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

SONY FE 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 GM OSS: A compact, ‘super telephoto’ lens with professional performance and functionality plus fast and accurate autofocusing. Resolution remains high throughout most of the aperture range, right up to f11 where diffraction kicks in. Results with raw files were beyond expectations when combined with the Sony A9 II’s 24-megapixel sensor.
RRP: $3488.

This lens is made in Japan, is dust and moisture resistant and meets professional standards. Weighing 1.4 kilos and measuring 205mm in length, it is best suited to Sony’s full frame cameras. Its optical design is complex, comprising 22 elements is 16 groups, including two extra-low dispersion and a single Super ED element plus Nano AR coating to suppress ghosting and flare. The front element has a fluorine coating to repel dust and grime.

The focusing ring near the front of the outer barrel is slightly narrower than the zoom ring, which is closer to the camera body. Both rings rotate smoothly with no perceptible slack. Between the rings is a fixed section of the outer barrel that carries three focus hold buttons, which are located to provide easy access when shooting in both landscape and portrait orientations. They’re large enough to be easily found by touch. There are also four slider switches that control AF/MF, focus range, Optical Steady Shot On/Off and the two OSS modes.

The lens is supplied with a cylindrical hood that is colour matched and reverses over the lens barrel for transport and storage. It has a locking button plus a sliding hatch that lets the user rotate a polarising filter without removing the hood.

Overall optical performance was excellent, with the lens delivering high resolution up to f/11 where diffraction began to reduce sharpness. Chromatic aberration is not an issue with this lens, even without the in-camera corrections activated. The lens was also relatively immune to flare and ghosting, while both vignetting at wide apertures and rectilinear distortions were barely discernible. Bokeh was generally smooth and attractive throughout the zoom range.

Purchasing Points:
1. Physically, this lens is an ideal match to Sony’s ‘full frame’ mirrorless cameras.
2. Built-in Optical SteadyShot stabilisation offers up to 5 stops of shake correction and works with the sensor-shift systems in compatible camera bodies to deliver 5-axis image stabilisation.
3. A double linear motor and Direct Drive SSM actuator combine to ensure fast, precise and quiet autofocusing, making this lens ideal for shooting both stills and movie clips.
4. A zoom torque adjustment ring enables users to control zoom speeds and choose between faster and slower zooming, depending on the shooting conditions. It also works as a zoom lock if it ever is required.
5. The focus hold button can be programmed to control a range of functions, including focus mode selection, AF area selection and Eye AF lock.
6. This lens boasts dust- and moisture-resistant construction and has a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease.
7. The bundled tripod mount is removable. The collar can be rotated and there’s a large locking screw to keep it in place. The foot itself is individually removable.
8. Although large, this lens can be used for hand-held shooting, thanks to its compact design and effective stabilisation.

Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071; www.sony.com.au.
– Margaret Brown

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