Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS SEL70200GM lens

      Photo Review 8.9

      In summary

      The FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens is a great companion for the α9 camera, both physically and in performance. It delivers excellent centre-of-frame resolution throughout almost its entire aperture and focal length range, with a relatively small loss of sharpness at the widest apertures.

      We can’t fault the focusing and stabilisation systems and the overall build quality is very good. The only downsides  we could identify are the large size and heavy weight of the lens ““ and its asking price.


      Full review

      Announced in February 2016, Sony’s FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens was not released until near the end of that year and has only recently been made available to Australian reviewers.  Designed primarily for Sony’s ‘full frame’ cameras, notably the α7 series and the new α9, it is also fully compatible with  the company’s cropped-sensor (APS-C) cameras, where it covers focal lengths equivalent to 105-300mm. We reviewed this lens on the Sony α9.


      Side view of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens with the tripod mount in place but without the lens hood. (Source: Sony.)

      The optical design of this lens is complex with 23 elements in 18 groups. There are  three aspherical elements, including one double-sided and one XA (extreme aspherical) element with 0.01 micron surface precision plus four   ED (extra-low dispersion) and two   Super ED elements, which combine to minimise chromatic aberrations and distortion throughout the zoom range.


      The diagram above shows the location of the various exotic glass elements in the optical design. (Source: Sony.)

      Advanced Nano AR Coating technology is applied to suppress the reflections that can cause flare and ghosting to improve image clarity and contrast. The lens is also sealed against dust and moisture and boasts a fluorine coating on the front element for extra protection against dust, moisture and grease.

      Autofocusing is driven by a dual system with a ring SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) actuator for the front  focusing group and a double linear motor actuator for the rear group. This is the first time Sony has implemented a floating focusing system in an α zoom lens and it enables the lens to focus to within 96 centimetres of subjects, regardless of the focal length.

      Real-time feedback from multiple position sensors enables the camera body’s AF system to operate at full capacity and optimises AF performance for both still and video shooting. The optical design minimises focus breathing while operating quietly enough to allow it to be used while shooting movie clips.

      Eleven diaphragm blades close to a circular aperture for smooth bokeh in wide-aperture shots. The built-in Optical SteadyShot stabilisation system works with the camera’s sensor-shift stabilisation system to provide 5-axis shake correction with a panning mode (MODE 2) accessible via a switch. Sony makes no claims about the number of stops of shake correction this lens provides.

      Readers who are interested in the internal complexities of this lens can find out more by checking out Roger Cicala’s descriptions of taking it apart. The complete exposition is in two parts and both are worth reading.

      The lens comes in a semi-rigid nylon carrying pouch with a zippered top and carrying strap. Two loops on the side of the pouch are provided for fitting the strap, while further loops on the top and rear of the pouch allow it to be picked up and attached to a backpack.

      Also supplied with the lens are a removable tripod mount with a lock mechanism, which can be rotated between landscape and portrait orientation. The usual front and end caps are included plus a large, petal-shaped lens hood that reverses over the lens barrel for storage.

      Who’s it For?
       The high price and its proprietary mount will limit the range of potential purchasers for this lens. Owners of Sony’s α7 and α9 cameras are likely to be the main buyers since these cameras are better suited to handle the size and weight of this lens.

      Potential shooting genres include sports and wildlife photography, although the focal length range and continuous f/2.8 maximum aperture could make it attractive to wedding and portrait photographers and anyone looking for smooth bokeh plus great depth-of -field control.

      Even though this lens can be used on Sony’s APS-C cameras, it would be too large and heavy for most of them (not to mention too expensive). Sony has dedicated APS-C lenses, like the E 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS, which cover   a wider zoom range and are much smaller, lighter and cheaper.

      Build and Ergonomics
       The FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens is solidly built with a predominantly metal lens barrel with a textured off-white finish that is similar to Canon’s fast EF lenses. The combination of the metal barrel and the large amount of glass used in the lens make it rather heavy: 1480 grams. Your arms can get tired if you’re shooting with this lens hand-held for any length of time.

