Sony expands its FE native lens line-up with two super-telephoto releases that are sure to appeal to wildlife and sports photographers alike
Last week the Internet was abuzz with talk of a mysterious listing of a supposed Sony FE 200-600mm lens. The problem was, no such FE lens existed… until today! But whether the impromptu listing was the real deal, a prototype or a complete fake doesn’t really matter now that it’s official; the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS is coming. Oh, and an FE 600mm f/4 G Master OSS prime is on its way too.
We were lucky enough to be the only UK retailer to attend Sony’s launch event at Ham Polo Club, Richmond, and Port Lympne safari park. Here’s what we know…
The first of the two new telephoto lenses is the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS telephoto zoom. The 200-600mm will sit alongside Sony’s existing FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS, providing that long-awaited extra zoom range that so many wildlife and sports photographers crave. It’s compatibility with Sony’s full-frame 1.4x and 2x teleconverters makes it even more versatile. Aperture speeds using the teleconverters will of course be affected, but the additional reach is a huge positive, especially for wildlife photographers.
Sony has built this new zoom lens for speed, image quality and reliability. It has a durable design, which is weather sealed against dust and moisture, and the front element sports a fluorite coating to help repel dirt and watermarks. Internally, the FE 200-600mm sports 24 elements in 17 groups, with 5 ED elements. Nano AR coatings help to reduce internal reflections, while one aspherical element helps to minimise spherical aberration and create smooth bokeh, aided by an 11-bladed aperture.
Although weather sealed, we often see lenses of this type suffering with internal dust, due to heavy focus breathing, caused by their long telephoto zoom range. However, the FE 200-600mm features an internal zoom and autofocus powered by a Direct Drive SSM motor, so focus breathing is absolutely minimal. This internal zoom will also make the lens very practical for photographers who operate in extreme weather conditions (using lens covers) or anyone using hides. It will also negate the issue of lens creep. A light torque system makes using the zoom ring easy, even when used handheld over long periods of time.
The FE 200-600mm’s RRP has to be talked about. When this lens was merely a rumour, we assumed it would likely hit the market at around £2,000 to £2,200. The actual RRP is around £1,800. That’s a stonking price for a lens of this nature! The FE 200-600mm will fill a real gap in Sony’s native lens line-up. However, it doesn’t necessarily offer the speed a lot of professional sports photographers require, when shooting events such as the Olympic Games. That’s where lens number two comes in…
That leaves us with Sony’s other announcement, the brand-new FE 600mm f/4 G Master OSS telephoto prime. This absolute beast of a lens provides everything you need in terms of image quality and speed, while being designed for use with Sony’s small full-frame mirrorless bodies.
The lens is designed in a similar manner to the Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS. Its buttons and switches are in the same place, making professional use immediately easy. The 24 elements (in 18 groups) are positioned so they are biased towards the lens mount. This means the lens balances well with Sony’s smaller mirrorless bodies; it’s also currently the lightest 600mm f/4 lens available on the market today.
Three fluorite elements help to control chromatic aberration and are also lighter than glass elements. One XA (extreme aspherical) element has been specially engineered to minimise spherical aberration, while also creating exceedingly smooth bokeh for out-of-focus areas. The aperture itself is made up of 11 circular blades, for the smoothest results possible. As a G Master lens, it goes without saying that the resolution of the 600mm is second to none, and this is aided by Nano AR coating to help suppress internal reflections, flare and ghosting.
The autofocus system is driven by two XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors. These are suspended in a way that means they encounter no contact and therefore no friction, making AF smooth, accurate and exceedingly quick. The XD motors are controlled by a brand new algorithm for optimum performance, especially when paired with the incredible focusing systems of Sony’s A9 and A7R III.
This latest addition to the G Master range might be the world’s lightest 600mm f/4 (at the time of writing), but it’s still a durable piece of kit. Seals have made the lens dust and moisture resistant and fluorine-coated front elements should minimise dirt and watermarks. It also features a strong and light carbon fibre lens hood, and comes with a strong, dedicated trunk case.
The FE 600mm is of course compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, for even greater reach and a maximum aperture speed of f/8 at 1,200mm. Both the FE 600mm and FE 200-600mm feature a new image stabilisation mode (mode 3), which has been designed to help track moving and erratic subjects with greater ease.
Who’s it for? Sony mirrorless camera users who desire the versatility of a 200-600mm telephoto zoom or the reach and sublime resolution of a 600mm G Master prime. Both lenses will appeal to wildlife and sports photographers alike.
What does it compare to? The closest native Sony lens to the FE 200-600mm is the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS, whereas the FE 600mm f/4’s closest counterpart is the FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS.
Why should you care? Sony boasts the biggest native lens line-up in the full-frame mirrorless market, but this duo of lenses has certainly filled a gap. If there’s room for a 200-600mm or 600mm prime in your collection, Sony’s reputation for great glass makes either of these latest lens releases a no-brainer.