Sony AF 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM II A-mount lens reviews

reviews found: 17   
reviewer#16304 date: Jul-13-2015
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 70-300 G1 SSM
Tamron 70-200 2.8 USD
Minolta 300 2.8 HS G
Tamron 150-600 5-6.3
price paid:$1600 used mint
positive:Pros

1) Optimized for sharpness at the long end - sharper at the long end wide open than any other competing telephoto zoom, including the new Tamron 150-600 f5-6.3, and premium Canikon products (which are typically excellent). Also quite sharp (on both APS-C and FF) at wide and in middle FL, if stopped down slightly. Overall, a very sharp optic, close to the class leading (for A mount) Minolta 400 4.5 prime, which is probably the benchmark for sharpness at 400mm for Alpha mount.
2) Compact size - at least for storage and shooting at 70mm (but extends on full zoom to a rather long lens ~ 13” at 400mm).
3) Virtually no CA or PF (purple fringing, esp. on bright edges, the principle vulnerability of the great Minolta legacy telephoto primes).
4) Built like a tank, like most Sony G lenses.
5) Excellent focus limiter.
6) Has corrections for vignetting (minimal on APS-C), CA (which is minimal anyway and very well controlled), and distortion (also minimal) in firmware for many A mount bodies - something no 3rd party lens can claim.
7) Very quiet and fast focusing, significantly faster than G1 version and somewhat faster than the best of the screw drive legacy lenses (advantage SSM).
8) Great soft case that really protects the lens in case of those potentially disastrous drops.
9) The 70mm wide end is really useful if you want to shoot people as well as animals, and is quite fast at that FL (f4) for a long lens, giving an extra measure of utility and reducing your kit size (I can drop the 'beercan' from the lens bag if I need to save weight) given the overlapping range. Almost 6 X zoom range (70-400 overall) is actually pretty impressive, and exceeded only by the Bigma 50-500 (which is poorer at the long end).

negative:Cons:

1) Heavy (but still lighter than the competition) at 3.3 lbs, just at the end of what you can tolerate hand holding for long periods of time.
2) Expensive (roughly twice the price of Tamron 150-600) and only slightly less than a used Minolta 400 4.5 in great condition (which is sharper lens and can use 1.4xTC to get additional reach to 560mm with only a very modest loss of sharpness).
3) Due to being only f5.6 at long end, no AF functionality with Sony or Minolta 1.4xTCs (can use Kenko 1.4TC OTOH, but with slowed AF).
4) Hood seems a bit fragile, particularly for such a heavy lens. Replacement cost for hood (if you can even get one!) is likely to be ridiculous (Sony baloney?).
5) Slightly stiff zoom ring? (contrast it with the butter smooth and light zoom action on the older Minolta Beercan, perhaps an unfair comparison perhaps given that the Beercan is a much smaller optic).
6) If you are looking for the smoothest bokeh, look elsewhere (true for virtually all tele zooms) - and get a tele prime instead.
7) That’s it - no major cons in terms of functionality, just premium cost for a premium lens.

comment:This is an expensive but premium quality long telephoto for A mount. Its only real competition in terms of later model tele zooms for A mount is the Tamron 150-600 f5-6.3 (and I can speak from experience, as I own both lenses, along with several Minolta telephoto primes and TCs).

This review offers some brief comparison of these lenses, all of which offer anywhere from good to great image quality, and good to excellent value (the Sony G2 perhaps being the slightly better lens overall, but the Tamron likely being the better value). Any A Mount body shooter (Alpha 77/77m2/65/55/57/58/33/35 as well as the older Sony DSLRs) looking for a long telephoto should look carefully at this lens, the Tamron 150-600, and the classic Minolta primes (available used in various states of preservation) before deciding which to buy. I would also recommend consulting the full body of reviews for all these lenses on Dyxum, which is a treasure trove of information about the entire A mount lens ecology. There are lots of good options in other words. This review will NOT cover the entirety of the A mount lens ecology (leaving out several older Sigma 400mm telephoto primes, and all the dozens of permutations of various Sony and Minolta and 3rd party 300 2.8 primes and TCs - after all, it's a lens review, not a book!)


