If you’re an event shooter with a Sony camera system, it’s likely that the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 Telephoto Zoom Lens ($1,999.99 direct) is a lens that is essential to your kit. It retains a maximum f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range, and is quite sharp. If you can’t justify its price, Sony also sells as slower, but longer zooming, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 for around $900.
The lens features a light gray finish, with black focus and zoom rings. It’s big, measuring 7.75 by 3.5 inches (HD), and heavy at just under 3 pounds. There is a tripod collar, which lets you mount the lens directly to a tripod or monopod. This provides better weight distribution and balance, lessening stress on your camera’s lens mount. There are a number of switches on the lens—one to toggle auto and manual focus, one to let the camera control Direct Manual Focus or to engage it full time, and one to choose a limited focus range (3 meters to infinity) or to let the camera’s autofocus system range from its minimum focal distance of 1.2 meters to infinity.
Direct Manual Focus lets you override an autofocus lock by manually adjusting the focus ring. It’s useful for times when your camera has locked focus, but your subject has moved a little bit and it is quicker to adjust manually rather than to attempt to reacquire an autofocus lock. There are also three gray buttons on the lens—holding any of these will lock focus to the current point, overriding your camera’s autofocus system.
The lens has an internal zoom and focus mechanism, so it doesn’t move in or out when doing either. This makes it possible to use a circular polarizer, since the front element doesn’t rotate, its effects will remain the same until you adjust the filter. The filter thread is 77mm in size, and the included hood has a retractable access panel so you can adjust the polarizer without sacrificing the increased contrast and flare protection that the hood provides.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness and distortion characteristics of the lens using the full-frame Sony Alpha 99. It exceeds the 1,800 lines per picture height required for a sharp photo throughout its zoom range, even at its maximum f/2.8 aperture. At 70mm it records 2,130 lines, manages 2,109 at 135mm, and drops to 1,975 at 200mm. Resolution increases steadily as you stop down, peaking at f/8, where it crosses the 2,300 line mark at each tested focal length. Distortion is a minor issue, it records 1.7 percent barrel distortion at 70mm and shows 1.5 percent pincushion at 200mm. This can be corrected in software, for those times when slightly curved lines will harm the quality of your photo. The 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 is slower, but it is also plenty sharp—we tested it at 70mm and 135mm on the APS-C Sony Alpha 65 and it topped 2,000 lines at both focal lengths.
If you need an f/2.8 zoom, and if you’re making money shooting weddings and other events with a Sony SLR system you likely do, the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 Telephoto Zoom Lens will not disappoint in terms of handling or image quality. It’s well-built and the images it captures are impressive. If you can live with a slower aperture, the 70-300mm is a viable alternative, for less than half the price, but at its best it’s more than a full f-stop slower, and two stops slower at its maximum zoom.
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