Roger Cicala Tests the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 and FE 24-70 f/4 Lenses

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by lou_meluso, Jun 21, 2016.

  1. I know there are enough lens nerds here that enjoy these MTF tests. Roger and his staff do a good job of it. Find them HERE.
    A few comments from his finding:
    On the FE1635Z/4:
    • "Overall, both from an MTF and a copy-to-copy variation standpoint, the Sony FE lens is as good as, and sometimes better than, the Canon and Nikon offerings."
    • "The Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 actually is excellent for an ultra-wide zoom, and again, it seems to have decent sample variation."
    On the FE2470Z/4:
    • "So the bottom line is while there is definitely some copy-to-copy variation among the Sony f/4 zooms, it doesn’t really appear worse than most zoom lenses."
    • "I will say I’m pleasantly surprised. The Sony FE 24-70mm f/4, while not a great lens is adequate (note I didn’t say adequate for the price, I said adequate) and its copy-to-copy variation isn’t bad."
    Summary:
    • "Would I buy them? Probably not the 24-70 f/4 unless I had no options, but I wouldn’t hesitate on the 16-35mm f/4."
     
  2. it doesn’t really appear worse than most zoom lenses
    that's what you call damning with faint praise. for $1100 i want a little better than "adequate."
     
  3. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Is copy-to-copy variation really significant?
     
  4. His review matches other reviews I have read on the Sony FEs. I really don't think there is any real issue with the quality of the Sony/Zeiss lenses. It looks like the 24-70mm is not stellar, but I don't really think the Canon 24-70 f4 IS, for example, is stellar either.
     
  5. "Most zoom lenses" aren't necessarily the best choice, regardless of lens quality. For its faults, the Vario-Tessar 24-70/4 is fully integrated with the camera and its features. One aspect not tested is the extraordinary resistance to flare and sun spots of both of these lenses. That is definitely not a forte of my Nikon zoom lenses, nor some primes (e.g., Hasselblad). Part of what you pay for in a premium lens is the build quality. The Sony/Zeiss zooms are all metal (outside at least), solid feeling, with smooth operation.
    I came close to buying the 24-70/4 many times. Reviews were mixed, but on the whole it didn't come close to the performance of prime lenses for the Sony. It's hard, for me at least, to back off in quality for the sake of convenience. As a result, I do a lot of lens changing or shuffling my feet, whatever works. The f/2.8 GM lens changed that to some extent. The quality actually exceeds that of my prime lenses, but at a disproportionate increase in size and weight on the camera. (In the bag is a different story. The Zeiss 25, 35, 50 and 85 primes, together, weigh twice as much as the 24-70.)
     
  6. Is copy-to-copy variation really significant?​
    Something else for people to obsess over. LensRentals is feeding the obsession.
     
  7. It looks like the 24-70mm is not stellar, but I don't really think the Canon 24-70 f4 IS, for example, is stellar either.​
    Nikon doesn't have a stellar non-f/2.8 mid-range zoom either. At least the 24-85 VR is only about half the cost of the Zeiss 24-70.
    Optically, the Zeiss 16-35 beats the Nikon 16-35 - except for the rather large vignetting of the former.
    I had considered a switch from Nikon FX to Sony's A7 Series but ultimately decided against it.
     
  8. Is copy-to-copy variation really significant?​
    Apparently not enough in these lenses to be an issue. It appeared to be a production concern with the FE 35 f/1.4 that appeared to vary widely in performance from lens-to-lens. By having multiple copies of these lenses, this testing team can quantify production variables. I think this is helpful information.
    Something else for people to obsess over. LensRentals is feeding the obsession.​
    Some find useful empirical testing data that is difficult, if not impossible, for the average person to gather. Whether or not anyone obsesses over it is a foible of the individual, not the source of the data.
     
  9. Let's face it, some copy to copy variation is always an issue with almost any consumer manufacturing process. Caveat emptor - you buy a lens with the option of returning it within a week for a replacement if your tests show yours has slight decentering or other visually important and unusual problems.
    I did that with the Sony 16-35 I bought from Eden camera in Toronto and am totally satisfied - it is a really excellent lens, comparable to my few Leica M single focal length optics. Sony Zeiss have a good thing going.
     
