3/18/15 Update: Added two full size images for download and more test photos
4/3/15 Update: Review Part II with the 24-240mm on the Sony NEX-7 is now up at http://photoblog.velgos.com/2015/04/sony-fe-24-240mm-lens-review-part-ii-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
My Sony FE 24-240mm just arrived so I did some testing on the Sony A7R and also compared it against my Nikon D800 and Nikkor 28-300mm. This quick review covers a bit of my progression from DSLRs to Sony mirrorless, compares sizes between systems, and has a few images to give a general idea of how the lens performs. This isn’t a scientific test in a controlled lab. Just some general thoughts of a cityscape/landscape photographer.
Moving from DSLRs to Sony Mirrorless
For a while I was shooting with a Canon 5DMII and a bag full of lenses. Lugging around 30 lbs of gear and constantly switching lenses wasn’t really working well. I wanted to scale back on gear to go lighter and work more efficiently. I looked into the Canon 28-300 but it’s a monster. The Sony NEX-7 and 18-200mm caught my eye. A small, light, and versatile combo. But how good could it be especially compared to a 5DMII? Well, surprisingly good. Surprisingly, meaning when I first got it I wasn’t expecting great results from a utility 18-200 on a new and relatively unproven mirrorless camera. I took the NEX-7/18-200 and 5DMII/24-70 both out shooting so I could compare side-by-side results. I was pretty shocked. I opened two photos in Lightroom at 100% and thought I had accidentally picked two 5DMII photos. Nope. The two were so close in sharpness at the center I had a hard time telling the difference and in some areas the NEX-7 was better. Can you tell which is the Sony or Canon?
Sony NEX-7/18-200 and Canon 5DMII/24-70, f/8, Center, 100%
Obviously the 24-70 is f/2.8 and has some advantages for certain subjects like portraits and the corners are a bit sharper. And the NEX-7 isn’t an action camera and may not perform as well as higher ISO’s. But since I shoot cityscapes and landscapes f/2.8 isn’t where I spend most of my time. After doing a bunch of shooting with the NEX-7 and seeing what it was capable of, the 5DMII and bag of many heavy lenses started collecting dust. Then the Nikon D800 came out and I wanted higher resolution so I picked one up along with a Nikkor 28-300mm and a couple other lenses. Now I had less gear to carry but I still missed the size and features of the NEX-7. Then Sony released the A7R and I was excited at the thought of an NEX-7 with a D800 sensor. But that excitement wore off pretty quickly when I saw how limited the lens selection was. Which brings us to the 24-240mm. As soon as it became available I ordered one along with an A7R. I will probably pick up a wide prime and ultra-wide zoom to fill out the range. And that will make the transition from DSLR to mirrorless complete for me. Well, sort of. Until the Sony A7x 50MP comes out.
Initial Sony 24-240mm Impressions
First, I gotta say I like the 24-240mm range. The difference between 240mm and 300mm is so slight it’s almost unnoticeable. There have been plenty of times where I needed a bit more width than 28mm and 24mm would have helped over having to change to an ultra-wide lens.
At 3.17 x 4.67″ / 80.5 x 118.5 mm it won’t be mistaken for a pancake lens. It’s not super compact but not huge either. Compared to he Nikon 28-300mm, which is already relatively compact for a full frame big focal range lens, it’s about the same size. Compared to the Sony 18-200 Model #SEL18200 (3.0 x 4.0″ / 7.62 x 10.16 cm) the 24-240 (3.17 x 4.67″ / 80.5 x 118.5 mm) is bigger but I don’t feel it’s a huge difference in size.
Here’s a side-by-side height comparison of the Nikon 28-300, Sony 24-240, and Sony 18-200.
Here’s a side-by-side lens diameter comparison of the Nikon 28-300, Sony 24-240, and Sony 18-200.
On the A7R the size ends up being somewhere in between the NEX-7/18-200 and D800/28-300 while feeling closer to the NEX-7. The D800 is pretty chunky so the A7R/24-240 feels way smaller. Sorry, I took a quick shot which came out blurry and didn’t have time to redo. You get the idea though.
At 1.72lb / 780g it ain’t a lightweight that’s for sure. But it’s not a tank either. It’s relatively light. Meaning ,1.75 lbs compared to other lenses I used to lug around like a Canon 70-200mm at over 3 lbs. Compared to the Nikkor 28-300mm (1.76lb / 800g) the 24-240 (1.72lb / 780g) is almost the same weight. Compared to the The Sony 18-200mm, it’s is definitely heavier at 1.72lb / 780g vs the 18-200 at 1.15lb / 524g. The weight isn’t a problem for me.
The first thing I noticed immediately is the zoom ring is stiff. Real stiff. And it doesn’t have a lock to prevent lens creep. You really need to exert some effort to turn the zoom ring at first. So much effort that I was getting worried I might damage the camera lens mount. But after using it for a few hours it seemed to loosen up a tiny bit and became less of a concern. While I was out shooting I left it hanging from my shoulder when I wasn’t using it. No creep at all after several hours. If the 18-200 were attached it would completely extend within a few seconds if not locked. Same thing with the Nikon 28-300. So I wonder how much the lens will loosen up over time. Maybe they did a ton of testing or used another lens as a reference and felt the lock wasn’t necessary. May have been a good idea to include the lock anyway. Only time will tell.
It’s solid. The finish, fit, and feel are very good quality. It has a metal body with plastic inner sleeves. The zoom ring is thick and the rubber is very grippy. Interestingly the thinner focus ring looks similar to the zoom ring but seems to be made of a slightly less tacky material.