So how does this stack up against the Minolta primes, the Tamron 150-600 and the older Sigma tele zooms, with both the Sigma and Tamron zooms being less than half the cost? Well, like in relationship to a lot of other technology items, you truly get what you pay for. It’s sharper at 400mm than any of the Tamron or Sigma zooms (but only slightly sharper than the new Tamron if both are at 400), and cropped images from the Sony at 400mm compare well to the Tamron at 600mm, which gets pretty soft frankly all the way out, and not nearly as sharp all the way out as the Sony is at 400. This suggests that the last 150mm or so of the Tamron doesn’t really get you that much - however at 400mm the Tamron is close in sharpness to the Sony and again, only 1/2 the price. So once again, there are basic tradeoffs. The Sony is lighter and more compact, slightly sharper, but lots more $. For BIF shooting, probably would vote for the Sony G2, given likely better AF optimization and wider FL range, lighter weight, and more compact dimensions. But you can't complain about the cost-to-function ratio of the Tamron, a real value home run IMO.


For a bit more money ($2500-3000 for excellent to mint copy) the Minolta 400 4.5 might be sharper, but only a little, although it is also a full stop faster. Although the Minolta and the Sony are roughly equally sharp wide open, if you set both at 5.6 (that’s still wide open for the Sony and a full stop down for the Minolta prime), you would find the Minolta perhaps a bit sharper even than the Sony G2, but OTOH, you will have a bit more PF/CA on the Minolta, and it’s quite a bit heavier and . . . even more money (!). The Minolta prime won’t focus as fast or as quietly, but it can use 1.4TC to get to 560mm. While the SSM of the Sony seems like a big advantage, the old screw drive AF on the Minolta tele prime is still competitive, and the excellent AF system on the Sony A77ii breaths new life into many older legacy Minolta screw drives. So on this comparison, it's the pluses of the Minolta against the PF issue and extra weight and cost that may help you decide which is better for you. As a big plus, the Sony G2 is significantly lighter at 1500 g than either a Minolta 400 tele prime (quite heavy at 1900 g), or the Tamron 150-600 (1950 g) or the Sigma 50-150 (1840 g). Its 3.3 lbs is just on the limit of what you can wear on your Black Rapid or competing strap system. So there you have it.


The Sony G2 and the Minolta primes are perhaps the best IQ choices, but all three options are in fact good to great values. The Minolta 400 4.5 is actually a phenomenal value, given the 2x cost of competing Canikon products. Only its screw drive and vulnerability to purple fringing are downsides, and the PF is easily removed in post processing, and as noted above, the screw drive is actually pretty fast and accurate with the A77ii. People complain about the lens ecology of Sony vs. the Big Two, but this is an example actually of where that negative chatter doesn't really hold up to much careful scrutiny. Admittedly, A mount lacks newer telephoto primes, particularly a 400 prime and a newer f4 300, but that's really about it. This lens is still better than the competing Canikon products (see testing at DPR).


Hopefully, this gives you a quick survey of the main current options for long telephoto zooms on your Alpha body.
reviewer#16290 date: Jul-2-2015
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.7
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 300/4 APO G and Minolta 400/4.5 APO G
price paid:About $2400 new
positive:Great sharpness all over even at full aperture, especially for being a zoom.
Fast focusing most of the times.
negative:Short focus distance to long.
A tad heavy for long handheld sessions, but what isn't in this category.
At 400mm it's quite long and changes the pivot point a lot when on a gimbal.
comment:Great lens in all aspects, would really like try this on a 36MP+ camera.

Edit: Now tested on the a7RII 42MP with the LA-EA3 adapter and it really shines both in focus speed and sharpness.
The 5-axis IBIS on the a7RII does a really good job preventing handshakes. Could shoot down to 1/60s at 400mm without any problem.

Try to at least bring my monopod with this as after a while it's hard to keep it steady.

Now I only need 4 lenses with me on longer outings.
CZ 16-35 and 24-70, 70-400 and a macro 60, 90, 100 or 200mm depending.

