Every popular lens manufacturer has a flagship 70-200mm zoom, as it’s one of the most popular solutions for covering the short-to-medium telephoto range. Sony is no different, and for those wanting the best in performance from the platform, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS now features a floating focusing system, with improved autofocus motors, image stabilization, and lovely levels of weatherproofing.
To cover this level of optics, the Sony is a sizeable chunk of lens. But as we have come to expect from high-quality glass, the quality of output more than makes up for that extra bit of weight.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS has a total weight of 1,480g, along with total dimensions of 88×200 mm. Optically, the lens consists of 23 elements arranged in 18 groups, which include a good deal of corrective elements in the form of three aspherical, an XA version, four extra-low dispersion, and a pair of super ED elements. Each element has a Nano AR coating applied, along with a fluorine coating on the front element to protect against dust and smearing.
For those who want to get relatively close to the action, the minimum focusing distance is 96cm. Other general features include the image stabilization system, with two modes of operation, a double-linear and a Super Sonic wave autofocus motor, which also has a full-time manual override. The lens barrel has a multitude of buttons which include the usual AF/MF switch, focus limiter, image stabilization, and a switch for the two stabilization modes. An integrated tripod foot has also been included in the design, which can be easily removed.
One nice aspect of the design is the included 11-blade rounded diaphragm, which should go a long way to produce quality background blur. The petal-shaped lens hood also has a filter access window for moving around filters such as the polarizer and ND type.
As expected from a lens of this type, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS autofocus system is extremely fast to lock into focus and react. The manual focusing ring has a turn of 100 degrees and is very precise to tweak and set exact focus. The large zoom ring is in front of the lens and has a turning circle of 70 degrees. Although the ring feels slightly stiff, it’s still easy to choose a certain focal length at a moment’s notice. Video people will also be happy to know that the autofocus is virtually noise-free.
The image stabilization system is very usable, allowing for some very low shutter speeds. When the system is pushed to its maximum stops of compensation, the hit rate drops off, but there are still plenty of keeper images considering that the shutter speed can go as low as 1/12th of a second.
The Sony is very good at handling longitudinal color aberrations, with little to no evidence of extra coloration in the foreground or background. For regular chromatic aberration, there are slight amounts of purple fringing on very high contrast areas, but this effect can be easily corrected with a good photo editor.
The lens also displays slight amounts of light falloff in the corners at f/2.8, which virtually disappears by f/4. Distortion levels are very good throughout the focal range, with only a small amount of the barrel type at 70mm and a tiny amount of pin-cushioning at 200mm.
As far as sharpness levels go, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is exceptionally sharp at 70mm in the center of the frame, with only slight softening in the corners. When the lens is stopped down to f/4, the Sony is tack-sharp across the frame, with the same results coming in at 105mm. At 200mm the results are only a touch behind the wider focal lengths, but still being very impressive.
Bokeh rendition is one of the assets of the Sony, mainly thanks to the 11-blade diaphragm which is very good at producing rounded highlight balls in the center frame. These tend to turn into the cat’s eye versions at the edges of the frame but are still well-defined. In terms of overall image quality, the Sony can produce outstanding images, with deep levels of contrast, color, and sharpness, which is ideal for sports and event photography.
The Third-Party Alternative
If you’re looking at third-party lenses and still want the benefit of an f/2.8 aperture in a 70-200mm zoom, the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD is a cost-effective alternative. You do lose 20mm at the longest end and there is no image stabilization or niceties such as the focus limiter, focus hold button, and tripod collar.
However, the Tamron has better-edge performance at 70mm and is much better in general at close-up shots. Although there isn’t any built-in stabilization with the Tamron, the in-body stabilization of the Sony camera body more than makes up for things.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is going to act as the better all-rounder and the extra 20mm reach will make the difference for areas like wildlife photography and sports. But, if you’re on more of a budget and don’t mind the lack of image stabilization, the Tamron is an exceptionally good lens.
|Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS||Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD|
|Close Focusing Distance||96cm||27cm|
|Diaphragm Blades||11 Rounded||9 Rounded|
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Is an All-Around Solid Choice
In terms of overall features, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS covers all the niceties you would expect from a high-quality 70-200mm lens. The control buttons add extra functionality, while aspects such as the focus limiter work well for both stills and video. The lens also works well with teleconverters if you need an even further reach.
The resolution of the lens is on the whole excellent, with only slight amounts of softening in the corners with the aperture wide open at the extremes of the focal lengths. Bokeh rendition is also very good, which is perfect for isolating the subject from the background in scenarios like sports events. The image stabilization system also works well in this regard, which will help out enormously in low-light conditions.
However, the lens is relatively high-priced, is quite large and heavy, and does display some focused breathing throughout the focal range. This may not be such an issue for still shooters, but maybe more of a hindrance for the video guys. But for those currently residing on the Sony platform, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS will probably be the obvious choice if you want fully native workings with an f/2.8 aperture. There is also the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS to consider, which comes at a more cost-effective price but also has a more narrow aperture, or the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II.