Sony just announced the new 70-200 f/4 G Macro lens. I already have this lens for about 2 months and did lots of shots with it. In this article I’ll discuss everything what this lens is about. And yes, it has macro capabilities! Let’s get started.
Full Disclaimer: I am a Sony Europe Ambassador and Sony asked me if I wanted to try out this lens. I do have to send this one back.
Please note that this article is also available as a video, where I go through most of the photos and tell about my experience. You can watch it on YouTube:
The Forest Shoot.
In this article I want to do things a little bit different. Before I actually show you all kinds of specs and photos of the lens, I want to dive in one of the first shoots: A forest photography shoot. Because when I first heard about this lens I was super interested and forest photography came to mind immediately. Why? I shoot most of my photos in the forest with my 70-200 f/2.8 GM II (or 100-400). I also always carry my Sony 90mm Macro in the forest. This adds weight. The new 70-200 f/4 could potentially be these 2 lenses in 1. Of course, it’s not exactly the same as the 90mm macro can do more ‘real’ macro with closer focus distance but still: Most of the time I use my macro in the forest is for little mushrooms, little leaves, flowers etc. And not super macro shots of insects. So in theory, and in my mind, this could work.
So that’s the first thing I did. On a summer morning with the sun peaking through the trees, I went to a local forest to try this out. In the forest, I follow the light. Here are some of the shots from that morning:
I started photographing this ‘see-through’ where cyclists kept coming across the frame. As you can see, I used a little bit of a higher ISO and fast shutter speed to make sure the cyclist is sharp. I then started to see the light rays coming through the trees behind me and started to focus on that:
I am still using a little bit higher ISO in the forest, mainly because the leaves are moving from the wind. I don’t want them to be blurry so I try to keep the shutter speed not extremely slow. I also underexpose a lot here, to put more focus on the light rays.
Another example of an underexposed shot where I just follow the light. The light in the forest is moving constantly, lightning different patches of trees every time. By underexposing you get a great effect to highlight this.
I then noticed this path where the light was hitting beautifully through the trees in the middle of the path. I setup my tripod and while I was doing that, I heard goose all the time. Apparently they had a nest nearby and they did a beautiful fly through through the tree alley. I didn’t get that shot, yet. I then just adjusted my shutter speed to very fast and moved up my ISO and simply waited. And yes, they kept flying through the alley :) So I kept shooting in burst, trying to catch the geese in their flight. The above photo is one of the results.
And here’s how the lens looks on the camera. It’s quite compact and extends when you zoom. Look closely and you see there is a tripod foot(mount) attached on the lens. You can actually remove that mount if you wish. Because the lens is compact I did not use the tripod mount much anyway.
Here’s a closer look:
So in this forest photo session, I am using the setup on a light weight tripod and constantly just hold the tripod with the camera/lens attached to move it. This works comfortably as the setup is not heavy at all. You could choose to shoot a lot of hand held in the forest with higher ISO, but at this time it was still rather dark in the forest. I later continue to shoot without the tripod.
After taking some general forest shots, I decided to do a quick Bokeh test:
Zoomed in the bokeh looks nice in my opinion, quite soft. It can’t match the 70-200GM II but it’s not bad at all. A little bit more zoomed out the bokeh gets a bit more busy.
I continued my walk and focused a bit more on the little things. I like to walk through forests and just see random things, like interesting leaves, textures and see where the light hits. At this point I removed the camera from the tripod and continued hand held for more flexibility.
And then I started to notice that you can move much closer to subjects then with your ‘normal’ 70-200. Remember, it has the ‘MACRO’ tag written on it.
Here focused on a little leave that was beautifully lit. You can start to see the macro capabilities of the lens. I did some more of these by using a closer focus distance. This time, with the lens wide open:
Look how nice and soft the bokeh starts to look when you get close to objects and go into ‘macro’ mode.
Here I was using another leaf partly in front of the lens to create that foreground bokeh which gives a nice dreamy effect.
Then I started to look for smaller things than just leaves. I found some tiny flowers in little openings in the forest.
