FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS

FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS

Sony FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS Review

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The Good. There's no denying the Sony FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS is both a beauty and a beast -- a beauty because of its sleek and beautiful black on white design, a beast because of its size and weight. This being a G Master, it's naturally made of the fanciest parts, namely the Sony Nano AR coating, an advanced double linear and ring SSM actuators for fast focusing, a constant aperture of F/2.8, dust and moisture sealing, up to 0.25x magnification, and its very own Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which we have to say is exceptional and our favorite of all the features. It's not the most advantageous zoom range telephoto zoom, but it does offer several uses, from creating portraits with creamy backgrounds and capturing sporting events to photographing some landscape and cityscape scenarios (if you think you only need a wide-angle for those, you need to experiment with lenses more). Best of all and most importantly, as is usual with GM lenses, it yields sharp images with minimal flare, ghosting, and chromatic aberration. 

The Bad. Not bad, precisely... more like a disadvantage. The FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS is heavy in weight and large in size, larger even with the hood and when mounted to a mirrorless body or a not-so-hefty tripod. Admittedly, it's no larger or heavier than other similar telephoto zooms. However, unless you'll be shooting a ton of wildlife, sports, and other situations when you need to close in on your subject without physically doing so, you might find yourself opting for a lighter, less-bulky glass. With a $2,600 price tag, you're definitely going to only want this in your camera bag if you have the absolute need for it. Plus, if you love gorgeous, smooth and rounded bokeh, for your portraits, it's not the best.

The Bottom Line. With a 70-200 mm focal range, the FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS is definitely a versatile lens and could offer a number of uses. It also produces sharp and clean images, and its built-in image stabilization is incredible, letting you take images and shoot videos from far away without having to worry about unnecessary camera shake. The problem is, it's far too heavy and big to lug around and even use, so much so that the image stabilization is necessary. Mount it on a mirrorless and the whole setup feels unbalanced. Mount it on a regular, non-heavy-duty tripod, and you'll find yourself compensating a lot for its weight even with the tripod mount on the lens. Don't get us wrong; this lens is fantastic, but you'd only want it to certain applications.

Pick This Up If... you're a wildlife and sports photographer. As we said, it's a versatile lens -- you can use it for portraits or if you want to zoom in on a particular landmark or landscape feature -- but unless you like using heavier, bulkier glass, we'd save that money for lighter lenses that would cater to your specific needs better.

INTRO

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Sony's come a long way from their early days in photography. Now, their cameras and lenses are among the best in the industry, and you won't go wrong with investing in them, especially their G Master series, which is made of the good stuff and therefore produces even better stuff. 

The Sony FE 70-200 mm F2.8 GM OSS is one such lens. Yet this is isn't a lens that everybody needs or would want in their camera bag. It's heavy, first of all, and that makes it not quite as ergonomically friendly for shooting. It is also big enough that you might have to upsize your compact bag. You'll only want this lens in your arsenal if you have very specific uses for it. Sports (especially indoor ones) and wildlife photographers might appreciate it, for example.

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Still, as part of the G Master family, it's made of top-notch materials and has some pretty nifty features -- to name a few, its built-in image stabilization, weather sealing, and constant aperture throughout its focal range. Its focal length allows it to be quite versatile while its F2.8 aperture and image stabilization allow you to capture solid images in low lighting conditions. And its autofocus system is smooth, quiet, and fast.

There are photographers that swear by the 70-200mm lens and use it as their go-to, but frankly, it really depends on what type of shooter you are. Read more about it below, and find out if it's what you've been missing in your lens line-up.

GEAR USED

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We tested our Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS loaner alongside the new Sony a7 III and the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM. As we also have Tamron's 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD on hand, we had that it in our camera bag as well. For our tripod, we were using this reviewer's trusty yet very old Manfrotto BeFree Compact Tripod, which has worked well for every single one of our test shoots except this one.

FEATURES

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  • Model: SEL70200GM
  • Fits: E-mount system
  • Focal Length: 70-200 mm
  • Maximum Aperture: F2.8
  • Minimum Aperture: F22
  • Angle of View (diagonal): 34°-12° 30' (full-frame), 23°-8° (APS-C)
  • Lens Construction: 23 elements in 18 groups
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 3.15 ft
  • Maximum Magnification Ratio: 0.25 x
  • Filter Size: Φ77mm
  • Maximum Diameter: Φ88mm
  • Length: 200 mm (7.87 in)
  • Weight: 1,480 g (52.21 oz)
  • Diaphragm Blade Number: 11 (circular)
  • Image Stabilization Performance: Optical SteadyShot
  • Standard Accessories: hood (ALC-SH145), lens front cap (ALC-F77S), lens rear cap (ALC-R1EM), case, tripod mount

BUILD QUALITY 

There's no question that the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS has a solid build. As we mentioned earlier, it's a beauty that's built like a beast, with a matte white plastic exterior that feels high quality. 

Obviously, we haven't tested if it would survive a fall and that 52.21-oz weight does make us nervous that a high enough fall would prove fatal (though most 70-200mm lenses are built like a workhorse), but we know that it would withstand any regular knocks and bumps. Plus, it boasts resistance to dust and moisture so it will more than survive the elements if and when you take it out for fieldwork.

