Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM II A-mount lens review by ColiNiloK

reviewer#11727 date: Mar-15-2014
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; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I used to own this lens
compared to:-Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS II USM
-Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G SSM
price paid:2900 AUD
positive:-Sharp overall
-Faster and more decisive and accurate AF than the G1
-Weather sealed
-Nano AR coating gives better contrast and flare control than the G1
-White hood absorbs less heat
-Excellent lens handling features: low profile tripod mount,focus hold button,hood window; best handling in the class
negative:-Current pricing
-Not optically improved from the G1: still a little soft at 200mm wide open
-AF from far to near & vice versa indoor still hunts a little sometimes.
comment:I used to have fair amount of experience using the G1 before and wasn't so happy about it's AF performance indoor. Everything else I was happy about the G1. (Many people complained about it wasn't sharp at 200mm, it is true it is softer at 200mm,but I still think it is decently sharp.)Thus I really want a 70-200 that can AF faster and more decisive especially indoor.

Initially I was interested in the Tamron 70-200 II but after reading many reviews and did my own personal test, I was put off by its heavy focus breath issue, no AF limiter, no focus hold button, and no AF-D support; thus I waited for the G2.

I have read lot of people's comments/seen pictures taken, asked etc about the G2 for a while and most people who got the G2 really liked the lens and find it gives very good results, and even Sony Japan says is improved over the G1. I finally decided to purchase the G2 since its AF performance is my main concern over the G1 and I got a reasonable deal that is $600 cheaper than Sony Australia's RPP, however in the end I decided to return the G2 after using it for 2 weeks in exchange for an exceptional copied G1, why? Read on.

I know the G1 is a little softer wide open at 200mm,thus I borrowed a G1 from local camera shop against Canon 5D3 + Canon 70-200 mk2 lens(The current benchmark 70-200), before buying the G2 to set the tone to see how soft it compares to the Canon. And to my surprise both Canon and Sony combo at 200mm wide open there isn't much if any sharpness difference at all (which I also heard the Canon should beat the Sony G1 by far) not only that, this copy of G1's AF was spot on and AF faster than the the G1 I that have used before.

I later shot an event with this G1 and I checked real life pictures shot by this G1 with A99 and compared against pictures with Canon 70-200 L II with 5D3 (Different subjects, not direct comparison) at similar focal length and again I can't really see any sharpness difference, even bokeh rendering was similar, just difference in colour and contrast rendering. So I think this copy of the G1 is an exceptional copy.

Later I did a direct comparison using this exceptional copy G1 against 3 copies of G2, 2 tested in the shop and one of them I initally bought so I took my time and tested twice on different days to reduce human error. To my surprise, the 2 copies of the G2 I tested in the shop are clearly softer than the G1 at 200mm wide open using both AF and MF, using the same setting and under the same conditions. Laster on, I tested my copy of the G2 against this G1 twice, first my G2 and G1 were almost neck to neck, but still showing that the G1 is a little sharper at 200mm wide open. The 2nd test is was more obvious that my G2 clearly wasn't as sharp at 200mm, but my G2 do give slightly better contrast and slightly more vivid colours.

AF is defiantly faster and more decisive than the average G1 I have used in all AF modes but somehow not a huge difference against this exceptional copied G1. The AF of this G2 hunts slightly less at 200mm indoor but still hunts a little and sometimes in low light with side AF points I can't say it is that fast( It may due to the limitation of camera's AF system, as A99 doesn't have the best AF system in the market).

When compares to the Canon 70-200 Mk2 with 5D3 against A99 with G2, it's AF still doesn't feel as decisive as the Canon combo, especially AF from far to near or vice versa, but still the G2's AF is fast enough most of the time and very accurate and defiantly an improvement over the G1 I have used before, but somehow not much difference compared to the exceptional copied G1 I borrowed.

What the 2 generations of Sony 70-200 lens really good at are their colours and rendering, it beats the Canon especially shooting outdoor photos. It gives much more vivid yet well balanced colours with nicer tone, and the G2 does this slightly better than the G1.

Also both the Sony 70-200 handles much better with the focus hold button to lock AF in AF-C and AF-D mode and the hood window makes using CPL and graduated ND filters more convenient. Both Canon and Nikon's 70-200 doesn't offer this. I also appreciates the new white coloured hood, not only it makes the lens look more uniformed but it absorbs less heat shooting outdoors. Also if you hand holding the lens, I found the low profile tripod mount on the Sony is not as intrusive as Cannon's one while shooting with them attached and sometimes it feels like serves as a palm rest to allow you to reach the focus hold buttons. The hook- pinch style lens cap is also miles ahead of Canon's default one. All these features makes the G2 best handling 70-200 and equivalent focal lengthed lens I have ever used.

Other than that, other optical qualities of the G2 seem to match the G1 in general IE bokeh, however, as I haven't really done any direct comparison in those regards, so I won't be able to give concrete views on those.

As I originally bought the G2 for better AF (Epically indoors), weather sealing and hoping for an optical improvements; however, from my tests I find optically it is not improved and since I encountered an exceptional copy of the G1, I decided to return my G2 and swapped this G1 with spare cash to buy something else.

In the end, if you can justify the extra price on the new upgrades over the G1 and quirks of the Tamron 70-200 Mk2 go for it, it is still a good lens overall. For me it is not worth $1k more, especially I found an exceptional copy of the G1 that is optically sharper than 3 copies of the G2 I tested.

Thus I think ultimately the G2 is not worth the current price tag, but if it's $500-$600 cheaper it is a much more decent deal.

Update ( August 2014):

A friend of mine used the G2 on the A77II to do an event and he told me that the AF with the G2 is incredibly good even indoor and great at tracking. I think A99 AF system is the bottleneck back when I tested this lens. It will be interesting to test my exceptional copy G1 on A77II against a G2 to really find out just how good are the AF of G2 when it is pushed to the limit on a body with great AF system.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 7
  • sharpness: 4.93
  • color: 5.00
  • build: 4.71
  • distortion: 5.00
  • flare control: 4.71
  • overall: 4.87 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania