Hands-on with new Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS and FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS

Hands-on with new Sony telephoto lenses

Sony has just released two new lenses, aimed at sports and wildlife photographers. The FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS is aimed squarely at enthusiast and semi-pro users, while the FE 600mm F4 GM OSS joins the FE 400mm F2.8 GM at the top of Sony's professional lens lineup. We were given the opportunity to shoot with both lenses recently at a Sony event in New Jersey – click through for some initial impressions, and more information.

Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS

The FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS is aimed at enthusiast and semi-professional photographers, especially fans of wildlife and sports shooting. As well as full-frame cameras, Sony expects some buyers to pair this lens with the company's range of APS-C models, at which point it covers an equivalent focal range of 300-900mm.

One of the selling points of the 200-600mm compared to other lenses of its kind is an internal zoom design, which means that the lens doesn't get any larger when zoomed through its focal length range. This has advantages when it comes to balancing the lens for handheld shooting, and also reduces the risk of dust and grit being sucked in during zooming.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

The G 200-600mm is equipped with optical stabilization, controllable in 3 modes. Mode 1 is standard, suitable for general photography. Mode 2 is specifically for panning, and according to Sony, Mode 3 provides 'optimum stabilization for dynamic sports action'.

This shot also shows the main OSS on/off switch, and the 3-position focus limiter, which helps reduce unwanted lens hunting in situations where you can safely keep the lens within a certain focus range (i.e., capturing birds at a feeder, or aircraft at close to infinity).

The 200-600mm's minimum focus distance is 2.4m (~8 feet). This might not seem impressive, but it's in the same ballpark as other lenses of this type from competitive manufacturers. Autofocus is driven by a linear direct drive SSM motor, which in our time with the lens provides very fast and near-silent AF in normal lighting situations (tested on an a9).

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

Optical construction of the 200-600mm comprises 24 elements in 17 groups, with one aspherical lens and five ED elements. An 11-bladed aperture ensures circular bokeh even as you stop down modestly, an advantage this lens has over its 9-blade counterparts from competitors. Without the tripod foot attached, the lens weighs 2.1 kg (4.6 lb) which is very slightly heavier than competitive lenses from the likes of Nikon, Sigma and Tamron.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

Here's that tripod foot, which can be quickly unscrewed and detached for handheld shooting, or stowage.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

A large, deep hood is provided to help protect the front element from flare (and rain). While the G-series aren't guaranteed to offer quite the same resistance to the elements as the more expensive G Master lenses, the 200-600mm is extensively weather sealed.

The G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 will be available in August, for $2,000.

Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS

The FE 600mm F4 GM OSS is aimed at professional photographers, and joins the FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS at the very top of Sony's lens lineup, offering the best optical technologies that the company is capable of creating. Sony's G Master series is designed according to the principle of 'no compromise' and we're told that when it comes to autofocus speed, the FE 600mm F4 should be able to keep up with the autofocus speeds of future generations of Alpha-series interchangeable lens cameras. Put simply, the lens is capable of even faster autofocus communications and speeds than are currently possible with the company's flagship a9 camera.

Offering an equivalent focal length of 900mm on APS-C, the 600mm F4 can be used on all Sony E-mount cameras, and has been designed to work with Sony's 1.4X and 2X teleconverters without a significant penalty to either AF speed or sharpness.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

The GM 600mm F4 is the smallest and lightest lens of its kind currently on the market - just edging out the Canon EF 600mm F4 III at 3,040g (6.7 lb) compared to 3,050g. Like the GM 400mm F2.8, the weight of the lens is mostly concentrated towards the rear, which means that despite its size, the lens can be hand-held for short periods of time without being unmanageable. The lightweight construction is partly achieved thanks to the extensive use of magnesium alloy in the body shell.

Despite its relatively light weight, the 600mm F4 has a complex optical construction, made up of 24 elements in 18 groups, including a 40.5mm drop-in filter. This is compared to 17 elements in 13 groups from Canon's EF 600mm F4 III. Of these 24 elements, three are fluorite, and two are ED glass. Just like the 200-600mm, the 600mm F4 features an 11-bladed aperture, meaning it can retain circular bokeh as you stop down better than its 9-bladed competitors.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

The GM 600mm F4 is intended to be used alongside the GM 400mm F2.8. As such, all of the major controls are identical, and can be found in the same places. This is to ensure that life is as easy as possible for a photographer swapping between them at (say) a sporting event. Even the focus rings of the two lenses are the same size and the same distance away from the camera body.

This view also shows the tripod foot tensioning screw, and a dedicated strap lug. While the weight of the 600mm F4 can probably be supported by the lens-mount of an Alpha-series camera for short periods of time, this is not advisable. The rotating tripod ring can be 'declicked' if required, and a security wire can be connected to a dedicated socket in the foot (not pictured) to secure it against theft.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

The GM 600mm F4 has a minimum focus distance of 4.5m (14.7 ft) which is slightly longer than the 4.2m (13.7 ft) minimum focus of its nearest competitor, Canon's EF 600mm F4 III.

Autofocus throughout the 600mm F4's focus range is swift and accurate (tested on an a9), thanks to dual XD linear motors, similar to the ones found in the 400mm F2.8. These provide the power required to drive the relatively large, heavy focusing group across its range extremely quickly. In the relatively low light of an artificially-lit sports arena, the 600mm performed very well in our limited testing, even when paired with a 1.4X teleconverter.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

Here's the 40.5mm drop-in filter, which is an integral part of the lens' optical makeup. The filter size is the same in both the GM 600mm F4 and the GM 400mm F2.8.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

This view shows (R-L) the wide and deep focus ring, the 'adjustment ring' and one of the four focus hold buttons which are standard on professional lenses of this kind. The adjustment ring is effectively a 'nudge' control which can be customized to perform various actions, one of the most useful for sports photographers being a 'focus position recall', to quickly jump to a preset 'home' focus position of your choosing.

Hands-on with new Sony GM 600mm F4 and G 200-600mm F5.6-6.3

The Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS will be available in August for $13,000.

Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS sample gallery

Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS sample gallery