Notice that all these shots are taken wide open at f/4 . I just love the dreamy look it creates. The focus plane (as it is with macro) is very narrow so you have to focus precisely.
The above shots were tiny flowers taken at around the minimum close focus distance, meaning I couldn’t focus any closer or get them bigger in the shot. However, there is a little magic trick this lens can do: It accepts (as opposed to the old original 70-200 f/4) teleconverters! Meaning I can get a closer macro functionality (and more range) by attaching the 1.4x (or 2x) teleconverter!
Here we have a similar flower as above, shot closer with the 1.4x tc attached:
Still handheld and it was not uncomfortable to hold. Some more examples:
Suddenly, ordinary things are so fun to photograph with this setup.
This was not so ordinary however, or at least something I had not seen before. It looked like a little red mushroom on a leaf to me, but after research I discovered they were galls.
So that kind of sums up my first forest walk with the lens. Was it what I expected? Actually : Yes! It’s super versatile, compact, and the macro shots come out great with the extra bonus of adding the teleconverter. I’m sure lots of people (me included) are going to love this. Also important to note: The image stabilisation on all of this is great for hand held shooting.
So now that i’ve given you a quick summary of what’s possible with this lens, let’s take a look at the design, the buttons and its specifications:
First of all: it’s compact. But yes, it does extend when you zoom. And it has MACRO written on it. Als notice that this is not a GM lens, but ‘just’ G. Here you can see it next to the 70-200GM II
The GM II is bigger and heavier, but does not extend. The difference of course is of no surprise, as the GM is f/2.8 over the entire zoom vs f/4 of the G OSS II. The GM II weighs 1025gr and the G OSS II weighs 794gr. The original 70-200 f/4 G weighs a tiny bit more at 840gr. The difference is not THAT big, but the G OSS II is more compact AND of course has the Macro capability (and it accepts tele converts too)! It’s a very interesting choice of Sony as they could’ve probably made it lighter and even smaller, but they chose to do something different. Innovation is originally why I went with Sony more than 10 years ago, and these kinds of things just put a smile on my face.
It is however important to note that even though it has written MACRO on the lens, it's not a 'real' macro lens, meaning it doesn't have 1:1 magnification. It's at 0.5, but when you attach a 2x teleconverter it's 1:1 (and with the 1.4 it's in between). Not sure who invented when you can call a lens 'macro', but to me the magnification is good enough for most of my needs.
Here we see a close-up of the lens with the tripod mount included. Like I mentioned before: you can actually just detach this whole mount including the ring to make the lens lighter. It’s also compact enough just to mount it on your camera without the use of the tripod mount. That does however put more pressure on your lens mount.
The buttons are similar to all Sony telephoto lenses. If you look closely you now also see the MACRO option at the focus switch. You can choose to focus only very close to the lens and ignore further focus distances to reduce hunting of the lens. However, you don’t need to set the switch to MACRO to photograph macro. I just left it to Full all the time and that worked just fine.
In general the lens feels very solid like any other new Sony lens and has fast AF with the new AF motors inside. I’m not going to dive too much into all of these terms and specs, as I want you to see more actual photo material. Let’s continue!
Now before we move on to more fun photos, let’s talk about the sharpness of this lens a little bit. I’ll not bore you with complicated diagrams and graphs with every single aperture tested against a cardboard. Instead, I simply pointed the lens on a pretty building and compared it to the superb sharpness of the 70-200GM II.
All shots were taken on the A7RV from a tripod from the (almost) same spot.
Here are the results:
Sony A7RV - Sony 70-200 f/4 G Macro - 70mm - f/4 - 1/800s - ISO100
Here’s a center crop of the image above:
And a crop from the right edge:
As you can see, the detail at 70mm wide open is actually great. I tested this against the 70-200 GM II and I can’t really see a difference. There’s also next to no Chromatic Aberration on the edges. I am impressed.
