Hello, I’d like to present my shooter’s experience report of the Sony SAL70400G2 lens.
build and design
The Sony 70-400 mm F4-5,6 G SSM II lens is part of Sony’s “G” line. This is the high performance line, its cornerstones are superior in-focus image quality and beautiful bokeh. The Sony SAL70400G2 is designed for use with full-frame camera bodies, although it will work with APS-C Sony Alpha cameras with the a-mount lens mount or e-mount via adapter. With APS-C bodies the field of view is smaller, resulting in an equivalent focal length of 105-600 mm. The physical focal length is 70-400 mm at full-frame (35 mm) equivalent of course.
Aperture ranges from f4.0 to 5.6, minimum focal distance is 1.5 m, magnification is x 0.27. The SAL70400G2 features 3 aspheric elements and 18 lens lelements in 12 groups and a 9 blades circular aperture. Filter diameter is 77 mm.
This lens is the successor of the Sony 70-400 mm F4-5,6 G SSM. The two models are easy to tell apart by their colour. The first model had a silver finish, the SSM II is white. Although the build is identical there is now nano-coating to increase micro-contrast and decrease reflections. Most importantly the SSM II sports a new autofocus motor and faster protocol, focussing is reportedly four times faster than the predecessor. Although only the Sony SLT-A99V/99II and the SLT-A77II with native a-mount lens-mount support this faster protocol. It should also be supported with the LA-EA3 adapter and the Sony A7RII and Sony A9.
The lens’ dimensions are 94.5 x 196 mm when not extended and without hood, the weight is about 1500g without tripod/monopod mount collar. The relatively high weight is due to the metal build. The lens is very well made and really sturdy. The white colour successfully prevents heating up of the lens in direct sunlight. There is a noticable difference to lenses made of (black) plastic.
I bought this lens some time ago. Initially I had some qualms with it but now I don’t want to miss it anymore.
Although, there are pros and cons.
- Very good sharpness and resolution even wide open, stopped down to f/8 IQ was excellent at each focal length.
- The autofocus is blazingly fast. Wherever I pointed the camera, focus was there most of the time when I triggered the release.
- range limiter for distances from 3 meters to infinity.
- three focus stop buttons (can be collectively reassigned to a different function with some bodies like the SLT-A99V)
removable tripod/monopod mount with 1/4″ and 3/8″ threads.
- No zoom creep. The lens moves quite smoothly although it is too tight for video use.
- Included are front and rear lens caps, the ALC-SH121 petal lens hood and a nice soft carrying case.
- very robust build
- There is no real weather sealing/tropicalisation. That’s disputable because many reviewers and I don’t think there is sealing. But Sony USA and Germany expressly state otherwise. You ask what’s correct? I didn’t take the lens apart for obvious reasons. Only thing I can say for sure is there’s no seal at the lens mount.
- No zoom stop. When carrying the camera with a strap fastened to the body, what you should never do(!), there can be creep. You should always use the lens mount for the strap.
- The range limiter should have more settings. It’s either full range or three meters to infinity.
- The lens is quite heavy, 1500g plus tripod/monopod mount.
- The tripod/monopod mount should be ARCA Swiss compatible like the new Tamron 150-600G2.
There is also the matter of noticable backlash at the lens mount. I know perfectly well that’s normal and necessary; that’s why I didn’t list that as a con. When mounted on a monopod I first thought I didn’t attach it correctly. It’s not really an issue but I was surprised by it lacking the experience with heavy lenses. As I said the lens mount is not ARCA compatible. Well, there are always solutions:
I’ve attached a Sirui TY-LP40 plate (On a sidenote: Sirui is pronounced “sooray”. Don’t ask me why.). It’s small and light weight. I can still use slide straps because I attached a Sirui MP-20 quick release platform to my Black Rapid strap. The first two pictures below show the “first version” with a PeakDesign plate, the next three images show the Sirui plate, though.
Lastly, you shouldn’t underestimate the weight. With the A99 and vertical grip it is very well balanced, you can shoot free hand. Alas, you might at least want to use a monopod for prolonged use.
The last three pictures below I took with this lens. I shot RAW and developed them with LR CC. The picture on top of the page shows me with the lens, taken with a Sony D-SLR A580 + Tamron 24-70 USD and wireless remote.