      The focusing ring begins 15 mm back from the front edge of the filter threading, which is made from polycarbonate and accepts 77 mm diameter filters. The outer edge of this threading has a bayonet mounting for the supplied lens hood, which is large, petal-shaped and made from hard polycarbonate in the same colour as the lens barrel.

      The inner surface of   the hood is flock-lined to minimise reflections and the hood has a locking button and a ‘window’ with a sliding hatch to make it easy to use this lens with angle-critical filters (polarisers and graduates). The hood reverses neatly over the lens for storage.

      All but the final 5 mm of the 45 mm wide focusing ring is covered with a finely-ribbed, rubber grip band. The ring turns a little more freely in autofocus mode than with manual focus. Unlike many modern lenses, focusing is driven mechanically, which means it is very responsive and provides tactile feedback.

      AF over-ride is supported on full-frame cameras. We noticed a small amount of focus breathing (change in image size as the focus is adjusted back and forth) but we feel it would only be relevant to photographers who do a lot of focus pulling when shooting movie clips.

      There are three focus hold buttons arranged around the 20 mm wide fixed section of the lens barrel behind the focusing ring. If you press one of them in while the lens is set for AF, autofocusing is cancelled immediately, allowing a quick switch to manual adjustment. Pressing the button again while half-pressing the shutter button restores autofocusing.

      Behind this section of the barrel lies the zoom ring, which is 37 mm wide and turns through approximately 30 degrees. A 30 mm wide section at the front of this ring is covered with rubber ridging that is not quite as fine as the ribbing on the focusing ring. The trailing edge is engraved with four focal length settings: 70mm, 100mm, 135mm and 200mm.

      These settings are aligned with a black mark on the leading edge of another fixed, 25 mm wide section of the lens barrel, which contains the main controls. Zooming is internal so the lens barrel length is unchanged. The zoom ring also moves very smoothly and we found no zoom creep with the review lens when carrying it facing downwards.

      Four slider controls are located around the left hand side of this section of the lens barrel. The top one is the AF/MF switch; below it is the focus range limiter switch, which has two positions: Full and infinity to 3 metres. Further down is the stabiliser switch, again with two positions: on and off.

      The final switch is the stabiliser mode switch, also with two positions, covering normal stabilisation (multi-directional) and vertical stabilisation for panning and tracking moving subjects. There are no focus or depth-of-field scales and no infra-red focus guides.

      The tripod collar is permanently affixed to the lens in a 28 mm wide section of the barrel behind the control section. It has a large locking knob that loosens to allow the ring to rotate when the camera is switched between landscape and portrait orientations.

      Close to the locking knob is a metal plate for the removable tripod foot, which slides onto the plate in a similar fashion to fitting an accessory to a hot-shoe. The plate has a standard tripod socket. The lens steps inwards for the final 30 mm of the barrel, ending in a metal mounting plate.

       We found the overall performance of the review lens to be commendable. Autofocusing was generally fast and, in most situations, accurate ““ although occasionally the lens would focus on the furthest member of a group instead of the nearest one when we were shooting fast-moving team sports. (An example is shown below.) Autofocusing was also virtually silent, making this lens ideal for use in conditions where camera sounds would be prejudicial, such as when shooting wildlife and sports.

      Our Imatest tests showed the lens to be capable of meeting expectations for the α9’s 24-megapixel image sensor at all but the 200mm focal length settings, the latter falling slightly short. Interestingly resolution was maintained across most of the aperture range, with diffraction only beginning to intrude from f/8 on, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.


       Lateral chromatic aberration remained totally within the ‘negligible’ band. In the graph of our results below, the red line marks the border between negligible and low CA.


       No coloured fringing was observed in any of our test shots, confirming that  chromatic aberration is a minor issue with this lens, particularly when it is used on cameras that provide internal corrections for JPEGs, like the α9.

      Backlit subjects were generally handled very well, although shadows could block up in very contrasty conditions. However, detail could be restored without intrusive noise when ARW.RAW files were processed in Adobe software.

      It was difficult to force the lens to flare and we were only able to produce flare artefacts with the 70mm focal length when a bright light source was shining directly into the camera. Even with the light source just outside the frame, contrast and colour saturation were retained, regardless of the focal length setting.

