I had the fortunate opportunity to test out the Sony 70-300 today, shooting some Track & Field. I ordered the lens via B&H Photo a few days prior and I got my order quick with one-day shipping. I quickly unboxed it and took it out to shoot.
I’m going to cover several aspects of the lens, discussing the cosmetics, auto-focus in photo as well as video, and finally, my conclusion.
On the cosmetic side of this lens, it actually feels really nice in the hands. It feels really well built. Now, I haven’t held the a-mount version of this lens, but I must say this lens feels very good. When I compare it to Canon’s 70-300 USM that I owned at some point, this lens feels much better and more premium.
In terms of weight, the lens feels very similar to the 70-200 F4 OSS lens. When mounted to the Sony a6300 it will feel slightly front heavy, but in my hands it doesn’t feel completely ridiculous. I know naysayers out there might say it's silly, but it actually feels really good in the hands. I used a smallrig cage when I shot with it during Track & Field and it felt just fine shooting with it.
The features on the lens gives you a AF-MF switch, along with a focus limiter, and OSS on and off switch, which is nice. In addition, you get a button on the lens which will give you further customization.
The lens will creep when hung downward, fortunately there is a lock that you can set to prevent this from happening.
This lens does not internally zoom, so you’ll extend the lens 1.5 times its contracted length.
Handling and Use
When using the camera with either the a6300 or Sony a7Rii, it felt right at home. I never thought that at some point it felt off or anything.
I had the chance to try out the lens combo on both the a7Rii and Sony a6300. I shot in continuous autofocus using either center, wide, and even zone focusing. I found the autofocus to lock on and hit its target consistently throughout. Occasionally it would lose focus, but I would attest that more to my mistake than the lens and camera combo. You’ll see in the examples that I show how well the lens was able to keep up with a fast-moving target.
When it came to video autofocus, the 70-300 coupled with the Sony a6300 focused as I would expect. It tracked the subject quickly with little to no hesitation. If continuous autofocus in video is something you’re interested in, this lens is nice to have.
The reason this lens is so appealing is that it reaches out to 300mm. I believe, at the time of this video, that this is the only native e-mount lens that has a reach of 300mm. Having native glass with that kind of reach is really nice since the lens will take full advantage of the autofocusing capabilities of the body.
The only major drawback for this lens, is the fact that the maximum aperture is 4.5 at the wide end, and 5.6 at the longer end. It isn’t an issue when you’re shooting a daytime sport like Track & Field, but once you start shooting a sport in the evening, you’ll definitely start having to push those ISO values up there. I know that when the clouds came rolling in, I was pushing the ISO on the a6300 upwards of 3200. So keep that in mind.
Another challenge is creating that shallow depth of field. Now shooting at the longer end of the lens will definitely help give you that compression to separate your subject from the background. I never found it an issue with this lens. I was very happy with the results.
The price on this lens is steep, but it’s to be expected from Sony at this time. I’m sure the price will drop within 6-12 months.
If you’re in the market for a long telephoto lens for the Sony E-mount, then you really don’t have any options at this time. The person this lens is for is an individual that does a lot of shooting with available light and needs that longer reach. It may not be long enough for most wildlife photographers, but daytime sports photographers will enjoy the reach that this lens afford. If you’re willing to compromise on some of the downsides like the aperture, then I would recommend this lens in your kit if you use the Sony e-mount system.