How about image quality? Pretty darn good. Better than I expected. I’m really happy with just about everything I’ve seen so far. How’s it compare to my D800/28-300? A little better in just about every measure and that’s all I could have asked for.
Sharpness – Comparatively speaking, sharp! In general, decently sharp. Better than I expected. This isn’t going to be as sharp as a prime lens or even something like a 70-200mm but compared to similar lenses I feel Sony did a pretty good job on this lens. Like many lenses f/8 seems to be the sweet spot for center sharpness. At the center this lens is decently sharp at all focal lengths. The sides aren’t bad either. Corners? Well, not great, but still better than I expected. It’s slightly sharper than the Nikon D800/28-300 combo. But some of that may be due to the D800. A D800E probably would have shown a bit sharper results.
Fringing – Seems pretty well controlled. There isn’t much from what I could see. The Nikon 28-300 has quite a bit with strong magenta and cyan toward the sides. While this can be easily corrected it Lightroom, if it’s severe enough it can affect image quality to the point where removing the color leaves behind damage that may need to be fixed. So this is a pretty nice bonus I wasn’t expecting and means less work for me to do in post processing.
Distortion – As you can see from the some of the samples it has quite a bit which just goes with the territory for this kind of lens. When Lightroom gets updated to include this lens the distortion will be easily corrected. No big deal.
Check out the test shots I posted far below.
I have a couple different thoughts. One is about the lens and the other is about the platform. Some people already have Sony equipment and probably just want to know about the lens specs and how it performs. Others may be sitting on the sidelines wondering if they should jump into mirrorless to possibly replace their DSLR(s) and big bag-o-stuff.
Regarding the lens, I think Sony has a winner here. It’s reasonably sharp at most focal lengths between f5.6 and f/11 with f/8 being optimal. At first glance it may seem to be too big, too heavy, and not be a good match for the compact nature of the mirrorless platform. But paired with one of the Sony Alpha bodies it gives you a more compact system. On the A7R, and even the NEX-7, it’s pretty well balanced. And even though the size and weight aren’t much different than the Nikkor 28-300mm, the difference to me in overall bulk and weight is pretty substantial when using the A7R/24-240 and D800/28-300 at the same time.
I’ve also seen some comments regarding it being expensive. From what I’ve seen I think it’s competitively priced with similar lenses and I’m sure after the initial launch the sales will start showing up.
If you already have one of the Sony A7 cameras this promises to be a great travel or walkaround lens to compliment your primes. If you have one of the Sony NEX cameras, this lens offers an interesting range of around 36-360mm to give you a bit more zoom over the 27-300mm range that the 18-200mm provides.
If you’re considering moving to mirrorless, my recommendation is, it depends. It depends on what kind of photography you do. General subjects? Absolutely. Travel? Probably. Sports and action seems to be one areas where DSLRs still have an advantage but cameras like the Sony a6000 and some stuff from Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic are closing that gap. Portraits and weddings? Can’t say. I don’t shoot those subjects but I’ve seen some people making a move. For me? Absolutely.
In summary, the 24-240mm along with the A7R offer me the opportunity to lighten my load and work more efficiently while still getting amazing image quality. What I’ve seen so far is pretty promising. Exciting times!
I’m not a professional lens reviewer so there’s nothing scientific to this process. Just some quick shots to give a basic idea of how the lens performs. All shots were taken in RAW at ISO 100 and f/8. The Sony A7R was used with the 24-240mm, D800 for the 28-300mm, and NEX-7 for the 18-200mm. I used a pretty solid tripod along with a 2-second timer delay to try to reduce any shake or vibration. Image Stabilization was disabled on all lenses. All images were opened in Lightroom with standard settings. No changes were made to anything. I posted two shots of most scenes. The original scene and then the same scene shown at 1:1 (100%) in Lightroom. I’ll post the full size originals and some additional images shortly.
Update 3/18/15: Two full size images available for download
Update 3/21/15: I’ve seen some comments and questions about the image process I used and if any modifications were done. The images were all taken as RAW on all three cameras. They were imported into Lightroom directly from the SD cards. No lens corrections, sharpening, or any other changes were applied. The two download files are RAW files exported as JPEG with no changes. The test images below are all screenshots captured as PNG from Lightroom so you are looking at unedited RAW files exactly as you would see them in Lightroom.
All images Copyright © Paul Velgos and may only be used for personal viewing for the purpose of evaluating lens performance.
Sony 24-240mm, 24mm, f/8 (Scene 1)
Sony 24-240mm, 24mm, f/8, 100%, Center
Sony 24-240mm, 240mm, f/8
Sony 24-240mm, 240mm, f/8, 100%, Center
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 240mm, f/8, 100%, Center
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Sony 18-200mm (Right), 240mm, f/8, 100%, Center
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 240mm, f/8, Right Side
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 240mm, f/8, Left Side
Sony 24-240mm, 24mm, f/8 (Scene 2)
Sony 24-240mm, 24mm, f/8, 100%, Center
Sony 24-240mm, 240mm, f/8
Sony 24-240mm, 240mm, f/8, 100%, Center
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 240mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Update 3/18/15: More test images added below
Sony 24-240mm, 28mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Sony 24-240mm, 35mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Sony 24-240mm, 50mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Sony 24-240mm, 70mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Sony 24-240mm, 150mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Sony 24-240mm, 240mm, f/8, Center, 100%
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 28mm, f/8, Top Right
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 28mm, f/8, Bottom Right
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 28mm, f/8, Bottom Left
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 28mm, f/8, Top Left
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 28mm, f/8, Left Side
Sony 24-240mm (Left) and Nikkor 28-300mm (Right), 28mm, f/8, Right Side