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

In this post we have a Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS mark II Lens review for you along with a Mark I and Mark II specs comparison table. There’s also a video review and sample photos from our very own Gareth Evans. Let’s see what this updated Holy Trinity telephoto zoom lens has in store for us.

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

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Mark II Lens Introduction

First up let’s have a little background on this telephoto lens and what the abbreviations mean. This is the first E-mount lens which Sony has updated and is considered essential by many photographers, including working professionals so it’s a pretty big deal.

  1. The ‘FE’ in the name means it’s designed for full frame Sony mirrorless cameras, although you can mount it on APS-C crop sensor bodies too, where the equivalent focal range becomes 105-300mm.
  2. It’s a telephoto lens with a bright, f/2.8 fixed aperture throughout the zoom range. This means it’s going to let in plenty of light at any of the focal distances and remains consistent throughout.
  3. It carries the prestigious GM label making it one of 14 current full frame G Master lenses. This series is designed for superior results and build quality aimed at professional users.
  4. OSS refers to Optical SteadyShot, which is Sony’s optical image stabilisation system.
  5. II refers of course to the updated mark II version for 2021, with the original mark I having been released in 2016.

How the mark 2 70-200mm lens looks in the wild

Why would Sony update the 70-200mm GM lens anyway?

There have been significant advancements in camera technology since the original was released in 2016. We now have sensors capable of resolving over 60 megapixels as in the a7R IV a, blisteringly quick burst rates up to 30fps found in the A1 and enhanced AF systems using Ai technology. All of this means that optics need refreshing to keep pace, ensure the highest levels of G Master refinement and provide ever faster focusing motors to keep up. Not only that but camera systems are typically intended to be as small and light as possible and with newer technology comes a weight saving to keep gear light. This update means the zoom is almost 30% lighter which is a significant weight saving.

focal length 163mm. Camera settings: 1/250sec. f/2.8. ISO 250.

Sample photo focal length 163mm. Camera settings: 1/250sec. f/2.8. ISO 250.

What is a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens good for?

If you’re wondering what subjects you can shoot with a 70-200mm lens it’s worth knowing that it’s one of Sony’s Holy Trinity of lenses, which means it’s one of the most versatile and essential lenses for advanced enthusiast and professional users. Out of interest the other two from the trinity are the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, all three of which are matched in terms of aperture, build and performance.

Here are some of the main subjects people will purchase the 70-200mm to shoot:

  • Wildlife
  • Bird photography
  • Sports
  • Portraits
  • Fashion
  • Weddings
  • Landscapes
  • Events
  • Close-up tele-macro
  • Video

Sample of horse racing with the 70-200mm GM mark 2 lens

Nice blurred motion effect with the new 70-200

This list includes primary subjects people shoot with a 70-200mm lens, though I am sure you can think of other shots which might fall into the remit of this generous focal length. It’s not a specialist lens suited to just one subject, rather it covers lots of subjects thanks to a near 3x telephoto zoom range. What’s more you can add either of Sony’s teleconverters to multiply the focal width by 1.4x or 2.0x. so you get even more range at 98-280mm and 140-400mm respectively.

focal length 102mm. Camera settings: 1/160sec. f/2.8. ISO 800.

Sample photo focal length 102mm. Camera settings: 1/160sec. f/2.8. ISO 800.

What’s new in the updated 70-200mm mark II lens?

Sony has pulled out all the stops to bring the updated lens to the very pinnacle of their optical technology and the list of upgrades is considerable.

  1. The new FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II is about 30% lighter. In fact it precisely 435g lighter, so it is the world’s lightest lens of this type. Say no more.
  2. Significantly faster AF focus speed with four XD focus motors. The original was no slouch but you’ll see impressively quick AF performance with the extreme dynamic motors, two for each of the focus groups. In fact you can notice AF speeds up to four times faster (yes 4x)! Prepare to be impressed when you use it.
  3. Focus tracking while zooming is around 30% quicker over the original. This means your hit rate is going to go up considerably if you track moving subjects.
  4. The minimum focus distance at the wide end is now 40cm (0.4m) so you can explore tele-macro shots
  5. You get more manual focusing control with the update with Linear response for MF and an optional full time Direct Manual Focus. This is excellent for anyone who tweaks their focus manually or shoots video.
  6. Speaking of video there are improvements with focus breathing and changes when the lens is zoomed. An iris lock switch as well as aperture click switch will also benefit movie makers.
  7. On the stabilisation control there’s now a third option which caters for fast moving erratic subjects. This can be used in situations where the subject moves unpredictably and OSS needs to constantly update itself. A very nice addition we think.
  8. Results are spectacular across the frame with high resolution detail and well controlled aberrations. The optics are slightly different from the original, with less glass gun total but different special elements including one XA and one ED aspherical. Detail is noticeably sharp with excellent contrast and clarity from the new mark II Nano AR coating.

