Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens First Look
by Brad Husick
Yesterday I received the new Sony 24-240mm super zoom lens for full frame Sony FE mount cameras. I had a chance to shoot some ultimate frisbee with it and I thought I’d share my first impressions.
I have been a professional sports photographer for the NLL (National Lacrosse League) and for that I generally have used the big gear – Canon EOS and Nikon D3 and D4 cameras and lenses. In the low light of indoor sports I need the speed and precision of these monster camera systems to give me reliable results.
For this first taste I shot outdoors in relatively good late evening light. I was anywhere from 5 yards to 50 yards from my subjects, shooting on a Sony A7II using auto ISO limited to 3200. This was my first chance to try the A7II for sports.
The incredible reach of this lens at 240mm made the job easier. It’s quite long when extended to the maximum zoom, but not particularly heavy or unbalanced on the camera. I did not feel the need to shoot on a monopod, which is my typical setup for sports. The combined weight of the camera and lens were more than manageable for the 60 minute game. This would not be true of my Nikon D4 and 70-200 lens.
I also found the wide-angle end of the lens useful when the action came close to me on the sidelines. If I had my 70-200 mounted I would have missed some of this action.
Overall I can say I am pleasantly surprised with the optical quality of the lens. I don’t see any major flaws at either end of the range. I do wish it could be a little faster than f/3.5-6.3 – a constant f/4 would be nice, but I am sure we’d be looking at a much larger lens in that case. It’s a tradeoff I am willing to make here.
Build quality is excellent. The zoom throw is a bit stiff but it doesn’t creep when you hang the camera down at your hip. The hood is plastic but nicely finished and no so large that it gets in the way. I do wish all these lenses had real aperture rings, but leaving the camera on A mode wide open does the trick most of the time.
Image stabilization combined with the in-camera stabilization of the A7II is superb, perhaps the best I have used. I can’t measure the benefit in stops, but I’d say it’s very, very useful especially at the far end of this big zoom.
Autofocus was an interesting combination of good and fair. The subject tracking capability of the camera was very good, locking on and not letting go despite players running in front of the subject. I was pleasantly surprised by this. On the not-so-good end, the lens wouldn’t always lock on to the intended subject immediately. I am quite spoiled by the performance of the Nikon D4 and its lenses and their ability to almost magically lock on to the subject. I didn’t expect the Sony to knock the Nikon out of first place for this application, but it was a reminder that there are certainly different tools for different jobs. I am not ready to replace the D4 when I am being paid for my sports work.
In summary, I think the combination of the 24-240 and the A7II is a great setup for parents and family to get the shots of their children they have wanted and missed in the past.
I look forward to getting more shooting time with this combo and learning the subtleties of this system.
Brad, did you ever get around to using this lens for NLL photography? I have done some NLL games and would be curious.
The shots look great. I love the timing and especially the colors. The kids are not tack sharp because of blur from their fast paced movement (at 3.5-6.3, your shutter speeds will be limited). But if you look at the grass closely, the lens can deliver sharp results. Thanks for the great review. Im going to get this lens. Im the type that values flexibility, convenience and functionality over pixel-peeping sharpness.
This lens was my greatest disappointment in any lens purchase in the past decade. It just wasn’t sharp, not pixel peeking, just not sharp (just as the children in the photos above are not sharp). Perhaps I got a bad copy, but comparing it to the 70-200 there was absolutely no contest. I returned it after a week of audition.
Just a quick question. I have the a7ii and am using the 28-70 kit lens. I think it’s a fine lens and produces sharp images and even does fairly well in low light. But the range is limited. Is it worth replacing the kit lens with the 24-240? Does the 24-240 match the image quality of the kit lens in low light? I’ll pick up a prime later for low light but for now, am more interested in comparing these 2 lenses. Thanks.
That is probably the worst lens in the Sony FE lineup. Ay lens you go to after that you will be pleased with. I suggest primes or the HQ zooms though. The 24-240 may not cut it for IQ, but will def be a tad better than the kit lens.
