Alongside the highly-anticipated a9 announcement, Sony also introduced the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master telephoto lens. After the initial buzz and excitement over something shiny and new being announced subsided, I began to question why Sony released this lens at this particular time of intense market expansion.
If you missed the news, here's a general rundown of the FE 100-400mm G Master. The $2,498 full-frame lens has a variable maximum aperture of f/4.5-f/5.6 and a variable minimum aperture of f/32-f/40. On a crop-sensor camera body, such as the a6500, the lens is effectively a 150-600mm super-telephoto. It contains one Super ED element and two ED elements, and in total there's 22 elements in 16 groups inside. There's a Nano AR coating to reduce reflections, ghosting, and flaring, plus the front element has a fluorine coating for dust and smudge protection. The lens has built-in Optical SteadyShot and uses a Direct Drive SSM focusing system. Physical controls on the barrel of the lens include a focus range limiter (full or infinity–3 meters), three customizable focus hold buttons (top, left, and bottom), AF/MF switch, OSS on/off switch, and a mode switch. The tripod foot is rotatable and removable and you can adjust the zoom stiffness to your taste. This is the second lens Sony has released that is compatible with the FE 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters.
Now what I can't help but think is that the group of people who will actually buy this lens seems very small due to both the price and poorly distanced specifications compared to what Sony already has available. If Sony is going to release a lens alongside the battle-ready a9, wouldn't it have made more sense to really bring it and let loose on a sports lens show-stopper that goes all out in its niche rather than this slow, variable apertured telephoto zoom lens they announced? With the camera division kicking ass left and right in innovation, is there not any juice left over for daring lens development?
The lens seems crippled in a way in order to expand its marketability to a more diverse audience, but in doing so they made it into another generic release that pleases hardly anyone that they need on their side in taking this big step into professional sports and wildlife photography. Let's take a look at who the potential buyers are for this lens.
Canon or Nikon Photographers
The current lineup of lenses with Canon and Nikon beat out the FE 100-400mm from all sides. It's not a serious enough lens for sports and wildlife photographers and it's certainly not enough to be the final straw towards switching brands.
Current Sony photographers that are shooting off an E-mount body and require telephotos for their work probably already own the 70-200mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, or the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6. To purchase the 100-400mm, the owners in these groups are either going to sell off their current telephoto lens to offset the new buy, or they will pay up the full $2,498 price to add the lens to their kit.
70-200mm f/4 Owners
Owners purchased this lens because it was cheaper ($1,498), smaller, or lighter weight than the f/2.8 GM version. Many who bought it prior to the f/2.8 GM being released didn't find it necessary to upgrade either. None of these specs that these owners are interested in get any better with the new 100-400mm.
70-200mm f/2.8 Owners
Owners purchased this lens because of the one-stop speed improvement over the f/4 model, better image quality over the f/4 model, plus were willing to pay a premium in price ($2,598), size, and weight in order to get those. The ability to pay another $548 and get a Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter may have been optioned and they have already been shooting at 400mm f/5.6 with good enough results for a while now. In comparison to the 100-400mm, 70-200mm f/2.8 owners already have a lower aperture in the 100mm-200mm range. Adding a 2.0x teleconverter will bring them up to a f/5.6 aperture and 400mm focal length, but that just ends up matching the numbers of the 100-400mm — plus there's still that versatility of just removing the teleconverter to open up your options again. Using a teleconverter will degrade image quality and autofocus to a degree, so it's up to the photographer for a final determination if it's enough to warrant paying for an additional premium G Master lens or selling the 70-200mm f/2.8 to help fund it; Either way will end up costing more than the FE 2.0x teleconverter's $548 price.
70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Owners
Owners purchased this lens either because it was previously the furthest reaching Sony FE telephoto lens option or for its cheaper price ($1,198). Owners who purchased on price simply may not be able to afford the $2,498 100-400mm. Owners who purchased for the focal length may not see the value in an extra 100mm reach being double the price.
I'm confident that there are buyers excited for this lens, but it seems like they are merely the exception. The Sony a9 says "This is the new future of sports photography," whereas the lens announced alongside it says "Here's just another thing we made." Unfortunately it's not enough of a knockout in originality for it to not be comparable against their previous telephoto releases, and for that reason I don't understand why they thought right now was the right time for it. A true professional sports lens makes so much more sense at this pivotal time. When Sony announced the category-of-its-own a9, I would have loved to see it be paired with a category-of-its-own lens as well: A fast super-telephoto prime, anyone?
Agree. They desperately need long primes. A 300mm 2.8 would be a good start.
Nothing really wrong with the lens except the price. People will remember why they are sticking with Canon or Nikon when they compare lens prices.
With the A9 announcement you have to expect that a 2.8 long tele is coming within 6-12 months. The would probably sell more a9's if they announced a lens roadmap.
This. I was really surprised they didn't at least follow the Fuji method of announcing a roadmap.
