When I bought my Sony A7 II last month it was partly to reduce the weight of kit I carry, especially, at the time, an upcoming trip to Florence. Add to that the wish for a proper full-frame camera again (the last was my Minolta AG-m film camera) and I ‘plumped’ for the A7 II with the ‘kit’ lens: the 28-70 mm.
When you move from crop-frame to full-frame and from 18 megapixels to 24, everything seems much sharper and detailed. But, after a while, when you look at the performance other photographers are getting from their A7 II, you realise there’s something not quite right. And something is the quality of the lens. The 28-70 is adequate. It can be pretty sharp but it lacks that real professional look. It’s very light and is excellent for what it does, but how does this combination compare to my old Canon 7D MK I with the 15-85mm?- a full-frame equivalent of 24-135mm approximately.
I also wondered how these lenses perform at 50mm (about 34mm with the Canon EF-S lens) and how do they compare to my 50mm IS STM prime Canon nifty fifty. And what if I throw my dinky little Olympus Zuiko 1.8 into the mix?
I can mount all these lenses on the A7 II because I bought an adapter to mount the Olympus on my Canon. So now, I can mount the Zuiko on my Fotodiox Canon to Sony E mount adapter using the little Olympus to Canon adapter – 2 adapters and a lens then sit on the A7 II body. It does work.
I mounted these lenses in turn on a tripod and took my usual test photos of the books on my bookcase. Now, sharpness can be a combination of the lens’ ease of focus as well as its actual sharpness. But I was surprised to see just how poorly the 28-70 performed compared to the two 50mm primes.
Now, I really tried hard to nail the focus on all these shots using manual focus, focus peaking and a 2 second delay. The Sony on the left, the Canon 50mm on the right. The Canon is miles sharper.
Now here is the Sony versus the 35 year old Zuiko.
I would say the Zuiko on the right is also much better.
How about the Canon v the Zuiko?
I’d say the Canon on the left just takes it – look at the eye detail. But they are pretty much identical. With regard to edge sharpness, the Canon won that comparison, too with the Sony holding up but still worse than the Zuiko.
So what about my trusty old Canon 15-85mm? Well, hard to nail the exact same image size but here is the Sony versus the Canon 15-85 with latter at about 40mm equivalent.
I’d say the Canon wins. This means my newly-acquired Sony is probably the least sharp of these lenses. What I’d expect, as primes should always beat zooms for comparable price points. However, the Canon has so much more reach it’s only the greater weight which tells against it. I should really be using the Canon, but of course, there’s more to it than that. How does it perform in low light? Longer hand-held exposures? How does it perform in the real world? All these factors and more will decide which lens I pick up. I should also add that lens behave differently when shooting into the sun (flare etc.) and they may have different contrast in different conditions, a slightly different look and feel – Canon feels ‘warmer’ to me.
Ultimately, I could upgrade to the Sony 24-70 ZA, but that has some pretty bad reviews, although examples I have seen look amazing. And then there’s the £1400 GMaster. That’s where I would go, eventually. I could aslo contemplate a used Canon 24-70L but with these lenses, any weight advantage of the Sony is completely overwhelmed by lens which weigh 203 times the body.