This is a guest review of the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM by wedding photographer Chad Winstead.
The Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM is a fantastic telephoto lens in the G-Master lineup. It’s also one of the heaviest lenses made for these small, lightweight bodies.
Do the pros of this lens outweigh the pounds?
To live up to the G-Master name, a lens must deliver exceptional image quality, have robust build quality, and perform quickly in the autofocus department. Is this one of the best lenses that Sony has to offer?
It just might be. However, these GM zoom lenses come at a hefty price…
Right now there are no alternatives if you need an f/2.8 Sony telephoto lens, other than adapting the slightly cheaper Canon or Nikon counterparts.
In this review of the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, I will be hitting on the following criteria :
- Build Quality
- Image Quality
- Autofocus Performance
- Final Ratings
Let’s dive in to the review to see if this lens is worth your hard earned cash…
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 Review | Build Quality
The Physical Specs
- Filter Size: 77mm
- Weight: 52.21oz / 3.26 lb / 1480 g (without tripod mount)
- Dimensions: 3.46 x 7.87” / 88x200mm
- Minimum Focus Distance: 3.15 ft / 0.96m
- Maximum Magnification Ratio : 0.25x
The build quality and feel of the Sony 70-200mm GM is outstanding. The all-metal body feels very solid in the hands, and the rubber rings are nice and grippy.
The zoom mechanics have a nice, tight feel, giving it some light resistance. The focus ring is very smooth as well, with less resistance.
The buttons are very secure and do not feel cheap at all. The customizable focus hold buttons have a nice subtle click to them as well.
The tripod collar feels solid and sturdy, and I rather like the detachable foot. The collar itself is built into the body, but you can release the foot if needed.
To do that, you loosen a twist knob on the side, then push a button the front to eject it and slide it off the Sony 70-200mm.
You can see by the paint wear on these pieces that my lens has been a workhorse for well over a full year of weddings.
One might argue that the paint could be a bit thicker, or more durable, even though it has seen a lot of use.
The lens hood is honestly the cheapest-feeling part in terms of materials, as it has a plastic feel to it.
It seems like I am going to break the threads on it sometimes, and the paint has also chipped off.
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 | Handling
As a wedding and portrait photographer, I find the 70-200mm focal range to be incredibly useful. Furthermore, being able to stop down to f/2.8 is valuable in a dark church.
Obviously, with a fast telephoto lens like this, it’s very hard to keep it small and light.
At 3.26 lbs (1,480g), the Sony 70-200mm’s weight doesn’t bother me as much as some other lenses. I hold the lens by the tripod collar foot to balance it on the smaller body.
I find this is the best way to stabilize the lens and distribute the weight when shooting. You can also throw on a battery grip to balance it out more!
Overall, if you are buying the Sony 70-200mm, you know it will be large and heavy, but the performance more than makes up for the weight.
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 | Image Quality
People generally love primes for their size, wide open apertures, and SHARPNESS. These G-Master zooms have really negated the sharpness argument.
The Sony 70-200mm is no exception! Just take a look at the above image, for example.
This photo was taken on the Sony a7rIII camera. At 42mp, a lens has to be really sharp to render well on this camera. This photo was also taken wide open at f/2.8! Here it is at 100% crop.
As you can see, it’s very sharp wide open and close to the edge! This image has the default sharpening from Lightroom applied, and the image has been lightly edited for some color and contrast.
Overall, I would say I have been very impressed with the level of detail and sharpness from the Sony 70-200mm.
Obviously, stopping down to f/5.6-f/8 will yield even sharper results!
There’s some light vignetting when shot wide open, which is to be expected. This is easily correctable in post.
I have found no chromatic aberration in any of my photos with the Sony 70-200mm, and the distortion is minimal as one would expect with a telephoto.
The lens has what Sony calls an “Advanced Nano AR Coating Technology”, that is responsible for eliminating flare and improving image quality.
However, there is some interesting flare when used without the lens hood. Check out this image below, where I removed the lens hood to get a little crazy.
I’m personally fond of the effect, but it’s a lot tamer when using the lens hood!
Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM Sample Images
Check out these sample images taken with the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM:
Oh bokeh, that thing many photographers love, and sometimes love too much! Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of good rendering.
However, I am not going to shoot every moment of the wedding day at f/1.4 and f/2.8.
Let’s take a look at some of the beautiful rendering and blur that the Sony 70-200mm can produce so you can see for yourself! I’ll start with the foreground bokeh.
…and how about that background bokeh?
You will notice the bokeh is very smooth and round in the middle but does start to develop some “cat-eye” bokeh towards the edge and corners of the frame. Overall I tend to not mind either shape.
We are living in an amazing time for photography. The Sony mirrorless cameras in particular, have the most advanced and accurate autofocus we have seen thus far.
Sony has engineered their lenses to be able to keep up very well – the Sony 70-200mm GM is one of the fastest lenses I have used on my Sony a9.
With the a9’s new firmware update for real eye autofocus tracking and object tracking, my keeper rate has gone up even more. I didn’t think that was possible!
When using the Sony 70-200mm for ceremonies and fast-moving action, I never have to worry about missing a moment.
In reality, probably 95% of my misfocused shots with this lens can be chalked up to user error!
The autofocus motor is also quiet when shooting. I don’t notice any noises coming from the lens, unlike with the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM.
Long story short: The autofocus is very quick and very accurate!
The Sony 70-200mm f/2./8 GM does have built-in image stabilization to go alongside the in-body stabilization of the newer Sony mirrorless cameras.
I don’t shoot much at slow shutter speeds, since I am dealing with a lot of movement at events.
However, when I have needed to drop the shutter speed, such as the image above, I’ve been impressed!
With this lens, I’ve had sharp images at long focal lengths all the way down to 1/30th of a second!
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 Review | Conclusion
I believe this is an outstanding lens and is on par, or better, than the Nikon and Canon counterparts.
It is a professional grade lens, and if you need a workhorse in this focal range, this is as good as it gets in terms of autofocus and image quality.
Yes, the lens is pricey and heavy, but I think the pros of this lens outweigh the cons.