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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

REVIEW - Sony FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens (SEL24240)

Click here for more information about the Sony 24-240mm f3.5-6.3 OSS zoom lens
Sony FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens (SEL24240)

About three months ago Sony announced 4 new full-frame FE lenses and one of them really caught my eyes. The Sony Fe 24-240mm f3.5-6.3 OSS lens. For APS-C type cameras there are plenty of zoom lenses available to choose from, but there aren't many full frame zoom lenses on the market which are able to cover such a broad focal range. In fact, they are quite rare. The Sony FE 24-240mm is able to capture very nice wide-angle shots at 24mm and has 10x zoom capabilities to capture images up to 240mm! I've been eagerly waiting for such a versatile lens to hit the market and I'm very exited to be able to share my thoughts and comments on this new Sony lens with you.

Like I've said before in my other reviews, I'm not going to spend too much time about the technical aspects of things, nor will I share sample pictures taken with it at my secret camera laboratory underneath my house (which doesn't exists BTW). I'm going to look at it from an user point of view with real life picture samples and footage, so you know exactly what to expect from this lens. There are plenty of great sites out there that can show you diagrams, graphs and lab-results if you search for them and they can certainly be very interesting to have a look at. So grab your favourite cup o' joe and start reading!

First impressions
One of the very first things you'll notice about this lens, is its weight. It's quite heavy thanks to all the glass it holds inside. So after opening the bright orange box, I immediately mounted a 72mm UV filter to the front, to protect all of that glass... or at least the front end of it! The lens has a nice black finish and a simple but straightforward design. There are no buttons or switches on the lens, since everything can be controlled with the camera. There's a focus ring on the back and a larger zoom ring with markers, near the front. The lens seems rather compact for a full frame lens with 240mm zoom capabilities, but it will extend almost twice in length at full zoom. That's also when you start to realise where all that weight is coming from! At its full length, the lens is actually comparable in size to the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 lens. In the box you will find a lens hood, front lens cap, rear lens cap and warranty documents.

The lens fully extended
The Sony FE 24-240mm zoom lens on the A7s

The pros and cons of the Sony FE 24-240mm (SEL24240)
Let's get the cons out of the way first. It's not a fast lens. Meaning, the aperture range goes from f3.5 (at 24mm) to f6.3 (at 240mm), so it doesn't have a constant aperture like the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS lens has. In fact, this 70-200mm zoom lens was on my wish list before the Sony FE 24-240mm got announced. So why didn't I just go for that lens instead? Well, I rather have a lens that goes from a nice wide-angle up to a very nice super telephoto, without having to swap lenses on the camera constantly. It's a matter of choosing convenience over constant aperture. Also, I'm a real wide angle junkie. So having a lens that starts at 24mm is a real must have for me and if that means having to lose a bit of light at the long end, it really isn't a deal breaker for me. I'm using the Sony A7s which is capable of shooting in near pitch dark situations, so having to use f6.3 instead of f4 won't do much harm. I will lose a bit of bokeh effect starting at f6.3, but when you see some of the sample pictures that I shot at 240mm with f6.3, you'll see it will perform perfectly fine with plenty of bokeh effect to play around with!

A thing that I noticed, is that you'll see a bit of vignetting when using full zoom. which means that corners of the frame appear a bit darker then the center. That could've been a real problem if the camera or software wasn't able to correct this. When you're taking pictures in JPEG format, the camera will automatically correct this for you with JPEG processing, together with a small amount of barrel distortion. When you're using Lightroom to process your RAW images, the software can automatically correct this for you. It's the trade-off for working with a zoom lens instead of a prime lens, but since it's automatically corrected by camera or software, it becomes a non-issue. When you start using the lens for filming, the vignetting can show up on some of the telephoto shots. You'll have to correct this in post yourself when it becomes too apparent, using your editing software of choice. Lastly I noticed a bit of loss in sharpness when taking pictures at full zoom with the aperture wide open. It's better to go to, let's say f11or higher, to obtain a sharper looking image. You can also add a bit of sharpness while processing your pictures in RAW, so it's not something to worry about.

Now it's time to talk about the pros. Having a lens on your camera with such an amazing range, from true wide-angle to super telephoto, is incredible and it was the one thing missing from all the available lenses for the Sony Alpha cameras. When using this lens on an APS-C format camera with E-mount, the lens provides a 35mm focal length equivalent of 36-360mm. Its advanced optical design includes 5 aspherical elements and 1 ED glass element, which helps to achieve high-quality performance with reduced chromatic and spherical aberrations.

