Sony FE 24-240mm Lens Review Part II (SEL24240)

Part I of the Sony 24-240mm lens review on the Sony A7R is at http://photoblog.velgos.com/2015/03/sony-fe-24-240mm-lens-initial-quick-review-sel24240

4/4/15 Update: Review Part III comparing the 24-240mm with the 35mm f/1.8 is up at http://photoblog.velgos.com/2015/04/sony-24-240mm-review-part-iii

Sony FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Full-frame E-mount Telephoto Zoom Lens Review Part II. In this review I wanted to see how it stacked up against my trusty Sony 18-200mm (SEL18200/Silver) on the APS-C sensor Sony NEX-7.  The crop factor and effective 36-360mm range on the NEX-7 may make the 24-240mm an interesting option for those who want a little extra zoom.

Sony 24-240mm (SEL24240) vs Sony 18-200mm (SEL18200) on a Sony NEX-7

I wanted to compare the 24-240 against the 18-200 because the 18-200 has become a trusted lens for me. The 18-200 isn’t perfect but it’s darn good for what it is. When I first got it a few years ago I did some field-testing and wasn’t expecting much. When I got back and inspected the images I was pretty surprised with how good the results were. Not best-ever good but it performed exceptionally well for what’s considered a non-professional general-purpose zoom lens. Very good center sharpness. Good side sharpness. Decent corner sharpness. Nice color and contrast. Has some distortion, vignetting, and fringing, but all easily corrected in Adobe Lightroom. In my past experience, general purpose zooms usually weren’t good enough for my needs which is why I had a bag full of Canon lenses. The 18-200 changed my thoughts on that. So if the 24-240 performed as good or better that’s all I was hoping for.

Sony has a few different 18-200mm models. The one I have is known as the “Silver”. Why? Well, because it only comes in silver. Looks kind of odd on the black NEX-7 at first but I quickly forgot about the color after using it. So how does the 24-240 performance compare to the 18-200? In summary, very similar. And that’s a good thing.

Compatibility

Not all lenses are compatible with all cameras. Some lenses won’t work on a certain camera at all. Some lenses will work on certain cameras but with limitations such as no auto-focusing. An example of a limitation would be the 18-200 on the A7R where it only produces a normal looking image at a reduced 16MP in crop mode. Without the crop mode at 36MP the image has massive corner vignetting which essentially looks like a round picture with black corners. So does the new “FE” series 24-240 work on the NEX-7?  Yes, perfectly and with no limitations. And that should apply to other similar cameras like the a6000.

Focal Range and Crop Factor

If you’re not familiar with differences between focal ranges when a lens is on a full frame versus a non-full frame camera there is a ton of information available by doing a search for Crop Factor. Too much information to cover here but essentially the 24-240 on the full frame sensor A7R gives a 24-240mm focal range.

The 24-240 on the APS-C sensor NEX-7 gives a 36-360mm focal range. So, what’s that mean? On the NEX-7 you get less at the wide end (28mm vs 36mm) but a little longer end zoom (300mm vs 360mm). So for someone like a wildlife photographer, the 24-240 would allow you to zoom in closer to an animal than the 18-200 or 70-200 lens. Is the 360mm vs 300mm a huge difference? In my opinion, not really. And I think most people if they saw a picture at 360mm and 300mm side-by-side would probably think “that’s it?”. If you shoot landscapes the 35mm will give you a little less width but the difference isn’t huge.

So is the additional 60mm of effective zoom worth the extra size and weight of the 24-240mm? It depends on your personal preference.

Sony NEX-7 and 18-200 at 18mm vs 24-240mm at 24mm

This shows how much more wide the 18-200mm is than the 24-240mm specifically on the APS-C sensor NEX-7. You’re looking at 18mm (27mm effective) and 24mm (36mm effective). On the full frame sensor A7 and A7R the 24-240mm would be wider than both of these shots at 24mm.

