Handling and Features
The 70-200mm lens is a popular and indispensable option for full frame cameras in particular and there are some very fine examples on the market. The previously reviewed Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 proved to be an excellent choice, so now let's see how the larger and heavier Sony G Master FE 70-200mm f/2.8 OSS performs, using the same Sony Alpha A7R II body.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Handling and Features
The extra stop of speed almost doubles the weight of the lens, compared to the f/4 version. It weighs 1480g, but matches the A7R II body well. The large front element is surrounded by a 77mm filter thread and a bayonet fit for the large and effective lens hood. The lens hood has a window to allow access to the rim of filters such as polarisers, meaning they can be rotated with the hood left in place. This great idea is improved by making this a sliding cover, much better than a detachable one that can easily be lost. Focusing is down to a nicely close 0.96m, or 3.15 feet. Maximum magnification is 0.25x, or 1:4. This is actually a fair bit closer than many similar lenses, a useful feature.
There is a wide manual focusing ring, very smooth in action, and behind that we find the focus lock switches. There are three mounted around the barrel so that operation is convenient regardless of the orientation of the lens. The zoom ring lies next in line, clearly marked and also extremely smooth in operation.
The switches on the lens barrel seem solid and should offer a long and reliable life. First is the AF/MF selector, then a range limiter that can be set to full or to infinity down to 3m. This will be useful to speed the AF response for more distant subjects. The OSS (Optical Steady Shot) has two switches, one for on/off and one to select the mode of operation. Mode 1 is for general use and Mode 2 for panning shots.
Finally we have the tripod mount and rotating collar, a feature found on most lenses of this type and really an essential for efficient operation. The tripod foot can be easily removed and a locking catch has to be operated, making a fail-safe system that cannot be accidentally loosened.
Lens construction is a complex 23 elements in 18 groups and includes 4 ED (Extra Low Dispersion), 1 XA (Extreme Aspherical), 2 Aspherical and 2 Super ED elements. XA elements are moulded aspheric glass with extreme precision to within 0.01 microns. This is also a floating element design, intended to maintain close up performance. Nano AR coatings and a diaphragm with 11 rounded blades complete the picture, aiming to reduce flare and enhance bokeh respectively.
The lens is dust and moisture resistant, which is a huge advantage out in the field. It is also compatible with the Sony 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.
Although the lens is heavy, in use it is also reassuringly solid and stable. The standard of manufacture is very high. Focusing is quick and positive, also being virtually silent in operation. Smooth and slick throughout, it proves itself to be a pleasure to use.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Performance
The sharpness figures are superb. At 70mm, the centre starts off excellent and becomes outstanding from f/4 to f/8. Sharpness remains excellent at f/11 and f/16 and is still very good at f/22. The edges are excellent at f/2.8, outstanding at f/4 to f/8, excellent at f/11 and very good at f/16 and f/22.
At 100mm the centre is excellent at f/2.8, outstanding from f/4 to f/8, excellent at f/11 and f/16 and very good at f/22.
At 135mm there is a similar pattern. The centre is excellent at f/2.8, outstanding at f/4 and f/5.6, excellent from f/11 to f/16 and very good at f/22. The edges are excellent from f/2.8 right through to f/16, remaining very good at f/22.
200mm maintains this high standard. At the centre, excellent at f/2.8, outstanding at f/4 and excellent from f/5.6 to f/16. At f/22 diffraction is starting to affect the sharpness, but it remains very good. The edges are very good at f/2.8, excellent from f/4 to f/11 and very good at f/16 and f/22.
This really is an exceptional degree of sharpness, well maintained throughout the range. It is also extremely even from centre to edge, giving a very precise overall crispness.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS MTF Charts
How to read our MTF charts
The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.
The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.
For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.
CA (Chromatic Aberration) is highly corrected in the centre of the field at all focal lengths. The edges do show some signs of fringing, particularly at 200mm where it becomes quite obvious in some subjects, such as branches against bright sky. This can, however, be easily corrected in software.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Chromatic Aberration Charts
How to read our CA charts
Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.
Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.
For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.
It is possible to induce flare, which is seen as a loss of contrast, but for most subject matter it is not a problem. Nonetheless, it is worth taking care when shooting against the light.
Most telephoto lenses suffer from pincushion distortion, so it is interesting that at 70mm we start off with -1.67% of barrelling. This is not excessive for most shots, but again can be corrected in software. At 100mm, we have an impressively low distortion figure of -0.162% barrel. 135mm shows +0.991% pincushion, and 200mm +2.22% pincushion.
Bokeh is the quality of the out of focus areas in an image and here it is ultra-smooth. The 11 rounded aperture blades no doubt contribute significantly, providing a nicely rounded diaphragm opening. The bokeh of the lens is certainly very pleasing, without any of the raggedness that can start to appear with very high resolutions.
Looking at the OSS system, at 200mm it was found possible to hand hold at an advantage of two stops. This obviously depends also on the steadiness of the photographer and the speed of the subject, but the OSS system seems to offer some real advantage. This does nothing to help with movement within a subject though, so, for example, to still a bird's wings would still need a very high shutter speed.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Sample Photos
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Other sample images
Value For Money
The Sony G Master FE 70-200mm f/2.8 OSS lens is priced at £2499. The extra stop of brightness costs a fair bit, with the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G just £1249.
Other marques offer similar specifications, such as the new Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR at £2649. The previous model, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, may still be available at £1999.
There are other examples to measure VFM against, such as the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II for Alpha DSLRs (£2799), the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (£1848) and the HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW (£1699).
Still for DSLRs, which in a real sense is where the Sony A7 system FE lenses are competing, the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD is £1099 and the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro is £549. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM is £729.
The G Master lens competes well with its peers on price, particularly when compared with the upper level lenses from the other manufacturers. For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Sony E / FE Mount Lenses.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Verdict
The Sony G Master FE 70-200mm f/2.8 OSS is without doubt a very fine lens. It operates smoothly, is well made, uses the latest technology to achieve outstanding sharpness evenly across the frame. However, it is not without flaws, particularly a slight tendency to flare against the light. Ther is some fairly obvious CA at the edges at 200mm, but this can be corrected in software.
So, apart from a couple of small points, we are left with a pretty outstanding lens and Sony Alpha A7 system users will not go a step wrong by investing in it. There's no escaping the increase in cost and weight compared with the f/4 option, but that could well be a price worth paying.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Pros
- Outstanding sharpness
- High quality construction
- Ergonomic design
- Fast and silent AF
- Smooth bokeh
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Cons
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Specifications
|Focal Length||70mm - 200mm|
|Angle of View||12.3° - 34°|
|35mm equivalent||105mm - 300mm|
|Internal focusing||No Data|
|Box Contents||Hood (ALC-SH145), Lens front cap (ALC-F77S), Lens rear cap(ALC-R1EM), Case, Tripod mount|
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