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Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS review

Sony’s new super-telephoto zoom aims to supersize your reach without weighing you down (too much)...

5 Star Rating
Sony FE 200-600mm lens review
(Image: © Sony)

Our Verdict

When you’re shooting wildlife, birds, aircraft or sporting action and you can’t get as close as you might like, this lens really covers the distance. Designed for Sony’s full-frame E-mount cameras, it picks up the baton from the prestigious FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master OSS, extending the telephoto reach by 50 per cent, with virtually no compromise in all-round performance.

For

  • Mighty telephoto reach
  • Excellent build and image quality
  • Effective triple-mode optical stabilizer

Against

  • Necessarily big and weighty
  • Aperture narrows to f/6.3 at the long end
  • Large 95mm filter thread

Tamron and Sigma make high-performance 150-600mm zooms for Canon and Nikon DSLRs. The Tamron is also available in Sony A-mount option, whereas Sigma’s MC-11 mount adaptor enables use of its 150-600mm Contemporary and Sports lenses on Sony E-mount bodies. This new lens from Sony is a more ideal fit, designed specifically for E-mount cameras.

Read more:
Hands on: Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS review

Build & handling

Sony FE 200-600mm lens review

(Image credit: Sony)

The FE-200-600mm gives mighty telephoto reach at the long end of its zoom range and, if that’s still not enough, it’s also compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. 

That said, the native f/6.3 aperture rating at the longest zoom setting is hardly fast, and the teleconverters slow it down to f/9 and f/13 respectively.

Autofocus still works but struggles under dull lighting. If you want to boost the range, you’re really better off mounting the lens on an A6xxx series APS-C body, which gives you an ‘effective’ 300-900mm zoom range.

The 200-600mm lens looks entirely like a supersized FE 100-400mm G Master zoom, and has a very similar control layout and feature set. 

The smaller zoom measures 94x205mm and weighs in at 1,395g. The upscaled sibling is 112x318mm and 2,115g, so it’s just over 50 per cent longer and heavier.

On the plus side, the inner barrel of the 100-400mm lens extends considerably at longer zoom settings, whereas the bigger lens has a fully internal zoom mechanism and therefore a fixed physical length.

Sony FE 200-600mm lens review

At longer zoom settings, you can get a very tight depth of field and defocused areas look nice and smooth. (Image credit: Sony)

Although the placement of switches and buttons is virtually identical in the two lenses, there are some added refinements in the 200-600mm. The autofocus range limiter has three rather than two positions, and can lock out both of the short and long sectors of the range, either side of ten meters. 

The OSS (Optical Steady Shot) stabilizer also gains an additional switchable option. Like the 100-400mm, there are static and panning modes, but the new lens adds a third mode which only applies stabilization during actual exposures. This makes it easier to track erratically moving objects in the viewfinder, or on the rear screen.

Quality glass includes no less than five ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and one aspherical element. Nano AR coating is applied to reduce ghosting and flare, and there’s a fluorine coating on the front element to repel grease and moisture.

The lens also features an extensive set of weather-seals. As in the 100-400mm, a DDSSM (Direct Drive Super Sonic Motor) is fitted, with the aim of delivering fast and accurate autofocus. 

Three focus hold buttons are positioned around the barrel between the focus and zoom rings, the operation of which can be customized to perform alternative functions, via the host camera’s menu system. 

The zoom and focus rings themselves operate with smooth precision, and the zoom ring has a remarkably short travel which makes for speedy adjustments.

Sony FE 200-600mm lens review

Sharpness when shooting wide-open remains excellent all the way to 600mm, while fast autofocus is good for tracking moving objects. (Image credit: Sony)

Performance

Sharpness and contrast are excellent and remarkably consistent, throughout the entire zoom range. Considering the relatively slow aperture rating and long focal lengths, sharpness and contrast need to be good when shooting wide-open, and the lens really excels in this respect. We wouldn’t normally talk about bokeh (the pictorial quality of defocused areas) for a lens with such a slow aperture rating but it’s actually very good. 

You can get a really tight depth of field, especially at longer zoom settings, and the 11-blade diaphragm helps to maintain nice bokeh even when stopping down a little. Colour fringing is very minimal and there’s only minor pincushion distortion, throughout the zoom range.

Especially when shooting handheld or even with a monopod, effective stabilization is a key feature for any super-telephoto lens. In this case, the optical stabilizer is very good for both static and panning shots, and works well in conjunction with the five-axis in-body stabilizers of recent Sony cameras. 

We found that we were able to get a good hit rate of sharp shots at 1/125th of a second, and a fair few keepers at 1/60th. Autofocus is super-fast and deadly accurate under decent lighting, although it can slow down considerably in very dull conditions.

Sony FE 200-600mm lens review

Thanks to the effective stabilization system, we got a good hit rate shooting at 600mm with a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. (Image credit: Sony)

Lab tests

Sharpness

Even at the widest available apertures, centre sharpness is excellent throughout the entire zoom range, and stays so right through to f/16.

Even at the widest available apertures, centre sharpness is excellent throughout the entire zoom range, and stays so right through to f/16. (Image credit: Future)

Corner sharpness isn't quite as impressive as the centre sharpness results, but it's still above average at 300mm and longer, and at all apertures. Only at 200mm is corner sharpness more mediocre.

Corner sharpness isn't quite as impressive as the centre sharpness results, but it's still above average at 300mm and longer, and at all apertures. Only at 200mm is corner sharpness more mediocre. (Image credit: Future)

Fringing

Fringing is low at all focal lengths and apertures. It's barely visible in real-world shots, and these results are obtained with in-camera aberration compensation disabled, so this is a worst-case scenario.

Fringing is low at all focal lengths and apertures. It's barely visible in real-world shots, and these results are obtained with in-camera aberration compensation disabled, so this is a worst-case scenario. (Image credit: Future)

Distortion

Pincushion distortion is evident throughout the zoom range, though this is with in-camera distortion correction disabled. Even then, the degree of distortion isn't distracting.

Pincushion distortion is evident throughout the zoom range, though this is with in-camera distortion correction disabled. Even then, the degree of distortion isn't distracting. (Image credit: Future)

Specifications

Mount: Sony E

Elements/groups: 24/17

Angle of view: 12.5-4 degrees

Diaphragm blades: 11

Minimum aperture: f/32-36

Minimum focusing distance: 2.4m

Maximum magnification ratio: 0.2x

Filter size: 95mm

Dimensions: 112x318mm

Weight: 2,115g

Verdict

When you’re shooting wildlife, birds, aircraft or sporting action and you can’t get as close as you might like, this lens really covers the distance. 

Designed for Sony’s full-frame E-mount cameras, it picks up the baton from the prestigious FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master OSS, extending the telephoto reach by 50 per cent, with virtually no compromise in all-round performance.

Features: 5/5
Build & handling: 5/5
Image quality: 5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5

If you'd like to add the Sony FE 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens to your gear you can find it currently on offer at these various outlets:

Wex
Harrison Cameras
B&H Photo
Adorama

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