Sony NEX-7 and 18-200 at 18mm vs 24-240mm at 24mm

Sony 24-240mm at 200mm and 240mm, f/8.0, Center

How much of a difference is 200mm and 240mm? Here you go.

Sony 24-240mm at 200mm and 240mm, f:8.0, Center

Size & Weight

I compared the size in my initial review. The 24-240 is definitely bigger and heavier than the 18-200. When I first got the 18-200 I was concerned that it was too big for the NEX-7. The 18-200 isn’t really a big lens but on the super compact NEX-7 it seems kinda big at first and somewhat of a mismatch. But after shooting with the NEX-7/18-200 those concerns immediately went away for me.

With the 24-240 on the NEX-7 the weight difference is noticeable compared to the 18-200 but the size doesn’t really feel much different. But keep in mind I’m used to shooting with the NEX-7/18-200 so I’m used to the size and weight. If you’ve never shot with an NEX you might pick up the NEX-7/24-240 and think “whoa it’s big and heavy”. The 24-240 does seem a bit front-heavy on the NEX-7 but I got used to it pretty quickly.

I’ve read some other reviews and comments about the size and weight being excessive. It again depends on your background and expectations. For somebody coming from a point and shoot compact camera it may feel ridiculously big and heavy. If you’re coming from an entry-level DSLR with a small and light 18-55 kit lens it may not feel as small or light as you were hoping. For someone like me who’s coming from a bag of big and heavy equipment I think both the 18-200 and 24-240 are great. And because they allow me to ditch a bunch of big heavy stuff I will tend to downplay things like weight and size that other people may feel are excessive. If light weight and compactness are your biggest priorities than you probably should be looking elsewhere like at a Sony 16-50mm or a 35mm f/1.8 instead of the 24-240. If having one lens with the biggest focal range is your priority then you are probably going to need to accept the trade-off of focal range versus size and weight. I would love to have a 12-600mm f/1.2 that’s optically spectacular and the size and weight of a pancake lens but even if it were possible it would probably cost tens of thousands of dollars. But, that’s the point. There’s is always a balance and tradeoff between quality, size/weight, performance, and cost. You can’t have the best of them all.

Nikon D800 and 28-300mm and Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm

The Nikon 28-300mm and Sony 24-240mm are about the same size and weight. But the compact NEX-7 makes the lens feel less substantial than on the chunky Nikon D800.

Sony 24-240mm and Nikkor 28-300mm Side-by-Side Quality

Both the 18-200 and 24-240 are metal and well made although my impression is the 24-240 is a bit more solidly made. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the flat black color versus the semi-shiny silver. Or the weight. Or zoom stiffness. It just feels well built. The 24-240 quality is somewhere in between a tank like the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II and a plastic consumer kit lens, but leaning more toward the tank side of quality. I feel it’s higher quality than the mostly plastic Nikon 28-300mm. Not to say the Nikon isn’t good quality. It is good quality but the 24-240 feels a couple steps up.

Features

Both lenses come with Optical Steady Shot (OSS) image stabilization. Sony’s OSS seems to give around 2-3 stops of stabilization efficiency. I haven’t done any formal testing to see how many stops advantage OSS provides because whenever I get to the point where light is becoming an issue I use a tripod.

The 18-200 has a zoom lock and the 24-240 doesn’t. As I mentioned in my first review the 24-240 zoom ring is super stiff at first. After a couple weeks of usage it’s still stiff but has loosened up a tiny bit and I’ve gotten used to it. Oddly, the 18-200 now seems super loose. I wish Sony had included a lock on the 24-240 just in case it loosens up over time. I’ve had zero problems with zoom creep on the 24-240 so far. On the 18-200 if you hold the camera with the lens facing downward it will full extend zoomed out within a couple seconds if you don’t lock it. So while I was concerned about the 24-240 stiffness and no lock, it sure has been nice not having to constantly lock the lens like on the 18-200 or even the D800/28-300.

The filter size on the 24-240 is 72mm versus the 67mm on the 18-200. The very compact and light Sony 35mm f/1.8 is 49mm.

