Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Review

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens

I don't know who at Sony thought that creating a 200-600mm lens would be a good idea, but ... they were right. The Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens was an instant hit and this lens stayed on the out of stock list for a long time after hitting the streets.

Until this lens and the simultaneously introduced Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens were introduced, the longest native (without teleconverters or adapters) Sony telephoto focal length available was 400mm, leaving a great wildlife and sports photography demand awaiting both of these lenses.

The FE 200-600's focal length range, covering most of the range needed sports and wildlife photography, is ideal for a huge list of (primarily) outdoor subjects. This lens has a fixed, modest size with a weight that is handholdable and carry-able for long lengths of time. Everyone wants high-end professional-grade image quality and this lens has that. Add a relatively low price (less than the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens) and you have a recipe for unobtainability. As of review time, the supply chain issue has been resolved and you can readily get this lens in your hands.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens on Tripod

Focal Length Range

Though 200-600mm represents only a 3x zoom range, there are a lot of focal lengths covered in this range and the narrow angles of view included are perfect for wildlife and sports photographers. This range matches perfectly with the ultra-popular 70-200mm lenses and is a great complement to larger prime lenses such as the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens.

At the wide end of the focal length range, this lens is a great choice for portraits and with the subject distances dictated by this range, pleasing perspectives are assured. This zoom range is a great choice for chasing the kids outdoors.

I usually have a telephoto zoom lens in my landscape kit and while 200mm is sometimes modestly long for this choice, the entire focal length range has application in landscape photography, keeping distant subjects, including mountains, large in the frame. Long focal lengths are great for making colorful sky photos from even modestly nice sunrises and sunsets.

Photojournalists, law enforcement groups, and others with restricted access to their subjects will find this focal length range useful. This lens is especially awesome for airshow photography, where the light is usually bright and the background not distracting (more about these points soon).

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Sports Sample Picture

Sports photography needs can cover this entire focal length range and having the ability to track a continuously-properly-framed athlete from a distant location to a close position is a great asset. Having a zoom range vs. using a prime/fixed/single focal length lens means that the proper cropping can be established and maintained in-camera, resulting in full use of your camera's imaging sensor, which in turn results (potentially) in better overall image quality. At 600mm, the center of large playing fields can be covered even with a full frame camera, possibly even from the stands. Photograph surfers from a location beyond wave risk.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Bull Elk Sample Picture

Likely, the largest group of 200-600mm lens owners will be wildlife photographers. This group is often not able to get closer to their subjects due to physical barriers or intolerant subjects. This group sometimes does not want to get closer due to safety or comfort reasons. Sit in the comfort of your car, avoid the need to cross a creek, stay back from the surf, stay out of view, etc. There are few lenses with longer focal lengths and fewer with longer focal lengths that are compatible with teleconverters as this lens is.

Wildlife photographers do not always want tightly framed images and the 200mm end can show the environment along with the animal as illustrated below.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Bull Elk in Environment Sample Picture

As of review time, this telephoto zoom lens is the ideal zoo and safari lens option for many Sony-based kits.

Here is an example of what this focal length range looks like on a full frame camera:

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Focal Length Range Example

I know, you are wondering why those particular focal lengths were chosen for this comparison example. Yes, I was in Colorado and yes, I was high *in elevation only*. The real issue was that, especially due to the rain falling at the time, the lens had a LensCoat rain cover installed and the cover hid the focal length numbers. I simply turned the zoom ring slightly between shots, these were the ones randomly chosen, and hopefully you can find a focal length that is helpful for your comparison. Those considering the purchase of (or already own) a 100-400mm lens will likely find the 420mm vs. 600mm comparison interesting.

Those using an ASP-C/1.5x FOVCF sensor format camera will see an angle of view similar to a full-frame-mounted 300-900mm lens. This shifted-narrower angle of view range moves the 200-600mm range deeper into the sports and wildlife uses with bird photography and big-field sports being especially good uses of the resulting angles of view.

