Sony AF 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM A-mount lens review by robberly12

reviewer#10818 date: Jan-6-2013
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; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 500/f8 Reflex
Tamron 70-300/USD
Tamron 70-200/f2.8
price paid:1863 USD (new)
Quick, silent focus
DMF with focus hold/limiter
Versatile focal length range
AF with Kenko 1.4x DGX TC
negative:Expensive, but worth it
Slightly busy bokeh
comment:I bought the Sony 70-400G to get better detail in my bird photos than was possible with the Sony 500/F8 Reflex. I initially considered the Tamron 200-500 & Sigma 150-500/OS. Both provided near the image quality with greater reach at a significantly lower price. The Sigma, in particular, was appealing because of its good reported image quality and HSM focusing, but ultimately I chose 70-400G in part because of its better build and more bells and whistles (focus hold & limiter).

I also, ironically, preferred to not have a lens with OS. Having image stabilization on my Sigma 18-250 has been a nuisance for me because it has inadvertently gotten turned on a couple times and conflicted with Sony's SSS. The 150-500/OS is heavier, which also favored the 70-400G. Finally, the 70-400G was reported to work well with my Kenko 1.4x DGX TC, which clinched the decision. (See below for a caveat on using the Kenko 1.4x.)

Overall, I have been very happy with my decision. Image quality with my A580 is excellent, and flare is well controlled using the lens hood. As reported elsewhere, the lens hood is a little flimsy, but it fits securely and keeps the total lens weight down. The bokeh at full zoom is a little busy, but is so much better than my 500 Reflex that I barely notice it!

Although it is a large heavy lens, I have no trouble hand-holding it on the A580. On my smaller A330, it feels a bit unbalanced and is harder to handhold, but I have yet to break out the tripod mount. I would prefer that the zoom and focus rings were reversed in their respective positions, although I was used to this layout because it's also used on my Tamron 70-300/USD.

Autofocus is silent and quick, although it can occasionally hunt at the 400mm end in less than ideal light. Using the focus limiter helps to reduce this, though.

I was initially disappointed that the 70-400G would not AF with my Kenko 1.4x DGX TC in anything other than bright light, and even then was wildly inaccurate. Further experimentation revealed that it would autofocus well in good light if I selected the wide AF area on the camera. Normally I use spot focus for bird photography, but I can get good results using wide AF if I carefully confirm the focus point. Image quality with the Kenko is surprisingly good, surpassing that from the 500 Reflex at an equivalent focal length. As a bonus, Exif is correctly reported as 560 mm/F8 at the long end, so image stabilization works correctly.

On a side issue, I am keeping the much smaller, lighter Sony 500 Reflex for bird outings where I don't want to carry as much heavy gear.

Overall, the 70-400G is a solid, high performing, and versatile lens with excellent image quality. It is well worth its premium price!

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 129
  • sharpness: 4.87
  • color: 4.90
  • build: 4.56
  • distortion: 4.85
  • flare control: 4.84
  • overall: 4.80 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania