Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Review

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens

Substantially improving one of the most important, most useful lenses in a line-up is a sure recipe for a best-selling product. The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens, succeeding the ultra-popular Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens, has that recipe.

This fully-featured lens produces outstanding image quality and has G Master build quality, high-performance AF, optical image stabilization, and incredible utility. That this lens lost a hard-to-believe amount of weight is alone a reason to upgrade.

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II is a must-have lens for professional and serious amateur photographers (and parents) with Sony-based kits.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens on Tripod

Focal Length Range

The focal length range (or individual focal lengths for prime lenses) is a primary consideration for a lens purchase or selection for use. Focal length matters because it drives subject distance choices, and those distances determine perspective.

What is a 70-200mm lens useful for? The list of uses for a short-mid-telephoto focal length range is very long, but I'll defer that list, first sharing a look at this focal length range (note that the sample images in this section are courtesy of the version I lens).

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens Focal Length Range Example

You would probably classify the images in this example as fitting into the landscape category, and this is a great landscape lens. When landscape photography is mentioned, many immediately think of wide-angle lenses, but telephoto focal lengths are a vital part of a landscape lens kit. It seems easy to create outstanding landscape images when using telephoto focal lengths, especially when emphasizing a distant subject, such as a mountain, sunset, or clouds.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens Sample Picture Clouds

Perhaps more highly recognized is that 70-200mm lenses provide an ideal range of portrait focal lengths. Head and shoulder portraits at the wide end of this range show an especially nice perspective, and at 200mm, even tight headshots retain an excellent perspective.

This lens is often the first choice for photographing people in the home, in the yard, at the beach, at the park, in the studio, or at a wide variety of events and venues. The 70-200mm focal length range is extremely popular for covering events, including weddings, performances (including kids on stage), and speaking engagements.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens Sample Picture Race Car

This focal length range is ideal for photographing people participating in sports and other action scenarios. While the 200mm focal length will often be found too wide for large field sports photography, it works very well for closer action such as that found at track and field meets, on the basketball court, and sometimes, at the races. Basketball is typically played indoors, and with the f/2.8 aperture (more on this soon), indoor action sports are within this lens's capabilities.

The longer focal lengths and aided strongly by the wide f/2.8 aperture can turn the background of images into diffusely-blurred colors, and that attribute is especially great for portraits where the background cannot be fully controlled, including at sporting events and performances captured from a seat in the audience.

If you want to make money with a camera, photographing people is one of the best opportunities. This lens, easily covering the classic portrait range of 85mm through 135mm full-frame angle of view is ideally suited for this purpose.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens Sample Picture Fawn

While portrait photography generally refers to images of people being captured, some of us also refer to certain types of wildlife photos as portraits. These images typically include the animal at least nearly filling the frame, and for that task, this focal length range often falls short — unless the wildlife subject is very large and/or very close (I'll discuss the teleconverter options later in the review). Hoever, if capturing environmental wildlife portraits, a subject in its environment, or captive wildlife, including at the zoo, the 70-200mm focal length range will often be found perfect.

Another great use for telephoto lenses is to focus on closer details, optionally allowing a strong background blur to isolate those details within the image.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens Sample Picture Boat

A 70-200mm lens is my most-used studio lens. Such lenses work especially well for product images and many other general studio applications.

Mount a 70-200mm lens on a Sony APS-C-format camera (1.5x FOVCF) and the angle of view (AOV) becomes like that of a 105-300mm lens on a full-frame camera. While the narrower AOV does not greatly change the uses list for this lens, these AOVs make widely-framed portraits less ideal, and most will prefer this AOV range for sports and wildlife pursuits.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Front View

Max Aperture

This lens has a very wide f/2.8 max aperture, and that this fixed max aperture is available over the entire focal length range is a significant asset.

What are the advantages of a wide aperture? More light reaches the imaging sensor, allowing action (both subject and camera) to be stopped in lower light levels via a faster shutter speed and permitting use of lower, less noisy ISO settings. Also, a wide aperture enables creation of a shallower, better-subject-isolating depth of field.