      Vignetting wasn’t a serious issue with this lens, although edge and corner darkening was found in shots taken at all focal length settings. Rectilinear distortion was also relatively low, with slight barrel distortion present at 70mm and just obvious pincushion distortion at 200mm. The 100mm focal length was effectively distortion-free, while the beginnings of pincushion distortion could be seen at 135mm. Both vignetting and distortion are easily corrected with in-camera adjustments or during post-capture editing.

      Bokeh was generally pleasing, particularly with low-contrast backgrounds, which were softly blurred at f/2.8 with all focal length settings. We found some outlining in shots that had bright background elements.  

      The FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens is a great companion for the α9 camera, both physically and in performance. It delivers excellent centre-of-frame resolution throughout almost its entire aperture and focal length range, with a relatively small loss of sharpness at the widest apertures.

      We can’t fault the focusing and stabilisation systems and the overall build quality is very good. The only downsides  we could identify are the large size and heavy weight of the lens ““ and its high asking price.

      This lens has been on sale for more than a year so you’d expect to find some discounting locally. Our search of online re-sellers has put the best local price at around AU$3500, which represents a considerable saving on Sony’s RRP.

      US-based resellers have the lens listed at SU$2598, which isn’t much below Sony USA’s RRP. If you chose to import the lens, the saving would be very minor as you could expect to pay at least AU$70 for shipping and just under AU$400 for GST, which will definitely be applied at point of import.

      Much of the reason for this lens’s high price is its constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, but we don’t recommend buying offshore because you lose the benefits of local consumer protection laws and after-sales service . For photographers who don’t require such lens speed, Sony has a couple of cheaper alternatives that sell for roughly half the price of the f/2.8 lens ““or a little less. The Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS lens, which we reviewed in February 2017 is one of them; the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens, which we haven’t reviewed, is another.  



       Picture angle: 34 degrees to 12 degrees 30 minutes
       Minimum aperture: f/22
       Lens construction: 23 elements in 18 groups (including three aspherical, one XA element, four   ED lens elements and two Super ED glass elements)
       Lens mounts: Sony E mount
       Diaphragm Blades: 11 (circular aperture)
       Focus drive: Linear motor (rear element) plus ring USM (front focusing group)
       Stabilisation: Yes (SteadyShot)
       Minimum focus: 96 cm
       Maximum magnification: 0.25x
       Filter size:   77 mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L): 88 x 200 mm
       Weight:   1480 grams
       Standard Accessories: Hood (ALC-SH145), Lens front cap (ALC-F77S), Lens rear cap (ALC-R1EM), Case, Tripod mount

       Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071;  



       Based on JPEG files from the α9 camera.









       Vignetting at   70mm, f/2.8.


      Vignetting at   100mm, f/2.8.


      Vignetting at 135mm, f/2.8.


      Vignetting at   200mm, f/2.8.


      Rectilinear distortion at 70mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 100mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 135mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 200mm.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.6.


      200mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/5.6.


      Close-up at 70mm; ISO 200, 1/2000 second at f/2.8.


      Close-up at 200mm; ISO 200, 1/1500 second at f/2.8.


      Strong backlighting: ISO 400, 1/8000 second at f/4.


      Flare  artefacts at 70mm;  ISO 200, 1/8000 second at f/4.


      200mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/1000 second at f/2.8.


      Enlargement of the main subject from the above image.


      200mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/800 second at f/2.8.


      200mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/1000 second at f/2.8.


      200mm focal length; ISO 4000, 1/16000 second at f/2.8. (Electronic shutter)


      200mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/2000 second at f/2.8. (Mechanical shutter)


      200mm focal length; ISO 640, 1/16000 second at f/2.8.


      200mm focal length; ISO 500, 1/16000 second at f/2.8.


      190mm focal length; ISO 640, 1/16000 second at f/2.8.


      198mm focal length; ISO 640, 1/16000 second at f/2.8.


      198mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/10000 second at f/2.8.


      200mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/5000 second at f/3.2.


      Stabilisation test; 200mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/6 second at f/2.8.    



      RRP: AU$4199; US$2600

      • Build: 9.0
      • Handling: 8.8
      • Image quality: 8.9
      • Versatility: 8.6