With the Holiday season in mid-stride, come lots of events, some indoor, some outdoor; there’s a ton going on within the city this time of year. However, there are times where carrying that wide-angle zoom just isn’t enough to capture the moments we need in order to tell the story we want to share; like parades or even a fireworks show.
For those who don’t know, I typically shoot with primes and mostly at shorter focal lengths, anywhere between 35mm and 85mm, that require me to go back and forth between lenses. When shooting certain events, I find that those focal lengths are perfect for my needs, but from time to time there are those moments where I find myself needing more reach, to get closer to my subject. Now that’s all changed when I had the opportunity to shoot with a longer telephoto lens. Enter the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens.
What more could a photographer need? Really, don’t answer that question, because it’s irrelevant. This past Thanksgiving Day, I decided to shoot with the Sony A9 and wanted to try the newest G-Master lens in the lineup. Having previously shot with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens and the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, I had great experiences with both of those lenses and knew that if they could hold up in an extreme shooting environment, then this lens should too. With that being said, I wanted to try something new and different, something that could get me as close to the subject as I possibly could and when paired with the A9‘s ability to be completely silent, I could put myself anywhere and get candid photos without drawing too much attention, especially when shooting at 20 frames per second.
“The first super-telephoto zoom in Sony’s flagship G Master series with extraordinary resolution and fast, precise autofocus it lets you capture the distant action with outstanding quality and immediacy. This fine lens offers the mobility, reliability, and operability that professional applications demand.”
E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
Aperture Range: f/4.5-5.6 to f/32-40
One Super ED Element and Two ED Elements
Nano AR Coating and Fluorine Coating
Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF Motor
Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
Zoom Torque Adjustment Ring
Internal Focus; Focus Range Limiter
Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm
As I traveled around the circle near the Rocky Steps trying to find a place to put myself for the duration of the parade, I came across a few moments that I had an opportunity to grab.
After capturing those brief moments, I continued to move around the circle until I saw an opening in the crowd and made my way there. Planting myself, I found that I had prime realty for getting great photos at all the focal lengths of the lens.
As the hours counted down till the parade was over, I noticed that my arm was slowly getting tired and cramping from holding the lens and camera, which to be quite fair is normal if you are handholding a lens like this for several hours without a tripod. It weighs in around 3 pounds (weighing .5pounds less than the Canon alternative). But for the most part, it was a joy handholding.
If you are handholding this lens, I recommend that you use the Optical Stabilization that the lens offers in order to take sharp pictures, especially when zoomed out at the 400mm. The lens offers two stabilization modes. Mode 1 is your all-a-round stabilization for the image and lens, with Mode 2 being prioritized for sports and wildlife shooting if you are tracking subjects by panning left or right.
As you can see the images taken with the lens and the A9 are sharp, if you need to crop in even slightly to recompose your image, you will find that you will have enough resolution and sharpness to maintain a quality print, that is if you print your work and you should, but that’s a topic for another day. Concerns about CA (Chromatic Aberration) is a little noticeable when certain subjects were backlit, but can be cleaned up for the most part in Lightroom or any post-processing software that offers CA Reduction.
All in all, for this type of shooting I found the lens to perform extremely well and was quite pleased with how responsive the lens was in autofocus tracking, especially when paired with the Sony A9. With that being said, there was one more test that I wanted to try out with this lens – photographing the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam.
Obviously, a lens of this caliber is often used for sports and wildlife, when photographing the Eagles, I found that this lens when using the Sony A9‘s 35mm APS-C mode, didn’t give me enough reach. Not having a 1x or 2x teleconverter with me, which I will review at a later date, so I had to switch to using the Sigma MC-11 and the Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens. It wasn’t until the Eagles started flying overhead that I had switched back to the Sony 100-400 where I could get close enough and still get a sharp image.
Just a quick note, that when shooting any moving subjects, you may not always get a sharp image depending on where the camera tells the lens to focus. In the case of the Eagles at Conowingo, the camera was having some difficulty every so often when focusing on the Eagles as they flew through the air.
The images that I had taken with the 100-400 were incredibly sharp. The lens is fast focusing, grabbing focus as soon as the focal point on the camera lines up with the subject. There were moments where the lens missed focus, but I attribute that to it user error. Aside from that, I was impressed with the results.
I’m sure most of you will agree that this lens is incredible and the photos that I have included in the post are sharp. If anyone is using Sony currently for sports shooting, this is a lens that you should have. If you shoot events that need a long telephoto that exceeds 100mm, then this is a lens you should look into, unless you primarily shoot with primes.
All in all, I rate this lens a 4 out of 5 and is a must-have for Sony shooters in sports, wildlife, and event photography. If you would like to purchase the lens or learn more about, you can find it at Allen’s Camera and if you would like to rent the lens before you purchase it, they have a rental as well. What do you think of the lens? What do you shoot and how would you use the lens? Leave a comment below.