While those photographing landscapes with this lens may not find the wide f/2.8 aperture mandatory, those capturing portraits or photographing low light events, including sporting events, will love the faster shutter speeds and lower ISO settings made possible by the additional light reaching their imaging sensors. F/2.8 remains the narrowest aperture I want to use when photographing many indoor activities. In addition to stopping action in low light, the wide aperture invites handholding the camera in much lower light levels.

I often talk about the compositional advantages of a clean border, and one way to achieve such is to blur the background. This lens has that feature. Zoom to 200mm, open the aperture wide to f/2.8, move in close to your subject, and watch the distracting background melt away.

The two images below illustrate the maximum background blur this lens can create.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Maximum Blur Example

The extra light a wide aperture provides to a camera's AF system is very advantageous to that function.

What are the disadvantages of a wide aperture? Increased size and weight accompany this attribute. The other wide aperture disadvantage one can count on is increased price over similar focal length range lenses with narrower apertures. Usually, the advantages outweigh those disadvantages, and the weight difference is especially minimal at review time.

Driving the popularity of 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses is that the cost of the next longer f/2.8 lens options are much larger, significantly heavier, and considerably more expensive. This lens model often represents many photographers' upper tolerance level in those regards.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Aperture Ring

As usual for Sony FE GM and G prime lenses, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens features an aperture ring. Right, this is not a prime lens, and it is the first Sony FE zoom lens to gain this feature.

The aperture ring permits a manually chosen aperture to be selected. The camera controls the aperture setting with the ring in the A (Auto) position. All other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening. A 2-position switch on the bottom right side of the lens toggles the aperture ring between 1/3 stop clicks and smooth, quiet, non-clicked adjustments, ideal for video recording.

Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring (especially when photographing in the dark). I often say that incorporating a lock for this ring would eliminate that issue, and this lens features that lock in the form of a switch. The Iris Lock switch holds the ring in the A position or within the manual range.

The ribber aperture ring slightly complicates tactilely finding the zoom ring.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Top View with Hood

Image Stabilization

The longer the focal length, the larger subject details (captured at the same distance) are rendered, and the more still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels, the source of image blur. Image stabilization, OSS (Optical SteadyShot) in this case, is an extremely valuable feature in any lens and an especially valuable feature in a telephoto lens.

Sony marketing touts their cameras as also having IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization). Perhaps not immediately clear is that 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] One example of the IBIS benefit is camera rotation correction, which the lens cannot perform.

Clear imagery is what this combo stabilization system delivers.

Another image stabilization benefit is its aid to AF precision. The camera's AF system can produce improved focus precision if the image it sees is stabilized.

Sony does not provide an assistance rating in stops for this lens.

The OSS difference seen in the viewfinder is significant, and image stabilization is helpful for stabilizing the viewfinder, aiding in optimal composition. Handheld movie recording quality is significantly improved by image stabilization.

While OSS is active, drifting of framing is not an issue, and the viewfinder view is well-controlled, not jumping at startup/shutdown and permitting easy reframing. A faint, scratchy whir is heard when the switch is enabled — and when it is disabled.

Along with the standard Mode I, Mode II (panning mode, stabilization in one direction only), and Mode III (stabilization provided only at precise moment image is captured) are provided via a switch. The On/Off switch on the lens controls both the lens and in-body image stabilization systems simultaneously.

When you need/want to leave the tripod behind, OSS is there for you, helping to ensure sharp images and adding significant versatility to this lens. When vibrations, such as those caused by wind, are present when using a tripod, OSS can save the day, enabling image capture not otherwise pOSSible.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Angle View

Image Quality

Add a II to an already high-performing, ultra-useful lens, talk about "superb resolution", and show me the MTF charts below, and I'm excited to get my hands on that lens.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens MTF Charts

MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) describes how well a lens can reproduce fine details, measured as the degree of contrast achieved between finely spaced lines.