Both the 18-200 and 24-240 come with plastic lens hoods and then attach fairly firmly and securely.

Cost

It’s close. The 18-200 MSRP is $899 and the 24-240 is $999. The 24-240 was just released so availability will be patchy and probably won’t have discounts anytime soon. The 18-200 has been around for a while so if price is important you’re more likely to find a deal on it.

Conclusion

Both of these lenses perform very similarly. At f/8, sharpness is decent overall at all focal lengths. Contrast and color are very good for zoom lenses.  They both have moderate distortion, low vignetting, and very little chromatic aberration. Quality is very good on both with the 24-240 feeling a bit more well made. Price and features are very similar. The biggest differences come in focal length, size and weight. The 24-240 has extra zoom but is bigger and heavier. The 18-200 is lighter, smaller, and a bit wider but has less zoom reach. As you can see from the test shots there may, nor may not, seem like much of a difference between 200mm and 240mm. So, choosing between the two probably boils down to what’s more important to you.  A little extra zoom or less size and weight. Or maybe silver vs black.

Testing

My test shots are mainly for testing lens sharpness and potential problems like chromatic aberration, distortion, and other common lens issues. I’m less concerned with things like bokeh because I shoot cityscapes and landscapes. I’ve found that while MTFs and other charts are helpful they haven’t always matched what I’ve found with my testing. An example being one chart that showed a lens was optimally sharp at f/5.6. My testing showed clearly f/8 was optimal. I’m not disagreeing with their results. Maybe variances in quality control during manufacturing caused the difference. But, this is why I test all of my lenses when I first buy them so I can see what’s optimal for me.

Testing Process

All images were shot in RAW using the Sony NEX-7 at f/8 and ISO100. Files are imported from the SD card directly into Adobe Lightroom. No changes of any kind are made. The images are straight out of the camera so you get to see all of the natural distortion, vignetting, and other characteristics. The images below are PNG screen captures from Adobe Lighroom so you’re seeing RAW images exactly as I see them. The NEX-7 was mounted on a solid tripod. Optical Steady Shot was disabled. A two second shutter delay was used to help minimize any movement.

Full Test Scene – Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 24mm, f/8.0, 1/400, ISO100Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 24mm, f:8.0, 1:400, ISO100Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 24mm, f/8.0, 1/400, ISO100, Center, 100%

Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 24mm, f:8.0, 1:400, ISO100, Center, 100

Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 50mm, f/8.0, 1/320, ISO100, Center, 100%

Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 50mm, f:8.0, 1:400, ISO100, Center, 100Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 100mm, f/8.0, 1/320, ISO100, Center, 100%

Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 50mm, f:8.0, 1:320, ISO100, Center, 100Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 200mm, f/8.0, 1/250, ISO100, Center, 100%

Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 200mm, f:8.0, 1:250, ISO100, Center, 100Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 240mm, f/8.0, 1/200, ISO100, Center, 100%

Sony NEX-7 and 24-240mm at 240mm, f:8.0, 1:250, ISO100, Center, 100Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f/8.0, Center, 100%

Again, neither of these lenses is going to have the razor sharpness of a prime lens but I feel this is a pretty respectable showing for a zoom lens.

Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f:8.0, Center, 100

Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f/8.0, Top Left Corner, 100%

In my opinion both of these are pretty decent with the 24-240 being a bit sharper. This corner isn’t razor sharp like a prime lens but it’s not really soft or mushy either.

Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f:8.0, Top Left Corner, 100Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f/8.0, Middle Right Side, 100%

Decently sharp in my opinion with the 24-240mm being a bit sharper.

Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f:8.0, Middle Right, 100 Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f/8.0, Bottom Left Side, 100%

Not super sharp but not bad either. Seem to be about even.

Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 24mm, f:8.0, Bottom Left Side, 100 Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 200mm, f/8.0, Center, 100%

Both decently sharp with the 18-200 being a bit sharper.

Sony 18-200mm and 24-240mm at 200mm, f:8.0, Center, 100