The 70-200mm lens you won’t believe: we review the Sony FE 70-200mm F / 2.8 GM OSS II
I’ve tried several 70-200mm lenses for the Sony system, and even holding it in my hands, I couldn’t believe Sony’s new 70-200mm f / 2.8 II.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f / 2.8 GM OSS II lens has yet to be released at the time of writing, but it is slated for release sometime in December 2021 or early 2022. Previously, there were only two options from Sony for scratch the 70-200mm itch, and none of them were particularly good. The f / 4 version is fine; it’s light but slow. The f / 2.8 was sharper wide open than the f / 4 version stopped at f / 8, but it was absurdly heavy, and it was almost double the price (or more than double if you wait for the f / 4 is lit sell). Since I would use the lens almost exclusively on hikes, weight and height are paramount considerations. There’s also the Tamron 70-180mm f / 2.8, which is very sharp and quite quick to focus; however, it does not have a tripod collar, nor internal stabilization. Since it’s similar in price to the Sony 70-200mm f / 4, they’re usually compared together, and for good reason. That said, they each have their trade-offs: The Tamron is sharper and faster than the Sony f / 4, but the Sony comes with a tripod collar and built-in OSS.
Overall, I was unable to determine what was the right goal for me. I was willing to spend the money on the Sony 70-200mm f / 2.8 GM, but to say I wasn’t interested in carrying the lens in my backpack or even on the camera would be an understatement . I understand a lot of people go through it and deal with the 1480g anchor that the goal seemed to me. It just wasn’t the right solution for me. I was eagerly awaiting a Sigma alternative that would be the best of both worlds, but it left me empty-handed.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f / 2.8 GM OSS isn’t the lightest of the bunch (at 1,045g, a good 29% lighter than the original f / 2.8 model), but it weighs only 205 g more than the f / 4 Sony model and only 235 g more than the Tamron 70-180mm f / 2.8 option. Likewise, it is the same length as the original Sony f / 2.8 (200mm) model and less than 30mm longer than the Sony f / 4 and Tamron alternatives. This is where we come to the elephant in the room. That is, given that the f / 2.8 II is now the more expensive option, does the extra cost come with enough added value to be worth it?
Build quality and handling
The build quality of all Sony G and GM lenses is quite high, so it will most likely satisfy even the most picky Sony shooters. The material is high quality plastic and has a nice and sturdy feel when held in your hands. The sun visor comes with a welcome change: it’s no longer a pedal-style sun visor, which I’ve always liked the look of but thought woefully impractical. Now, like my Sony 35mm f / 1.4 GM, it has a rubberized rim which is quite nice to have. There were also several switches to fine tune the settings and get them just right. I also really liked that the manual focus of the lens is linear, which makes a big difference for someone like me, who often prefers to focus manually.
Sharpness and vignetting
The sharpness of this lens was simply breathtaking. Even shot wide open, I was stunned by the results, so much so that I only stopped the lens when testing the lens sharpness. Truth be told, I couldn’t say much about the difference in sharpness between f / 2.8 and f / 5.6, even in the far corners of the frame. As for vignetting, I didn’t notice much of it in my real life examples. The following examples of vignetting and sharpness are at 70mm, 135mm, and 200mm. As you can see from the comparisons, the results are second to none.
To note: All samples below have the f / 2.8 shot on the left and the f / 5.6 shot on the right.
At 70 mm
At 135 mm
At 200 mm
What I like
- The sharpness is incredibly impressive at full aperture.
- Internal stabilization works quite well and opens up opportunities in low light conditions.
- Weight: While it’s not the lightest lens you can buy, it’s surprisingly light for a 70-200mm lens, especially the f / 2.8 version.
- The build quality is on par with other GM lenses, which is excellent.
- Autofocus is beyond speed. I’m sure it will surprise you when paired with the right camera.
What I do not like
- Price. It is a very expensive goal. You should already be considering the original Sony 70-200mm f / 2.8 and be prepared to spend the extra cash.
Sony FE 70-200mm f / 2.8 GM OSS (cost: $ 2,298 at time of writing, $ 2,598 when not on sale): I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that the first generation of the Sony 70 -200mm GM is the best natural comparison to this lens, but it isn’t. When not on sale, it costs just $ 200 less than the MK II. I can’t imagine why someone would spend roughly the same amount of money on a less sharp lens (although it’s still a wonderfully sharp lens), slower focus, and a considerably heavier option. Having said that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if second-hand copies of the Mark I lens got significantly cheaper, as I imagine Sony will soon adopt a lower price similar to what they did with the Sony Zeiss. 35mm f / 1.4 ZA after the The Sony 35mm f / 1.4 GM has arrived. If the used prices of the Mark I drop enough to be more similar to the going prices of Sony’s new f / 4 version, perhaps then this will present itself as a solid option.
Sony FE 70-200mm f / 4 OSS (cost: $ 1,498): As I mentioned at the top of this article, this lens has long been a serious competitor to the 70-200mm lens that I would buy eventually. The sharpness is decent, but not particularly impressive. That said, it goes on sale regularly enough that you can often buy a new copy for about the same, if not less, than a used one. The build quality is much better than the Tamron option but didn’t focus as quickly as the Tamron.
Tamron 70-180mm f / 2.8 Di III VXD (cost: $ 1,099): As the cheapest and lightest option that can stand out in the area of sharpness, this lens is a great option for anyone who are looking for a mid-range zoom lens. If it came with a tripod collar and / or had internal stabilization, I would have bought this lens shortly after testing it. I didn’t fall in love with the build quality either. It was okay but it was quite far behind Sony’s options. That said, if you don’t plan on using your lens for landscape photography in poor conditions, this Tamron would probably be all you need for portraits or taking trips.
When I tested the Sony FE 70-200mm f / 2.8 GM OSS II lens, I mounted it on the new Sony a7 IV, which together looked like an unstoppable duo. Having delayed upgrading my gear for a long time, this goal finally pushed me to the limit and I placed a pre-order with B&H. That is, I was really in love with this lens – enough to spend my own money on it. Will I later feel like I spent too much money on this? May be. Probably? So far, however, I’ve never enjoyed using a telephoto lens as much as this lens, and I couldn’t help but smile while using it. I can highly recommend it.