Touted as the first large aperture super-telephoto prime to join the E-mount line-up, the new 400mm F2.8 G Master is also the world’s lightest, weighing in at only 2897g, a feat for such a long lens.
The product of extensive research and testing, according to Sony, the new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens features extraordinary focusing speed and precision while also boasting the lightest weight in its class- when compared to 400mm F2.8 lenses for 35mm full-frame format cameras, as of June 2018, Sony survey – and an extremely balanced design. The lens, which is the first large aperture super-telephoto prime to join the E-mount line-up, is presented as the ideal choice for professional sports, wildlife and nature photographers, and a perfect complement for Sony’s extensive line-up of high-speed E-mount bodies including α9, α7R III and more.
The weight of the lens is one important aspect to consider if you use regularly long lenses and need to balance them on a monopod or even use them for handheld shooting. With only 2897g, the new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens provides a level of portability and handheld manoeuvrability that has never before been achieved in a lens of its class. The remarkably light weight of this lens is achieved through an innovative optical design that includes three fluorite elements, with a reduced number of elements deployed at the front of the barrel, as well as the liberal usage of durable magnesium alloy components.
With a kit of lens and camera from Sony on this segment able to weigh less than Canon and Nikon 400mm lenses, it will be interesting to see if professionals opt in. Sony says that repeated field tests and evaluation by professional photographers across the world have led to a lens design that is not front-heavy, reducing moment of inertia that resists rotation by up to 50% as compared to the SAL500F40G (when mounted on the α9 with VG-C3EM grip. Compared to the α99 II + SAL500F40G, Sony tests). Sony adds that “this ensures that quicker, more precise panning is available, whether shooting handheld or on a monopod.”
Autofocus is faster and more precise, says Sony, so the lens takes advantage of the latest cameras from the company. Two newly developed high-speed XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors drive the lens’ focus group, achieving up to a 5x improvement in moving-subject tracking performance, again according to Sony tests. These motors are supported by specially developed motion algorithms to minimise lag and instability and control noise levels, resulting in exceptionally quick, accurate and quiet autofocus performance. This allows the lens to capture dynamic, fast moving athletes or wildlife with ease.
Image quality is at G Master Series level, with “an incredible level of image quality and detail, with outstanding contrast and resolution maintained all the way to the corners of the image. The unique optical design includes three fluorite elements that help to minimise chromatic aberration and suppress any amount of colour bleeding. The lens has also been coated with Sony’s original Nano AR coating to suppress any unwanted reflections, glare, or ghosting.”
The lens features an 11-blade circular aperture mechanism that allows it to produce extremely natural and beautiful background defocus or bokeh’, with each lens being individually tested and adjusted at manufacturing stage to achieve maximum image quality and ‘bokeh’. The new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS is compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2.0x E-mount tele-converters, producing outstanding imaging performance at extended focal lengths while maintaining fast, precise AF performance.
Built with a durable magnesium alloy and a strong, lightweight carbon fibre hood, to withstand the harsh conditions of sporting events and wildlife photography, the lens is also dust and moisture resistant, and its front element is coated with fluorine to resist dirt and fingerprints.
There is also an ample amount of hard controls on the lens, including a ‘Full-Time DMF’ switch to immediately engage manual focus at any point, customisable focus hold buttons in four different locations on the lens barrel – allowing easy access of an Eye AF for example, and a focus ring that features Linear Response MF for fine, responsive manual focus. The new lens also features built-in optical stabilisation for dynamic sports action and three different ‘Mode’ settings, including a brand new Mode 3 setting with an advanced algorithm that ensures easier framing when following moving subjects. The new model includes a function ring with selectable ‘Preset’ and ‘Function’ settings, further adding to the customisability, a first for any Sony lens.
The FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS includes a drop-in filter slot that accepts ø 40.5mm ND and other filter types, as well as the optional VF-DCPL1 Drop-in Circular Polarising Filter. The VF-DCPL1 filter can be rotated to achieve the desired polarisation while installed in the lens.
Sony introduced a software update to its α9 camera, to support the new lens. The update also provides added option to input camera serial number to the Exif data, a feature that has been strongly requested by professional sports photographers and photojournalists. Additionally, several other updates to the α9 camera have been implemented with the new firmware, including improved auto focus speed in low light conditions, enhanced continuous AF performance when tracking a moving subject, and reduced release time lag when shooting with flash.
The new Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS will ship io September 2018, priced at $11,999.99.