[1] Contrast (%) [2] Distance from optical center of lens (mm) [3] At 70mm / Max. aperture [4] At 70mm / F8 aperture [5] At 200mm / Max. aperture [6] At 200mm / F8 aperture [7] Spatial frequency [8] 10 line pairs / mm [9] 30 line pairs / mm [10] R: Radial values T: Tangential values

With my hands on the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens, I can say that my expectations were, minimally, met. Wide-open at f/2.8, this lens produces extremely sharp results across the entire full-frame image circle over the entire focal length range.

If only looking at the f/2.8 results, most would be very happy. However, a slight sharpness improvement is imparted at narrower apertures. With a modest resolution and contrast improvement showing at f/3.2, the results become razor-sharp. Only a slight improvement shows at f/4.

Typically, a zoom lens performs best in the middle focal lengths, but this one shows little sharpness difference throughout the range. In addition to being able to select the desired aperture, photographers can select the appropriate focal length for the image capture, all without concern about image sharpness.

Moving out to the periphery of the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness. However, this lens continues to deliver sharp imagery in the periphery of the full-frame image circle, even at f/2.8. Stopping down primarily reduces peripheral shading.

These images were captured in RAW format using a Sony Alpha a1 and processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method. The sharpening amount was set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

70mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
100mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
135mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
200mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0

Be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus for your evaluations.

Typically, I find the resolution chart to be more brutal than real-world subject for lens image quality evaluation. In this case, the outdoor results show a bit more improvement at f/4 than the chart shows.

Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme top left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

70mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
100mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
135mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
200mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. This lens proves itself impressive in this regard. As mentioned before, peripheral shading clearing is the primary difference imparted by stopping down to f/4.

This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA). Many modern lenses automatically correct for focus shift, though focus breathing (more later) can create slight angle of view changes.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, a lens can be expected to create peripheral shading at the widest aperture settings. However, the about two stops of f/2.8 corner shading this lens produces are relatively low — good performance. At f/4, corner shading is reduced by a stop. By f/8 and narrower apertures, very low shading amounts remain — about 0.25 stops.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the just-over one-stop of shading showing at 200mm f/2.8 may be visible in some images, especially those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing in the corners, and the about 0.5 stops at the wider focal lengths will seldom be noticed.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable 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. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. 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 most significant amount as this is where the most significant 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. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.

Color misalignment can be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. The images below are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of a1 frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

Only black and white colors should appear in these images, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. While there is slight color separation showing in the 70mm results, the other results are remarkably good.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. 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 observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. 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.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

The mid focal length results show a moderate amount of color blur difference, but the separation at the extremities is minor.

Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image are variable, dependant on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings.

"To avoid any unwanted flare and ghosting in challenging lighting conditions, Sony's original Nano AR Coating II produces a uniform anti-reflection coating on the surface of the lens. In addition, the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II's optical design also effectively suppresses internal reflections to improve clarity." [Sony]

Long focal length lenses tend to share significant flare effects in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test, but this lens performs very well, showing only minimal effects in the harsh test.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality. Thus, high flare resistance is a positive trait of this lens.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of a1 images.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Coma Example

Rare is a zoom lens with no geometric distortion over its entire zoom range, and this one is no exception. Expect barely recognizable pincushion distortion at 70mm to become slightly recognizable at 100mm, and modest at 135mm and 200mm.

Most modern lenses have correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the amount of blur a lens can create, and telephoto lenses are inherently advantaged in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes, assessing the bokeh quality is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Bokeh Example

70mm | 100mm | 135mm | 200mm   70mm | 200mm

The first set of examples shows defocused highlights being nicely rounded and smoothly filled — as desired. The second set of examples show full images reduced in size and looking very nice.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round, and that is the shape seen here.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

Normal truncation of the circular shapes shows in the periphery at f/2.8. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.

An 11-blade count diaphragm will create 22 point sunstars from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. In general, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and this lens can produce beautiful stars, as illustrated below.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Sunstar Effect Example

The example above was captured at 70mm f/16. The results from the other focal lengths were similar.