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At 7.87 inches, it is a tad bulky, but not overly so. However, if you add that hood, you're adding a third of its length to it, which makes it even harder to handle, especially when you're switching lenses. We'd recommend a backpack for a camera case if you mean to do so. This way, you won't have to face the tedious task of taking the hood off when you're putting it away only to put it back on again when you're ready to use it.

In contrast to its beautiful white exterior are the black rubber rings for focusing and zooming. They turn smoothly and are ridged to provide a nice grip. There are four switches not too far from the lens mount for auto and manual focus, focus range limiter, shake compensation, and shake compensation mode. There's also a place to attach a tripod mount, which proves handy even when you're not using a tripod. As with other GM lenses, there is also a focus hold button and the Sony Nano AR Coating on the front element.

ERGONOMICS

The fact that this lens is designed for a mirrorless means that its size and weight put users at a disadvantage, ergonomically. You will find yourself compensating for the anterior bulkiness, and carrying it out in the field might not be an appealing prospect. 

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Weight and size aside, this lens is surprisingly easy to use. It allows enough grip so that while you might be in constant fear of dropping it at first, chances are you probably won't. The four switches are close enough to the lens mount, and thus the camera, should you need to make fast adjustments. And as we said, the focus and zoom rings are made of ridged rubber for better grip.

It's not at all hard to handle; however, it does take a bit of time to get used to its bulk. Whether or not you think it's worth spending that time is, of course, up to you and what you shoot.

SPEED & FOCUS 

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Thanks to its constant aperture of F2.8, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS does what's needed even in low-light situations. Combine it with that blazing fast autofocus, which is also beautifully smooth and quiet, and you're in for great vignettes at a game, even an indoor one. It's that speed and discreet sound that makes it great for wildlife photography as well as for shooting at events where you want to avoid obnoxious camera sounds. It works with Sony's EyeAF as well, which makes it even better for portraits.

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While we didn't get a lot of opportunity shooting sports and wildlife with this, we did get to take photos of a helicopter "performing" in flight at a police event, and we got some pretty solid images from that. We also got a number of on-point shots when we asked one of our models to do some twirls for us.

BOKEH

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Though you'll get quite creamy backgrounds, making it ideal for portraits and wildlife close-ups, this glass doesn't always yield smooth and perfectly rounded bokeh. Closer to the short end, you'll certainly get nice round bokeh. But the closer you are to the long end, the more you'll get football-shaped ones.

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If you are using this lens for close-ups and want perfect bokeh, you'll want to stick to 70-120mm focal lengths and just physically move closer to your subject.

IMAGE QUALITY

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Sharp images give this lens an edge, though we must say that at F2.8, the images tend to be slightly softer, and they're much sharper at around F4/F5.6. Stopping down to F4 is your best bet for sharper-looking subjects. If you want to maximize that constant F2.8 aperture and get more details, you might be better off with a higher resolution body like the a7r III

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That said, some of our favorite images taken with this lens and the a7 III are at F2.8 because of that creamy background so we're not complaining. 

As far as color reproduction, Sony says that the 70-200mm F2.8 is supposed to render more neutral-looking colors. To some extent, we have noticed this -- the yellow, blues and purples in are RAW files are definitely muted. Just how neutral isn't something we can confirm completely as we shot these in situations where there was a lot of warm light bouncing about.

The fact that it has its own image stabilization is another ace, whether you're taking photos in low light at the long end or shooting a video handheld. You will definitely notice the difference with it on. 

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Sony also promised the minimization of flare, ghosting, and chromatic aberration, and we're happy to report that this is, in fact, the case. We shot this lens at sunset, and we haven't seen any signs of flare and ghosting. 

PROS & CONS

Pros
  • Solid build
  • Great image quality
  • Built-in image stabilization
  • Constant aperture of F2.8
  • Minimal flare and ghosting
  • Smooth and quiet AF
  • Versatile focal range
  • Weather sealing
Cons
  • Bulky
  • Heavy
  • Not the best bokeh
  • Pricey

FINAL THOUGHTS 

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We've established that this lens, like the several lenses we tested from its GM family, has all the makings of what makes a fantastic, must-buy lens. And it is... a fantastic, must-buy lens, that is, but only if you absolutely need to feel that gap in your arsenal.

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS is versatile, solidly built, and boasts Sony's OSS, a constant aperture, weather sealing, great AF and more. But it's also massive and heavy, and its bokeh is not perfect. Let's not even add the price into the equation. 

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Yes, you can shoot it for portraiture. Yes, you can even find it useful when shooting some landscapes and cityscapes. Sure, you can also use it for events. But we're not convinced it's the best lens for those shooting scenarios, at least not enough to put up with that extra weight and bulk.

We would definitely recommend this lens for wildlife and sports photography, as well as for shooting concerts and other events where you might need a good zoom. If one of those is your forte, you should take this lens out for a test run. Otherwise, you most likely won't miss it.

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