Using the Sony 500mm f4 G lens

Started May 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
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dbiela Regular Member • Posts: 159
Using the Sony 500mm f4 G lens

This past month I was in Washington DC to shoot the arrival of the orbiter Discovery at Dulles airport for the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and was able to put the new Sony 500mm f4 G lens to good use.

I am a working pro and have used both Nikon & Canon with each manufactures long lenses. Before moving over to Sony I did own the Canon 500mm f4 IS L lens and have tried the new MKII version. I also shot with both the Nikon 600 f5.6 manual lens and the current Nikon 600mm f4. Having used the Sony 500 f4 for a few weeks now I would say it is sharper then the Canon 500mm at all edges of a full frame camera. For on the go shooting I used the 500mm with the Sony a900 more often, I like this combination better then with the a77 / 500mm. Both cameras and lens were used with a monopod but with the a77 APS size sensor the 500mm becomes an effective 750mm and that is a very long lens to keep steady. If you use the lens on a good tripod both the a900 and a77 give great results. I feel when shooting on a tripod the in camera stabilization does help. The lens is sharp right out of the gate at f4 and I like this lens for its shallow depth of field. It does have a very small amount of CA that can show up on very contrasty subjects like the image of the window included but again it was just a very slight amount and +8 of correction on the red/cyan slider in Photoshop camera raw will take care of it. Also there is a small amount of vignetting at f4. I tend to like how the image looks and the vignetting is almost gone at f5.6. At below f8 the lens will start to show signs of diffraction and soften up the image. The lens has high sharpness at f4 and stopping down to f5.6 just gives you extra depth of field but not an increase in sharpness. At f11 I can see that fine detail starts to soften up. This is not to say that images taken at f11 or smaller openings are not usable or good. To me the lens outputting a sharp image at f4 is great. You buy a lens like this for its field of view, its light gathering ability and with shooting sports or people its limited depth of field. Think about some of the pro football images you have seen, quite a few of the images are shot wide open not only for the faster shutter speed but also to throw the back ground out of focus. If you used a small lens opening then its possible that the crowed behind the player would be too distracting. My other favorite lens is a 200mm f2 (hint to Sony or Zeiss) just for the extreme shallow depth of field. Also on the Canon 500mm f4 L lens I had to stop down to f5.6 for the image to sharpen up and I felt a little cheated that I bought an expensive f4 lens that I would use at f5.6 for the best quality. Focus is fast with both the a77 and a900 and can keep up with a moving object (like a Boeing 747). The viewfinder on the Sony a900 shows more of the lens movement/shake then with the Canon or Nikon camera & glass since they have the stabilization in the lens and not the camera.

Sony 500mm f4 G Lens

Fast focus
Sharp images at f4
Sharp to the edge on full frame camera
3 mounting holes in lens foot Two 1/4 20 and one 3/8ths holes
Focus hold button

Smaller in size then both the Nikon or Canon 500mm f4 and lighter then the Nikon 500mm.


Click stops for rotating camera horizontal or vertical are too faint for my taste when lens is mounted to a tripod I would have liked way to set the pressure or amount of detent/click

Lens hood - you have to take the cover off of the hood then take the hood off and rotate it around to attached it. ( Its just like the Canon hoods) It takes time to do this and I wish it was built in like some other manufactures have it.
Cost - no one wants to pay a lot for a lens no matter what camera system it is.

The lens is a tool that I use to create images and get paid for them. I would say not many people will need a lens of this caliber but for me I can justify it by the quality of its build and sharp image it can create for my work.


Shot wide open with the Sony a900 & 500mm f4 G lens on a Gitzo tripod

To show how much reach the 500mm has. Taken with a Sony NEX-7 and a 50mm lens

At Dulles Airport VA. The orbiter Discovery landing on top of NASA's 747. Sony a900, 500mm G lens iso100 f5.6@1500th sec.

Sony a900, 500mm f4 G lens, Gitzo CF Tripod and Manfrotto geared tripod head.

To show the limited depth of field at close distances like when shooting a bird or small animal. Distance across the image about 20in, distance from camera to subject 18ft. Plant distance from the plain of focus 20 to 24in

At f11

Taken with the Sony a77 and the 500mm. What is great about this combination is the lens has an effective focal length of 750mm and the SLT camera does not have a mirror that moves so a lot less camera vibration that reduces image quality.

I hope for those people interested it gives you some idea of what the lens is capable of.

Cheers Dennis Biela

 dbiela's gear list:dbiela's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-5N NEX5R Sony Alpha a99 Sony Alpha a7R Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +9 more
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