When not awful is a high compliment: Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS

Update: Everything said below is true… but I sold it. Went for another brand SLR and a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 instead.

What are you looking to get out of your next lens?

Me? I wanted a superzoom. Why? After a few times carrying around two camera bodies with two zooms to cover near anything that came my way that got old really quickly.

What to do? Superzoom! One huge problem. From everything I have read superzooms are usually awful or mediocre at best optically… and big and heavy… …and typically expensive. That is not a good combination. But I really wanted some of that one lens does all action.

What to do? Forced reason via internal coercion. In other words, talk myself into it.

How? Glad you asked.

Step 1: Retail price is the enemy. A lot can be forgiven when a lens costs almost half the new price used. Enter KEH.com bargain grade. Just under a grand new? Pass. More than $700 used in great shape? Still pass. Near half the new asking price with a few bumps and scrapes and bootleg caps, but optically A-OK? Now we are talking.

Step 2: Read reviews with the proper perspective. Know that a lens with this wide of a focal range is likely not going to be stellar anywhere. Instead, see if it has any glaring weaknesses that you cannot live with. Once I dialed down my inner lens snob I realized that most reviewers were essentially saying that the lens was not awful anywhere.

Step 3: Look for hidden gems in the spec sheet. At the wide end this lens was slightly brighter than the Zeiss f/4 24-70mm I had at the time of purchase. Cool.

Step 4: Keep the receipts, do business with a reputable organization, and go in knowing that you will have a window to test the lens against your current stock to see if it is good enough.

So the purchase was made.

Compared to the G 70-200mm f/4. Despite writing up a positive review that I still stand by this lens had a major issue. I never used it. For portraits, I prefer the FE 85mm f/1.8. Only other time I ever used this lens was to amuse myself during HS football games that I attend solely because my daughter is in the marching band, Sure there is an aperture trade-off at the long end, but:

  • Courtesy my A7iii (part 1 and part 2) I have no issue cranking up the ISO when need be to keep the shutter speeds in check.
  • Nice to have that little bit of length at 240mm over 200mm.
  • When unzoomed… dezoomed?… anyway this lens is much more lens bag friendly.
  • Since I only use this lens for personal use I prefer the solid, but all black build as opposed to the “Hey, look at me.” white body of the G.
  • Lastly, this lens is quite pricey for never being used. This lens alone traded for the 24-240mm and then some.

Compared to the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4. Became attached to this lens mainly after a photo shoot (posts about it here and here) that went really well with it. It proved quite flexible for group, couple, full length, and chest up portraits with a TTL lighting setup (lighting review I wrote for KEH). But that begged the question. How much of that was due to the lens and how much was due to the camera body and ample lighting? To test out my theory I set up some lights for some bobblehead figure test shots. What did I find? To my surprise, the 24-240mm either matched and in some cases actually surpassed the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4. I would have settled for good enough.

Also found that this lens has some tricks up its sleeve.

  • Very good for relative close up at the long end and this shot also shows off its low light performance with the A7iii. This was inside a developing machine and was completely in the shadows.
  • Great detail and colors even at the long end.
  • Able to create very pleasing bokeh at the long end despite its humble aperture spec.
  • Right off I was getting shots that I would miss like this squirrel in my parents’ yard.
  • Some of the best AF performance I have seen. Both fast and accurate. Quite impressed considering all of the glass shuffling about.
  • Not very heavy and reasonably sized, especially closed. No lens creep either. Well built all metal enclosure.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Very flexible and useful inside and out. Here is a slideshow of shots taken at 24mm and 240mm from the same vantage point.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have had it for a few weeks now and I was able to test it out at a band camp concert setting. I knew the lighting would be terrible, but what better way to test the lens. And it did great. More importantly, it was not awful anywhere. Wide shots inside the concert hall. Close-ups even from the nosebleed seats. And everything in between. Could another lens have performed better at any given focal length? Sure. But having one lens on the whole night so I could focus on my family rather than trying to predict what lens I would need next, repeatedly exposing a non-mirror protected sensor to the air, changing lenses in cave lighting, or digging through my bag was priceless.

Mission accomplished.

Below I leave some samples from that evening and here is an album for the lens going forward.

Happy Shooting.

-ELW