I think this was Sony dipping their toe in the water. The A9 was priced aggressively to see if they could get the Sports/Wildlife crowd and this lens was the minimum all-in-one lens to give them something to put on it. Nobody is going to sell all their Canon or Nikon gear to move to the A9 so they still have great lenses to shoot with on those cameras. If they try, and like, the A9 there'll be lenses forthcoming.
I don't see the lens actually selling the camera...if a genuine fast long tele had been announced same time, might work, but tends to deminish the camera...Nikon and canon wildlife shooters, pro action shooters are too deep into one or the other system to change, but Sony seems intent on blowing away one of the two, so perhaps they don't care if the lens is commercial success so long as it gains market share..
I've been saying it since it was announced, I'm not sure how Sony expects pro sports and wildlife shooters to take the a9 seriously without any long glass to support it. That 100-400 should have been a 400 2.8. Preferably with a road map with either a 200-400mm f4 or a 600mm. The camera is very cool and I want it to succeed but the shooters Sony is marketing to won't touch it yet, at least not many of them. Both the camera and lens are cool, but they shouldn't have been announced together. They don't make sense together.
I don't see what the confusion is here - most people, especially those coming from Sony's A-mount system are familiar with the 70-400 G version of this lens that fills the same spot. A-mount piece was very popular and known for very high IQ and overall performance, I loved mine. Been waiting for this very lens since moving to E-mount and my wish has just been fulfilled, pre-order's in.
Doesn't Canon, for instance, have all these exactly same zooms, in fact, some of which are on their Mk2/Mk3 runs now? 70-200 F2.8/F4, 70-300 F-variable, 100-400 F-variable? No one's wondering where of "if" they would fit in, lol, right? Yes, Sony's asking $$ for it - I think this is the only "issue" here.
And all those ultra expensive fast tele/super-tele primes... No doubt some will come in due time, but they sell by dozens, not thousands - let's see how well A9 performs, gains market share. Baby steps ;)
"No one's wondering where of "if" they would fit in, lol, " The very obvious reason is because Canon and Nikon have the 300 2.8, 400 2.8, 400 5.6, 200-500 f5.6, 500 f4, 600 f4. Where Sonys E-Mount has no equivalent. Due time is not the right time. If they want to sell A9's. They need those primes that the Professional market uses. Sideline shooters aren't using 100-400.
No one's arguing the need for those lenses. What you are saying is bring it all out at once or don't even bother with A9? And don't bother bringing out yet another new, longest to date, telephoto at the same time, because you know... it's just not good enough for the sidelines?
People said exact same thing when the original A7 came out with, like, what... 2 or 3 native lenses? Those who saw the light bought them in droves and system flourished ever since. Same thing will happen with A9 and whatever else is coming down the pipeline.
I think a great 100-400 like this one is an underestimated lens. I'm a serious professional (Canon) shooter, though not at the level where I have the arsenal of large-aperture long primes that some of my colleagues do. But I always found the 100-400 to be all the lens I need, to the point where I don't see ever owning one of the really really big lenses unless I'm shooting tiny birds or something, which is not even on my radar (as far as paying the bills in concerned). I've had multiple magazine covers with the 100-400, and positively love that lens and the range. That and a 24-104 is about all I need for just about everything except architecture.
But don't take it just from me, listen to an accomplished super-pro like Vincent Laforet, who has shot some of his most memorable images with a 100-400, choosing it over any of the big primes he could have chosen instead.
This article was written by someone who isn't, according to his mini CV, a sports shooter and who doesn't evidence any understanding of the genre. He literally doesn't talk about ANY of the reasons you may or may not need a fast tele compared to this zoom. Which are
- Minimum shutter speed: compared to bodies that were good enough historically with those f2.8 monsters, the A9 almost certainly has several stops to spare
- Viewing brightness. This is the one that really keeps fast teles in demand with DSLRs despite improved sensors. And it's irrelevant to the A9 with its EVF.
So the bottom line is that the A9 probably won't have a problem - if you actually use your intelligence and break down the needs of sports shooters rather than waffling about "serious" lenses and the other kind:
Shooting with fast primes means having two bodies for most sports so you can run a 200 and a 400 - that's an easy $20k of hardware even buying used glass. Shooting with an A9 and zoom means need only one body and one lens. For enthusiasts and budget-crunched news organizations and freelancers, that may well be preferable.
As for BIF people, there are big advantages to a zoom in that genre too - the XT2 and 100-400 and EM1 already have their adherents.
Even worse that the above, he's failed to consider how the lens/body combination may work in other genres like, oh, mainstream news. One lens to cover 100-400 connected to a BSI sensor, a night sight EVF, very reasonable rof and no blackouts? With silent shooting? How is that anything but bloody tempting?
I wonder how the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Lens for Canon with the MC-11 adapter for the Sony FE will measure up to this GM lens. The saving, however, is huge: $800 + $250 = $1050, more than half the price of the GM. This Sigma lens is also lighter with only half a stop penalty. I happened to pick up the MC-11 when it was on sales last month for $150 so I can save even more.
