#395. A brief review of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G on the A7rII

By philberphoto | Review

Aug 27

There are already plenty of Sony FE SEL70-200 f/4 G reviews online. But our feeling, here on DS, is that the new generation sensor on the A7R II interacts differently with given lenses than its predecessor, the A7R, did. So here are a few – straight out of camera – photographs made to illustrate the rendering of this very interesting zoom on Sony’s new flagship camera. These aren’t meant to be art, but they are very interesting from a technical point of view.

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More specifically, the FE 70-200 f;4.0 G OSS was dreamy, poetic, ethereal on the A7R. Beautiful pastel colours, gobs of detail, but not much bite, even when needed. Very much like its stablemate the FE 90 f:2.8 G OSS macro, which, by the way, indicates that the designers of the Sony G lenses really know what they are doing, imbuing very different lenses with a “family” look.

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So, what is the lowdown on the only high-end E-mount tele zoom, and, as such a very important part of the Sony lens lineup for its flagship A7 family?

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Let’s start with the minuses:

  • Performance above 135mm is gradually weaker, and AF at full extension and close range really sucks.
  • Minimum focusing distance is longer than I’d like, feeling like 1.2m at the very least.
  • Size and weight are no better than competitors, which, while in accordance with the laws of physics, doesn’t extend the advantage of the A7 body over DSLRs.
  • Performance wide open is less good than stopped down, as with almost all lenses, which means it is really not that fast a lens for portrait, for example.
  • Price is rather higher than its direct, identically specced and very well-respected competitor, the Canon EF 70-200L f:4.0 IS USM.

After this not insignificant list, are there any pluses at all? Enough to still punch this one’s number?

  • Rendering is very classy. First impression is every bit as good as a top prime, up to 135mm.
  • Awesome 3D. Maybe the best I’ve ever noticed. In the ├╝berlens category.
  • Lovely colours, ranging from delicate pastels to fully saturated colour blocks.
  • Gobs of detail. Small hairs that you can only spot on 42Mp shots magnified at 100%.
  • Very nice bokeh. Neither totally creamy, nor very structured. Just the right blend of blur IMHO, even if the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is a bit rough.
  • Lovely mid-tones, with very fine and subtle colour separation giving pictures very nice clarity.

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If anything, if that lens had been designed as a 70-135, it might not have been as commercial, but, slighter smaller and lighter, it would have been amazing. For that matter, zooms with narrow focal ranges like the Leica WATE (16-21mm), or the Contax and Leica 35-70mm are often very attractive mid-points between primes and conventional zooms. Anyone listening?

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As it is, the SEL 70-200 is a no-brainer if you want a longer autofocus zoom. It is a lens that is every bit as good as a fine prime, and satisifies that one has scored a fine image thanks to a fine image maker. No sense of compromise whatsoever.

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As to the rendering, it is a matter of taste, but the Sony is always balanced and classy, in line with its all-rounder target audience. That I show only straight-out-of-camera pictures is proof of its quality. I simply wouldn’t do that with any but the best lenses.

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And, thanks to Bob Hamilton, 2 great landscape shots, showing the 70-200’s subtlety.

664DSC1015 First Light on the Wallace Monument from Blackdub, Stirling 665DSC1299 Day breaking on the Clyde Valley

 


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  • Sean says:

    Hi,

    Yes you have given a lucid overview of this lens and it’s attributes, in conjunction with the A7RII it was used on for your review.

    Out of interest, I too have this lens and use it on my A7, and by way of example I hope my Flickr folder contains suitable images for you and others to see what this lens is capable of when used on the A7.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/hewlbane/albums/72157655886814743

    Regards

    Sean

    • philberphoto says:

      Thanks, Sean! Your album gives very interesting examples of the FE 70-200 and A7 combo in low light. Despite the fact that it is not ideally specced for such work, your results are very impressive.

  • Dan says:

    Is that the William Wallace monument, in the second to last picture?

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