We have said in several occasions that a zoom lens can be a good alternative in landscape photography.
Well, we truly believe that and in this article we are going to review the Sony FE 70 - 200 mm f4 G OSS lens by Sony.
Let's be clear from the very beginning. Is it a top notch zoom lens? Probably not.
The Sony FE 70 - 200 mm f2.8 GM OSS lens offers more but costs a lot more as well.
As landscape photographers though, we consider what is the best trade off between what we need to shoot landscapes and what the market offers.
Do you really need those 600 plus grams in weight and 1,000 plus dollars for a f 2.8 lens when you are out on the field? It is your call but we don't think so.
A lighter and cheaper zoom lens is a better choice for us, no doubts about it.
With this in mind, let's dive into the review of this great lens.
For a medium price range, you can now enjoy a light-weight, small lens that has all the qualities a 70-200mm needs to have.
The image stabilization offers up to 3 stops of help, internal focusing prevents the lens from changing in size and filters from rotating.
Last but not least the image quality is as good as you’d expect from a professional Sony lens.
Colors render very well (without any relevant fringing), chromatic aberration is pretty much absent and vignetting is kept to the very minimum.
Few reviewers have highlighted some pincushion distortion does occur as well as some softened corners at 200mm full-frame images.
The weather sealing is not the strong point, although Sony states it can take some water, dust and other abuse of the elements however we have not honestly been bothered at all.
Let’s have a look at how this lens performs, and see if it deserves the Sony G label of excellence.
Mid 2014 Sony released their first telephoto zoom lenses compatible with their full-frame cameras, giving Sony shooters the freedom to finally make the full transition to native glass and ditch the adaptors for good.
The FE 70-200mm f/4 – although not the bright f/2.8 some sports- and portrait photographers had hoped for – added a very capable telephoto zoom lens to the Sony family.
The first thing you will notice about this lens, is it’s relatively small size and very low weight.
The lens is no bigger than 80 x 175mm (3.15 x 6.89”) and weighs only 840 grams (29.63oz), making it the one of the lightest 70-200mm telephoto lenses yet.
This makes the lens an outstanding choice for travel and landscape photographers alike, as it is a joy to travel with.
Thanks to its size it will fit in your camera bags with ease, with no need for special separate lens cases which anyway is shipped along with the lens.
Despite its light weight and small size, the lens still feels very sturdy and professional.
The barrel is completely made out of metal, and the nice added texture makes for a good grip and comfortable handling.
The lens is also weather-sealed, but many have noted that this sealing is rather questionable. It will take a few drops and maybe some dust, but is nowhere near as resistant as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM’s coating for example.
The white color of the lens – something usually found in Canon’s telephoto lenses – is not just an aesthetic choice.
The lenses contain glass, and glass will expand with heat. With more compact lenses this will likely not form a problem, as the glass will only expand a little bit.
With bigger lenses however (containing bigger glass elements), expansion might be more severe than can be accounted for in the design.
For this reason, a white color has been added onto the lens; white reflects light, helping to keep the lens cooler. Who knew, it’s not just a marketing technique after all.
On the inside, 21 elements are divided in 15 groups. Super ED glass is used as well as regular ED glass, and Sony’s Nano AR coating has been implemented to improve contrast as well as image clarity.
The 21 elements will be moved inside the physical lens when zooming or focusing – the lens itself will stay a constant size.
This is a helpful feature to ensure stable balancing on your tripod. Considering this lens mounts on Sony a7 cameras which are pretty small compared to traditional DSLRs, a better balance is helpful for shooting hand-held too. It also serves to minimize focus breathing, and prevent any (72 mm) filters you screw on from rotating.
Optical SteadyShot image stabilization has also been implemented in this lens, and it works great for all your hand-held shots.
It will offer up to 3 stops of help with camera shake, and also has a stabilization mode that can be used for panning or tripod mounted shots – something most image stabilization - equipped lenses lack!