Have to give Sony some benefit of doubt...they so seem successful these days, at least for market share. Although it's hard to tell if any maker is actually enjoying positive earnings after regard for R&D in bringing out new product
I wish that outsiders reviewing photographic equipment would refrain from expressing their speculations about what the industry should and shouldn't do. If this lens delivers stellar performance at 300 and 400 mm it will be a winner.
Those damn outsiders!
So you don't like the idea of a Sony 100-400 mm telephoto zoom lens which you have not tested and know nothing about, so simply shut up about it.
Compare your own babble above to somebody who did his homework: https://www.cameralabs.com/sony-fe-100-400mm-f4-5-5-6-gm-oss-review/
Except I have tested it and do know about it.
You are making a fool of yourself.
Nah it's fine, I'm an outsider.
Ryan, you said: Quote: "Current Sony photographers that are shooting off an E-mount body and require telephotos for their work probably already own the 70-200mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, or the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6. To purchase the 100-400mm, the owners in these groups are either going to sell off their current telephoto lens to offset the new buy, or they will pay up the full $2,498 price to add the lens to their kit."
You forgot something - they might sell off their Canon 100-400 lens to offset the cost of the new lens. Which work pretty well on some of the A7 cameras. But the new Sony one will work on all the A7 cameras, plus all "Nex" type cameras.
Do you say the same thing when Canon or Nikon introduce a new lens?
Wow... I couldn't disagree more - I've been waiting for this lens to happen for almost two years and bought it the second it hit the shelves. Why? Where does it fit in? Where doesn't it fit in? On the A9 sports photography? Birding? Wildlife in the mountains - can't tell you how many shots I've lost in the Rocky Mountains because I didn't have long enough focal length. Everyone knows Sony sensors are the best, now there's nothing to hold back more Canon and Nikon converts...
I've used it on the a9 and the a7R II. It doesn't seem very justified on full frame. However I'm now using it on the a6500 and I'm appreciating it a little more. I'll have a full lens review in a couple weeks. I do appreciate your perspective.
So, you're saying that when I was using the Canon 100-400 on my 5DIII? I kept the 100-400 when moving to Sony, with the Metabones adapter. I got the Sony as soon as I could. Seriously, that things leave the Canon in the dust. Blows it out of the water.
Not sure why the Sony is any less justified on my A7RII than theCanon was, on that and on the 5D.
The AF with this lens, on the a9, shooting 50-mph puffins was absolutely astounding. The "keeper rate" is at least double that of a 1DX II. Really! The programming grabs onto moving objects, even puffins, and stays locked on as they pass close to changing backgrounds of sky, water, sand, rock cliffs and foliage. I shot with a Canon Explorer of Light and he didn't touch his Canon equipment. If an adapter can be made the preserves this AF with EF lenses, then I'll be jumping ship. Oh, did I mention, it's light also.
As a wildlife and bird-in-flight photographer, I've decided to buy this lens and the 1.4x TC, to have a 100-560mm native lens to use on my a9. Since I first posted, I've found that the Metabones MkV, EF-to-E T-adapter works very well with my Canon EF 500/f4 and 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. With my EF 100-400mm the Metabones system works reasonably well, but there are times when the AF doesn't lock on quickly or track cleanly. Most of the time, it does track well, but when it doesn't, then it's a total failure. A light, native lens, with 1.4x will be a super bird-in-flight tool.
The author doesn't seemed to have noticed the significant market for Canon EF 100-400mm. This is THE entry lens for wildlife and bird shooters. 70-200mm doesn't cut it, even with a TC. The a9's high-ISO performance makes up for the variable aperture. Shooting at f/8 is no problem, with ISO in the 4000 to 8000 range.
Like others, waiting on super-telephoto primes. How 'bout a nice, light 600/f4? I'd buy that in a flash.
Theres a comment lower down from someone who i consider to be a photographer not a 'tech geek', ive worked for Reuters and have had many images published covering all areas of news including sports, (some taken on a mobile), and ive also worked on picture desks and can state that image impact will always trump image quality, period.
To that end this lens whilst being expensive covers an ideal focal range and the fact it loses a couple of stops to bigger more expensive glass is not an issue, infact performance wise it more than matches them far more so than Canon & Nikon lenses of the same focal range.
From a pro point of view i feel you should instead focus on the lack of true weather sealing on the Sony bodies, ive seen two go down at sporting events both a9's.
I find I prefer the 100mm-400mm f/l over the 70-200mm, whether it's Sony or Canon. Yes, the 70-200 f/2.8 is a bit faster, but when I'm shooting landscape that doesn't matter much since I'm usually shooting at higher f/ratio anyway. The 200mm f/l just doesn't get it done most of the time for me and I appreciate the longer reach when shooting foxes, wolves, or anything else at distance. On the low end, the difference between 70mm and 100mm just isn't that significant for me either.