I want to stress to readers that this is an initial review. I had the opportunity to test the lens out on both the a6300 and a7Rii at a volleyball tournament for about 3.5 hours. With that said, I’ve gotten a good idea about the overall lens performance; however, I will be doing more test with this lens with a variety of sports. Normally I opt to shoot with the 85mm f1.8 for volleyball or even the 120-300. I just find having fast glass to be a necessity for these kinds of sports.
We’ll be taking a look at the physical features of the actual lens, general handling, autofocus performance, and conclusion.
The Sony 70-200 G-Master construction wise, is similar to the 70-200 F4. The build is really good and solid. The lens comes in 3.26lb, almost the exact weight of the Canon alternative, while the 70-200 F4 is just under 2lbs. Weight is going to be a definitive argument from pundits who think these types of lenses on mirrorless bodies are ridiculous. In some ways they are right, but when I compare it to me holding a 5D Mark III with battery grip. The overall Sony package will still come out lighter in the end.
The lens has nearly the same features you’ll find on the Sony 70-200 F4. You have your Autofocus/Manual Focus switch. You have a focus limiter of full and infinity to 3 meters. The lens has optical steadyshot, and it has two modes of stabilization. In addition, you have 3 focus hold buttons placed between the focus ring and zoom ring. You have a removal tripod base, which slides right off. Now I haven’t dealt with a lens with this setup, but the tripod ring is incorporated into the base of the lens. Loosening this knob will allow you to rotate the lens.
The lens is said to be weather resistant. We can see the rubber gasket. The lens hood on this is very interesting. For one it’s very nice. The interior of the lens is filled with a fabric texture to pick up any dust. There's a small button you press to release and attach the lens. But what’s really interesting is this window created in the hood that slides down to reveal access to a filter such as a variable nd filter or polarizer.
The zoom and focus ring feel well dampen and smooth. The lens features 23 elements and 18 groups, as well 11 rounded aperture blades.
My goal when trying this out at the volleyball tournament was to get not only acquainted with the lens, but also with the autofocus modes and options of both my sony mirrorless cameras. Up until this point, I really hadn't had the chance to shoot any indoor sports with these two cameras. I did try several different autofocus modes to determine which ones worked the best. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ll still be doing more test. The one thing I noticed quickly is that if you’re not using the right autofocus mode, you’re going to find your lens hunting a lot. Initially when I set the lens to flexible spot, I didn’t find my results to come out that well. I then went and changed it to Lock on AF Center, the performance definitely improved.
The lens and body combo I still found would hunt slightly, but it didn’t happen too often. I hate making comparisons, but I still find that a DSLR is still faster in some ways. I would never find the Canon 70-200 II to hunt with a 5D or 7D body like I did with Sony. However, their are some tangible benefits with the Sony system.
Focus Hold Button
I never really took advantage of the focus hold button until this tournament. I set the focus hold button to eye-autofocus. I have to say that this feature can become a game changer. Let me explain. In a sport like volleyball, if you want to get a photo of the players behind the net. You could manually set focus or hope your autofocus hits it with a dslr. What I did however, was I used both face tracking and also eye autofocus interchangeably. With good accuracy I found those features to lock on the target and not focus on the net. It’s something I’ll have to play around with more.
I like getting good closeup shots of the players, and I use eye autofocus to make sure that my focus was on the mark. I absolutely took advantage of this features. I wouldn’t say it's a game changer, but it definitely is a tool sports photographers have at their disposal.
When shooting, I used the a7Rii with the battery grip. I found the combo to feel really good. I just can’t imagine what the combo will feel like if you don’t use the battery grip. On the a6300, I’m going to outright recommend you buy a third party battery grip. You could probably get away without one for sure, but I think you’ll enjoy the shooting experience overall with one. For a sport like volleyball or even basketball you’ll find yourself needing to shoot vertically quite a bit!
The Sony 70-200 GMaster is the lens that many Sony E-Mount users have been waiting for. I still have quite to go for a complete review, but my initial impressions so far is that this is a solid, native lens for the system. My upcoming reviews will look at sharpness as well as using it with the 1.4x extender when it comes in. I still don’t think that the sony mirrorless system is ready for primetime when it comes to sports, but their heading in the right direction. I think this will be a solid lens for portrait and event shooters. If you’ve been on the wait for 2.8 70-200, it’s already here. Sadly, supplies are short and hopefully demand will be fulfilled soon. I’m still waiting on a more pro-line body from Sony that can definitely take advantage of a lens like this for sports. If you’re still on the fence about this lens for sports, I would suggest to just wait a little longer as more test come out from me and other photographers.
If you were waiting for this lens as a sports photographer to make the leap to sony system, I would definitely wait a little bit longer. Sony definitely has a new body announcement in the works, and that might address a lot of the growing pain Sony shooters have been having. I know there's a lot to love and a lot to hate about Sony, but you can at least appreciate their efforts in pushing more technology into their cameras.