Sony comments regarding the design of this lens include:

"The FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II also employs two ED (extra-low dispersion) spherical glass elements and two Super ED spherical glass elements to significantly reduce chromatic aberration without color bleeding. This lens also includes an ED aspherical element for the first time in an Alpha system lens, which simultaneously suppresses chromatic and spherical aberration, common issues in other telephoto lenses." [Sony]

"In addition, the lens' advanced optical design including an XA element thoroughly suppresses the unwanted 'onion ring' effect, further enhancing the bokeh." [Sony]

Sony notes that the XA element is manufactured to 0.01-micron surface precision, suppressing onion ring bokeh. The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Design

[1] Extreme aspherical lens (XA) lens [2] Aspherical lens [3] ED (extra-low dispersion) aspherical lens [4] Super ED glass [5] ED (extra-low dispersion)

Overall, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens delivers outstanding image quality. Great image quality alone is a good reason to buy this lens.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Side View with Hood

Focusing

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens AF system is powered by Quad XD (extreme dynamic) high thrust linear motors.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Quad XD Linear Motors

"Four of Sony's original XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors deliver efficiency that boosts AF speed by up to 4x compared to the previous model. When tracking an approaching short-distance runner, for example, tracking while zooming is improved by approx. 30% compared to the previous model, greatly increasing chances of getting the shot. " [Sony]

This lens focuses very fast.

Notable is that, with the Sony a1 behind it, locks focus fast in AF-S single-shot mode. In AF-S mode, Sony cameras defocus the image slightly before final focusing, even if the subject was initially in focus, adding significantly to AF lock times. This lens makes that adjustment fast enough that it no longer annoys me (except in low light conditions).

Focusing is internal and practically silent.

A focus limit switch enables the full focus range or 9.8' (3.0m) - ∞. When the subject is expected to stay within the shorter range, selecting that option may decrease focus lock times due to reduced focus hunting.

With adequate contrast on the subject, this lens focuses in very dark environments, though when the low light AF limits are approached, AF becomes painfully slow.

I found this lens to consistently focus accurately, the number one requirement of an AF system.

As illustrated in the 100% crops below, the reviewed lens does not exhibit parfocal-like characteristics. When focused at 200mm, zooming to wider focal lengths results in focus blur.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Parfocal Example

If changing focal lengths, refocus the lens.

Three customizable focus hold buttons are provided in convenient 90° positions. With the camera set to continuous focus mode, press focus hold to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. These buttons also act as custom buttons able to be programmed to another function using the camera's menu.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed. Additionally, a lens switch is provided to enable DMF. If the lens DMF switch is on, the lens will focus without the shutter release or AF-On button half-pressed. If the camera is not set to DMF, the image is not auto magnified during DMF by default.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This behavior is referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing adversely impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone very critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a modest change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Focus Magnification Example

70mm: Far | Close   200mm: Far | Close

This lens has an AF/MF switch, allowing this frequently used camera setting to be changed without diving into the menu system.

The rubber-ribbed manual focus ring is large and positioned near the front of the lens, with a slightly raised profile for ease of locating. This ring turns smoothly with a light touch.

"Sony's Linear Response MF ensures responsive, low-lag manual focus control." [Sony]

The 150° of MF rotation adjusts focusing at a fast rate, making precise manual focusing slightly challenging.

With a minimum focus distance of 15.7" (400mm), this lens has an impressive 0.30x maximum magnification spec.

ModelMFDMM
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens27.6"(700mm)0.23x
Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens23.6"(600mm)0.28x
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens47.2"(1200mm)0.21x
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens15.7"(400mm)0.30x
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens37.8"(960mm)0.25x
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens39.4"(1000mm)0.13x
Sony FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens35.4"(900mm)0.31x
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens38.6"(980mm)0.35x
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Lens10.6"(270mm)0.50x
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens37.4"(950mm)0.16x

Note that the maximum magnification happens at 70mm, where a subject measuring approximately 4.8 x 3.2" (121.9 x 81.3mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at minimum focus distance.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Maximum Magnification Example

At 200mm, a 5.5 x 3.7" (139.7 x 93.1mm) subject does the same.

