The Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens is the updated version of Sony's original 70-200mm, which was first released in 2016. Although many of its features are largely the same, there have been a few noteworthy upgrades that makes this lens much more attractive.
The 70-200mm focal length is a great mid-range telephoto zoom, capable of pretty much any style of photography and makes a perfect all-rounder lens when paired with one of the best cameras for photography. It can shoot wildlife, landscapes, portraits — you name it. And with its constant f/2.8 aperture, you'll get sharp images at any focal length. While it's not necessarily one of the best lenses for astrophotography due to its longer focal length (unless you have a star tracker to mount it on), it can certainly still get good photos of the night sky.
We were so close to giving this lens five stars as, in the real world, we struggled to find serious fault with it. There were just a few teeny-tiny, minuscule little niggles that just edged half a star off, but not so much so that it would make us think twice about buying it. It's also pricey but that comes with the territory of buying a lens of this quality.
We put this lens to the test in a number of different shooting scenarios to see how it fared, and we were not disappointed. If you think this lens might be the one for you, keep reading to see how we got on with it.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens review
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II: Design
- Has an aperture ring on the lens
- More switches than the previous model
- Approximately 29% lighter than the original version
There's no question that the newer version of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is sleeker and more sophisticated than its predecessor, and although there weren't many huge changes to how it looks, there were some notable upgrades — the first of which being obvious when you pick it up.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens is around 29% lighter than the original version (2.3 lb vs 3.26 lbs), and while less than a pound may not seem like much, we certainly noticed the difference when we were out shooting with it. Having tried the original model for just a few hours we noticed significant arm-ache, whereas we could comfortably shoot with the updated model for an entire day with no issues.
This newer version also has more switches on the lens itself for more intuitive shooting, which we liked. There's AF/MF, a new Full Time DMF switch, which is great if you want to override the autofocus if it becomes stuck on a certain point, a focus limiter with either Full or 3M-∞, then an OSS on/off switch and a mode dial for three different OSS modes. There's also an aperture ring on the lens itself (with the option to turn the clicks off), which version 1 didn't have, and there are three customizable focus hold buttons toward the front of the lens.
Type: Full frame telephoto zoom
Focal Length: 70-200mm
Aperture: Constant f/2.8
Lens Mount: Sony E
Weight: 2.3 lbs (1045g)
Dimensions: 3.5 x 7.8-inches (88 x 200mm)
Filter Thread: 77mm
Release Date: December 2021
Although these features don't necessarily lend themself to astro-shooting, they are incredibly helpful for other styles of photography, so if you shoot a variety of different styles we think you'll really appreciate how intuitive this lens is. It's also fully weather-sealed and has an internal zoom.
Overall, we love the design and premium feel of this lens — it felt reliable, sturdy and comfortable in the hand, and wasn't so heavy that we were concerned with dropping it. We also love the addition of the aperture ring as it makes changing settings quickly much easier than trying to remember which control wheel you've set the aperture to on the camera body.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II: Performance
- Ridiculously sharp even when heavily cropped
- Only missed focus in awkward shooting conditions
- Not the best focal length for astro, but it still performed well
One thought we had about this lens is that, for its size, it does feel like it should reach further than 200mm. When we shot wildlife with it we were at 200mm in most of the shots we took, and in a lot of cases, the birds were still quite far away in the frame. That said, this lens affords you the ability to crop in extremely far in post-processing, and the sharpness in the images is nothing short of extraordinary, even when heavily cropped. So although it only reaches up to 200mm, it doesn't necessarily need to be able to go any further because the quality is so good.
The autofocus was also incredibly impressive, and it only missed shots where the subject wasn't obvious or had a lot of contrast. We found two instances of this happening. One was when focusing on a white puppy with black eyes, the lens would track the face well, but it couldn't quite figure out where her eyes were in a few of the shots and focused on her nose instead. This can be overcome by just increasing the aperture provided there's decent light, but there isn't always the scope to do that if you need a faster aperture and are already at a higher ISO (if you're shooting indoors in low light, for example).
Another instance of the lens missing focus was during a portrait shoot where the subject was far away and we were shooting the scene as a whole, it struggled to find the subject against a lot of moving foliage from a tree (this is where the new full-time DMF switch came in handy). That said, those specific instances are awkward to shoot and nail focus every time anyway, so we can cut it some slack for that.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II: Functionality
- Three different OSS modes
- Constant aperture of f/2.8 produces beautiful bokeh for portraits
- Will excel at many different photographic styles
This is a lens that will see you through many different shoots as it's such a versatile workhorse. We used it to shoot portraits, wildlife, astro, landscapes and even some close-up shots of flowers (as it has a minimum focusing distance of 0.4m). While it's not a dedicated lens for any of these specific photographic styles, it makes for a great all-rounder if there's not a particular style of photography you specialize in and you want to be able to shoot multiple settings without having to pack a separate lens for each.
One advantage of this lens, and one of the aspects that makes it the price that it is, is the constant f/2.8 aperture. You can shoot wide open at 200mm and the quality is incredible, and you just don't get that with a variable aperture lens. We particularly loved using this lens for portraits as it captured colors and skin tones beautifully, and produced stunning bokeh even at narrower apertures.
The three different OSS modes also help keep images sharp — Mode 1 is standard, Mode 2 is for panning and Mode 3 is active for objects that are likely to move in an unpredictable manner.
Should you buy the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II?
There's no denying that this is an expensive lens that may well only be accessible to more serious photographers (or amateurs with deep pockets), and there are limited options in the way of cheaper alternatives. That said, if you can afford it, we think this lens will see you through many different shoots and will be a reliable shooting partner for years to come. Although it does involve a fairly hefty initial financial outlay, it isn't a lens you'll need to replace any time soon, and particularly if you make a living from photography, we see this lens as more of an investment into your craft.
However, if you primarily shoot astro or wildlife photography, you may want to think twice about purchasing this lens unless you have a star tracker or a longer telephoto lens, respectively. For true deep sky work we envisage astrophotographers using dedicated astro cams or attaching cameras directly to telescopes. For dedicated wildlife photography, 200mm is usually the minimum focal length that wildlife photographers typically use — for that, you'll want something like a 200-600mm, or a 400mm or 600mm prime lens for faster shooting.
If the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II isn't for you
As we previously stated, this lens is expensive, and the cost is likely going to be what will prevent many people from being able to buy it. If this lens doesn't feel like the right fit for you, be it due to cost or focal length, here are some alternatives to consider.
If you're looking for this exact lens, but cheaper, check out the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD. It's just over 1/3 of the cost of this lens, so if you don't have the cash for the native Sony lens, this could be a great option. It's also half the weight and much smaller than Sony's lens, and although you miss out on 20mm at the higher end, it won't be too noticeable. It does lack image stabilization though, however, full-frame Sony cameras have OSS anyway, so this shouldn't matter too much. It has excellent feedback in many of its Amazon reviews, too, with many people claiming it's 'just as good' as Sony's G Master. It's currently rated four point seven out of five stars on Amazon.
If the newer features of this lens don't get you that excited, then you could always go for the original version of the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM which has now come down in price since the newer version has been released. It is heavier though, so that's something worth weighing up (pardon the pun).
Sadly there's no version of this lens from Sigma, but their CEO says they are 'currently working on' a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for the Sony E mount which they hope to see 'sooner rather than later'. We think this has the potential to be a fantastic affordable alternative to the native Sony lens, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for when that's released as we can't wait to review a comparable lens from Sigma. They used to do a 70-200mm f/2.8 sports lens for Sony mounts but has been discontinued (though you may be able to find it on the used market).