I am not a professional but have just bought the 24-240 (did not care for the quality of the zeiss 24-70 I had so was looking for kinda replacement) and have been shooting with the a7ii for a couple days. I already had bought the 70-200 F4. Honestly after doing many comparison shots at equal stops and distances I think my 24-240 is sharper over the same range than my 70-200. Because of that I have decided to return the 70-200 since I’m still with in my 45 day window. Not sure if I got a really good copy of the 24-240 or a bad copy of the 70-200 but between the sharpness, extra range, and almost macro ability of the 24-240 it is a no brainier for my needs. And 500 bucks cheaper as well.
It is possible I had a bad copy, but like the photos published here, mine were very soft taken under controlled circumstances. The lens just didn’t satisfy my need for sharpness and contrast. I do love my little Canon 55-250 on my SL1…it produces amazingly crisp images. Pleased you are enjoying your lens, I wish I could have kept mine.
I received my lens from Adorama two weeks ago, used it for one week, and returned for a full refund. It is not as sharp as my $250 Canon 55-250 (which also weighs a lot less!) and the zoom function was so tight that I had the feeling I might rip the lens from its mount! The less than sharp pictures confirm my impression…Sony is not anywhere the equal of Zeiss in producing zoom lenses. This was a huge disappointment.
Hey, i own both the nex 6 (sorry got it before the 6000 came out) LOL and the A7 II. I attend many Steelers Training camp and games… wish camera woudl be better for me to use with the, the nex 6 or the Sony a7 II.
so, sounds like it would be great to see more picture samples. don’t want to discount a great product due to a limited number of images. the range is enticing, so it would be great to see some killer images from it.
I just bought the 24-240 and it’s plenty sharp… Not as sharp as the Sony/Zeiss primes but on the a7s it offers a quality/versatility combo beyond anything I’ve had before – including the original EM5 and EM1 with the 14-150 (v1) – both of which produced hundreds of treasured keepers. I’ve been shooting film & video since 1980 (7th grade photo class) and this compact package is revolutionary. The high iso ability of the a7s offsets the slower aperture and I’m always ready for whatever happens next. I’ve seen great musicians rock cheap guitars – Jack White anyone? So, at the end of the day, if you don’t like the pics you get from this setup – I’d wager the lens is not the problem. Just a thought…
agree with Peter….the lens looks like an amateur traveler.
Peter, this is more about whether the lens can perform than which camera system to buy. The 24-240 is by no means an “amateur-grade travel zoom”. We all know the A7II is a superb camera, and now we have more lenses to choose from. Yes, there are lots of inexpensive choices out there today, and that’s a good thing. I never think full frame is wasted since there are many times that cropping makes sense and you want to start with the maximum image if you’re going to crop.
Isn’t “full frame” wasted on this kind of “asignment”? For shots that never make it beyond facebook?Any entry-level APS-C DSLR has better AF (body $400). Then a 18-200 ($300) or 50-200 ($200) and you are done.
If I paid so much for these extra square millimeters of sensor area, would I then put an amateur-grade “travel zoom” on it?
No offence to the photographer, but the pictures above are not as sharp as what you will expect from a $998 lens. My a7 and $100 minolta 70-210 f4(beercan) can take sharper pictures. I have tried this on my daughters’ under 14 soccer match. I was really waiting for 24-240mm lens as a walkaround buddy. But..
When you say “can take sharper pictures” I don’t think we have seen what this Sony lens is capable of delivering in the few photos I posted. I do not think under the same circumstances the $100 minolta lens will equal the Sony, but if you have found a solution that works for you then by all means stick with it.
Agreed. While there is nice color, it’s not the sharpest lens out there. It looks like my mounted 24-105 from Canon takes sharper shots, but the AF with Metabones is atrocious, so it’s manual only.
Nice shots! As a soccer dad, I know exactly the situation of needing a wide zoom range. I’ve actually been shooting with a Panasonic FZ200. On my budget, I couldn’t justify spending bigger bucks for a dslr or EM-1. Yes, it has a P&S sensor, but it has the 25-600mm equivalent lens — and I use that whole range to cover most of the field — and the f2.8 keeps the ISO to usable levels in daytime games. The EVF is pretty good for its class, and the 12fps (up to 12 shots RAW) is pretty useful, as the ball still moves a lot between frames. It certainly has drawbacks, (slowish power zoom, sometimes hunts focus) but for snapshots to share with the other parents online, it works pretty well. The EM5-II with a 14-150 might be just be the upgrade to try to justify now….
