Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G
Category: Telephoto Lens
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent image quality on full frame, very good on APS-C
- Superb build quality
- Fast, silent autofocus with manual override
- Well-placed AF stop buttons
Conclusion - Cons
- A bit soft wide open at the telephoto end on APS-C
- No dust or moisture sealing (which we'd expect in a 'Pro' level lens)
- Slightly suspect image quality at closest focus (very soft indeed at F2.8)
- Extremely expensive compared to third party alternatives
The Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G is without doubt an excellent lens. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's based on a 7-year old Minolta design - it's at least a match for the more recent third party options from Tamron and Sigma, and only just outperformed by Nikon's very latest (and pricey) 70-200mm F2.8 VR II. Optically it's therefore very good indeed, being impressively sharp at most settings, and with chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting all rather low. The bokeh (or rendition of out-of-focus areas of the image) is also very smooth and attractive most of the time. About the only possible criticisms are that it can look a little soft at 200mm and F2.8 when used on APS-C cameras, or at distances close to minimum focus.
Operationally the lens is impressive too. The build quality is right out of the top drawer, and the autofocus is fast, near-silent, and accurate. The tripod ring design isn't our favorite though, as you can't remove it without detaching the lens from the camera; this can make rapid switching between hand-held and tripod-mounted shooting a bit more awkward than with some other systems. But on the other hand the lens hood is excellent, being suitably deep to provide optimum protection from flare, and sporting a small window with a sliding cover to allow the easy operation of polarizing filters.
One notable absence from the spec sheet, however, is dust- and water-sealing; for example the lens lacks a gasket around the lens mount to seal this point of vulnerability. This is disappointing for such an expensive, and otherwise superbly-made lens, and stands in contrast to the fast telephoto zooms from other camera manufacturers (such as the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS, Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 VR II, the Olympus 35-100mm F2, and the Pentax 50-135mm F2.8).
This brings us on, rather neatly, to the slightly vexed issue of value - because the biggest problem with the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G is that it costs well over twice the price of its Sigma or Tamron equivalents. Of course this buys you that bulletproof metal build, and optics which are certainly better - but not necessarily by all that much. And whereas in Nikon or Canon land you get both environmental sealing and image stabilization for your money, with Sony the situation is rather different, as all lenses effectively gain stabilization though the in-body Super SteadyShot system. This means that the functional differences between the Sony and its cheaper competitors are very small indeed; however the Sigma's not as sharp, according to our tests, and the Tamron doesn't have ultrasonic focusing.
So, overall, the 70-200mm F2.8 G is the ideal lens for Alpha users who want the very best optics and focusing in a fast telezoom regardless of price. In particular it's a superb companion to both Sony's high resolution full-frame DSLRs, and enthusiast APS-C bodies such as the Alpha 700. The Sigma and Tamron equivalents run it very close indeed at a fraction of the price, and are well worthy of serious consideration for those on a tighter budget; but overall the Sony wins out over these for its all-round excellence.
Ergonomics and Handling
Professionals and advanced amateurs looking for high optical performance from a telephoto zoom
Not so good for
Applications which favor portability and convenience over all-out image quality
Sony's 70-200mm F2.8 G may be based on a 2003 Minolta design, but it's still the best fast telezoom available for Alpha mount users. However it's very pricey in comparison to the Sigma and Tamron alternatives, which are almost as good.
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