Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS Lens on the a7, part 1 (first impression review)
We have seen what the first FF mirrorless camera can do using adapted lenses, in fact finding out it is extremely suitable for such use. But the value of a camera system is primarily judged by its native lens collection.
One of the first lenses introduced with the a7 was the 70-200. Thanks to Sony Hellas and our friends at All About Digital Photo, I had the opportunity to use it in a variety of conditions and here is a report of this experience.
The FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS is a lens of the Sony G line, which means it's not a Zeiss (supposedly the top quality line) but Sony's own high-performance line. First (obvious) impression: it's white. In case anyone is wondering, white is the color used by Canon for all its larger/telephoto L-lenses, the rationale being they absorb less heat (and also stand out as "professional" options). But older readers may remember that Minolta's own pro telephotos were also white-colored; Sony is not copying Canon, they copy their own heritage.
The 70 to 200mm telephoto is an established standard with DSLR users, since it covers a very useful focal range, useful in a wide variety of situations. Let it be noted that, in photographic history, there are several other options, such as 70-210mm and 80-200mm (old Minoltas were there), but the general public is more used to the 70-200mm standard by now.
And here comes the question of size/weight. This is a heavy lens, compared to the majority of mirrorless lenses out there. Listen: Physics is Physics. There is simple no way to design a constant aperture telephoto lens, to cover a 35mm sized sensor, and make it much smaller. Take comfort in that, at least, the bodies are smaller in the case of mirrorless. The lens gets even larger, and, to be honest, looking a bit ridiculous from some angles, when you use the hood -which is included, as well as a very good tripod collar. This is the reason I didn't use it all; also, as we shall see, there is no real issue with flares anyway.
Sony opted for a constant f/4 instead of f/2.8 lens, a decision criticized by many. I disagree. A f/2.8 would be even larger and at least 1000€ more expensive. Sony needed a 70-200mm to cover this essential focal range, and the f/4 was the most appropriate choice, really. Critically, they made it with stabilization, which is almost indispensable at these focal lengths. Let me remind also that only the latest a7ii has in-body stabilization.
Starting with build quality, the lens is really pro level, and easily on par with similar lenses from Canon and Nikon. It is interesting to note that, for example, the Canon 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM is totally comparable in size/weight, build quality, as well as being very close in price.
The lens looks and feels solid and dependable. One minor gripe, with the original a7: since this camera (as well as the a7r) have a plastic internal flange in the mount, at times there might be some play on the mount, which is alarming but practically harmless. Needless to say you never handle ANY camera with such a lens without having one hand on the lens itself. Sony replaced the flange with a metal one, on the a7s and a7ii, which seems to indicate they realize the skepticism they created.
In use, the a7+lens package is very pleasant, with zoom and focus rings being especially smooth and fluid. Controls on the lens, for focus zones, manual/auto focus and stabilization options, are also easy to find and use, even in the dark. All in all, it succeeds in being one of these zooms that you forget you have on camera... if we let weight aside. Definitely use it with the optional grip on camera, if you plan on several hours of shooting.
I shall speak more about performance, especially AF in various conditions, as well as IQ, in Part 2; for the time being, here is a small selection of photos, in a walkaround situation, using several focal lengths and apertures (click on the images for a larger version + details).