Sony’s G Master series premium lenses has been regarded as the best in lens design and manufacturing. What happens if a lens design becomes outdated after five years? Refresh.

Design and Build Quality

The new Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II has significant improvements over the original. However, it is the same size. It measures 7.87 inches (200 mm) in length and 3.46 inches (388 mm) in width. However, its weight has fallen from 3.26 pounds (1480g) to 2.30 pounds (1045g). This weight has been repositioned to the tripod foot to improve balance.

The front of the lens shows a large focus ring. It is easy to use with one finger, while the rest can be used for gripping the zoom ring. The Full Time DMF (direct manually focus) switch allows the focus ring to be activated in any mode, even if it is in autofocus. The only problem I found was that the ring makes a louder grinding sound than other lenses.

The zoom ring is slightly larger than the focus ring but has good tension. This lens internally zooms, and the weight is located near the camera’s back, means that I didn’t experience any zoom creep when walking.

Sony has added an aperture ring to the zoom ring, something they have never done before for a zoom lens. The aperture covers the entire range from f/2.8 to 22. There’s also an “A” setting that allows the camera to set the f-stops instead. The lens now features an Iris Lock switch at the bottom left. The switch can either lock the ring to the “A” setting or it can lock it into the manual range of f-stops, but not allow it accidentally cross into “A.”

A few other things to note about the build are that the quick-release tripod feet still doesn’t have an Arca-Swiss plate, unlike the ones we’ve seen on the market. It does not have grooves in the horizontal or vertical positions that would allow me to change orientation precisely without having to look at the alignment dots. The lens hood is made of genuine felt inside, which absorbs light and blocks reflections. This is a nice feature for premium lenses.

Image Quality

This lens uses a new optical formula and new elements. It also adds an ED aspherical component. This lens is sharp even at wide open. The resolving power allows me to crop in 100% without any obvious signs. Even with high contrast backlighting, color fringing can be difficult to spot.

Further testing of sharpness revealed that peak sharpness at 70mm in the center of the frame is achieved stopped at f/7.1. Peak sharpness was achieved at 200mm at f/9. The corners of the frame showed 70mm as the sharpest at F/13, and 200mm at f/13. However, I feel confident that I have achieved a high level of overall sharpness by shooting this lens at f/2.8 to 20.

200mm at f/2.8.
200mm at f/2.8. 100% crop.

The entire zoom range has prominent vignetting that clears at f/8. To better illustrate what compensation is required, the samples below were taken with in-camera adjustments off. These in-camera adjustments can be enabled, and automatic profiles applied to the editing process. However, it would mean that the exposure will not be normalized, which could result in noisier edges.

The 11-bladed circular aperture of the original lens is still present in this new lens. This, combined with the new optics, creates a fine blur. This lens was able to handle distracting backgrounds and high contrast situations well. Bokeh balls don’t have an ugly onion ring effect inside, and the edges are free from hard ring.

Vignetting at 70mm.
Vignetting at 200mm.

The new lens shares the 11-bladed circular aperture that was in the original and together with the new optics produces a fine out-of-focus blur. In instances where high contrast or busy backgrounds can often be challenging to wash away, I thought that this lens did a good job at handling these distractions for the most part. Bokeh balls have no ugly onion ring effect on the inside and even the edges show no hard ring.

Shot at 70mm minimum focus distance. The mushroom cap is about the size of my thumbnail. The apparent size is slightly larger shooting at 70mm over 200mm at close focus.
Shot at 200mm minimum focus distance.

Let’s shift gears and talk about autofocus. It may be the main reason you buy the 70-200mm GM II. It is lightning fast. Sony measured it at four times the speed of the original lens using four XD linear motors. It is true. This is how I realized it was true. I installed a 2x Teleconverter to make sure that the device could instantly focus on any object, anywhere.

A camera capable of accurately tracking a moving subject will be required to perform the task. My a7R III was able to track the 70-200mm GM II with ease than any other lens I have used. Even better results can be achieved if you pair it with a faster, newer camera such as the Alpha 1.

Autofocus is almost silent. There is a quick, quiet creak sound when you sweep the focus range. While the sound is quieter in video mode, it produces a more pronounced stutter when you sweep the autofocus. The sound produced by tracking subjects was minimal to non-existent.

Telephoto Zoom with Prime Lens Performance

Sony has created another winner with the 65th Emount lens. Sony’s 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS II improves its autofocus and makes it more user-friendly by adding Full Time DMF control as well as a physical aperture ring. This lens is almost a pound lighter then its predecessor.

What are the Alternatives?

The original Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM lens is the first option. It will not replace it with the mark II model. Instead, it will be sold along with it at a reduced price. This lens, which was an older model of the G Master series launched in 2016, is still manufactured with G Master-qualifying XA lenses elements that provide high image quality.

Tracking shot at 70mm.
Tracking shot at 200mm.

For those who read these reviews to escape to fantasyland, there is an alternative: the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens. Tamron’s portable and fast telephoto lens is less than half the price, which has made it a popular choice for many photographers. It lacks optical stabilization, an internal zoom, tripod collar, customizable buttons, and internal zoom.

Shot at 70mm.
Shot at 200mm.

Should You Buy It

Yes. In the five years since the 70-200mm GM was introduced, photography gear has advanced a lot. This update balances the system and provides top-end performance in order to keep up with the latest cameras.