In a time when older cameras and lenses are getting new updated versions left and right, one of the best things to see is when the piece of gear gets an entirely new purpose. This is definitely something that no one expected from the new Sony f/4 telephoto lens.
It has been almost a decade since Sony first came out with the 70-200mm f/4, a crucial and well-expected foundation of the brand’s earlier line-up of lenses. While it was later followed by the first version of the 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master, the two lenses have very well delineated uses, which is why even the f/4 version remained a beloved lens to many photographers, specifically those who preferred it as a lightweight option and those who don’t use it for any low-light shooting. This new version of the 70-200mm f/4 now emerges with some surprising new features that will definitely expand the functionality of the lens for many photographers and videographers of various genres.
This long-awaited second version comes in a much more compact and lighter form, which, on its own, gives it an advantage for outdoor and travel photographers. Coming from the older version, the new 70-200mm f/4 is 46 grams lighter (from 840 g down to 794 g) and is 15% shorter (175 mm down to 149 mm). However, this shorter barrel length is made possible because of an externally extending zoom mechanism, which lengthens the barrel when you zoom in. It has a 72mm filter thread diameter, comes with a similar white lens hood to match the lens’ exterior, and a similar but slightly different rotating tripod collar.
Similar to the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II, this new f/4 version also has three customizable focus hold buttons on the distal part of the barrel. On the left side (when holding the camera) is an array of five function switches, beginning with the standard autofocus switch. The second switch is the full time DMF operation switch that serves as an on-lens shortcut for the said function that is commonly accessible deep into the menu. Full-time DMF allows the user to override or assist the autofocus by making micro adjustments in tricky focusing situations or when shooting video.
The third switch governs one of the most notable improvements in this new lens, which is the focus range. This three-way switch allows the user to select either the full range of focusing, distant focusing, or selectively close for macro. The two remaining switches are for the operation of OSS and switching between the three modes respectively.
Optics and Focusing
This new 70-200mm f/4 G is made up of 19 glass elements in 13 groups, with a floating focusing mechanism that has been seen in recent Sony G lenses. Aside from an expected improvement in optics to work better with higher resolution a7R line cameras, this lens is equipped with four XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors to allow the lens to keep up with the fast and adaptive focusing of newer Sony camera for both high-speed stills and videos.
On top of that, the most undeniable upgrade that this lens has is its new capability to focus very close to the subject, attaining 0.5x magnification throughout the entire zoom range. At 70mm, the lens can focus on a subject from as close as 0.26 m from the sensor and as close as 0.42 m from the sensor when shooting at 200mm. This is a huge jump coming from the old version, which had minimum focusing distances of 1.0 to 1.5 m, respectively.
Expanded Compatibility and Range
While the focal length range may be the same as the old one, there is a possibility of getting more range out of this new version. The 70-200mm f/4 G Macro OSS II is now compatible with the two teleconverter options from Sony, which are the 1.4x and 2x teleconverter attachments. With the 2x teleconverter on a full frame body, the range becomes 140-400mm with no crop. In addition, with the Super 35 or APS-C mode turned on, it is further extended by 1.5x, which makes it a 210-600mm with the press of an assigned shortcut button.
The trade-off, of course, of using a teleconverter would be a resulting stopped-down aperture. With the 2x teleconverter, the lens becomes one with a maximum aperture of f/8 throughout the range. This may be an added limitation in terms of low-light situations, but if the general use is for daytime outdoors, having up to 600mm of range can be considerably empowering, especially when using a higher-resolution sensor camera.
The 70-200mm focal length range is one that has a wide variety of uses in many genres, and this new version takes that even further on both ends of a spectrum. This new lens would be a great telephoto option for any landscape, travel, and nature photographer, especially one who would like to switch between shooting distant views and small details in nature without having to switch lenses.
The compatibility with the teleconverter options makes it even more versatile, especially if the photographer would like to avoid having to carry heavier lenses inside the bag. Perhaps the only consideration would be the possibility of having to deal with unwanted dust getting into the lens because of the externally extending barrel.
This lens would also be a very helpful tool for shooting outdoor portraits, events, and even sports. Anything that can be shot outdoors with enough daylight can be easily done with the 70-200mm f/4 G II with the added benefit of being able to virtually extend the range all the way to 600mm. Of course, the same applies indoors if ample supplementary lighting is available or when shooting in a studio.
With the added (half) macro capabilities, while not the top-of-mind option, this lens can also be used for food and product photography. Considering that this lens is able to zoom in and focus close on small insects and other small details in nature, it can also be very much usable in photographing still life, food, and other products. In addition, when used with the Sony a7R V or any future camera with the automated focus bracketing function, this lens can help create some amazing detailed focus-stacked images.
A decade in the making, this new version of the 70-200mm f/4 definitely exceeded expectations and went beyond the usual glass and focusing upgrades. The new capabilities of this lens made it an even more universal lens for anyone who needs tight focal lengths. It can be beneficial for a wide range of shooting styles and barely adds to the bulk of a photographer’s gear.
What I Liked
- Lightweight and portable
- Close minimum focusing distance
- Compatibility with teleconverters
What I Didn’t Like
- External zoom and extending barrel