A Sony FE vs m4/3 Zoom Comparison

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by ggibson, Aug 21, 2015.

  1. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 1, 2011
    Since I've switched from m4/3 to Sony FE, I felt like I needed a focal length longer than the kit 28-70mm covers, so I upgraded to the 24-240mm for the extra reach. Previously my zoom needs were met by the Panasonic 45-175mm. Crop factor helps m4/3 a LOT in the telephoto ranges in that lenses can still stay pretty small and light but have a long focal length. The Panasonic 45-175mm was a great example of this, including an internal zoom mechanism so the lens didn't even extend. So before I shipped that lens off to its next owner, I put these two to the test. This was a simple test that I did just handheld, so the results are not particularly scientific. However, the big question in my mind is, "does the Sony give me as much reach?" and I think a basic conclusion can be made here.

    First, a quick physical comparison of the two lenses and bodies:


    It's immediately obvious that the 24-240mm is quite a bit larger, but in handling the weight of the Sony lens is most apparent. This thing is a beast for a mirrorless camera! So now that I've added all that extra glass, let's see the two in action. First, the framing of 350mm (at 4:3 ratio) vs 240mm (at 3:2):


    And now compared in the center at 1:1:


    As the final 1:1 comparison shows, the resolution here comes out quite similar. Despite the Sony's 240mm field of view vs. the Panasonic's 350mm equivalent field of view, the Sony manages to catch up with its higher 24MP sensor (vs. the GF1's 12MP). Viewing 1:1, it might not even be immediately obvious which is which. Ultimately, I think the Sony (on the right) produces a slightly better resolution with better color and look to the file.

    Outside of just the final image result, there are of course some pros/cons to each setup. In the m4/3 system's defence, the GF1 is nearly 6 years old, and I have no doubt that the 16MP m4/3 models or the recent 20MP GX8 would do even better here, possibly out-resolving the Sony. The GF1+45-175 is also FAR lighter and more compact--m4/3 has a real advantage when it comes to telephoto reach at a reasonable size and weight. And I'm not even going to get into a price comparison between the two!


    The Sony 24-240mm enjoys some advantages though that are worth mentioning as well. The zoom range with this lens provides pretty much the most flexible range outside of a fixed-lens superzoom like the RX10. A comparison to the Panasonic 14-140mm would have been more appropriate, however I think the Sony would have been even more ahead in reach then. The Sony 24-240mm is especially nice for a 10x super-zoom lens in that it starts at 24mm instead of 28mm like every other superzoom lens for ANY system (seriously, I'd be interested to hear of another 10x interchangeable lens that starts at 24mm). But since we're comparing reach here, it's also worth pointing out the obviously wider angle of view at 240mm vs. 350mm. This is especially nice for a zoom, since it is much easier to frame, follow, and AF on an object in the center of the frame while allowing for some room on the edges. Here, the higher resolution Sony sensor can allow you to take a wider image and crop more efficiently.

    Even with all of this in mind, I'm still not 100% sold on the 24-240mm as the lens for me, mainly due to the size and weight (and small aperture). It is no doubt a very nice, flexible lens for the Sony FE system. However, I can't help but think maybe there's something in between these two options that would satisfy more. For now, I'm giving it a shot for a while and seeing how often it comes out of my bag. I'll have to test it out in some different situations before forming a final opinion.

    Now after all of that, it's probably worth ending with some more fun shots taken with this lens!




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  2. metalmania

    metalmania TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 3, 2014
    GF1 is pretty ancient. IMHO at least an E-M5 is better for comparison purpose.
  3. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Nice write-up and reminded that older cameras can still perform.

    Your conclusions are similar to those of APS-C versus Full Frame. Slightly better results with the Full Frame, but at a cost of size and weight. (and significant cost)
  4. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Yeah nice write-up and I'll add that the photos are beautiful :thumbsup:
  5. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 1, 2011

    On the topic of the GF1, I agree it is a bit old for a comparison. Although personally, I think the GF1 was not too far behind the E-M5 in terms of resolution. That was one of the main reasons why I didn't ever feel the need to upgrade to the 16MP m4/3 sensors. I imagine that something like the E-M5II or GX8 would probably win in terms of resolution on this test, however you could also bump up the Sony camera to an A7r or A7rII!
  6. Danske

    Danske TalkEmount Rookie

    Aug 16, 2015
    I once owned that 45-175...great little (super lightweight) lens. The focal length didn't do much for me so it wasn't used all that often.

    I don't know the technical stuff, but comparing my current ff pix using the 55 1.8 on the a7ii vs (my old fav) PanaLeica 25 on the EM5, the sony pix are just...better. Richer textures, more detail, more contrast, better in low light, the list goes on. Im definitely carrying more weight now, but I think it's worth it.
  7. Chris2500dk

    Chris2500dk TalkEmount Rookie

    Jul 5, 2012
    In the 1:1 comparison it's easy to see how much noisier the m43 shot is. The larger sensor is just smoother.
    I did a similar comparison between my RX100 and my A6000 recently and saw a similar difference (which makes sense because the sensor size ratio is about the same between m43/fullframe and 1"/APSC).
  8. jimmoore

    jimmoore TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 8, 2013
    Ledbury UK
    Sorry for the hijack, but I suppose this is what I was asking in my post regarding the RX1.

    I wanted to know if I would see any practical difference between a NEX7 with the 24mm Zeiss, lens compared to the full frame RX1r.

    Sensor size is the reason that I have a nex3n with 20mm lens, rather than a RX100 as my pocket camera.

    So the question is has anyone done a similar between APS-C and Full Frame, would the difference be so small that it would not be worth the cost.
  9. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 1, 2011
    Jim, you can find a comparison between the APS-C Zeiss 24/1.8 and the various FE 35mm lenses in Amin's review:


    Personally, for most of my photography, m4/3-level quality would be sufficient. Most of the images I take just get posted online, and are rarely printed. But I like the FE system for DOF control and higher MP count which allows for cropping. I think dynamic range and shadow recovery are also areas where larger sensors perform better, even if the initial exposure looks similar. Full-frame definitely has a cost over m4/3 and APS-C systems (both in price and size/weight), however I'm reasonably happy making that compromise with FE for now.
  10. Danske

    Danske TalkEmount Rookie

    Aug 16, 2015
    Now that it's been mentioned, another advantage of FF, for me, is the cropping. I only own 1 lens, because of the cost-prohibitive nature of the system, so it's nice to have the 24 megapixel-size files so that I can crop for closer, intimate shots (basically, portraits at 55mm).
  11. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 1, 2011
    Yeah, the cropping is a big advantage. The FE 55 can pretty much replace having both the m4/3 PanaLeica 25/1.4 and Oly 45/1.8 at the same time.
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