All photographs in this lens review were shot on the Sony A7 unless otherwise stated. All crops are 100%. Processing is quick’n dirty and in some cases zero.
Before I bought this Sony FE 70-200 f4 G OSS lens I was feeling inclined to ‘go Unabomber’ on Sony for the shocking (optical) quality control of Sony and Sony Zeiss lenses. Come to think of it, that would have felt too disconnected and not nearly satisfying enough, so perhaps a more ‘Scarface’ type assault would have gone further to assuage my utter frustration at the process of buying Sony FE lenses. I say ‘process’ because its not always a case of plugging credit card details into a website and smiling when the postman knocks the following morning. It can be more akin to opening a 1000 piece puzzle that has no picture on the box. You have no idea what the results will look like and what problems may arise when you start looking at files.
I am on my third 35mm f2.8 FE and my second 55mm f 1.8 FE. The 55mm is superb (the first focused the bottom left and top right at 4m when the middle was focused at 20m) i.e. bad beyond belief. 35mm #3 is still a tiny weeny bit soft in the top right at long distance and I am still figuring out whether to live with it or return it. FWIW, the first had a soft right side and the second a soft left side (I am talking obviously noticeable at 1:3 on screen). Urgh, this sort of drama is not conducive to building confidence in pro-level goods. For me, it is far more of an irritation than A7R mirror slap, because it means returning lenses and going through the irritation associated with doing so. Were I to return my third 35mm FE in the hope of getting one with a top right corner as good as the other three, I might find myself waking up in a straightjacket, dribbling on a bed with plastic sheets. I cannot imagine retailers would continue to put up with it, at least not in the UK. I have had almost as many optically drunk Sony lenses in nine months as every other manufacturer combined in 17 years. I figured I’d rather smother my unmentionables with honey and tie myself to a tree in bear country than buy another Sony lens; instead, I was going to wait for the genuine Zeiss manual focus offerings. However… I believe Sean Connery told his wife that, after Diamonds are Forever, he’d never play Bond again. But he did, and so here I am, having blatantly bent over backwards to morph my bear-cowering shame into an association with James Bond instead.
So what drove me to buy the 70-200 f4? A trip to Iceland with my kids and a hunch that this model has fewer gremlins than some of the others. While it was not a ‘real’ photo trip (rather an opportunity to introduce my 10 and 11 year old boys to a wild and interesting place, while doing a recce for more serious trip in the future), I knew I would need a long lens to get the most out of it. And I did; the open spaces are vast and wide angle to standard lenses alone (which is what I use most often) would have been hugely limiting. I paid more and bought my copy it at a physical store, knowing I could test it that afternoon and exchange it later the same day if it turned out to be yet another wonky lens from Sony; however, initial testing suggested it was fine. So off to Iceland we went, complete with A7, A7R, 28-70 f4-5.6 OSS, 35mm and 55 1.8 FE and two energetic boys.
Starting at the beginning….
Build quality is superb. Canon metal L quality superb. The lens is a bit fatter than the Canon 70-200 f4 L IS and has a metal case and, weighing in at 850g or so, its comparable in weight and dimensions to other FF offerings. Sure, its not super light, but you’ve already saved a one kilogram with two A7/R bodies over two Canon or Nikon DSLRs and a bunch more with the other super light lenses. Feel of the zoom and focus is actually quite a bit better than my Canon 70-200 f4 (non-IS) L. My only niggle is that when mounted, there is some rotational play between lens and body mounts. This seems to be the case with all of them and its no biggie, although it does blot a perfect score on the build front.
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