Now I did the same tests on f/8 and f/11. The results at 70mm are not much different. Slightly better sharpness, but basically on par with the 70-200 GM II. Where it differs though, is at the longer focus lengths. Especially on the edges. Let me show you:
Here we see a shot of 200mm at f/4 (wide open). The center sharpness is still great:
The top left corner:
Here we can see the sharpness falling short a bit. Let’s compare it to the same corner crop of the 70-200 GM II with exactly the same settings:
The difference here is significant. The GMII is actually tack sharp at f/4 in the corners.
When we shoot at f/8, the corners are better, but the GM II still beats it in corner sharpness. The center sharpness is almost identical. Of course, this comes as no surprise: The GMII is much more expensive, and simply a sharper lens in general. It (of course) also has a smoother bokeh with it’s f/2.8 aperture.
Back to normal shooting sessions: next to walking around in the forest, I also loved to photograph animals with this lens. Here are 2 mini series I took of family of Scottisch Highlanders on the Dutch Veluwe and a little family of sheep. As it’s summer, they all have their little babies which makes for some super cute photos.
Let’s start with the sheep. When I walked up to them they were immediately super interested in me and my gear. Sniffing me from every side and quickly knowing that my gear was not food, they quickly lost interest and continued doing their thing.
All of these shots were taken at f/4 wide open.
With these kinds of shots I try to get low and get on eye level with the sheep. This gives great depth to the photo with both a foreground (grass) layer and a backdrop. The series was taken about an hour before sunset during nice golden light coming through the trees.
This was the beginning of the shoot when they were coming up to me to see if I had any food. Notice how the background bokeh in this shot is more busy than the previous shot. This is because here I had to zoom out to 116mm and the other shot was taken at 200mm. At 200mm the bokeh is very nice.
However even at 70mm you can get some nice bokeh as can be seen in this shot. This little guy was curious and coming up to see to get some attention.
Also note that the Animal Eye af worked absolutely great with all of these shots. It almost always snapped right on top of the eye with perfect focus.
Another example of the foreground/background bokeh from a distance and the perfect focus through it all. Another thing to note is that the sharpness at f/4 is simply great. Here’s a crop of the above image:
And another one when the sun already set lower and all the grass looked golden.
Last shot of the sheep photo session when the sun almost set.
I did a similar thing photographing a little family of Scottish highlanders that were grazing in a field on the Dutch Veluwe. They also just had babies which were extremely fluffy and cute.
One of the parents enjoying the afternoon light.
2 little babies noticing me getting close to the ground and thinking: “What the hell is this guy doing.”
One of the babies cleaning herself. I was not actually that close as this is already an about 2x crop of the original photo. Perfect focus on the eye again, see an ever closer crop:
As the sun set lower, everything turned more gold, really complimenting the brown fur of these beautiful animals.
Here the sun just set. I love this photo how it shows the ‘wildness’ of this place in the Netherlands, with the tree as the backdrop.
I feel like you will have a general idea of what’s possible with this lens regarding animals. One of the things you will notice is that you don’t always need the f/2.8 (like the GM II) to get these dreamy results. In this case it’s all f/4. It’s all about the distance of shooting and the right angle. Of course, if you want to get an even dreamier look (that I love), the GM II could even be better for these kinds of shoots.
Now let’s take an even closer look at the bokeh of this lens with more more examples:
Flowers & Bokeh
People that know me know that I love photographing flowers. And with this lens It’s great, as you can focus closer than you normally can with a standard telephoto lens. This also allows you to create nice bokeh balls, even at f/4. Here are some shots where I focused quite close which nice bokeh balls as a backdrop:
And when we get closer, the bokeh turns really smooth as we have seen before. Please note that this was not even shot with the teleconverter.
Here are some more examples of a poppy shoot that I did near my house. These poppies were just standing next to the road and I spent about an hour photographing them from different angles. It will give you a good idea of what kind of bokeh you can create by using closer focus distances:
If you want to learn more about how I do these kinds of shots, feel free to check out my article on How to Photograph Tiny Spring Flowers.
