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Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS review

Fast and capable, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is a feature-rich telephoto zoom

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
(Image: © Sony)

Digital Camera World Verdict

Typical of Sony’s G Master line-up of lenses, this one combines good sharpness with lusciously soft bokeh, which remains of great beauty when stopping down a little, aided by a particularly well-rounded 11-blade diaphragm. A high-tech autofocus system, posh glass and refined handling add to the attraction but autofocus speed and the effectiveness of optical stabilization could be better.

Pros

  • +

    High-end handling characteristics

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    Excellent build quality

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    Good image quality overall

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Cons

  • -

    Only 2-stop optical stabilization

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    Autofocus not the fastest in class

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    Corner-sharpness is pretty average

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As a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is the type of lens that’s seen as an essential bit of kit by discerning photographers in all sorts of genres, but is especially well suited to wedding and event photography, as well as for shooting sports and wildlife. Its design, build quality and high-end set of features makes it highly capable for all of these shooting scenarios and more.

Specifications

Mount: Sony E (FE)
Full frame: Yes
Autofocus: Yes
Image stabilization: Yes
Lens construction: 23 elements in 18 groups
Angle of view: 34-12.5 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 11
Minimum aperture: f/22
Minimum focusing distance: 0.96m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.25x
Filter size: 77mm
Dimensions: 88x200mm
Weight: 1,480g

Key features

Sony’s high-tech 70-200mm is positively bristling with features. Autofocus is driven by both an ultrasonic ring-type motor and dual linear stepping motors, aiming for speed and precision. It also comes complete with an autofocus range limiter switch and three customizable AF hold buttons positioned around the barrel. There’s also a switch for the dual-mode optical stabilizer, featuring both static and panning modes.

The optical layout includes an ultra-high-precision XA (eXtreme Aspherical) element along with two further aspherical elements, four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements plus two Super ED elements. The aperture diaphragm is particularly well-rounded with 11 blades, and Nano AR Coating is applied to minimize ghosting and flare. There’s also a moisture/grease-resistant fluorine coating on the front element.

Typical for this class of lens, the Sony comes complete with a tripod mounting ring, which in this case is fully removable. Build quality is excellent and features multiple weather-seals, and the lens is compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2.0x tele-converters.

Performance

Levels of sharpness are very good indeed wide-open at f/2.8, throughout the entire zoom range, becoming excellent at f/4. Color fringing is minimal but distortion is a little worse than average for this type of lens. In our tests, autofocus speed proved slightly underwhelming compared with competing lenses in its class. The 2-stop optical stabilizer is less effective than in most similar lenses, but its performance is boosted in later Sony cameras that add in-body stabilization into the equation.

Lab results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)
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(Image credit: Future)
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Levels of sharpness are very convincing when shooting wide-open, throughout the whole zoom range, and become excellent when narrowing the aperture by just one stop to f/4.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)
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A little color fringing can be noticeable towards the edges and corners of the image frame at shorter focal lengths of 70-100mm but it largely disappears in the 135-200mm sector of the zoom range.

Distortion:

(Image credit: Future)
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70-200mm lenses generally produce very little distortion but there’s a noticeable swing from barrel to pincushion when extending through the zoom range with this Sony. Even so, in-camera corrections are available.

Verdict

Typical of Sony’s G Master line-up of lenses, this one combines good sharpness with lusciously soft bokeh, which remains of great beauty when stopping down a little, aided by a particularly well-rounded 11-blade diaphragm. A high-tech autofocus system, posh glass and refined handling add to the attraction but autofocus speed and the effectiveness of optical stabilization could be better.

Read more:

• Best camera lenses (opens in new tab) to get
• Best Canon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Nikon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Sony lenses (opens in new tab)

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Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.