For what it's worth and in case you were wondering, the FE 200-600mm lens at 600mm ideally frames a 23.62" x 15.75" (600mm x 400mm) target from 31.1' vs. 32.55' (9.491m vs. 9.920m) for the FE 600mm f/4 lens, about 96% as far. Among very long zoom lenses, that is a small difference.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Front View

Max Aperture

Wider apertures, allowing more light to reach the sensor, permit freezing action, handholding the camera in lower light levels and/or using lower (less noisy) ISO settings. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, increasing the aperture opening permits a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths).

The advantages of a narrow aperture, because the lens elements can be reduced significantly in size, include a smaller overall lens size, a lighter weight, and a lower cost. Those are factors that we all can appreciate and getting the 200-600mm focal length range in a reasonably compact lens with a relatively light weight and affordable price means keeping this lens' max aperture opening narrow.

Because aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length and because this lens' maximum opening does not increase adequately with focal length increase to maintain the same ratio, the max aperture available is a variable one, optimizing for the diameter that is available. However, that variable range is a very short one, from f/5.6 to f/6.3 as the focal length range is increasingly traversed.

In the world of lenses, an f/5.6 max aperture is very narrow and f/6.3 is as narrow as major lens manufacturers produce. This lens is not an ideal choice for stopping low light action. When the sun goes down, action sports photographers using this lens (or similar models) will be reaching for very high (noisy) ISO settings to keep images bright enough when using the fast shutter speeds needed to freeze their subjects' motion. This lens is not the best choice for indoor sports or for anything else that moves quickly in low light.

Here is a comparative look at the max aperture step-down by focal length for this class of lens.

Modelf/4.0f/4.5f/5.0f/5.6f/6.3
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens 100-134mm135-311mm312-400mm 
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens 80-134mm135-249mm250-400mm 
Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens 60-75mm76-138mm139-347mm348-600mm
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens  100-111mm112-233mm134-400mm
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports  150-184mm185-320mm321-600mm
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C  150-179mm180-387mm388-600mm
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens 100-115mm116-161mm162-400mm 
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens   200-299mm300-600mm
Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens 100-136mm137-180mm181-280mm281-400mm
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens  150-212mm213-427mm428-600mm

While this is a dark lens, it falls in line with the others in its class with differences generally not more than 1/3 stop at any focal length and that difference will not be a decision factor for most photographers.

This lens cannot create the shallowest depth of field among lenses falling within its focal length range, but by virtue of its long focal lengths, it can create a very strong background blur.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Top View with Hood

Image Stabilization

Sony marketing touts their cameras as having IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization), but many of their lenses, including this one, also feature OSS (Optical SteadyShot). While perhaps not immediately clear, these two stabilization systems are complementary: "5-axis image stabilization becomes available when used with α series bodies that feature built-in image stabilization." [Sony] And, clear imagery is what this combo stabilization system delivers.

While narrow apertures are not optimal under low light conditions, this lens' optical image stabilization system can save the day in such conditions, significantly increasing the versatility of this lens, improving usability and, in many situations, considerably improving the image quality it delivers.

A number of stops of assistance rating is often provided by a manufacturer, but in this case, Sony does not specify one for the lens specifically. While I won't claim to have conducted these tests on my steadiest day, handholding this lens under ideal conditions, using a Sony a7R III, provided good 200mm results at 1/15 sec. with sporadic sharp results at exposures as long as 0.2 seconds. Most 600mm results were sharp at 1/50 sec. with sporadic sharp results until 1/20 seconds. It is not hard to discern that the combination of image stabilization systems are helping considerably.

Photographing outside, perhaps in the wind or on unstable footing? Expect to need faster exposures than those I reported. But, also expect a similar amount of assistance from OSS as it is still similarly and significantly compensating for shake.

While OSS is great for reducing camera shake-caused blur in images, it is also very helpful for precise framing of subjects in the viewfinder, especially with the narrow angle of view at 600mm. While OSS is active, drifting of framing is not an issue and the viewfinder view is well-controlled, not jumping at startup/shutdown and subject reframing is quite easy to accomplish.

Along with the standard Mode I, Mode II (panning mode, stabilization in one direction only) and III (stabilization provided only at precise moment image is captured) are provided. This OSS system is almost completely silent with only a faint whir heard with my ear nearly against the lens. The switch on the lens controls both the lens and in-body image stabilization systems and that mentioned faint whir is heard when the switch is enabled and when disabled. Handheld video recording is nicely assisted by OSS and the stabilized composition also provides a still subject to the camera's AF system, permitting it to do its job better.