Lens barrel controls with new modes

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM Mark I Vs Mark II Specs Comparison

 

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Mark I

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Mark II

Lens Elements/Groups

23/18

17/14

Special Elements

4 ED glass elements

2 Super ED glass elements

3 aspherical elements (including one XA)

2 ED glass elements

2 Super ED glass elements

2 aspherical elements

(including one XA)

1 ED Aspherical element

Focus Mechanism

Two focus motors (RDSSM and double linear motor actuator)

Four XD (Extreme Dynamic) Linear Motors

Lens Coating

Nano AR Coating

Nano AR Coating II, Fluorine

Lens controls

Focusing ring

Zooming ring

Focus mode switch

Focus range limiter

Focus hold button

Shake compensation switch

Shake compensation mode switch

Focusing ring

Zooming ring

Focus mode switch

Focus range limiter

Focus hold button

Shake compensation mode switch with 3 options

Linear response for MF

Aperture ring

Aperture click switch

Iris lock switch

Direct Manual Focus switch

Minimum Aperture

f/22

f/22

Aperture Blades

11

11

Circular Aperture

Yes

Yes

Minimum Focus Distance

0.96m

0.4m

Maximum Magnification Ratio (X)

0.25x

0.3x

Filter Diameter

77 mm

77 mm

Image Stabilisation

Yes

Yes

Teleconverter Compatibility

Yes

Yes

Weather Sealed

Yes

Yes

Dimensions (D X L)

88 x 200 mm

88 x 200 mm

Weight

1480 g (without tripod mount)

1045 g (without tripod mount)

RRP

£2,500.00

£2,600

Video Review

Build and handling

The updated model is the same size as the original although the rings are positioned slightly differently. So while it will be familiar to anyone who upgrades, they will be able to dive straight in with their workflow without missing a beat. Filters are also the same popular 77mm size, so you can bring any you already have over. Although it’s the same size, as mentioned one of the big selling points is the weight saving which is instantly noticeable and most welcome.

As a G Master you naturally get weather sealing and excellent materials used throughout for a solid feeling telephoto. Controls are in similar positions as shown in the picture here, although there are more options with the mark II. All round you’ll be able to jump straight in and enjoy the lens at whatever pace you’re used to working at, but with less fatigue and faster results.

Mounted on a video head

Caught in the wild atop a video rig

Summary

Sony has a comprehensive range of telephoto lenses available for mirrorless users, from 600mm fixed aperture primes down to this workhorse 70-200mm. But it’s the versatility of a 70-200mm range which gives this such broad appeal, which is perhaps why it’s the first model to be updated in the entire range. You can dip into virtually any genre at these lengths and then add a teleconverter if you want more. The bright constant aperture is perfect for even the most demanding professional users and low light handheld shooting. Personally I am a little disappointed that there’s no Arca Swiss-type foot included, but hey, you can’t have everything right?

Kingfisher gird in flight sample photo

Bird in flight moment from the new 70-200mm GM mark 2 lens

Looking at the lens you’d never know as it is the same size, but it’s even sharper, way faster and much lighter. The fact it comes with four XD linear motors is a knockout blow and your keeper rate will shine regardless of how fast your subject moves, with AF designed for Faces, Eyes, animals and birds currently. Here are the highlight wins over the first model:

  • Around 30% lighter
  • Roughly 4x faster focusing
  • Approximately 30% faster autofocus tracking
  • About the same price

focal length 188mm. Camera settings: 5.0sec. f/4. ISO 640

Sample photo focal length 188mm. Camera settings: 5.0sec. f/4. ISO 640

Anyone that wants the best optics available from Sony will be considering the E 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS Mark II and we can’t wait to see what you do with it.

More reading

If you’re a Sony shooter you might be interested in other lens posts we’ve made, including this which looks at the FE 24mm f/2.8 G Lens, FE 40mm f/2.5 G and FE 50mm f/2.5 G lenses and the Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM Lens review here.

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By Nick Dautlich on 13/10/2021

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