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

reviewer#44250 date: Mar-21-2019
sharpness: 3.5
color: 5
build: 3
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 3.9
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 have experience with this lens
compared to:Tamron 18-250
Sony DT 55-300 SAM
Sony 70-300 G SSM II
Tamron SP 70-300 USD
Minolta AF 75-300 "Big Beercan"
Minolta AF 75-300 D
Minolta AF 100-300 APO
Minolta AF 100-300 APO D
Minolta AF 100-400 APO
Sigma 150-500 EX DG APO OS HSM
price paid:70-300G SSM II
positive:F5.6 at 400 mm
Removable tripod collar
negative:Size and weight
Extending zoom
Softness (with manual focus on a tripod)
comment:Sony released this lens in 2008 for $1600 and then raised the price to $1800 in 2011 and then $2000 in 2012. Judging from the early reviews here it was most often purchased at a $100 discount. They reduced it at least temporarily to $1600 again in 2014 after the introduction of the II version. Used value in 2019 is around half the original retail price.

I wasn't looking for this lens, but another Dyxum user offered it as a trade for a 70-300G SSM II. I had just bought a 70-300G SSM II via an eBay auction that I didn't plan on using much. I did test it and found it quite sharp. This seemed like a good opportunity to obtain a lens I barely even considered because of its cost. I had borrowed another copy for a few minutes from a friend years ago.

Being an original version meant my Kenko DGX teleconverters would both allow autofocus and also correct the focal length reported to the camera for more effective stabilization. Sony's own A-mount teleconverters are quasi compatible with the lens. Sony disables AF when either of their own teleconverters are used with this lens. Meanwhile both of the Sony FE teleconverters do allow AF with the FE 100-400 GM OSS.

In pretty much every way other than market value, the trade was a downgrade. But I am sort of glad the lens didn't turn out to be stellar example, as I find it unwieldy even on the large A68. The zoom control is too far forward on the body.

I much prefer the smaller Minolta 100-400 F4.5-6.7. The Minolta was sharper at every focal length and aperture and has a tighter angle-of-view at the long end. But even the Minolta has little value for me over the sharper 75-300 zooms. The Sony did focus much better than the Minolta at the long end.

I will continue using my Sony DT 55-300 SAM on the A68, but I would like to find a sharp, brighter, longer lens eventually.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 134
  • sharpness: 4.85
  • color: 4.89
  • build: 4.54
  • distortion: 4.83
  • flare control: 4.84
  • overall: 4.79 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania