Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS

INTRODUCTION

We’ve owned the Sony FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS lens for quite a few years and love it, although we don’t always carry it daily when travelling. But when it does get used, it performs exceedingly well for our requirements. If you would like to read our review of that lens click here.

In early 2017, Sony announced the release of the Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS (SEL100400GM) lens. The lens really didn’t pique our interest as it is not a focal range that we commonly shoot, it is heavy, and quite frankly, if we were not using our 70-200mm lens that much then it would be illogical to purchase a lens with this focal range.

As members of Sony Pro here in Australia, Sony Australia gave us the opportunity to use the lens for a couple of weeks to test and review. Would we be tempted to buy one after testing the lens? Read on…

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OVERVIEW

The Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS is a mammoth lens. It is almost identical to the Sony FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS albeit much bigger and heavier. The lens is not dramatically heavier than the 70-200 but we would still recommend using a tripod or monopod unless you are prepared to use fast shutter speeds, resulting in a higher ISO. The sample shots of the kitesurfers below were shot using a monopod for extra stability. If you are using an APS-C sensor camera the focal length of this lens is 150mm – 600mm.

It has the same switches on the side of the lens as the 70-200 – AF/MF, Focus Limiter, Optical Steadyshot, Panning Mode, and a lens collar and AF Focus Lock buttons.

As mentioned above, this is not a focal length that we commonly shoot, and having had many years of experience as travel photographers we would assume this lens would not be used that much in travel due to its size and weight. In fact, a friend just returned from 4 weeks in Europe and he professed that he would never take this lens again for travel photography due to it’s weight. This lens in our opinion, is more ideal for sports, nature, and landscape photographers. You can use the lens for any photography but we generally see it used mostly in the abovementioned genres. Having said that, if we were on a road trip where we didn’t need to carry around the lens all day then we would consider it in our travel work.

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Above Left: Sony a6700 (APS-C) with the Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS (150-600mm) Above Middle: Sony A7Riii (Full Frame) with the Sony FE 70-200mm f4 G OSS  Above Right: Sony A7Riii (Full Frame) with the Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS. Once the lens hood is added to the above they become substantially longer.

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LENS COMPARISON

  • The 100-400 is not as fast as the 70-200 lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.5 at 100mm and f/5.6 at the 400mm focal length. Not that these apertures are a problem as you will still get beautiful out of focus backgrounds at these focal lengths. 
  • The collar cannot be removed on the 100-400mm lens although you can remove the shoe section that attaches to the tripod head.
  • There is a dial between the switches and the zoom ring which allows you to adjust the zoom smoothness – funnily enough, this has been labelled as Tight & Smooth.
  • The 100- 400 lens has a bigger filter thread size of 77mm. The 70-200 has a 72mm.
  • The coffee cup (lens hood) has a trapdoor which allows easy access to adjust any filters such as a C-PL (circular polarizer) while using the hood. We love this feature and wish we had it on the 70-200.
  • Considerably more expensive than the 70-200 f/4, but then it is a GM (Grand Master) lens, and that is to be expected.
  • The 100-400 lens weighs in at 1395g (1.39kgs or 3.07lbs) as opposed to the 70-200 which is 840g (.84kg or 1.85lbs). Both figures do not include the tripod mount. Considering the focal range of the 100-400, this is not a huge weight difference.
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SHARPNESS

We’ve always found the 70-200 f/4 lens to be superbly sharp but the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 takes it to the next level – only marginally though. In our opinion, although the lens is marginally sharper the focal range is the real winner with the lens.

SAMPLE IMAGES

We were quite fortunate to have an extremely windy day to put the Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens through it’s paces. All of these shots were beyond the reach of our 70-200 f/4 lens without extreme cropping. Click on the images for a larger view.

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250 | ISO500

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250 | ISO500

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250 | ISO400

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250 | ISO500

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250 | ISO400 | Tight Crop

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 250mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000 | ISO2000 

Sony FE 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

Above: 400mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000 | ISO400 

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CONCLUSION

This is a phenomenal lens and creates magnificent images. For a lens with this focal range, the backgrounds are beautifully rendered. Many photographers would probably love this lens even more if it had a f/2.8 aperture at all focal lengths, but we think that the f/4.5-5.6 is a good compromise between a functional lens and a lens that would weigh a ton and cost a fortune for the sake of softer backgrounds and a lower ISO. Nevertheless, if you want the f/2.8 lens you will have to settle for a prime lens such as the Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS  lens which is around 6 times more expensive (currently priced at USD$12,000!!)

Would we purchase this lens? For travel-related work, taking into consideration the way we travel, the answer would be NO. However, for local photography or specialty genres of photography mentioned above, we highly recommend this lens. If you love nature photography and sports photography and are prepared to use slightly higher ISOs than with faster lenses, then you should stop reading this and order one of these straight away.

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