Sony FE 24-240mm glass elements
The Optical Steadyshot Image Stabilization helps capturing sharper images in low light situations and when shooting at long telephoto lengths. The OSS is also a very helpful feature when filming without a tripod. Footage captured with a DSLR always looks very shaky and unprofessional, but the OSS does an amazing job to keep things rock steady. It's like working with a shoulder rig. The lens remains very compact at just 4.75" (12 cm) and has a dust and moisture resistant design. It also incorporates a circular 7-blade aperture for creating smooth and pleasing out-of-focus highlights. A very important feature if you ask me, since it will produce more natural looking pictures. Thanks to an internal focus system with a linear motor drive, the autofocus is fast and accurate and since the front element does not rotate during focussing, you can mount a polarizer filter on the front or any other filter that requires to stay stationary.

The zoom ring can be a bit stiff, but that's actually a good thing in this case, since you won't have a problem with lens creeping. That's the effect gravity can have on a zoom lens under certain circumstances. That's probably why there's no zoom lock on this lens, like the one you'll find on the Sony 18-200mm E-mount lens. It keeps the design of this lens very straightforward with just a few markers for focal length. If you compare that to a standard Nikon or Canon lens which has many bells and whistles on them, you might be tempted to think that this lens isn't capable of much, but that would be a misconception. It simply doesn't need fancy add-ons on the outside to make it look more expensive. It's the performance on the inside of the lens that really matters. With that being said, I would've liked having a focus ring with stops and markers instead of having an infinite focus ring, but you get used to that over time.

Filming with the Sony FE 24-240mm Lens
I took the Sony FE 24-240mm lens with me during the Grand D├ępart of the Tour de France, to try it out in the field. While taking lots of pictures, I also tried to shoot some footage whenever I had the chance to see how the lens would perform. Everything was shot without a tripod using OSS. The resulting footage can be seen here:




Sample pictures
Here are a few pictures that I took the last couple of days using the Sony FE 24-240mm lens. More pictures taken with this lens can be found here: DerranNL's Flickr album










Specifications

  • Optics/Lens
    • Lens Mount Type : Sony E-mount
    • Lens Stabilization : Optical SteadyShot
    • Minimum Focus Distance : 1.64'-2.63' 0.5m-0.8m
    • Lens Groups-Elements : 12 groups, 17 elements
    • Filter Diameter : 72mm
    • Lens Type : 35mm full frame
    • Aperture (Max.) : f/3.5-6.3
    • Aperture (Min.) : f/22-40
    • Aperture : Circular
    • Maximum Magnification : 0.27x
    • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 24mm - 240mm (35mm) 36mm - 360mm (APS-C)
    • Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)
    • Angle of View : 61° - 6°50' (APSC) 84° - 10° (35mm)
  • Weights and Measurements
    • Dimensions (Approx.) : 3-1/4" x 4-3/4" (80.5 x 118.5mm)
    • Weight (Approx.) : 27.6 oz (780g)



Conclusion
The all-in-one capabilities of this lens with its incredible broad range going from true wide-angle to super telephoto, makes it a must have lens. It's not cheap at $998.00, but you couldn't expect it to be, with such a high quality performance. In my opinion it's worth the investment, since I will be using it for years to come on many new Sony Alpha cameras that aren't even developed yet. It's a welcome addition to the ever growing line-up of Sony FE lenses.

To be honest, I actually never took it off the camera since it arrived, which says a lot too. I've been waiting patiently for this lens and it was well worth the wait. It's a heavy but compact lens with accurate autofocus capabilities and fantastic performance. Sony did a terrific job with this Sony 24-240mm FE lens. It's the perfect lens for everyday shooting and helps you to capture a great variety of pictures and footage. From semi-macro to true wide-angle and super tele zoom. If there's one lens that should be in your camera toolbox, it has to be this one!

If you have any questions or comments, please share them in the box below.


2 comments:

  1. I use the A7r and just picked this lens.
    As this is heavy, is it safe for the camera mount to use this on a tripod?
    Is there any ‘Tripod collar’ available which can be used with this to keep the balance?
    Thanks
    burmac@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. There's no problem with weight regarding using the camera mount with this lens. As for balancing on a tripod, I use the Manfrotto MN-357 Sliding Plate Adapter (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554151-REG/Manfrotto_357_357_Pro_Quick_Release.html/BI/8892/KBID/10276/kw/MA357/DFF/d10-v21-t1-x133493). Works like a charm!

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