Friday, April 6, 2012

Pixel-peepers delight: The lens test SEL50F18 SEL18-55 FD50/1.4 FD24 FD35 FD100 FD80-200

EDIT: Added a comparison shot of the SEL50 and FD 50/1.4 with same exposure compensation values.

After intensive discussions arose in DPREVIEW revolving about my previous rather simple comparison FD50/1.4 versus the new SEL50F18, I decided to use the rainy weather as an excuse for the Ultimate Lens Test Comparison Sony Versus Canon FD :-)

I tested the Sony 18-55 at 18, 24, 35 and 51 mm, the Sony SEL50F18, and the Canon FD lenses 24/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/1.4, 100/2.8 and 80-200/4.

Spoiler or "Executive summary" if you like :-)

  • SEL18-55 Kit lens is ok from 18-35. Stop down 2 stops for best performance. Good results at 50mm require f8.
  • SEL50F18 has better contrast than the FD50/1.4, about the same center sharpness but corner sharpness of the FD50/1.4 wide-open as well as vignetting is better. Both lenses are excellent and yield good results already at f2.0.
  • FD24/2.8 has better center sharpness than the kit lens (about one stop), but corner sharpness is much worse for the FD24 for this camera-subject distance!
  • FD35/2.8 is an excellent lens even wide open, but the kit zoom still yields good results at this focal length, too.
  • FD100/2.8 is good wideopen, stopped down one or two stops even better.
  • FD80-200/4 is well usable wideopen at f4, gets better at f5.6.
The test setup looked like this:


The Nex 5N was tripod mounted, AWB, OSS off, target distance for most lenses between 1 and 2 meters, A-mode. Camera-internal lens compensation was on. AF touchfocus was used for the SEL lenses. 2 seconds self-timer was used. The comparisons are 100% cropped from OOC JPG files unless otherwise noted. The crops are from the center and from the left lower corner.

Since the Canon FD 50 metered for a shorter shutter speed but looked incamera darker, I used an exposure compensation of +0.3 EV for all FD lenses. However, when comparing the OOC JPG files on the computer monitor, the FD pictures are brighter. Please keep this in mind because brighter also means smaller, more pronounced letters and bars which APPEAR sharper but aren't necessarily so. See the following text on RAW comparison for the SEL50F18 versus FD50/1.4, where I preformed a re-run only for this lens comparison:

SEL50F18 versus Sony 18-55 kit lens versus Canon FD 50/1.4

To assess the effect of the brightness compensation as well as incamera lens compensation for the Sony lenses, I took the raw files of the FD 50 at 1.4,2 & 2.8 as well as the Sony 50 at 1.8, 2 and 2.8 and increased the brightness in ACR for both until the right limit was hit. During raw processing it is visible that the dynamic range=contrast of the SEL is higher because when highlight clipping starts, the SEL still has "lowlight" clipping within the picture, but the FD50 doesn't. However, this might also possibly be due to stronger corner vignetting of the SEL50F18 wide-open.

This RAW comparison shows that contrast for the SEL is higher both at 1.8 and 2, whereas sharpness is about the same at 2.0 for both FD and SEL. Beginning with f2.8, center sharpness of the SEL is slightly better than that of the FD50. However, corner sharpness is visibly better for the FD lens and corner vignetting is lower. I once read that the FD50/1.4 was used in photographic reproduction and archiving equipment. The very neutral characteristics of this lens seem to confirm this.
Download the RAW comparison 100% JPG file
EDIT: To cut a long road short, I just re-shot both SEL50F18 and FD50/1.4 lenses at f2 and f2.8 with exposure compensation set to zero and copied the center and corner crops into the file below (click to enlarge). The message remains the same: 
SEL has somewhat better contrast, the FD is sharper in the corners, both lenses are great:


The JPG comparison with the kit lens shows that both primes have the same center sharpness at f2 that the kit only reaches at f8. Corner sharpness of the kit at f5.6 is about the same as for the SEL at f4 as for the FD at f2. As demonstrated in the RAW comparison, the effect of the higher brightness of the FD exposures can mislead, so take the JPG comparisons SEL50 versus FD50 with a grain of salt.
Download the JPG center comparison JPG file
Download the JPG corner comparison JPG file

SEL18-55 kit lens at 18 mm

Center sharpness is ok at 3.5, very good at 5.6. Corner sharpness gets good at 5.6.
Download the SEL18-55 at 18mm JPG file

SEL18-55 kit lens versus FD 24/2.8

Center sharpness of the kit lens at 24mm lags about 1 aperture stop behind the FD24. However, corner shaprness of the kit lens is at least 2 aperture stops better than the FD24. Corner sharpness of the FD lens at this distance is visibly mediocre!
Maybe this is due to the close focusing distance where the simpler design of the FD lens has its difficulties.
So it could be expected that for landscape use, this effect may not be that visible.
Download the SEl18-55 versus FD24/2.8 JPG file

SEL18-55 kit lens versus FD 35/2.8

The FD35/2.8 is at least two aperture stops better in terms of center and corner sharpness.
However, overall sharpness of the kit lens at 5.6 is already good.It is just that the FD35 is
an exceptionally sharp lens. Considering the low price & weight of the FD35/2.8, it is a lens to buy if you like this focal length.
Download the SEL18-55 versus FD35/2.8 file

FD100/2.8 and FD80-200/4

The FD100 is good at 2.8, very good at 4 and peaks at 5.6-11 both for center and corner sharpness.
The 80-200/4 zoom lens is good at 4 wide open and very good at 5.6 on. This is a lens which can be used
wide open or stopped down 1 aperture stop.
Download the FD100/2.8 versus FD80-200/4 JPG comparison file

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