First experience with the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS on the field

I really hoped that at this date I was able to substantially test the SEL70200G on the field, but I wasn't because of opportunity and weather reasons. I just ran two quick tests with very limited time and freedom, so there are still many missing parts (for instance, the OSS behaviour). But I can say I experienced the initial impression; and it's pretty good.

I can confirm that handling the lens is a pleasant experience, even though we're on the “slightly heavy” side for a mirrorless. In case you feel it's important to jettison as much load as possible, you can save roughly 200g by removing the tripod collar and the lens hood: the collar is useless and sometimes annoying when working hand-held; the hood might be not needed in some scenarios; it might be even annoying when mounted in the reversed position because it makes the manual focusing ring inaccessible.

Vero e falso.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 166 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 100, hand-held.

While these are the first days of Fall, the weather in my home town is still good and warm, with plenty of people still enjoying a bath in the sea. Unfortunately, this also means hazy sky, less than optimal conditions for evaluating the contrast and colour rendition of the SEL70200G.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 114 mm, 1/200 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

The rings are rubberised and provide excellent grip (more about manual focusing below); they feel properly damped and easy to operate. The AF/MF physical switch on the lens is consistently managed by the NEX-6 camera software that switches the display mode (e.g. by activating focus peaking). This is a very welcome feature for a NEX-6 owner, since there's no button on the camera body that switches the focus mode in a single step. Instead, the physical switch to turn OSS on and off seems completely useless with the NEX-6: in fact, the software setting in the menus always overrides it (I still have to confirm this, I've asked the Sony support for advice).

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 146 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 100, hand-held.

The minimum focusing distance changes in function of the focusing mode: in MF mode I was able to focus on closer things where AF didn't lock (this has nothing to do with a focus range limiter switch which sets another limit at 3m). It's quite funny and I don't recall any other lens with this behaviour. I also have the impression that at 200mm the minimum focus range increases a bit, but I can't confirm (others seem to do). All these things look consistent with the Sony fact sheet which describes the minimum focusing distance as “1–1.5 (AF) 1–1.35 (MF)”.

There are also three focus hold buttons around the barrel, which can be easily engaged by the fingers of the hand holding the lens; unfortunately they seem to be ignored by the camera body. Not a big deal since holding the focus can be done in another way by means of the AF/MF switch, but I wish Sony would offer the capability of assigning them to custom functions (for instance, enabling/disabling the PDAF could be helpful).

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 138 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 100, hand-held.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 70 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

The quick photos I shot during the first session didn't show any surprise: probably there's some reduced sharpness at borders in comparison with the lens mounted on the tripod, but it could be my impression and in any case I need to get in acquaintance with hand-holding this lens before making a more objective opinion.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 145 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 100, hand-held.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 98 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

The OSS seems effective (I got some sharp photos, not published here, at 160mm, 1/13sec) but sometimes I've seen failures in easy cases, such as blurred photos at 100mm, 1/160sec. It could have been my improper handling of the lens though - and I need to build some more meaningful statistics. Until I discover the thing, I'm using the trick of shooting always burst of three shots, as I've been doing with the SEL1670Z lens so far. A specific evaluation of the OSS will come later.

A foggy day

Same first days of Fall, but just across the Appenine, and there's plenty of fog. A moderate tele can be very effective in deeply penetrating into a foggy day landscape to put small details in evidence. But how would the NEX-6 AF perform? So far I could only work with the 10-18mm in such conditions, but it's easy to focus an ultra wide angle...

Pescatori sul Ticino.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

The first attempts have been done with ISO varying in the 100-400 range, since I'm not confident with the stabiliser yet. Thanks to burst shooting I didn't miss any shot: there was at least one sharp photo in each burst.

Alberi nella nebbia.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 101 mm, 1/200 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 400, hand-held.

Albero nella nebbia.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

Il Castello di Valeggio nella nebbia.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

Macro anyone?

Well, the SEL20700G is not a macro lens by any means, given that the specifications from Sony say that the magnification ratio is 0.13x. But in this season it's not hard to find flowers around, in particular  Jerusalem artichokes, and maybe some butterflies flying around... they called for some test shot.

The butterfly photo puts in evidence some limit of this lens in blurring the background, due to the ƒ/4 maximum aperture: the composition is not clean and there are some distracting elements for which I'd like to see a stronger blur (but I'm not sure a ƒ/2.8 lens would have done much better). Improving the composition by putting the subject within a good physical separation from the background, such as in the next photo, paved the way for pleasing results as the lens produces a bokeh of pretty good quality, thanks to the nine-blades diaphragm.

Both photos needed some cropping. It could be interesting to try the SEL70200G with a close-up lens or with extension tubes.

Cavolaia minore (Pieris rapae).

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/800 sec @ ƒ/4, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, beanbag from the car.

I tested manual focusing by means of focus peaking. I tried to carefully put the relatively shallow depth of field on the butterfly's antennas (not an easy task as it kept on moving): it was the first time I tried such a critical manual focusing with my NEX-6. It worked decently, as you can see by yourself and I think I have margins of improvements by working on my technique. In any case it's much better than any similar attempt I've ever done with my Nikon cameras by means of their OVF.

Fiori di topinanbour (Helianthus tuberosus),

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 192 mm, 1/1000 sec @ ƒ/4, ISO 100, beanbag from the car.

Also in the latter shot I used manual focus and managed to have the green stink bug in focus.

So far so good and - unlike some quirks and slight quality problems of the SEL1018 and SEL1670Z - at the moment I have no regrets for having bought this lens. The true test will be soon my next journey to Bourgogne...

Nella cava allagata.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 175 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.