Note that peripheral image quality is softer at minimum focus distance, especially at 70mm.

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to modestly decrease and increase those respective numbers. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. As of review time, Sony does not publish extension tube specs or manufacture these items, but third-party Sony-compatible extension tubes are available.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens with Extender/Teleconverter

Teleconverters

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens is compatible with the Sony FE 1.4x and Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverters. Retaining the lens's native focus distance range, these options offer far greater magnification impact than extension tubes.

The addition of a Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter creates an attractive full-frame 98-280mm OSS lens with a 1-stop narrower max aperture (f/4). While the focal length versatility provided by the teleconverter is great, magnifying the image by 1.4x slightly impacts image quality. At f/5.6, the results are looking especially nice.

Note that we only test teleconverter performance at the longest focal lengths because the primary purpose of teleconverters is to obtain focal lengths not natively available in the lens. Still, using the entire zoom range may be desirable when the teleconverter is mounted. As this lens maintains similar sharpness over the focal length range, the with-extender performance should also be similar.

The Sony FE 1.4x increases barrel distortion just the right amount to offset the native 200mm pincushion distortion, resulting in a very well-corrected distortion profile. Lateral CA is increased slightly.

With the Sony FE 1.4x mounted behind the 70-200 GM, autofocus speed remains good, and I encountered no focus hunting in even low light conditions.

Use the Sony FE 2x Teleconverter to create a significantly longer 140-400mm f/5.6 OSS Lens. While that focal length range is attractive, the image quality impact is similarly significant. I am seldom enamored with the performance of 2x teleconverters, and you will likely find the 400mm f/5.6 image quality OK at best. The native lens shows little sharpness improvement when stopped down, and the with-extender performance reflects the same.

With the Sony FE 2x mounted, barrel distortion is again increased, and again that increase is just the right amount to offset the native 200mm pincushion distortion, resulting in a very well-corrected distortion profile. Lateral CA becomes noticeably stronger. While the 2x has an impact on AF speed, the impact is mild, and I again encountered no focus hunting in even low light conditions.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Front View on Camera

Build Quality & Features

The "GM" in the moniker reflects the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens's membership in the Grand Master lens series, representing Sony's best-available lenses. These lenses feature professional-grade build quality, ready for the rigors of daily use.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated   Compare »

This lens has an attractive design, featuring a primarily engineering plastic exterior, a relatively-constant diameter, and a fixed (non-extending) size that maintains balance throughout the zoom range. The matte white color looks sharp against the black zoom and focus rings and promises to keep the lens cooler under direct sunlight.

The zoom ring is nicely sized and ideally positioned for weight balance. With the lens balanced in the left palm, fingertips are free to quickly adjust the rear-positioned zoom ring, while the right hand is free to change camera settings and capture images without having to support the weight of the camera and lens. This ring requires just the right amount of rotational force to turn it, and the 65° of rotation enables selection of the full range with a single turn.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Switches

A low-profile switch panel holds five switches with an additional pair of aperture ring-related switches on the same lens section. All of the switches are recessed, avoiding inadvertent changes but slightly increasing the difficulty of access, especially with gloves on. Only the OSS mode switch is a 3-position type that requires care to access the middle setting.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Mount

"The FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II is designed to be reliable in even the most challenging environments. It features dust and moisture resistance, equal to the FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS and FE 600mm F4 GM OSS." [Sony]

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Weather Sealing

"The front lens element features a fluorine coating that repels water, oil, and other contaminants, while making it easier to wipe off any contaminants or fingerprints that may become attached to the lens surface." [Sony]

The weight specification accompanying the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens press release looked like a mistake. The new lens's dimensions remained similar to the predecessor lens, but the listed weight was dramatically lower. While some weight loss would be unsurprising, the approximately 29% lighter aspect seemed crazy.

When I pulled the lens out of the box, the weight difference seemed even bigger than the numbers — it felt like something was missing inside the lens. If there was no other improvement in the version II lens, the lighter weight would be worth the upgrade cost.

The Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens has 50% of the aperture opening yet weighs only 7.0 oz (205g) less.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens37.8(1070)3.5 x 5.7(89.9 x 146.0)772019
Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens24.5(695)3.3 x 4.7(83.5 x 119.0)772020
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens63.5(1800)3.7 x 8.0(94.2 x 202.9)822018
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens36.9(1045)3.5 x 7.9(88.0 x 200.0)772021
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens52.2(1480)3.5 x 7.9(88.0 x 200.0)772016
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens29.7(840)3.1 x 6.9(80.0 x 175.0)722014
Sony FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens30.1(854)3.3 x 5.6(84.0 x 143.5)722016
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens49.2(1395)3.7 x 8.1(93.9 x 205.0)772017
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Lens28.6(810)3.2 x 5.9(81.0 x 149.0)672020
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens52.9(1500)3.5 x 7.6(87.9 x 193.0)772017

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

When gripping the Sony a1, my fingers barely clear this lens's barrel or rest slightly against it.

Here is a visual comparison:

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Sony FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens

The same lenses are shown below, fully extended with their hoods in place.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens to other lenses.

All 70-200 f/2.8 optically stabilized lenses must have 77mm filter threads. While I doubt that rule is written anywhere, aside from the Sigma Sports model, the current and predecessor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens models follow it. While 77mm is a relatively large filter size, and filters increase in cost with size, 77mm filters are very common, making them readily available and easily shared.

Also common with all current 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses is a tripod ring included in the box. A lens with this size and weight is too heavy to hang from a camera-mounted tripod, where it causes significant sag upon tripod head tightening and makes tipping the tripod over a strong potential. The tripod ring makes using a large tripod-mounted lens very easy, and vertical orientation is easier to achieve than with any camera-mounted setup.

This tripod ring is very nicely integrated into the lens barrel design. Remarkable is how smooth this ring rotates, up until nearly tightened. There are no click stops, but black dots engraved in the metal ring facilitate easy 90° orientation.

While the tripod ring is not removable, the foot itself is. A large thumbscrew unlocks the foot, allowing it to be removed with the press of a safety release button. When everything is locked tight, this foot is quite solid. Still, consider a replacement foot to gain standard quick-release compatibility.

With two threaded inserts on the bottom of the foot (instead of one), lens plates can be more securely attached, resolving the twisting issue that can occur in single threaded-insert designs.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Top View

All of the 70-200mm lenses include a lens hood in the box, and the semi-rigid Sony ALC-SH151 lens hood is relatively large. That large size 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 slightly rubberized black section at the end of the hood looks nice and adds some stickiness.

A push-button release allows the hood to stay locked into place, with installation and removal happening with ease. The hood's interior is flocked for maximum reflection avoidance.

Sony included the now common filter adjustment window feature in this lens hood design. Unfortunately, I have not found these to be useful. There is simply not enough room in the window to rotate a circular polarizer filter enough per finger swipe. Most often, when I am adjusting a CP filter, I need to rotate it 90 degrees because I have also rotated the camera the same amount. To make that adjustment through the little window takes a frustrating number of little rotations. I would rather remove the hood and hold the filter in place while I rotate the camera, holding the previously-established effect. Even when making small rotational adjustments, I typically want to rock the filter back and forth a substantial amount and watch the results to determine the correct position for optimal filter effects.

Not all CP filter adjustments are as large as 90°, and the filter window is less aggravating to use for minor changes, including small variable ND filter adjustments.