reviewer#12164 date: Mar-7-2015
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.7
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:SAL70400G1
SAL70200G
price paid:AU$1,470 as new
positive:Faster focus motor than the SAL70400G1,more pleasing body finish to my taste, solidly built, silent and quick SSM focus, excellent optics sharp at all apertures (mine needed quite a degree of micro focus adjustment, but once having been set, is very sharp).
negative:Not weather sealed, slightly more robust but still rather flimsy plastic hood, zoom ring set forward means it cannot be used when the hood is reverse mounted on body. Bokeh can look a bit harsh if the background is busy.
comment:I wasn't unhappy with the Mark 1 version but saw this one about a year old and as new up for auction on eBay, and won the bidding. I was then able to sell my Mark 1 for little less than the new one cost me, so I'm very happy with the faster focus and the improved nano coatings on the lens elements. IQ is much the same on both, but the faster focus speed is worth having. An excellent lens for wildlife and sports photography, perfectly matched with tha a77ii camera.
reviewer#11873 date: Jun-20-2014
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:
missing
price paid:2098.00
positive:solid build, sharp at any mm, no distortion (that I can see), SUPER FAST auto
negative:heavy, hood is cheap, hood prevents variable ND filter use (causing glare with filter use, no weather sealing
comment:I considered the 70200 f/2.8 but after a bad experience with the 2470 f/2.8 Z from Sony (sloppy fit to camera body), and that lens "II" model $1000 more expensive, I opted not. Boy, and I not sad about that decision! Others reviews convinced me of the light quality and I confess, they were right! It is an outstanding lens. I could not be happier with the reach and quality I get for wildlife, landscape, and sports. Definitely need a monopod or tripod for use. I've gotten amazing 'strawberry moon' shots as it arrived days before the date, excellent chipmunks and bird shots on the monopod (with A99 body), and am too excited to wait for the Alaska trip in August. You will not be disappointed with this lens.
reviewer#11712 date: Mar-2-2014
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 70-400mm Mk 1
Nikon 300mm f4 (on APS-C D7100)
price paid:£1600 New
positive:Can be hand held for Birds in Flight
Fast AF
Silent
Sharp at 400mm and f5.6
negative:Need to buy Camouflage cover for what I want to do.
No weather sealing
comment:Better and faster AF than MK 1 on same A99 camera.
As fast and accurate as my favourite Nikon lens for BIF but a bit heavier. It is let down by the SLT camera which cannot continuously respond to action shots like the Nikon combination can. Need an APS-C non SLT camera body to get more length but in the meantime cropping will be just as good.
Will compare it to the Tamron 150-600mm when I get it.
reviewer#11710 date: Mar-1-2014
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 5
overall: 4.5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:70-200G
70-300G
70-400G
Cz135
price paid:€1945
positive:AF is fast en accurate.
Silent af motor.
New color looks beter then the old silver one.
Great magnification 0.27x.
IQ and colors.
Can be hand held.
negative:Not that much beter then the old one G1.
Premium price!
Much attraction.
Hood is weak.
comment:I like this lens a lot, but the price over the old one is to much (no wheater sealing).
Sold the old one 2yrs ago and still think i should never have done that.
Now happy with the G2
reviewer#11695 date: Feb-16-2014
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.6
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:70-400 G1, Sigma 100-300 F4
price paid:1880Euros
positive:Sharp, even wide open
Superfast AF
Color, contrast
Nice bokeh
negative:No weather sealing
Expensive
comment:This is a very nice lens
reviewer#11687 date: Feb-12-2014
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:70200G
price paid:1800
positive:Amazing lens, very impressed, not too heavy for 400mm, fast accurate AF, good build, barely noticeable distortion and CA
negative:not F2.8, very slight distortion at 400mm and 70mm, barely noticeable though
comment:Exceptional lens
reviewer#11461 date: Nov-10-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sigma 150-500mm
70-300G SSM
price paid:15000DKK = 2000 €
positive:Sharp all the way, even wide open.
Superfast AF
Overall nice build
Looks better in white, than the ugly silver!
negative:Not wheathersealed WTF???
Price is on the heavyside, like the weight.
A slightly flimsy hood
I'll still like it better in black.
comment:The sharpnes and AF speed makes the Sigma looks like "#¤% it's simply in another league and it's a notch better than the 70300G in build and sharpnes and AF speed, the colaboration of the SSM II and AF-D on the A99 is out of the ballpark.

I think the price would fit better, if Sony had made it weatherseald.