Image Quality

Especially for this lens design, featuring a wide range of long focal lengths in a small package, and for what it costs, I'm impressed with the image quality the FE 200-600mm lens delivers.

In summary, this lens is very sharp from full frame corner to full frame corner at the widest apertures over the full range of focal lengths and only minor improvement is seen at narrower apertures. The 200mm focal length results are slightly softer than the rest, but only slightly so. That this lens is sharp wide-open is especially important due to the softening effects of diffraction showing up at only one or two stop narrower apertures.

Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center of the frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R III. The images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that even modestly-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the true characteristics of a lens.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

200mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0  
400mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0  
600mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0   Bee

Sorry, I got a little carried away with the number of samples. So many sets of test results looked great and I couldn't decide which to share, so ... I just shared many. If you only look at one of the results, check out the 100% crop of the bee captured wide-open at f/6.3. That is impressive performance for a zoom lens.

As always, be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus to base your opinions on.

In some lens designs, the plane of sharp focus can move forward or backward as a narrower aperture is selected. This is called focus shift (residual spherical aberration or RSA), it is seldom (never?) desired, and this lens does not exhibit such.

Next we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme-top-right-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. These images were manually focused in the corner of the frame.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

200mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0
400mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0
600mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0

Without lateral CA correction, these results are quite impressive. The benefit of stopping down, aside from increased depth of field, is the clearing of some vignetting. Having sharp extreme corners is not always important, but when it is, this lens gets that job done.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens' entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings and this lens does not break that rule. However, the shading is rather mild and wide-open shading does not vary much over the focal length range. Plan on about 1.5 stops of corner shading at wide-open apertures. At f/8, about half a stop of shading remains at 200mm and by 400mm, the amount begins gradually increasing until just over 1 stop of shading remains at 600mm f/8. Shading continues to vacate at f/11 with a negligible amount remaining at the wide end and only about half a stop remaining at 600mm f/11.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle circumvent most vignetting problems.

One stop of shading is the amount often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely-varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting can be corrected during post processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the greatest amount as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide though it is always better to not have the problem in the first place. This lens' color misalignment can easily be seen in the image quality tool and in the corner crops just presented, but let's also look at a set of 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of Sony a7R III frames where diagonal black and white lines illustrate color separation.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

There should be only black and white colors in these images and the additional colors are showing the presence of lateral CA. Interesting is that the lateral CA, especially at 600mm, does not appear as strong here as in the other two referenced image sets. As a summary, I'm seeing a small amount of lateral CA at 200mm that increases in strength until it is moderately strong at 600mm.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

In the examples below, look at the fringing colors in the out of focus specular highlights created by the neutrally-colored subjects. Any color difference is being introduced by the lens.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

Some color fringing differences are seen at 200mm, but by 400mm, it is hard to distinguish these issues.

Sony Nano AR Coating has been used on this lens to reduce flare and ghosting. Our standard flare testing uses the sun in the corner of the frame and most lenses, especially telephoto lenses, show noticeable flaring at narrow apertures in this test. We only test up to 400mm focal lengths (we don't like to let the smoke out of cameras), but the wide-open 200-400mm results show a relatively modest amount of flaring.

The FE 200-600mm lens shows a moderate amount of pincushion distortion that varies little over the focal length range. Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available for the popular image processing software and distortion can be easily removed using these, but distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level. Some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions must be reduced.

The blur and quality of blur seen in the out of focus portions of an image are referred to as bokeh. The amount of blur a lens can produce is easy to show and the focal lengths featured in this lens are great for this. Assessing the quality is a much harder challenge due in part to the number of variables present in any scene but in that regard, I like what I've been seeing. Here are some f/11 (for interaction with the 11-blade aperture) examples of defocused specular highlights.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Bokeh Example

The cat's eye bokeh effect, a form of mechanical vignetting appearing in the wide-open aperture corners, is shown in the next set of samples. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the corner of the imaging sensor, the shape is not round and that is the shape seen here. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the peripheral shapes becoming round. These examples show the top-right 1/3 corner of the frame.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

Expect to see some out-of-round shapes at wide apertures. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced and the mechanical vignetting is reduced.

