The Sony FE 70-200mm f4G OSS Mark II is a short telephoto zoom designed for Alpha mirrorless cameras. Launched in July 2023, it comes almost ten years after the original Mark I version which, lest we forget, was one of the first five lenses used to launch Sony’s full-frame mirrorless system.
The new lens is physically shorter than the original model, claims better optical quality, improved focusing, and much better close-up capabilities delivering an impressive 0.5x magnification, not to mention compatibility with tele-converters lacking on the Mark I – yep, giving it the chance to turn into a 400mm f8 or a 1:1 macro lens.
Together they represent compelling upgrades for only $200 more than the retail price of the Mark I version, but with rebates today you can pick up the older lens for closer to $1300, making a more significant difference. And while the new f4G Mark II may cost roughly two thirds the price of the latest Mark II f2.8 G Master, it’s actually not much different in price to the original Mark I 2.8 G Master, and that’s still a tempting option.
So there’s lots to weigh up and in this review I’ll be making direct comparisons between the new and old f4 models, and if you’re wondering whether the latest 2.8 G Master is spending the extra on, I have a separate review all about it. My video review will be viewable from 17 July, but my full written review is ready to go if you keep scrolling! Thanks for your patience!
Like all 70-200 zooms, it’s an ideal range for portraits or events where people are a little more distant, as well as close-range sports and wildlife, or simply for grabbing tighter views of urban or natural landscapes.
As before, the choice between f2.8 and f4 boils down to aperture, size, weight and cost, and I bought the original f4G back in 2014 to go with my own A6000 as a lightweight combination for photographing the Tour de France.
In the article linked above, you can see some of the photos I took with them, proving Sony was already adept at fast action with mirrorless even a decade ago. In fact I still use the 70-200 f4G Mark I on an A6400 most weeks to photograph school sports events.
So what’s new? Fast-forward a decade and the latest Mark II f4G on the left is most obviously shorter than the original Mark I on the right: 149mm versus 175mm, at least when the new version is at the 70mm focal length, and at 794g, a tad lighter too.
That said, turn the zoom ring to 200mm and the barrel extends to become a little longer than the Mark I model which remains the same length thanks to internal zooming.
This is the same strategy Canon employed when making a mirrorless version of its 70-200 f4 zoom, and like that model, there’s understandably concerns over sealing as a result.
Now I’ve only used the lens for a couple of weeks so can’t comment on longevity, but so far I’ve not experienced issues with the extending barrels on Canon’s RF zooms, but your mileage may vary. Ultimately only time will tell.
Just while I’ve got both lenses pictured side-by-side, here they are with their supplied lens hoods fitted, and again with them reversed over their barrels for transportation.
And while the new 70-200 may only become shorter when zoomed-out to 70mm, this is typically how you’ll transport it, so it genuinely occupies less space in a bag. For instance, I could stand it up in some bags rather than having it lie down.
Ok let’s take a closer look at the design and controls. Like the Mark I version, it’s supplied with a removeable tripod collar and foot which allows you to rotate the barrel through 360 degrees, albeit without an Arca Swiss dovetail for slotting directly into compatible clamps.
The new f4G may continue to lack the aperture ring of the f2.8 model, but shares a similar array of switches: five in all for adjusting the focus mode, range limiter and optical stabilisation, while on the opposite side of the barrel is a switch to lock the barrel in its shortest position at 70mm for transportation. I didn’t experience any barrel creep even pointing directly up or down, but it could of course loosen over time.
Next comes the zoom ring, which turns smoothly and as you already know, extends the barrel. As an aside, Canon’s RF 70-200 f4 is actually a tad shorter still at 70mm, but it won’t work with teleconverters.
Between the two rings are three focus hold buttons, and at the end of the barrel is a very smooth manual focusing ring.
The filter thread remains the same 72mm as the Mark I, but eagle-eyed Sony fans may have already noticed the supplied lens hood is now a petal-type rather than a cylinder. This means the Mark II lens also misses out on the rubber tip of the Mark I hood and won’t balance anywhere near as securely when upside-down.
I personally find this a bit of a shame since I often stand-up bigger lenses like this when not in use.
Sony does describe the lens as being weather-sealed, and includes a rubber grommet at the mount. I should add I’ve used the Mark I version in plenty of light rain without issue, but again it doesn’t have an extending barrel.
Let’s move onto focusing, starting with the new 70-200 f4G Mark II mounted on an A7 IV body which I used for all my tests in this review. Here I have it at 70mm f4 in single AFS mode with a single AF area, and you can see it’s very swift.
Next for the lens at 200mm f4, still in AFS mode, where the focusing is almost instant. This is impressively quick, but let’s put it on the left with the older Mark 1 version on the right, again both at 200mm f4.
While both lenses are fast, the newer model on the left is visibly quicker, again almost instantaneous compared to the brief but visible pull on the right.
