What is the ultimate Sony FE (full-frame, E-mount) telephoto zoom lens?
For most photographers, a telephoto zoom lens is going to be the second-most important lens in their kit. The telephoto zoom is the lens that is going to be pulled out for portraits, events (including kid performances), sports, wildlife, landscapes, the beach, and many more photography subjects.
In general, approximately 70-200mm is the focal length range ideally covered by a telephoto zoom lens in an all-purpose kit. This range aligns nicely with the focal length range found in most general-purpose zoom lens. Don't worry about a small gap, such as 55-70mm or 70-100mm, between the focal length ranges is usually not a problem for most, and an overlap of the ranges is a positive attribute, potentially meaning fewer lens changes. Selecting the right lenses for each use should be a higher priority than the alignment of the focal length ranges.
You likely immediately noticed that a couple of the recommended lenses do not cover the advised range. However, these lenses far exceed the long end suggestion, adding significant utility in that regard.
The following examples were captured with a full-frame camera.
The Best Sony Full-Frame Telephoto Zoom Lenses
The Ultimate Telephoto Zoom Lens
The 70-200 f/2.8 image stabilized lens is one of the most critical zoom lenses in most photographers' kits. Professionals and amateurs alike typically have this lens in their hands with high frequency. Professionals use it because there is no better lens available for many jobs, and amateurs use it additionally because this is the longest focal length available in an affordable, conveniently-sized f/2.8 lens.
This completely professional-grade lens has good image quality, fast and accurate AF, and Optical SteadyShot in a solid, weather-sealed, fixed-size body. The wide f/2.8 max aperture allows action to be captured in low light and, combined with the telephoto focal lengths, allows the background to be blurred away. An added benefit is that this lens performs well with teleconverters, a great option for when you need even more focal length. This lens is not inexpensive or light.
Long Focal Length Range with Long Focal Lengths, Excellent Image Quality, Well-Constructed, Optical SteadyShot, Weather-Sealed
This lens's 100mm wide end has a noticeably narrower angle of view than the 70mm suggested to have available in a general-use telephoto lens, but gaining the 200-400mm range is often worth the trade-off. When wildlife, surfers, aircraft, large-field athletes, and other small/distant subjects are in the viewfinder, you will greatly appreciate having 400mm available. When 400mm is not long enough, this lens's teleconverter compatibility will be found advantageous. While the f/5.6 aperture available at the longest focal lengths is not so wide, that aperture allows the lens to be small in size and light enough in weight to be carried and hand-held for relatively long periods. This lens has Sony GM pro-grade build quality. This is not an inexpensive lens.
Very Long Focal Lengths, Excellent Image Quality, Well-Constructed, Optical SteadyShot, Weather-Sealed
The focal length range in this lens is rather long for general purpose use, but I felt compelled to including this special lens on the best lens list. The long focal lengths are the biggest attraction for the Sony FE 200-600 (and teleconverter compatibility extends that reach), but this lens's superb image quality does not dissapoint. This is a relatively large and heavy lens with a moderately-high price tag. Compared to the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens, the FE 200-600 appears small, lightweight, and a great deal.
Excellent Image Quality, Great Telephoto Focal Lengths, Light Weight, Compact Size, Low Cost
Most photographers highly value a telephoto zoom lens with long focal lengths, a significant percentage of these photographers are looking for a lightweight, low cost option, and no one wants to give up great image quality or deal with a lens that does not perform well. The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens is the perfect choice to meet those needs.
Only Missing an f/2.8 Aperture (and some size, weight, and cost)
If you don't need the 70-200 f/2.8 Lens' f/2.8 max aperture, the 70-200 f/4 will give you everything else in a smaller, lighter, and less expensive package. Without the f/2.8 aperture, you will need twice as much light to stop subject motion (at f/4), and you will not be able to create a background as diffusely blurred. But, a substantial amount of size, weight, and cost are also foregone. This lens includes pro-grade features including solid, weather-sealed build quality, Optical SteadyShot, and teleconverter compatibility. This is a great telephoto zoom lens option for landscape and travel.
Compact, Light, Sharp, Affordable, Slightly Shorter Focal Length Range
Tamron continues to produce great mirrorless lenses, and the 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Lens is another big hit. Though this lens's focal length range falls short of the competing 70-200mm models, it overcomes that shortcoming by providing great image quality from a compact and affordable package.
Visit the Sony Lens Recommendations page for more recommendations.