Lens Porn Monday!

(Mostly) every Monday I’ll talk about a lens I own or have used, and post some example shots I have taken with it. This week: The Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G Lens!

Sony 70-300mm G lens.Usually when talking about Sony’s long zooms, photographers traditionally refer to the 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master and f/4 G lenses. Now those are great lenses, and I look forward to owning them one day, however for now, I think the Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G lens is a really strong alternative. It can be had at a better price than the f/4, and a much better price than the f/2.8.

I was able to purchase mine used off of B&H for under $1,000 in great condition which makes this lens a more affordable option. Overall, I have been very happy with it, though I am always aware of its limitations — most notably its low-light performance. This is a big, heavy lens, but feels really well-balanced and natural on the a7. It looks positively ridiculous on the a5000, however, so if you’re shooting with a NEX, a5xx, or a6xx series body, you will need to keep the lens size in mind. The flip-side of the coin is that the crop sensor DOES give it a 450mm reach, so it may be worth it if reach is important to you.

Usually, I take the 70-300mm G with me virtually everywhere I go. In my opinion, pairing it with one of my 50mm lenses and my Sony 28mm f/2 gives me a complete camera bag. Another lens I frequently pair it with is my Minolta MD 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5. This combination will cover mostly anything I will shoot.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this lens…

Physical Properties

  • Sony 70-300mm G lens with lens cap and hood.Diameter: 3.3in. (84mm)
  • Length: 5.6in. (143.5mm)
  • Weight: 30.2oz. (856.2g)
  • Focal Length: 70-300mm
  • APS-C Equivalent: 105-450mm 
  • Filter: 72mm
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4.5-5.6
  • Minimum Aperture: f/22-29
  • Aperture Blades: 9 circular
  • Elements/Groups: 16 elements in 13 groups
  • Close Focusing: 3ft. (0.9m)

Construction and Build Quality

Typical of the G/GM series lenses, it feels well-built. The housing is solid, though I can’t tell if it’s metal or a really high-grade plastic. The focus and zoom rings are rubberized and have a good grip and feel to them. This lens doesn’t have an internal zoom mechanism, unfortunately, so zooming from 70 to 300mm will increase the length of the lens by almost twice its original length. This isn’t a major factor for me, but it may be for some photographers in tight places. My fiance gets a kick out of the lens extension, and likes to refer to it as my “paparazzi lens” — I’m cool with that. I won’t be hanging out in Beverly Hills to get pictures of Scarlett Johansson with it.

Visual Qualities

The biggest problem with this lens, is its low-light capabilities. Bar none. There’s a reason it’s so much less expensive than the GM f/2.8. If you plan on shooting indoors — or at night — you are going have to bump up the ISO significantly. For me, this isn’t much of an issue, because I don’t shoot indoors very often. If I do, I have better-suited lenses for the task. Once you go above 200mm, sharpness can also become an issue, however, I feel this is a little bit overstated. Under 200mm, I the image is nice and sharp across the frame.

Sony 70-300mm G lens attached to Sony a7.The Optical Steady Shot (OSS) helps keep images sharp at shutter-speeds I would be very uncomfortable using on a lens without stabilization. With a minimum focus of 0.9m, the 70-300mm G lens acts almost as a pseudo macro-lens, which makes for another reason I frequently put this lens in my bag. It gives me better macro shots than most of my dedicated macro lenses.

Nano AR coating eliminates most flaring and ghosting issues, and Chromatic Aberration is well-controlled. Vignetting is quite noticeable at f/4.5, however is mostly eliminated at f/5.6. 

Autofocus can be hit or miss sometimes, though, which is very frustrating. For a lens this expensive, I find it is a little slow. Also, I find that sometimes it isn’t accurate — focusing on objects in the foreground/background rather than the subject I want to focus on. I’ve had plenty of bird images ruined because of this. I have sworn at this lens a LOT.

Bokeh

The 9 rounded blades produce quite a nice bokeh, especially at longer focal lengths, which is to be expected. However, busier backgrounds may suffer a little bit. Overall, I’m quite happy with the bokeh this lens produces, so I have little to complain about.

Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | Image of a Japanese Maple(?) at sunset showing the lovely bokeh the lens produces under optimal conditions.

Image of a Japanese Maple(?) at sunset showing the lovely bokeh the lens produces under optimal conditions. | Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

Pros

  • Zoom range
  • Relatively inexpensive (go used!)
  • Good build quality
  • Bokeh
  • Sharpness under 200mm
  • Nano AR Coating

Cons

  • Sharpness over 200mm
  • Vignetting below f/5.6
  • This is a HEAVY lens
  • AF can be slow/unreliable

Bottom Line

You may or may not need this lens. If reach is something you’re concerned about and you don’t have the thousands to spend on the 100-400mm GM, this may be a strong alternative. I personally use this lens — possibly more than any other lens I own. It’s served me well and I don’t have any plans to sell or get rid of it. If you are interested in buying the 70-300mm G lens, however, do yourself a favor and pick it up certified used from a reputable dealer. I was able to save over $400 on my copy and six months later, I am satisfied with my purchase.

Five Favorite Photos

Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | Busy bee feeding on pollen.

Busy bee feeding on pollen. | Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | Up close and personal with a Canadian Goose.

Up close and personal with a Canadian Goose. | Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | Closeup of some flowers in early spring.

Closeup of some flowers in early spring. | Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | Long zoom on a Northern Cardinal.

Long zoom on a Northern Cardinal. | Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS | US Capitol Dome taken on a warm spring day from East Capitol Street.

US Capitol Dome taken on a warm spring day from East Capitol Street. | Sony a7 | Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

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