If i wanted to use this lens at kids games i would use it on the A6000 instead. Way better AF. I know the crop factor would change the FL but still…
It’s not that much better than the A7II. A little speedier but not a huge difference. Yes, I own both.
So in the end Brad, it’s (pardon the expression) a “soccer mom” set-up? Wouldn’t a Nikon 1 with comparable zoom give you an even lighter and more compact combo, with similar image quality?
I tried the Nikon 1 for sports and published an article about it here. It did not achieve the goals.
On Web the Oly Em1 with 40-150mm f2.8 pro lens has been tested photographing race horses and found to focus instantly and produce tack sharp images. That’s 300 mm equivalent at f2.8 at a fraction of suggested Nikon equipment and prices. Plus there’s a 1.4 teleconverter too. And the combo are sealed for rain and Dust. They are PRO GEAR. I commented on 75mm 1.8 cause I don’t own the zoom which matches image quality of prime per many teviews.
I don’t see many of my colleagues shooting the EM1 on the sidelines. I am sure it’s a nice camera, but nothing has unseated the Nikon D4 for my pro shooting needs. The autofocus system is just too good. But getting back to the point of this article, I think the Sony 24-240 lens is a good performer for non-pro requirements.
I don’t own the 40mm-150mm 2.8 pro but I read a lot of reviews. On the EM1 due to the dual motors for focusing it is reviewed as s very very fast and on target. The 1.4 teleconverter will also work with the upcoming 300 mm f4.0 Oly lens and all this gear is sealed
But if you can afford and carry the Nikon gear why change. But pro wedding and sports people are reviewing this equipment as very use able on their fieLd.
yikes, these don’t look that great. (nothing to do with the photographer!). the backgrounds are poor, some shots are soft focused, etc. if I were a parent, i’d be disappointed. certainly not even in the ball park of a pro camera/lens. 240 is kinda of short for this type of shooting.
Sorry to disappoint you. I am not sure what you mean about the background – it’s a park. I am not trying to replace a D4 with a 300mm lens, but offer an alternative approach.
Thank you for your insightful review! Is there any circumstance where you believe this lens might be used for a “pro sharp” photograph?
This lens is more than capable of producing sharp images, but as a sports lens it has some limitations, mainly focusing speed and light gathering (max aperture). All lens designs are a tradeoff among many factors such as size, weight, cost, etc.
To be honest, I don’t think it is capable of producing sharp images (if it were why didn’t you provide some?). I took about 1000 images with my lens on a Sony A7r at all apertures and it failed miserably. A lens at this level should be capable of innately sharp images without having to apply a lot of out of camera tweeking for sharpness. I thought I might have had a bad copy, now realize it is inherently unsharp.
The action shots weren’t particularly interesting to me. Expected more Frisbees in the air.
Some shots of Frisbee coming toward the lens and stopped. Can’t tell if combo really tracks action at all.
Just IMO. The Oly 75mm 1.8 on EM1 WOULD totally outperform these shots based on beach shots of seagulls in flight on Florida Cocoa Beach. I should submit them. Much lighter setup and no need to worry about light! Let alone price and weight.
Bob, this setup will not match the tracking of the D4. Neither will the Olympus.
But I can afford the Oly gear and at 76 I an carry it. But it stopped seagulls flying at me across in front of me dead. ISO 400 Oly 75mm 1.8 at 1.8 on EM1. VERY SHARP EYES AND FEATHERS.
SOLD canon 5D and L lens cause to heavy. Nof I take my Oly every where
Bob, the EM1 is a great m4/3 camera and the Oly 75/1.8 is a wonderful lens. I am glad it works for you, but for pro sports it wouldn’t keep up with a D4 or 1D Mark IV and neither will the Sony A7II. There’s a reason we see so much big gear on the sidelines and it’s not because Canon and Nikon give their stuff away. Good shooting!
Given that its f6.3 on the long end, and one a FF body, 70mm is pretty wide, at least for sports stuff, I would think perhaps a 70-200 f4 FE lens would be a better choice for parents wanting to shoot their kids sports ?