The hood windows of my lens hoods are usually found open due to them sliding against the side of a case, and I have fixed that problem with epoxy on some of my hoods. However, Sony made this hood window tight enough to avoid that problem.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Case

Sony delivers this lens in a nice zippered padded nylon case with a rubberized bottom, a neck strap, and a 2" belt loop on the back.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Cap

Price, Value, Wrap Up

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens is an expensive lens. However, this lens's outstanding image quality and build quality, combined with the usefulness of the focal length range and wide aperture, make it still a solid value.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens was online-retail sourced.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Angle View with Hood

Alternatives to the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens

Obvious is that a version II lens should be compared to its predecessor, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens in this case.

In the image quality comparison, the version II lens easily surpasses the version I lens sharpness, including with teleconverters. The II shows fewer flare effects and slightly less peripheral shading. The II has slight pincushion distortion at 70mm vs. a tiny amount of pincushion distortion. Both lenses trend toward pincushion distortion as their focal lengths are increased, with the II having less distortion than the I in the midrange and the version I lens having stronger pincushion distortion at 200mm.

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens vs. I comparison shows the two lenses having a similar size, but the II lens drops an impressive amount of weight. Removing six lens elements from the design (17/14 vs. 23/18) surely contributes substantially to the lighter weight (and greater light transmission).

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS I and II Lens Comparison

The addition of the aperture ring pushes the II's zoom and focus rings forward, with the focus ring becoming shorter. The II picks up a pair of switches dedicated to the aperture ring, a DMF switch, and a third position on the OSS mode switch.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS I and II Lens Comparison with Hoods

Obvious is that the II gets a rounded hood vs. petal-shaped (that is longer). The petal shape can be better optimized for effectiveness, but the rounded design supports the lens positioned upright on a flat surface.

The II lens features Quad XD Linear AF vs. SSM. With a minimum focus distance of less than half of the version I lens (at 70mm), the II has a slightly higher maximum magnification spec (0.30x vs. 0.25x). The II was introduced at the I's street price, but expect strong discounts on the I while supplies last (not long, I expect).

I highly recommend upgrading from the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens version I lens to the version II lens if the budget permits.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Compared to Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

As I maintain a mixed kit of Sony and Canon gear, I was anxious to see how the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens compared to the equivalent Canon lens, the RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens.

In the image quality comparison, the two lenses appear near equals. The Canon lens seems slightly sharper in the center of the frame from 70mm through 135mm, but any sharpness difference is not meaningful as a differentiator. At 200mm, the Sony lens has about one stop less peripheral shading to its advantage. The Canon lens has slight pincushion distortion at 70mm vs. a tiny amount of pincushion distortion. Both lenses trend toward pincushion distortion as their focal lengths are increased, with the Canon lens having less distortion than the Sony lens by 100mm and through 200mm. The Sony lens shows more color blur in the mid focal length range and blurs corner stars slightly more. The Canon lens produces slightly better specular highlight bokeh and slightly better points on sunstars.

The Sony lens mounted on an Alpha 1 in either AF-S or AF-C mode does not focus slowly, but the Canon lens with an EOS R5 behind it focuses noticeably faster in side-by-side testing. Neither lens makes much noise when focusing, but the Sony lens is slightly quieter.

The Sony lens is compatible with teleconverters, adding the versatility of up to the 140-400mm range with the 2x mounted. However, the teleconverter magnification is not without impact to the image quality, especially with the 2x in the optical path.

Most will find the smaller retracted size vs. fixed size the biggest differentiator between these lenses.

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens vs. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens comparison shows, as seen in the comparison image above, the Canon lens measuring considerably smaller — when retracted. The compact Canon lens size is easier to stow a camera backpack and similar cases. Zoomed to 200mm, the Canon measures 0.27" (7mm) longer. Lenses maintaining a fixed size favor in-the-hand use, giving the Sony lens a different advantage.

When zoomed, the elements inside the lens move and repositioning elements can change the balance of the lens — regardless of the external size changing. However, the large objective lens elements remaining in position are advantageous in this regard, and the Sony lens maintains slightly better balance throughout the zoom range.

The Canon lens is slightly wider.