With an odd-numbered aperture blade count, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture and showing a star-like effect will have 22 points (2x the aperture blade count). Wide aperture lenses combined with the narrowest aperture available tends to produce the best quality stars.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Sunstar Effect Example

This is not a wide aperture lens and even at f/22 as illustrated above, the results are not remarkable.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Design

This lens design contains one Aspherical lens (1) and numerous ED (extra-low dispersion) glass elements. That design creates very impressive image quality.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Angle Back View

Focusing

All photographers want internal, fast, smooth, and quiet autofocus, but accurate autofocus is paramount to realizing the ultimate image quality a lens can produce. The Sony 200-600's AF is driven by a DDSSM (Direct Drive SSM) system and it checks all of those boxes.

This lens autofocuses quite fast in good light — it is a dark lens so slow focusing in low light is a non-surprising attribute of this lens. Autofocusing is nearly silent with only very light clicking heard by an ear close to the lens. A narrow aperture lens is not going to challenge a camera's AF system as much as a narrower aperture equivalent (where the depth of field becomes shallower), but this lens' AF accuracy has been very good with one exception. The Sony a7R IV (with early firmware) in AF-C AF mode seems to waver AF distance slightly with a significant percentage of images rendered slightly out of focus. I expect this issue to be resolved via a firmware update.

Common to Sony FE lenses are 3 AF hold buttons, located at the top, bottom and left side of the lens. The right side of the lens does not get a button for some reason and while I might make use of such a button in that position (when holding the camera in vertical orientation), the other three buttons are sufficient and I appreciate having them. While in continuous focus mode, these buttons can be pressed to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique without changing back to AF-S (Single) mode. If you don't value this feature, use the camera menu to program these buttons for different functionality.

A focus limiter switch permits selection of the full focus distance range, 7.9'- 32.8' (2.4m - 10m), or the 32.8' (10m) - ∞ range with the narrower range improving AF speed in some situations. This lens focuses internally and full time manual focusing is available when the camera is in DMF (Direct Manual Focus) mode and the shutter release is half-pressed or the AF-ON button is pressed.

The rear position of the MF ring is not my favorite design but it works fine for this lens (especially if not in DMF mode which facilitates inadvertent changes being made). The left hand balance point is at the front edge of the focus ring and I often incorporate the tripod foot into the hold. With the tripod foot resting in my hand, the focus ring is not contacted and the fingertips are positioned to turn the zoom ring.

The FE 200-600 provides a great manual focus experience. The manual focus ring is significant in size and it is very smooth. While I might prefer slightly more turn resistance, what is provided is good and a slight amount of additional rotational resistance can be had by holding a small amount of lens barrel along with the ring to manually impart drag. A slightly slower focus distance adjustment rate would be helpful at 600mm

The smooth focus ring surface with nice shallow rubber ribs provide a good tactile experience.

This lens has focus breathing very nicely under control. Subjects in the frame go in and out of focus, but the framing remains quite consistent in appearance.

While a distance window is not provided, a focus distance meter shows in the lower portion of Sony's electronic viewfinders during manual focusing.

An advantage of an electronic focusing implementation is that parfocal-ness can be (at least nearly) tuned into the lens and the review lens appears to support focal length adjustment after focusing.

At the Sony 200-600 G lens' 94.49" (2400mm) minimum focus distance (MFD), this lens delivers a reasonable/mediocre 0.20x maximum magnification (MM).

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens38.4"(975mm)0.31x
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens68.9"(1750mm)0.20x
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E AF-S VR Lens86.2"(2190mm)0.22x
Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens23.6"(600mm)0.30x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens102.4"(2600mm)0.20x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens110.2"(2800mm)0.20x
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens38.6"(980mm)0.35x
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens94.5"(2400mm)0.20x
Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens177.6"(4510mm)0.14x
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens86.6"(2200mm)0.26x

At 600mm, a subject measuring approximately 8.8" x 5.9" (224 x 149mm) will fill the frame at the minimum focus distance.