As I said in the article, if I used a 70-200mm lens I would have missed some of the great action and faces near the sidelines.
A7II + 24-240mm > 2800$? For families? I’d go with D7100 and 70-300mm VR/VC, even D7000 would be excelllent. The delta between 2800 and D7x00 kit can be used to take your kids to a nice holiday, or several IPADs for their birthday 🙂
Most amateurs I know and teach are intimidated by DSLRs and hate the size of them. Families have a wide range of budgets and priorities. Some think nothing of spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on ski vacations, while others prefer playing soccer close to home. We owe it to all of them to evaluate the options and let them make their own choices.
most of the photos are not focused/sharp ….for this kind of game you probably need 70-200 F4
I did minimal to no processing here to improve the images. They are for the most part not 100% focused, but as I said they are perfect for most parent / school needs. A 70-200 F4 lens would not have allowed me to capture the action close to me on the sidelines, and it would have been a larger, heavier lens probably requiring a monopod and thus limiting me. It’s all about tradeoffs and using the right tools for the job at hand.
Thanks for sharing this. Surprisingly good for a CIC Cam, holding track with any kind of sports. Where the big Ones kick in is, when you have to catch both the thrower and the catcher of the frisbee. The image Quality is fine, but i miss the perfect blur of the Background. Sony has some lenses which deliver, but of course at a different price-point. To me, the Stabilizer is the most interesting part of the cam. Does it works with follow-focus?
Yes, the stabilizer works very well with the follow focus. As for the background blur, you will never get that on a lens that has a f/3.5-6.3 aperture. At the long end you are shooting at f/6.3 and that helps keep things in focus but will never give you blurred backgrounds. That’s why I shoot f/2.8 or wider for indoor lacrosse. You have to know where the subjects are going to be because the depth of field is very thin. I most often shoot in manual focus because I know where the players will be at the moment I want the shot. I also fire away in bursts at 11fps to get the one good frame. It’s not unusual for me to shoot more than 1000 frames in a single NLL game. I don’t think most parents would have that kind of patience for doing that for their kids’ games.
Funny, no, most parents won´t have that kind of patience. You´re absolutely right. I´ve just seen lenses with better bokeh, even at f/8. But that was my mistake, i just haven´t seen the range starting at 24mm. I just thought of the 70-300 shooting at f/8.
No, it seems to be a fine lens. Just had the A7II for a few minutes in my hands with an APS-C lens and yes, it´s really responsive.
By the way, you don´t shoot raw, do you? Selecting one of 1000 frames RAW, could´t imagine what that would mean for my Computer.
No sir, when I shoot 1000 frames a game it’s JPEGs. In fact, I dial down the size of the JPEGs in camera because my work is intended for web consumption not print.
i’m no expert but maybe it was the day but a lot of those pics don’t appear to be that sharp, can this camera really keep up pace with sporting events? is this where dslr are still king?
I think these pics are good enough for sharing with friends, parents and students. They are not good enough for publication. This camera and lens can keep up for these purposes, but we still need pro tools like the D4 and EOS for paid sports work.
By the way, these were shot RAW and processed in Lightroom with Camera Raw 8.8 that now has support for the 24-240 lens.
thx for sharing.
Thanks. It is very useful to get the perspective of a pro sports photographer familiar with the big Canon and Nikon sports cameras. These images look quite 3-D to me. I would welcome impressions of image quality and color compared to the D4 and EOS.
I think under non-sports circumstances the A7II image quality exceeds the D4. The D4 autofocus system and its ability to shoot 11fps until the cows come home on one battery make it the gold standard for serious sports shooting. Color and IQ don’t make a difference if you miss the shot or the focus. 🙂
Thanks for the review, Brad. 🙂
“In summary, I think the combination of the 24-240 and the A7II is a great setup for parents and family to get the shots of their children they have wanted and missed in the past.”
Realistically, do you think it is possible? Once the moment is gone, it is gone. Time travel is not possible, AFAIK- with or without this lens. 🙂
I can always count on you Vivek to keep things real!
LOL! Captain Obvious at your service! 🙂