G and the Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 as 112mm f2.5G because of the Megadap adapter I'm using, please ignore it.


Feb 19, 2024 at 05:56 AM
glassartist
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


Informative tests and the comparisons are pretty clear. Thanks for doing this. I've had my eye on the Voigt 21 and keep hoping CV will put it out in Z mount.


Feb 19, 2024 at 06:47 AM
phinix
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


glassartist wrote:
Informative tests and the comparisons are pretty clear. Thanks for doing this. I've had my eye on the Voigt 21 and keep hoping CV will put it out in Z mount.


Exactly. I'm also waiting for Cosina to release any 21mm lens for Z. it is time!

Voigtlander is best for sunstars, however I saw somewhere some Canon lens that give nice stars as well, I wonder which Nikon lens could do that.



Feb 20, 2024 at 05:50 AM
cvrle59
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander



phinix wrote:
Exactly. I'm also waiting for Cosina to release any 21mm lens for Z. it is time!

Voigtlander is best for sunstars, however I saw somewhere some Canon lens that give nice stars as well, I wonder which Nikon lens could do that.


F-mount 20mm f1.8G, probably my favorite of all. Compared to voigtlander, less "clinical" to my eyes, and at least one line gets much longer then others, making it more interesting.



Feb 20, 2024 at 07:56 AM
 


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DWOfPaul
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


Voigtlander definitely has really nice sunstars. If sunstars are your primary objective do check which lens you are buying and which apertures you are using. For example I know a selling feature of the 50mm APO and 35mm APO for Sony was at certain apertures the aperture was perfectly rounded removing sunstars, but keep the sunstars at other apertures.

I think sunstars fall into a subjective category where some photographers really like them and others don't. It probably also changes based on your subject matter. Voigtlander's hybrid approach is probably pretty close to the best of both worlds for those of us paying attention to all the details. But I could also see how in an on the fly shoot it could be annoying if you change your aperture by 1/3 of a stop and now you have sunstars or you don't.



Feb 20, 2024 at 01:48 PM
Jawnathin
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


Excellent post, thanks for taking the time to test and share your findings. As someone whose starting to dip their toes into landscapes with sunstars, this is very interesting.


Feb 21, 2024 at 12:08 PM
Creative Edge
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


One of the reasons I use the Canon EF 16-35 2.8 III adapted to the Z9 is for the sun stars it produces and it is extremely flare resistant. My favorite lens for sun stars.


Feb 21, 2024 at 12:24 PM
GroovyGeek
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


Sunstar quality on the f/4 series sucks - very much so on the 14-30 and 24-70, less so on the 24-120. Even the 14-24 has good but not great sunstars.


Feb 22, 2024 at 10:51 PM
bcaslis
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


GroovyGeek wrote:
Sunstar quality on the f/4 series sucks - very much so on the 14-30 and 24-70, less so on the 24-120. Even the 14-24 has good but not great sunstars.


Really? Here's my sucky sunstar on the 24-120.

Z9C_0072.jpg by Brian Caslis, on Flickr



Feb 23, 2024 at 01:21 PM
GroovyGeek
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Sunstars: Nikon 14-30 & Nikon 24-120 compared to Voigtlander


bcaslis wrote:
Really? Here's my sucky sunstar on the 24-120.



Agree that under ideal conditions the 24-120 has nice sunstarts. If the ability to almost completely obscure the sun is limited then the sun stars start looking a lot less attractive. The images of street lamps earlier in this thread are indicative of what I have in mind.



Feb 26, 2024 at 03:44 PM







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