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and greater magnification? An extension tube mounted behind this lens should provide a modest improvement in these regards. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, permitting shorter focusing distances at the expense of the ability to focus to long-distances. Electronic connections in extension tubes allow the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. Sony does not publish extension tube specs nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony extension tubes are available.

Making a much bigger difference in magnification at any distance are teleconverters and the Sony FE 200-600mm G OSS Lens is compatible with the Sony FE 1.4x and Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverters.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens with Teleconverter

The addition of a 1.4x Teleconverter creates an attractive full frame 280-840mm OSS lens with a 1-stop narrower max aperture (f/8-9). While the focal length versatility provided by the TC is very nice, magnifying the image by 1.4x usually has an impact on image quality. This lens is sharp enough at 600mm that the sharpness impact at 840mm is mild and there is little effect on lateral CA. Most obvious is the lateral CA being magnified. Positive is that the 1.4x increases barrel distortion the right amount to offset the native 600mm pincushion distortion, resulting in a very well-corrected distortion profile.

Autofocus performance is one impact that teleconverters can have on a lens. In this case, performance with the 1.4x remains good in reasonable light levels. It was a dark, cloudy day when I tested this performance and, outdoors, focusing performance remained fine. Indoors with only dim ambient lighting caused focusing to slow down considerably and sometimes fail after some hunting.

Use the 2x Teleconverter to create an impressive 600-1200mm OSS Lens with a 0.40 max magnification and with ... painful on a slow lens, 2-stops of max aperture loss. This combo results in an f/11-13 max aperture range. I am seldom enamored with the performance of 2x teleconverters and you will likely find the 800mm f/11 image quality a bit rough – though not terrible.

Lateral CA is very noticeably increased by the 2x and correction of that will make a noticeable difference in results. Again positive is that the 2x increases barrel distortion, offsetting the native 600mm pincushion distortion, resulting in a well-corrected distortion profile.

The 2x has a more-noticeable impact on focus speed, though it remains quite usable in the outdoor conditions I just described. In more dimly lit scenarios, focusing is slow and hunting with eventual failure is more common.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Angle View

Build Quality & Features

If you have used a Sony G lens, you likely know what to expect from the 200-600 in terms of build quality. This is a very nice quality lens.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Product Images

It is typical for a lens manufacturer to maintain at least some consistency across lens models and the FE 200-600mm G lens shares many of the FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM and FE 100-400 GM's design features. Shared features in this case include a great physical appearance with the same matte-light gray/white color looking sharp against the black zoom and focus rings. The light color also promises to keep the lens cooler under direct sunlight.

Also shared is a comfortable and attractive relatively-constant diameter over the length of the lens. Shared with the 70-200 is a fixed lens size. There are no worries about gravity zooming or bumping into something when zooming to 600mm.

The zoom ring is big and requires only a slight amount of rotational force to turn it and only a short 62° of rotation is needed to go from 200mm to 600mm, allowing fast focal length selection. As common with Sony zoom lenses, a clockwise zoom ring rotation selects a longer focal length. Those familiar with Canon lenses will require some mental retraining as this zoom ring rotates in the reverse direction while the Nikon or Sony-experienced will feel right at home with this design.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Side View

The shallow, well-populated switch bank is conveniently located with all typically-available switches present in recessed form. Two switch width sizes reference primary and secondary functionality for each pair. Unlike some switch-less Sony lenses that require camera settings changes for enabling or disabling features such as MF and OSS, this one provides the functionality at your fingertips, enabling fast and easily discernable changes.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Mount

This is a weather-sealed lens (not to be confused with waterproof), as hinted to by the mount gasket seal seen above and verified by Sony's gasket illustration below.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Weather Sealing

"The lens’s front element features a fluorine coating that helps to prevent dirt and fingerprints from sticking, and makes it easier to wipe dirt and fingerprints away if they do become attached to the lens surface." [Sony] These coatings work very well and are especially appreciated when a front element cleaning becomes necessary in the field, where this lens will find frequent use.

