No matter if it is summer or winter, we always enjoy a nice sunny day. What better way to take advantage of the sun than starring it in your photos.
We have a great article on starring the sun here. If you have tried the technique a couple times you probably love it by now, but different lenses will create different results. At APS we can only speak from our own experience, so we are going to talk about the lenses we have used.
Before we start talking about specific lenses, we are going to explain to you what factors are important when starring the sun. The first thing is the number of diaphragm blades inside the lens. Lenses with an even number of apertures blades will produce sun stars with the same number of points. An odd number of blades will produce stars with double the number of points. Start by checking the number of blades inside your lens, easily found in the user manual. Odd numbers create nicer looking stars because they generally create far more points.
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II
The second thing is lens flare, there are some great lenses out there from 3rd party manufacturer's, that have an odd number of blades and create really nice stars, but they also have very prominent lens flare. Lens flare could be used as a creative effect and in some occasions creates a pleasing effect but most of the time it is something you don't want in your images.
Below are examples of mostly wide angle lenses because these are the lenses that you'll generally be using to capture action and sun in the same frame. It is pretty hard to get action and sun in the same shot and make it good.
Some of the budget models like the Sigma 10-20mm have 6 aperture blades that will result in a sun star of 6 points. Which is OK, but you also have to be careful with the lens flare (you can see it on the bottom of the frame).
Another popular 3rd party manufacturer is Tokina. They have a lot of great lenses with good sharpness, but from our experience you get much more lens flare and chromatic aberration with them compared to Canon or Nikon. The Tokina 12-24mm DX II is a pretty popular wide angle choice for cropped sensors. It is a sharp lens with 9 aperture blades that creates awesome stars but again you have to deal with lens flare.
Shooting with a fisheye during the day will often result in having the sun in your frame because the fisheye lenses are so wide. If we have to compare Tokina's 10-17mm Fisheye with Canon 15mm Fisheye we get similar results. The Tokina is much more prone to lens flare and only has 6 aperture blades, while the Canon lens performs much better since it has 5 blades that result in a sun star with 10 points.
left: Tokina 10-17mm fisheye | right: Canon 15mm fisheye
Canon and Nikon both have great lenses which produce amazing stars. We highly recommend Canon's 16-35mm f/2.8L II, or Nikon's 12-24mm for cropped sensor both with 7 aperture blades. These two lenses create spectacular starred suns with plenty of points and minimal lens flare, while keeping great contrast.
There are may other lenses out there like the exceptional Nikon 14-24mm for full frame cameras and the old Canon 17-35mm. You can get great results with pretty much any lens but with some of them you will need a little bit of luck and the star may not look as amazing as with others. Basically what you get is what you pay for, unfortunately.