Reviews

Sony FE 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 G OSS Hands-on Review

Sony’s expansion of their full-frame portfolio shows no sign of abating, as they recently announced two new lenses in March: a 50mm f/1.8 and a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS.

Our Chinese editor Elton got a chance to bring the telephoto zoom around the beautiful Hong Kong Park in Central, to see if this is a worthy addition to the E-mount lineup. We’ve translated his thoughts into English to share the love from our HK site.

Price-wise, if you are a Sony shooter and want to shoot sports or wildlife, this is your best bet for a bargain telephoto, considering the Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G2 will cost you around US$1,000 more than the new 70-300mm, which is around US$1,200.

Lens size

The FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS is naturally not that small, since the designers had to cram in all that reach for full-frame cameras. However, when compared to the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM, Sony’s weighs 854g, while Canon’s is 1050g.

While Canon does have a slightly faster minimum aperture, the Sony G is a little more compact; although ultimately it is unbalanced due to the smaller weight and size of Sony’s full-frame bodies.

Lens barrel design

The lens zoom ring is very wide, especially when compared to the tiny focus ring. It’s assumed most photographers will be using this on autofocus, although the focus ring has a relatively good sensitivity for focus by wire.

There is a zoom lock, AF / MF switch, and a focus limiter, although it lacks a focus distance window. It has internal focusing, so the use of a polariser filter is possible. However, the lens doesn’t have internal zooming, and the barrel extends out and becomes relatively ungainly.

Autofocus

The rear focusing mechanism enables the lens to be both quick and quiet, although the speed of course depends on the camera body used. When we used it with the a7R II that has 399 phase detection points it performed reasonably well, although when we attached it to the a7S II with contrast detection, it sometimes hunted for focus.

What makes a huge difference for wildlife and portraiture is that it has a 1.2 m minimum focus distance, which makes it great for close-up shots.

Optical performance

Even though the FE 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 G OSS isn’t particularly fast, Sony have taken some extra care to provide quality glass to prevent aberrations and improve contrast.

At 70mm, the images at f/4.5 are moderately sharp in the centre, although it picks up at f/5.6. Along the edges, the optical performance only really becomes excellent around the corners at f/8. At 300mm, where the minimal aperture is f/5.6, all the images are sharp from f/8 in the centre until around f/16, due to telephoto diffraction.

Even though the lens has a 9 aperture blades that supposedly give a smoother bokeh, the bokeh isn’t impressive as with most lenses in this class. While the telephoto length does give the opportunity for images with a lot of depth of field, the bokeh seemed cluttered and dense.

Conclusion

The FE 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 G OSS isn’t the lightest lens out there, but we’ve long become accustomed to that from Sony glass. In fact, the build construction is pleasantly solid, although it is quite unbalanced on a small mirrorless body.

The optical quality is quite good, even though the variable minimal aperture means the camera is quite slow, and that the bokeh isn’t always as good as some other lenses in the Sony portfolio. One such telephoto we have in mind is the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS, which is only marginally more expensive at around US$1,500.

If you don’t mind missing out on an extra 100mm of reach, the 70-200mm f/4 G OSS has a fixed minimal aperture, better image quality, a more solid construction, and better bokeh.