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens was introduced as the "World's Lightest Large-aperture Telephoto Zoom Lens", qualified to full-frame F2.8 70-200mm telephoto zoom lenses that support autofocus. The Sony lens is indeed lighter than the Canon lens, but the measured in-use (with tripod foot and hood) difference is only 2.9 oz (53.2g). Of that difference, 1.6 oz (13.3g) is in the hood weights. Few will find significance in the weight difference between these lenses.

The Sony lens features a front-positioned focus ring. Positioning the zoom ring toward the back of the lens provides a better balance for handheld zooming. Impacting the Sony lens's advantage is the aperture ring positioned behind the zoom ring. The aperture ring is a Sony lens feature advantage, but only for those intending to use it. Making space for the aperture ring shifts the zoom ring forward modestly, farther forward than the Canon lens's zoom ring.

The front element positioned farther forward of the mount gives the Sony lens a modestly better handheld balance at the wider focal lengths. The balance difference equalizes by the longer focal lengths.

Switches add control, but they also add complication, and the aperture ring adds two switches to the design. The zoom lock switch adds one to the Canon side of the equation, and the Sony DMF switch takes the count back to a two-switch lead. It is easier to tactilely find the Canon lens's switches, and the Canon lens's switches are less recessed and easier to use.

The Sony tripod hood is fully integrated and considerably smoother. However, the Canon lens's entire tripod collar can be removed (erasing the weight difference). The Sony lens collar's 90° marks are easier to align, and its tripod foot is removable (and replaceable with an integrated dovetail mount).

Consuming space utilized by the Sony lens's tripod collar is the Canon lens's control ring. Note that this ring can control the aperture.

The Sony lens has three focus hold buttons, and its hood window is tighter.

The additional fixed lens barrel length provides room for the Sony lens to have a longer focus ring.

At review time, the Sony lens costs $1.00 less than the Canon lens.

The bottom line is that both lenses are outstanding. Photographers deciding their camera brand choice at lens selection time will need to look carefully at the differentiating features between these lenses, along with those of the other lens models destined for their kit. In the end, most photographers with a Sony kit will choose the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens, and most photographers with a Canon kit will purchase the RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens.

The other current 70-200mm lens in Sony's line-up is the FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS. In the wide-open aperture image quality comparison, the f/2.8 lens is slightly sharper in the center of the frame at the ends of the focal length range. At f/4, the f/2.8 lens is the sharper option.

Compared with wide-open apertures, the f/2.8 lens has slightly less peripheral shading, and at f/4, the f/2.8 lens has considerably less. The f/4 lens shows slightly more flare effects. The f/2.8 lens has slight pincushion distortion at 70mm vs. a tiny amount of pincushion distortion in the f/4. The f/4 lens has less pincushion distortion at the longer focal lengths.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II and f/4 Lens Comparison

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens vs. Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens comparison shows the f/4 lens both narrower and shorter. While the size difference is not surprising, the small weight difference is. The f/2.8 lens is heavier, but the difference is not representative of the 2x wider aperture.

The smaller lens has smaller filter threads — 72mm vs. 77mm. The f/2.8 lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 9 and Quad XD Linear AF vs. SSM. The f/2.8 lens focuses considerably closer and has a higher maximum magnification – 0.30x vs. 0.13x. The f/4 lens's big advantage? A much lower price.

Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens Side View

Summary

70-200mm f/2.8 lenses are always at or near the top of the bestseller lists. That popularity is driven by the angle of view range usefulness in combination with the 70-200mm range representing the longest handholdable and affordable in the f/2.8 aperture. Watch for these lenses to show up in big numbers at any event worthy of photographing, with these lenses getting high-frequency use by professionals, serious amateurs, and families.

Of the plethora of 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses produced to date, few compare to the features and performance of this one. The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens is outstanding in all regards. This fully-featured lens produces outstanding image quality and has G Master build quality, high-performance AF, optical image stabilization, and incredible utility.

Serious Sony-based photographers will surely find this lens to be an indispensable part of their kits.

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