But no regrets, it's a brilliant pice of glass.
reviewer#11458 date: Nov-9-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.4
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:70-400GII is little faster autofocus but too nervous until it locks on subject. I don't thing the extra AF speed give any benefit compare to 70-400GI because until it locks on subject is the same time.
price paid:1800 euro
positive:As the original 70-400GI plus I like the white colour more than the silver
negative:White hood very easy to get dirty & sctatch
comment:Except from white colour I don't see any reason to buy the GII over the GI
reviewer#11315 date: Aug-20-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Tamron SP 200-500
price paid:$2,195 USD
positive:Color, contrast, AF speed
negative:Lack of zoom lock
comment:My use of a long lens is a replacement in many ways to a gun of my youth. I enjoy the element of "the hunt" when using this lens. I had a Tamron 200-500 for 6 years and while sharp at f10 or above I always knew it was a good lens, but never a great lens. And for that reason I always felt less than enthusiastic about what I was going to capture although in bright light the Tamron did yield exceptional images.

This lens is much different. It is not f2.8 but with today's ISO speeds the f4-5.6 is more than adequate at all but twilight on either end of the day. The AF is quick and very accurate and the colors are rich and the detail is very much like my Zeiss portrait lens.

If you like wildlife and shooting grandchildren on a ball field this lens will be hard to beat for the money as expensive as some may think it is.

I no longer feel lens lust for my wildlife photographs.

Now I want to go back to Montana and Idaho.

reviewer#11293 date: Aug-5-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I used to own this lens
compared to:70-400 G version 1
price paid:2200 US
positive:Sharp to 400mm
Sharp wide open
Excellent AF speed
negative:Flimsy lens hood
Can't access zoom ring with hood reversed
comment:As others have already mentioned, the AF speed is much better, and there's less hunting compared to version 1. That's the important stuff.
Can't see any difference in IQ despite the new coatings but I've only had it a few days.
As far as my score of 4 on the build rating: I suppose there's a design reason for locating the zoom ring where you can't get at it with the hood reversed, but it's cost me a few shots when things happened fast. Changing this would have required an extensive redesign which I know wasn't going to happen, but I still don't like it. OTOH they could have easily reinforced that cheap lens hood, and they didn't.

And, of course, Sony ditched the silver and cinnabar, looks like a proper G lens now.
reviewer#11272 date: Jul-27-2013
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.9
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 70-400 G1
Canon 100-400 L
Canon 70-300 L
price paid:1800 CHF (new)
positive:- SSM
- Fast AF
- IQ
- Sharpness
negative:- No weather sealing
- Zoom creep
- White hood
- Halo effect
comment:This is a very nice lens. I had the Mark I and it was a very sharp lens. This one now adds the AF speed.

Still not solved is the zoom creep when the lens is hanging downwards as there is no zoom lock, not there was a weather sealing added.

Works well with the LA-EA4 on my A7r / A7s

reviewer#11189 date: Jun-10-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:sony 70-400 G SSM
minolta 300/4 G HS
price paid:
missing
positive:sharp
fast af
nice bokeh
negative:the hood is easy to clip off...a friend of mine drop his hood at the tiger's cage so he has to buy a new one...
comment:Really love this lens...much improved than the first edition...
the af is really fast, the color and the contrast is really good...and it's sharp...
reviewer#11097 date: May-7-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:70-400 G SSM 1.
Minolta 400 mm.
price paid:2200 Euro
positive:The AF is fast and now it works much better then G SSM 1. No hunting.
AFD with A99 really works with fast moving objects.
negative:None.
comment:I bought this lens for the great AF and optics.
reviewer#11096 date: May-4-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:70400G
price paid:1.999 € (new)
positive:Extreme fast SSM, almost like CZ2470
negative:
missing
comment:A well done evolution of the mighty 70400G.
The fast AF is obvious noticeable.
As I owned the 70400G 2y ago I personally notice an improvement on the Bokeh quality compared to the G2; the quite busy Bokeh on the old one was the only criticism.
IQ (colors, contrast, vignetting, aberations) is exceptional high.
reviewer#11080 date: Apr-27-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:SAL70-400 G1
price paid:1800 (new)
positive:- Very sharp
- Great contrast
- FAST FAST AF!!!
negative:- Slightly busy bokeh
- Expensive
comment:Owned the G1 and had a chance to test this lens when my neighbor (also a Sony shooter) bought a few in Hong Kong. While optically identical except for improved coatings, the AF speed difference to the 70-400G1 was remarkable. The G2 feels like is focuses as fast as the CZ24-70 which is a very fast focusing lens.
reviews found: 17   

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 17
  • sharpness: 4.88
  • color: 5.00
  • build: 4.65
  • distortion: 4.82
  • flare control: 4.76
  • overall: 4.82

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