So this proves the new lens is indeed quicker at focusing as Sony promised, although as my Tour de France photos showed earlier, the older lens isn’t exactly being held back in focusing speed.
Now for the same test in video starting with the new f4G Mark II at 70mm f4 where the focusing is smooth and silent. This time the speed is being limited more by the video AF settings.
And now for the Mark II at 200mm f4, again smoothly refocusing between the bottles for video, but again nothing the older lens couldn’t do. Here they are side by side again at 200mm f4, where they’re showing similar performance for video using the default movie settings.
How about focusing on people? Here’s the new lens at 70mm f4 with face and eye detection enabled in Continuous AFC mode, where I’m easily kept in focus. It also gives you an idea of the kind of depth of field possible for portraits at 70mm f4, but I have a more formal comparison coming up.
As a modern mirrorless lens, the 70-200 f4G Mark II exploits software corrections and also supports focus breathing compensation on Sony’s most recent bodies.
Here you can see the lens exhibiting no breathing at all when focusing from infinity to the closest distance and back again with compensation enabled on the A7 IV. This feature works equally well at 200mm, although the older lens again wasn’t a bad offender in this regard.
In terms of lens profiles, Distortion Compensation is set to Auto in the camera menus and greyed-out, meaning it’s automatically applied to all in-camera JPEGs.
As a brand new lens though, there’s a brief period when the profile isn’t yet available for third-party RAW converters, which gives us a chance to peek behind the scenes.
So here’s the view at 70mm on a RAW file without lens corrections applied, and now the JPEG out of camera where it’s applied all the time. As I toggle between them, you’ll see the new lens is already optically pretty well-corrected at 70mm with only minor corrections for geometry.
Now for the view at 200mm, again starting with a RAW file without lens corrections applied, before switching to a JPEG out of camera, where again you’ll see minor pincushion distortion being corrected.
I always like to show you the pure optical performance of a lens out of interest, but it’s academic here since corrections are always applied to JPEGs in-camera and will also become the default option on RAW files when converters support the profile. It’s how the lens is designed to be used, so that’s how I’ll test it here, and in the spirit of fairness, I’ve also set Distortion Compensation to Auto for the older lens.
Ok, so let’s start with my usual distant landscape scene, angled so that details run into the corners, and you’re looking at the new 70-200 f4G Mark II at 70mm f4 here. Shooting new landscape comparisons outdoors with every lens I test can be time consuming and tricky, but I think it’s worth it.
Taking a closer look in the middle of the frame with the Mark II on the left and the original Mark I on the right shows both lenses performing at a high level, right out of the gate. Sharp, detailed, high contrast and no complaints here.
And just for the record closed to f5.6 and f8 although in the middle you’re unlikely to notice much benefit.
So let’s return to the new lens wide-open to f4 again before moving into the far corner, where there doesn’t appear to be much loss in sharpness. Let’s keep the new lens on the left and place the older version on the right, both showing the far corner performance at 70mm f4.
This time the older lens on the right is suffering with some softness and darkening due to vignetting, neither of which seem to be an issue for the new lens on the left which looks visibly crisper.
Closing both lenses to f5.6 allows the older lens on the right to catch-up somewhat, and if you’re after corner to corner sharpness with that model you’ll need to shoot between f5.6 and f8.
Next for both lenses roughly mid-way through their focal ranges at 135mm, starting as before with the new lens at f4, before zooming in for a closer look at the middle of the frame. Again the new lens on the left and the old on the right.
As before in the middle of the frame, both lenses are performing very well with little to nothing to choose between them. And again for the record, closed to f5.6 and again to f8.
So let’s return to the new lens wide-open at f4 and head into the far corners, where again it’s delivering visibly crisper results than the older version on the right. Even when I close down both lenses, the older one on the right can’t match the corner detail of the newer model even when it’s wide-open.
So finally onto the view at 200mm, here with the new lens at f4, so let’s take a closer look in the middle of the frame with the Mark II on the left and the old Mark I on the right. And once again the story’s the same as before: fantastically crisp results from both lenses wide-open, with little to nothing to choose between them in the middle of the frame.
And for good measure at f5.6 and at f8 before returning to the f4 version of the new lens and heading into the far corner. This time I’d say both lenses are actually looking more similar than they did at the short focal lengths.
Sure, the newer version on the left is arguably a tad crisper if you’re pixel peeping, and while it takes a more decisive lead when both are closed-down a little, it’s less of a difference than seen at 70 and 135mm in my tests.
Ultimately if your subject tends to be near the middle of the frame, both the old and new lenses will serve you equally well, even at f4, but if you also want sharpness right out into the corners, maybe for a landscape or building, the newer version will perform better at larger apertures.