Let’s get a little bit closer for more abstract macro shots. These were taken at minimum close focus distance:
So no teleconverter was used for the above flower shots. Let’s take a look at some macro shots with the 1.4x Teleconverter attached. But before we do that, let’s take a look at the actual close focus distance difference:
Close Focus Distance Comparison
To get an idea of how close you can focus compared to a ‘normal 70-200’ I took a photo of some flowers in my living room. Here’s a photo that was focused as close as possible with the 70-200 GM II at 200mm:
Now let’s take a look at how close I can get with the OSS G II MACRO :
That’s quite a big difference. Obviously, it doesn’t have MACRO in the title for nothing :). Let’s now attach the 1.4TC:
We can now get even more magnification.. And you can also attach the 2x TC to get even more magnification if you want.
Finally, let’s take a look at some more Macro shots with the 1.4 teleconverter attached.
Super dreamy photo of a flower with a very narrow focus plane. I love these kinds of dreamy shots. When photographing these flowers outside I noticed bees really liked them. So I spent some time observing and photographing them. An Interesting fact is that we are shooting macro here at 280mm. Not the easiest, but you don’t have to get super close to a subject to get the macro shot. In this case I was just sitting in the grass and the bees were not be bothered by me at all, as I was not sitting super close to the flowers.
Please note that these shots are definitely not easy to get. I was shooting bursts of shots to try and catch the bees in flight, and some of them with the insect AF of the A7RV came out great, but definitely not all of them :) Those bees are super fast in flight.
Touchdown! This was actually the same sequence as the previous photo, with the setting sun behind and a great silhouette of the bee.
I really loved the detail on the bee in this photo.
All of the photos in this article were processed, some less than others. If you like my postprocessing work and want to learn from me: I have a full editing course on landscape photography available with many happy students already. You can find it here: www.edityourlandscapes.com
Here I explain my full workflow. It’s aimed at both beginners and advanced people. We also have a community where everyone can show their work and ask questions, and for me to occasionally give advice and feedback on people’s work.
Please not that I don’t run any ads on these articles or on my website. This article is also not paid or sponsored by anyone :) So if you are interested in supporting in any way, checking out the course is one of the ways!
This article turned out quite long with lots of example photos. This is simply because I really enjoyed the versatility of this lens and I wanted to show you everything. I hope my excitement comes through in this article. As a Sony ambassador I often receive gear in return for promoting it. That was not the case with this lens. I simply borrowed it before the release and have to return it soon. But I am 100% buying it, as this lens is a lot of fun and great to carry around for a big variety of shots.
Let’s summarise some things at the end here:
In general , the 70-200 f/4 G OSS II Macro is a lot of fun to use because of its versatility.
Close focus distance is nice for many use cases, but is of course not so close as the ‘real’ Sony 90mm macro. It's 0.5 magnification, with the 2x teleconverter it's 1:1.
It weighs 794 grams, about 50 grams less than the original. Not THAT big of difference, BUT it has the macro function AND:
It accepts teleconverters, both the 1.4x and 2x.
It’s portable, but does extend when zooming.
Has a removable tripod mount.
Decent Bokeh. Great bokeh when using fully zoomed in and closer to subjects.
Great fast AF.
Great sharpness even at f/4 in the center and even with the teleconverters.
Not much Chromatic Aberrations (actually I didn’t notice any, even at f/4).
Beautiful rendering with not much flare.
This might actually be my favourite telephoto lens because its versatility. I really can’t wait to try this out for other purposes, like photographing the forest during autumn where I can both photograph all the trees and the little mushrooms on the ground. Or bringing it to Tuscany to photograph rolling hills and at the same time take macro shots of the flowers and the dew drops in the grass. Many possibilities!
If you liked this article, consider subscribing to my newsletter to get you notified on when new articles come out. If you want to support me, you can take a look at my editing course (www.edityourlandscapes.com) or simply use one of my referral links when you purchase the lens or any other gear (it won’t be any more expensive for you, but I will get a small commission).
Gear used in this article:
Sony 70-200 f/4 OSS II G Macro
Thanks for reading!