The fast, full-frame 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom is a very popular lens. We test five of the best proprietary and third-party versions
The Sony 70-200mm is the oldest lens in this test, having being announced in June 2006. More than six years on, it still commands a high price that almost equals the most expensive models in this group.
In the hand, Sony’s lens feels like a solid bit of kit, with a durable metal barrel in the company’s distinctive professional Alpha off-white colour.
It is not officially weather-sealed, however, and it lacks the rubber ring on its lens mount. In practice, this may never prove a problem, but is something worth considering for anyone likely to take the lens into extreme conditions.
Both the focus and focal-length rings are wide and easy to locate with eye to viewfinder. They are smooth to rotate and easy to grip, even in wet conditions, thanks to the ridged rubber surface. At least three turns of the focus ring are required to travel from 1.2m to infinity, while the focal range ring needs a 90° turn to zoom from 70mm to 200mm.
At 90° intervals around the front of the lens are three AF-stop buttons, so no matter the orientation of the lens, one of these buttons is close to hand.
This is the only lens in the group that does not have optical stabilisation – but it does not need to, because Sony provides its stabilisation in-camera instead. So given a lack of stabilisation and weather-sealing, £1,600 seems a little steep.
Three switches control autofocus and include AF/MF, a focus limiter to the minimum 3m or full, and a direct manual focus (DMF) corrector mode for standard or full-time control. Autofocus overrides control of the manual focus ring in standard, and vice versa in full time.
Supplied with the lens is a durable, 100mm-deep, petal-shaped lens hood. Its flat ends enable the lens to stand upright when it is attached. The inside is lined with felt to reduce light reflections reaching the lens, and a window opening on the underside provides access to any filters that may be in use.
Like the Canon version, the supplied collar can only be removed when the lens is not mounted on a camera body.
By number alone, the lens construction is the least ‘complex’ in this test, consisting of 19 elements in 16 groups, four of which are ED elements.
Sony’s Super Sonic wave Motor (SSM) provides near-silent autofocus. Of course, AF speed is affected by the camera system being used – the responsiveness of the Alpha 99 is different to that of the Canon EOS-1D X, for example.
The AF of the Sony set-up is reliable and speedy, but not quite to the extent of the Tamron and Canon lenses when used on the EOS-1D X, or the Nikon lens used on the Nikon D4, although it is a match for the Sigma lens when mounted to a D4.
Image: Like the Nikon lens, the bokeh in this scene taken with the Sony lens is nicely rounded
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G specifications:
Street price: Around £1,600
Filter diameter: 77mm
Lens elements: 19
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum focus: 1.2m
Lens mount: Sony Alpha