I wouldn’t personally make a decision based on this alone, but before moving onto my next test I wanted to remind you the new lens is also compatible with Sony’s 1.4 and 2x teleconverters, giving it extra reach, not to mention even greater macro reproduction over the older model – and that’s something which could give it a more significant advantage to you.
Moving onto portraits, here’s a shot taken with the Mark II lens at 70mm f4, where you can get an idea of the background blurring possible from this kind of distance.
Taking a closer look with the newer Mark II lens on the left and the older Mark I version on the right, both at 70mm f4 and from the same distance shows both lenses are capable of delivering very crisp results on portraits.
I’d say the Mark II version on the left is a fraction sharper and a tad more contrasty here, but equally the rendering on the Mark I model on the right looks a little softer, and both could be arguments for favouring either lens depending on your preferences.
Now for the new lens at 135mm f4, roughly mid-way through the range, allowing you to capture a tighter portion of the background for less distraction.
Placing crops from the Mark II lens on the left against the Mark I on the right again tells the same story as at 70mm. Both lenses are capable of very crisp details in the middle of the frame with satisfyingly rendered backgrounds, but pixel peepers may find the newer model a tad crisper and the older version a little softer on its background blur.
I personally wouldn’t choose one lens over the other here as both are performing very well in this test.
If you’re thinking of using the lens for presenting to video, or indeed filming people at an event, it’ll deliver great results with smooth and silent focusing as seen here, and while the older model is equally good in this regard, the newer one has the benefit of supporting focus breathing compensation.
My garden wasn’t long enough for an effective portrait at 200mm, but I did grab this handheld video of Steven Seagull chilling on the Brighton seafront, showing the kind of blurring you can achieve when close to a subject with the background more distant. Not to mention the optical stabilisation working alongside IBIS here.
I also tried out the new lens for close-range action and birds in flight, again on the A7 IV body, here shooting bursts at its top speed. As I mentioned at the start, I’m quite fond of the 70-200 range for this kind of thing and have used it extensively for everything from school events to the Tour de France, with the crop factor of an APSC body providing an additional reach if desired.
Even on a full-framer here, the range can be ideal for nearby sports and wildlife that’s used to people and their bags of chips.
For a more formal comparison of bokeh blobs and background blur, I photographed an ornament with fairy lights around it. For this first comparison, I positioned the camera at the closest distance from which both lenses could focus, with the older version being the limiting factor here.
With both lenses side by side at 70mm f4 from the same distance, I wouldn’t say there’s anything to choose between their rendering styles which both exhibit minor textures and outlining.
Meanwhile closing the apertures on both lenses makes those already small blobs even smaller still.
Zooming both lenses to 200mm, but still at f4 and from the closest distance both could focus, makes the subject and blobs a little larger, but again I’d say little to choose between the newer Mark II on the left vs the older Mark I on the right.
But the Mark II lens has the benefit of considerably closer focusing than its predecessor, indeed so much so that it can deliver 0.5x magnification throughout its focal length. You will need to edge away from the subject as you increase the focal length, but the end result remains 1:2 reproduction from 70 to 200mm.
So now let’s see both lenses at 70mm f4, but from their respective minimum focusing distances with the newer Mark II on the left and the older Mark I on the right, where the difference is dramatic to say the least.
And again at 200mm f4, again from their closest respective distances, where the Mark II on the left has maintained the main subject size as promised, but now with even bigger bokeh blobs behind it.
Far superior close-up capabilities gives the newer Mark II lens much greater flexibility than the older version. To formally illustrate the difference, here’s a ruler photographed from the closest respective distance of each lens at 70mm where the new version at the top is reproducing around 70mm across the frame, confirming its 0.5x magnification.
Meanwhile the older lens at the bottom can’t even fill the width with a 300mm ruler. In fact I measured it here at about 390mm across the frame.
And now for both at 200mm, where the Mark II at the top is again delivering essentially the same reproduction, confirming its constant magnification throughout the focal range.
Meanwhile the older Mark I lens at the bottom may have improved with about 234mm across the frame, but it’s still obviously nowhere near as good as the new lens.
This for me is the biggest benefit of the new lens over the old one, now able to perform double-duty as a pretty respectable macro lens, and don’t forget if you fit a 2x teleconverter, it’ll deliver 1:1 reproduction throughout the range.
To show you what’s possible, I tried the lens with the focus bracketing feature on the A6700 camera, where you can see the magnification possible on a UK pound coin.
At 200mm f5.6 from this distance and angle, I needed around 60 frames to fully capture the subject in focus from front to back and used Helicon Focus to stack them into a single image.
And here’s that final stacked image with sufficient depth of field for the entire coin to be sharp, without having to close the aperture right down and suffer from diffraction. That said, even at f22, it wasn’t fully sharp from front to back, proving the benefit of focus bracketing and stacking for macro shooters.
Check prices on the Sony FE 70-200mm f4G OSS II at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!