While this lens is excellently-designed and great to use, the camera's grip is a factor and (you are likely tired of hearing this) I'm not a fan of the current crop of Sony Alpha camera grips, even including the much-improved a7R IV. While these cameras are compact, their grips are not sufficient to provide clearance for the knuckles on my small-large-sized hand to clear the lens. Adding gloves to the mix is not helpful in regard to working space.

While this lens is relatively compact, there is no getting around the physical requirements that make a 200-600mm lens somewhat large and heavy relative to standard/normal zoom lenses. Those never using one of these lenses may require some acclimation and a monopod or tripod may be found helpful for weight relief during very long periods of use, but ... most do not have a problem using lenses of this size for relatively long periods of time.

Next, we'll take a comparative look at current 200-600mm lenses (OK, there is only one) along with similar variants, focusing primarily on the size and weight aspects. The Sony FE 200-600 GM Lens weighs more than all other shared telephoto zoom lens options except the Sigma 150-600mm Sports Lens.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens56.1(1590)3.7 x 7.6(94.0 x 193.0)772014
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens55.4(1570)3.8 x 8.0(95.5 x 203.0)772013
Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens95.3(2700)4.7 x 10.6(120.4 x 268.9)1052018
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens40.9(1160)3.4 x 7.2(86.4 x 182.3)672017
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens101.0(2860)4.8 x 11.4(121.9 x 289.6)1052014
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens68.1(1930)4.1 x 10.2(105.0 x 260.1)952015
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens49.2(1395)3.7 x 8.1(93.9 x 205.0)772017
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens74.8(2120)4.5 x 12.5(115.5 x 318.0)952019
Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens107.3(3040)6.4 x 17.7(163.6 x 449.0)DI 40.52019
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens71.0(2010)4.3 x 10.2(108.4 x 260.2)952016

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

I find visual comparisons extremely helpful:

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

In the image above, the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens is set amid the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens in both their retracted and extended positions.

This lens is included in the site's normal product image comparison tool, enabling easy comparisons between the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens and other lenses. However, the size of this lens resulted in significant cropping at this standard. Thus, we have also included this lens in the site's big lens product image comparison tool where it can be visually compared to other large lenses.

The 95mm standard threaded filters this lens is compatible with are large and expensive. However, that this lens is compatible with standard threaded filters is a very positive feature, one that sometimes disappears on large lenses.

This lens is too large and heavy to hang from a camera-mounted tripod and doing so will result in significant sag after the head is tightened and will potentially tip the tripod over. Using a lens of this size mounted on a tripod ring is very easy and vertical orientation is easier to achieve than with any camera-mounted setup as the tripod ring can simply be loosened – allowing for rotation of the camera – and retightened.

The tripod ring included with this lens is very nicely integrated into the design. This ring is not removable, but that design decision aids in the smoothness of this ring in use and this is a very smooth-rotating tripod ring, showing smooth rotation while being tightened, right up until the point of being locked.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Foot

While the 200-600's tripod ring is not removable, the foot itself is. A large thumbscrew on the side of the foot unlocks the foot, allowing it to be removed. When everything is locked tight, this foot is quite solid.

Both 1/4" and 3/8" are provided on the bottom of the foot, permitting direct attachment of accessories including straps and lens plates. Two threaded inserts (vs. one) allows lens plates to be more securely attached (most lens plates will require a 3/8"-16 to 1/4"-20 Reducer Bushing), resolving the twisting issue that can occur in single threaded-insert designs. Better still would have been for Sony to have machined the standard dovetail mount in the provided foot. The Wimberley AP-620 Lens Foot shown attached in some of the product images in this review is the ideal solution.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Replacement Foot

The tripod ring has a pair of neck strap attachment points and a camera-style neck strap is included in the box.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Strap

This lens is a significant weight to be hanging from a lens mount and supporting the setup from a lens-attached strap is a good idea. I carried this lens with Black Rapid Sport Breathe camera strap much of the time.

The quite large Sony ALC-SH157 lens hood is included in the box. This hood provides significant protection from flare-inducing light and from dust, rain, and impact. The rounded style of this hood means that the lens will sit upright on it – when you can trust doing so. The rubber-coated end of the hood is a nice touch, adding some protection and decreasing the slip factor when it is sitting on a surface. The rubber is also nice to have when bracing the camera against something to steady the shot.

The hood is constructed of quality plastic and is quite rigid for its thickness. A push-button release has been omitted on this bayonet-mount hood, but installation is easy with a solid click into the locked position. The interior is matte-finished (not flocked) for reflection avoidance.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Case

This lens comes with a large, nicely-constructed, fleece-lined nylon drawstring pouch. The semi-rigid bottom of this pouch has significant padding.

I wanted to carry this lens alongside the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens in the field and wanted a case that was compact, protective, easy to carry, and quick to access. The Tenba Solstace 10L Sling Bag is what I opted for and it worked well (I moved the padded dividers to under the lens).

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Cap

95mm lens caps are not small.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Angle View with Hood

Price and Value

While not an inexpensive lens, the features and quality, especially image quality, make this lens a great bargain.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including both full frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

I purchased the reviewed Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens online-retail.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens on Tripod with Hood

Alternatives to the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens

Staying in the Sony family, the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens seems the most obvious alternative telephoto zoom lens to compare.

In the image quality comparison, we see two excellent lenses competing closely. The 100-400 has a slight advantage in the center of the frame at 200mm, the 200-600's weakest (but still good) focal length. Most of that difference is gone at f/6.3. The 100-400 has modestly more vignetting at 400mm.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens vs. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens comparison shows the 200-600 considerably larger and about 50% heavier than the 100-400. The 200-600 has a fixed size with the 100-400 making up some of the difference when extended. The 200-600 has 11 aperture blades vs. 9 and a 95mm filter size vs. 77mm. The 100-400 focuses significantly closer, 38.58" vs. 94.49" (980mm vs. 2400mm), and has a higher maximum magnification (0.35x vs. 0.20x). The 100-400 has a 1/3-stop-wider aperture available from 300-400mm and has a longer zoom ring rotation (95° vs. 62°). The 100-400 costs 25% more than the 200-600 at review time.

Those looking for a lens for mostly wildlife photography will likely want the 200-600 though the 200 end can be modestly long for environmental wildlife images (shoot a panorama). Those wanting a landscape telephoto zoom and a more general purpose lens will likely appreciate the size and range of the 100-400 better. Planning to carry a 600 f/4 at the same time? I'd go with the 100-400.

Sigma and Tamron make several 150-600mm lenses, advantaged by 50mm on the wide end, and I'll choose the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens to compare in part because it has the same list price as the Sony. In the image quality comparison, visualization skills are required to discern between the two camera brands and resolutions the test images were captured at. I'll give the Sony lens a modest edge in the overall comparison. The Sony lens has less vignetting in the 200mm corners (the two are similar mid-frame). The Sigma has less geometric distortion.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens vs. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens comparison shows the two lenses sized similarly but the Sigma lens weighs about 1/3 more than the Sony lens. The Sony lens has 11 aperture blades vs. 9. Even larger than the Sony lens' 95mm filters are the Sigma's 105mm filters. The Sigma lens requires an adapter for use on Sony cameras.

Interesting is that Canon and Nikon have yet to offer a to-600mm compact lens in their latest model lines.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Side View with Hood

Summary

The FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens was a great addition to Sony's E-mount lens lineup. This lens along with the simultaneously introduced Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens significantly extended the dimension of available focal length choices, providing great options for especially wildlife and sports photographers.

I bought this lens just before my fall workshop season and subsequently captured thousands of images with it. Most importantly, the lens reliably produced great image quality and I didn't hesitate to use it whenever circumstances called for it.

This lens was not a burden to carry, even when I carried it for complementary purposes beside the FE 600mm f/4, and the design of the FE 200-600 is very nice, making it a pleasure to use.

The FE 200-600 is not a wide aperture lens but along with the relatively narrow aperture comes portability and affordability. All of this lens' positive features combined with the reasonable price created an instant hit and the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens was unobtainable for many months after it hit the streets. The demand was certainly justified and, thanks to supply finally catching up, the lens is now readily available.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

My Recommended Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered, and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my purchases. Get your Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
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Rent the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens
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