When taking a look at the image quality this lens produces, the first thing standing out are the great colors.
As we are used to from Sony’s (more expensive) lenses, the colors are rendered very well and there is virtually no fringing.
The colors look especially well when you enable the Vivid Color profile available in the Sony a7 series cameras. However, the lens does not outperform prime rivals.
The Zeiss Batis 85mm for example, still delivers a more impressive color rendering than this zoom lens could.
Another image aspect this lens performs great in is chromatic aberration – it is practically non-existent.
Sony has done a very good designing job indeed in this department.
Vignette is also kept to an absolute minimum, and is only slightly visible at 70mm f/4 full-frame images.
Some flare does occur, and sun-stars created with this lens are not as aesthetically pleasing as those of the Canon 70-200mm f/4 for example, but this also greatly depends on personal preferences.
The below video includes some sample images:
Image sharpness is generally quite good.
When used on an APS-C camera, sharpness will be consistent throughout the focal range (which then is equivalent to 105-300mm).
On full-frame however, some reduction in sharpness can be seen at 200mm. Stopping down will help this a bit, but corners still remain softened compared to the image’s center and mid-frame.
At this 200mm focal length, some noticeable pincushion distortion is also likely to occur. At 70mm some very slight barrel-distortion is present as well, but this is so minimal it will hardly affect your image quality.
This AF-S 70-200mm f/4 G Ed VR from Nikon might be a bit heavier and bigger than the Sony, but it is still quite a compact lens for a telephoto zoom.
The lens offers up to 4 stops of Vibration Reduction (A.K.A. image stabilization), and is equipped with Nikon’s famous Nano Crystal coating to battle flare and ghosting most effectively.
The extra-low dispersion glass also does a good job at minimizing chromatic aberrations, although the results are not quite as outstanding as they are on the Sony.
This lens is generally viewed as the budget option to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM. It has very similar qualities, although the f/4 version is a lot lighter and smaller.
However, it is still not as light-weight as the Sony. Image quality-wise, this lens does outperform the Sony.
It is sharp around the edges at all focal lengths, and distortion is practically absent. The image stabilization is also a welcome help in tripod-less situations, and the fast autofocus system makes focusing a breeze.
The weather sealing is extremely resistant, as we are accustomed to with Canon’s L-series lenses. It ships for a little more than $1000, making it a great budget option for Canon shooters.
If you shoot Sony you need an adaptor. Metabones provide a great choice of adaptors for Canon to various Sony mounts.
This Tamron lens can be bought as the Nikon, Canon or Sony version (depending on your preferences) and is compatible with full-frame sensors.
It shoots pretty sharp images and chromatic aberrations are well-controlled.
The vignette does form a bit of a problem however, seeing as it is noticeable throughout all focal lengths. As you stop down the aperture, this phenomenon will disappear.
Since landscapes are not generally shot with anything below f/8, it will not likely form an issue for landscape photographers. The lens ships for around $1300, making it the choice in between the Nikon and the Sony glass
If you are a Sony shooter in search of some native glass that will give you the very versatile focal range of 70-200mm, a light-weight but professional feel and a very high-quality image; this is the lens for you.
The complete absence of chromatic aberration is impressive (even for such a high-end lens), as is the very minimal vignette.
The colours you’ll get from this lens look great, with no fringing occurring. Some minimal distortion does occur, but it’s nothing that can’t easily be fixed in post.
On an APS-C sensor this lens will also work great as a 105-300mm lens, with the added bonus that corners will remain sharper throughout focal lengths.
On full-frames the corners do soften quite a bit as you near the 200mm. The lens is extremely light-weight, making it a pleasant travel companion.
The image stabilization system is also a nice bonus for shooting sharp hand-held shots with slower shutter speeds. All this quality could be yours for about $1500, a very reasonable price for a professional telephoto zoom.
So if you shoot a full-frame Sony: ditch the adaptors and Canon/Nikon lenses, Sony now has the telephoto zoom lens for you.
Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.
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