Announced on March 29, 2016 in San Francisco, this lens was designed for the mirrorless Alpha series cameras and is currently the longest full-frame E-mount zoom. It’s definitely a high-grade product as the G designation suggests. The designers specified a full four aspherical glass elements, two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements and Nano AR coating. The combination was intended to suppress optical aberrations for excellent resolution even at wide apertures and to minimize flare and ghosting. Additional features include an Optical SteadyShot stabilizer for shake reduction, an AF motor with linear actuator for fast, smooth, quiet autofocus, manual focus override in AF mode and seals that provide dust/moisture resistance. The minimum focus distance is only 0.9m, allowing for maximum magnification of 0.31x at the long end for close-up shots of small subjects.
Evolution: During six hours of shooting in San Francisco after the press conference, I worked with one of the very first samples of this lens to come off the production line, using a full-frame 42 megapixel Sony a7R II. Subjects included birds and mammals at the zoo, views of the architecture on the city’s hills from the waterfront and models posing at the eclectic Forbes Island restaurant on the bay.
This is a rugged piece of equipment with a solid barrel and beautifully finished in satin black. As with the vast majority of lenses of this type, there’s no tripod mounting collar; in my estimation, that accessory is not necessary with a lens weighing 854 g. In any event, the image stabilizer provides effective camera shake compensation so I was able to get sharp photos at 300mm in hand-held use at a 1/30 sec. shutter speed. Autofocus was reliable, fast and precise; it was effective with moving animals in small compounds at the zoo, but I did not have an opportunity for testing with faster subjects such as sports or racing action.
When reviewing my over 200 images on a pro monitor, I made the following preliminary assessment. The optics provide high contrast and clarity, with great definition of fine detail. At maximum aperture, the central 70% of the frame is very sharp; stopping down to f/8 provides excellent sharpness across the entire frame. Even in strong side lighting at sunset on Pier 39, the long lens hood and multi-layer coatings effectively prevented flare. While this was only a brief hands-on trial of the new lens, I was impressed with the very fine performance; my best images are suitable for making poster-size prints.
Price and Availability: $1700, Street; May 2016
Specifications: See http://www.sony.ca/en/electronics/camera-lenses/sel70300g/specifications
About the Author:
Stock photographer Peter K. Burian (www.peterkburian.com) is a Contributing Editor with Photo News, Photo Life and Australian Photography as well as the author of many guide books to DSLR systems. He is also an on-line digital photography course instructor with BetterPhoto.com.