  10. LensRentals is feeding the obsession.​
    I think they provide some desperately needed information - most lens tests are single copy only - and information as to copy-to-copy variance can put those into perspective.
     
  11. I've read a lot of complaints from reviewers about "bad lenses', exchanged one or more times before getting a good copy. Ming Thein seems to have extraordinarily bad luck the first time around with practically anything. A common complaint is poor centering or an off-axis mount, leading to poor performance on one edge or the other.
    If Cicala's results for the 24-70/4 are typical, the variation is on the high side. I'd give the lens a good shakedown before the return warranty expires. Variations for the f/2.8 version are much tighter, per Cicala's testing.
     
  12. I wonder if Lens Rentals have them in stock.
     
  13. most lens tests are single copy only​
    this is true, and gives context/perspective, but LR does no real-world testing at all. it's perhaps too scientific, because most people dont shoot that way in real life. some lenses behave differently at different distances, but if you test all lenses at the same distance, you'd never know this. technical reviews are interesting, but shouldnt be a be all and end all of les performance.
     
  14. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    I find it hard to believe the quality control procedures for lenses are any different from any other manufacturing process.
     
  15. Companies have similar procedures but different tolerances. Some lenses are designed for better precision when
    mounting, spacing and centering elements. Zeiss lenses are centered within 0.02 mm. High end video lenses are
    individually adjusted, which is why they cost $5000 to more than $100k.
     
  16. I know someone who has to test everything (including filters...) and worries herself almost to extinction as to whether she has a "good copy". Photoretailers - I accompanied her to B&H once, want to pull their hair out when she comes to "buy" something. She has to check everything, in person, before she will consent to buy it. I sometimes wonder when and if she has time to actually take some meaningful photos. For her and for some, this is all part of the hobby. I think the copy-copy variation is of some interest, so I'm not knocking LensRentals, but I also think that it can feed a somewhat unhealthy obsession with "perfection" and pixel peeping to the detriment of actually taking good images.
     
  17. The classic study of variations even amongst top lens companies was by Ctein back in the later 80s or early 90s. He studied off axis variability amongst three samples of more than 20 enlarging optics (which have to be particularly precise for quality large printing). Light and resolution fall off even at optimum apertures (about 2 stops down from maximum opening) was surprising and I see no reason to assume otherwise for camera lenses. A Leica Canada lens expert once stated that notwithstanding the excellence of lens design to avoid or minimise aberrations the challenge was to manufacture the lens precisely at a competitive price. Why was my relatively inexpense Yashica ML 21 mm les a superb performer while the same excellence in top brand optics is obtainable only at higher cost. I may just have been lucky and the lens was probably not produced on a Friday afternoon
    Pay the store price and have a return (exchange) guarantee if you are worried about this variability issue.
     
  18. I agree this is the case; I guess it is all a matter of how much time and effort this takes up.
    Leica used to maintain that their rebadged Minolta and Sigma lenses were ones whose specs were within Leica's more rigorous variability criteria compared to the original makers'. With enlargers and anything with interchangeable items the precision of fit and alignment of parts is probably just as important as whether the lens elements are correctly aligned within the lens. Hence one can start to worry about lens adapters too (how precise are they?) and so on. Personally, what I do is to shoot the lens and only worry if the lens is sub-par to my eyes from looking at pics. I don't spend time comparing different copies of the same lens. Each to their own on this one. Sometimes it may take a year or so to understand the performance characteristics of a lens.
     
  19. Lens Rentals testing I find very, very valuable. They test multiple copies, the eliminate bad ones, and they check lenses coming back from rental. And, they share their data. And, they have a page that explains how to do some discriminating tests yourself. A service to the whole photographic community!
    With their testing, I think I am more comfortable with one of their lenses than just pulling a brand new one from retail stock.
    That said, getting a "bad" lens seems like a relatively low probability for major manufacturers products.
     
  20. I think I am more comfortable with one of their lenses than just pulling a brand new one from retail stock.​
    The only downside I can see is that their lenses are thoroughly second hand, so if one believes AF/IS/VR lenses wear out then they may have a short life after you buy them, although their optical performance will be excellent during that time...
     

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