Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Review

John Riley reviews the 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens, a full-frame telephoto zoom lens for Sony E and FE mount cameras.

| Sony FE 70-200mm f/4G OSS in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Review: Sony Fe G 70 200mm F4 Front Oblique View

Every full frame system offers a 70-200mm (or thereabouts) lens, usually f/2.8. These are, however, quite large and heavy and one of the perceived advantages of the Sony Alpha 7 system is its compact nature. Sony has clearly thought about this and made the decision to trim the size by limiting the maximum aperture to f/4. A good move in keeping with the ethos of the system? Let's find out.


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Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Handling and Features

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Review: Sony Fe G 70 200mm F4 Side View

Even with an f/4 aperture, a certain amount of bulk is essential and this sturdy, well made lens weighs in at 840g without its tripod collar. It sits well on the Sony Alpha A7R II used for this review.

The well designed, easy to fit and remove collar adds another 105g to the package. The collar allows the lens/camera combination to be freely turned for landscape and portrait format shots, a very convenient way of working. Removing the collar involves loosening the screw, but also pulling it against a spring pressure before it can be hinged open. This is both simple and very secure.

The 72mm filter thread is a reasonable size and the front element does not rotate as the lens uses internal focusing, driven by two linear motors for speed. Construction is dust and moisture resistant, a most welcome feature. AF is moderately fast but DSLR designs will still have the edge in absolute speed. For most applications it is more than fast enough and still manageable for wildlife and perhaps sports photography.

Lens construction is a complex 21 elements in 15 groups, including 2 AA (Advanced Ashperical), 1 Aspherical, 1 Super ED (Extra Low Dispersion) and 2 ED elements. OSS (Optical Steady Shot) has two settings, one for general use and one for panning. The diaphragm consists of 9 rounded blades, for improved bokeh. The lens uses Nano AR coating, a critical component in an optic with so many elements.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Review: Sony Fe G 70 200mm F4 On Sony A7rII

At the front of the lens is a smoothly operating electronic focusing ring, behind which we find three buttons around the lens barrel. These are for focus lock and are situated to offer a variety of comfortable grips regardless of the orientation of the lens.

Further towards the camera body, we next find a wide, smooth and precise zoom ring, clearly marked for 70, 100, 135 and 200mm. Behind this are the switches. AF/MF, focus limiter to restrict the range from infinity down to 3m, OSS on/off and OSS setting. The tripod ring fits behind this if required. Finally, the well made bayonet mount fits securely onto the body, but does allow a tiny amount of rotational play when clicked into position. As this does not affect the register it has no detrimental effect.

The minimum focus distance varies depending upon whether we are using AF or MF and the focal length. Using AF setting the minimum distance varies between 1 and 1.5m (3.28 and 4.9 feet). Using MF it varies between 1m and 1.35m (3.28 and 4.43 feet). In any event, the maximum magnification is 0.13x.

Whilst this is a full frame lens, it can also be used on APS-C format E mount cameras, where the “35mm equivalent” becomes 105-300mm, a crop factor of around 1.5x.

Handling generally is impressively efficient and it is a pleasure to use the lens. It exudes a feeling of quality. The tripod ring is fantastic in that it enables quick orientation changes, but also removes simply when required. Everything operates as smoothly as silk.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Review: Sony Fe G 70 200mm F4 Rear Oblique View

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Performance

Sharpness throughout is of a very high standard. At 70mm, the centre is already very good at f/4, becoming excellent from f/5.6 to f/16. Results are still very good at f/22, making its inclusion useful where depth of field is the priority. The edges are very good at f/4, excellent at f/5.6 and f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16 and good at f/22.

100mm sees the lens excellent at all apertures from f/4 to f/16, still being very good at f/22. The pattern is the same at the edges, excellent at all apertures bar f/22 where it is still very good.

135mm gives an excellent result at the centre and the edges from f/4 to f/16 and a very good standard centre and edges at f/22.

200mm is centrally excellent from f/4 to f/16 and again, very good at f/22. The edges are slightly behind, being very good at f/4 and f/5.6, excellent at f/8 and f/16 and very good at f/16 and f/22.

Clearly, this is a very sharp lens throughout its range.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4G 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 very well controlled at the centre at all focal lengths, quite exemplary in fact. As expected, the edges do show some fringing, but nothing too obvious and in any event something that can be tacked in software. Correction is best at middle focal lengths, impressively so, and it is only the extremes where it strays a little.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4G 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.


Flare can be induced, especially as the lens was provided for review without a lens hood. However, it takes direct sunlight for the contrast to fall dramatically and even then no artefacts can be observed. In normal use the lens shows little sign of flaring.

Distortion at 70mm shows a modest -0.659% of barrelling, thereafter becoming pincushion with 100mm giving +0.613%, 135mm +1.37% and 200mm +2.29%. This is actually extremely good for a zoom lens and should cause no problems in normal use. If required, software can be used to make corrections.

Bokeh is enhanced by the telephoto focal lengths, the circular diaphragm blades and of course the optical design. The result is a satisfyingly smooth effect, especially appreciated when shooting people against busy backgrounds.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4G OSS Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens can be found at £1199. This compares very favourably with the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 version, priced at £2499.

Looking at other 70-200mm f/4 lenses, we have the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM (£1149) and the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G ED VR (£1179).

This leaves the Sony f/4 lens being about par for the course, maybe a tad more expensive but in the right area. The pricing seems about right.

For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Sony E / FE Mount Lenses.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Verdict

Whereas most 70-200mm lenses have a bright f/2.8 aperture, Sony has opted here to try and maintain the Alpha 7 concept of a compact full frame system. The f/4 aperture is not much of a disadvantage, even an advantage in terms of size and cost, and the performance is such that the loss is hardly felt.

This is a great lens, a high level performer that does the job efficiently. The only slight drawback is the possibility of some flare, but fortunately this does not seem to be a major problem for most photography. Highly recommended.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS  Pros

  • Excellent sharpness throughout
  • Low CA throughout
  • Well controlled distortion
  • Fairly compact for 70-200mm
  • Solid construction
  • Moisture and dust resistant

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Cons

  • Some susceptibility to flare

Overall Verdict

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4G OSS Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Sony FE Mount
  • Sony E Mount
Focal Length70mm - 200mm
Angle of View12° - 34°
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalent105mm - 300mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnification0.13x
Min Focus100cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood (ALC-SH133: round shape, bayonet type), Lens front cap, Lens rear cap, Case

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ChrisV Avatar
ChrisV 16 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
16 Jan 2017 4:28PM
I don't think I'd worry all that much about this being f4 as opposed to f2.8 @35mm format. It's still a fair bit of light and you aren't usually going to be worrying much about limiting DoF.

You compare it to it's CaNikon peers and it's in the same ball-park cost wise. However I think it's reasonable to mention that while Sigma and Tamron don't make an f4 with the same range, their [stablised] f2.8s are both significantly cheaper than any of those OEM lenses. They are more or less as bulky of course, but in terms of value they trounce the big names.
ChrisV Avatar
ChrisV 16 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
16 Jan 2017 4:53PM
My software has started 'autocorrecting' its to it's. It's driving me nuts!
baillieswells Avatar
26 Jan 2017 3:29PM
Amazon price, as of 26.01.17 is £1158, where did £753 come from?
Nevalti Avatar
6 Sep 2017 8:58AM
ChrisV: I can't find any Sigma or Tamron 70-200 f2.8 lenses for a full frame Sony E-mount. What lenses do you have in mind Chris?

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