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March 2, 2013

Sony A99 + SAL70200G = BFF’s 4EVA!

The Sony A99 + SAL70200G = BFF’s 4EVA! I’ve wanted it for a while now – the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-series lens – but I’ve never really had a good enough excuse to justify dropping a couple of thousand bucks on it. I mean, it’s a great lens with brilliant reviews and a handy zoom range, but I didn’t really need it. For a lot of 2011 and all of 2012, my focus was urbex, lightpainting and street. Not much need for a telephoto-zoom doing that stuff.

A match made in Heaven!

But all that has recently changed – with my photographic efforts being refocused to people & portraits this year, I’ve got a big family portrait session booked for next weekend and two weddings to shoot later in the year.

As good an excuse as any, I reckon…

Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-series lens [SAL70200G]

Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-series lens

 So I contacted my sales bud, Elias, at the Brisbane Sony Centre. He found me one in stock in Melbourne for the right price so I ordered it on the spot and picked it up a few days later. As soon as I walked in with it, I grabbed the A99 and snapped it on.

Here’s how the boffins at DxOMark scored it in 2006. This result was achieved on the venerable Sony DSLR-A900 – a similar-sized FF sensor, but generationally disparate. Even though the SAL70200G doesn’t score brilliantly, it’s definitely a rock solid, reliable performer. rated it much higher, giving it an overall rating of 84% and their elusive GOLD AWARD:

Sony’s 70-200mm F2.8 G may be based on a 2003 Minolta design, but it’s still the best fast telezoom available for Alpha mount users.



After fitting it to the camera, my first impression was that it was poorly balanced – same as with my 24-70/2.8Z. It’s not a big lens (like the Sigma 120-400) by any means, but it is full of very heavy, precision ground glass. It weighs a lot and on the front of the A99 it pulls the combo down at the front. I’m not particularly used to this as my A77 is perfectly balanced with a battery grip, and I’m hoping the same solution will work for the A99. That’s definitely the next big purchase for me.

When I switched the camera on I did a few quick test-focuses around the room. Fast, very fast. I shot a few things around the room, pixel-peeped for a while, then went outside to the front yard to shoot some flowers in the late-afternoon light.

These images were taken as RAW and converted to JPEG using Sony Image Data Converter – they are, effectively, straight out of the camera. I have also put a Creative Commons licence on them so you can use them elsewhere.

DSC02778.ARW | ISO100, 1/320-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

Pretty sharp on the bird, huh? Well check out the same shot with a major crop…

As above, but hugely cropped.


DSC02761.ARW | ISO100, 1/400-sec, f/3.2 | 200mm

DSC02757.ARW | ISO100, 1/320-sec, f/3.2 | 200mm

DSC02766.ARW | ISO100, 1/250-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

DSC02755.ARW | ISO100, 1/400-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

DSC02753.ARW | ISO100, 1/640-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

DSC02753.ARW | ISO100, 1/640-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

DSC02768.ARW | ISO100, 1/100-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

DSC02798.ARW | ISO400, 1/160-sec, f/2.8 | 200mm

In this final image, that small blade of grass was right in amongst a large patch of identical grass – with the powerful depth-of-field limiting created by the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-series lens coupled to the Sony SLT-A99 full-frame camera is easily able to single out and separate your subjects from whatever background.


So in summation I can say that the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-series lens [SAL70200G] has made the greatest first impression upon me since I bought my fisheye. It’s fast to focus, lets in heaps of light, and the telephoto effect is exquisite on the full-frame Sony A99. I’ve recently learned there is a new version of this lens being released gradually around the world, so I think I’m lucky to have gotten this one when I did. It may not be the newest, greatest version of the lens, but it’s tried and true and has a fantastic reputation for providing excellent images in all conditions. I will, of course, be posting more about this camera & lens combo, so stay tuned to SAL for follow-ups.

Finally, the observant among you may have noticed that nearly all of the shots above have been taken wide open at f/2.8 and zoomed right in to 200mm. I noticed this myself when converting them to JPEG, and I put it down to the sports-car principle: you don’t buy a Lamborghini or Ferrari to drive at road speed – you buy them to drive flat out. I’m sure this lead-footedness will end in due course, but for now it’s a thrill-a-minute.


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About the Author

I am a visual artist and photographer living and working in South East Queensland. I've been using a Sony DSLR/SLT camera since I made the big jump from 25-years of devoted film use in 2006. I like to create expressive and unique images using HDR, lightpainting, strobes and long exposure. I'm also knee-deep in a commercial photography start-up where I'm learning respect for the more traditional ways of making pictures. Website | Google+ | Blog


  1. Gerard Kuzawa

    Short of the fact that I had already decided to opt for, and subsequently purchase, the A57, there is a part of Me that pines for the A99. Either which way, I’ve never had any significant doubt that the Sony G-series of lenses were gooder-than-good. Currently My sites are on another lens, but it may be a Sigma. However, this review is causing a real temptation in Me:-)

    • Hi there, Gerard 🙂 All I can say is “give in to the temptation” if you can afford to. There’s a brand new Tamron 70-200 that Jay is hopefully going to review soon, we’ve got some high-hopes for that one, otherwise the 70-200G is the one to hold. The A57 is a fine camera that should keep you smiling for a long time 🙂 Cheers!

  2. Jay

    Nice article Al!! Enjoyed your commentary and of course the killer photography 😉 Nothing wrong with shooting flat out either as I did exactly the same thing when my fully manual Minolta lenses and my 135 f/2 which is constantly at f/2!!

    Thanks again for sharing and making me want the A99 again!!


    • Cheers, Jay 🙂 I normally shoot around f/6.3 with appropriate zoomage, but I couldn’t help myself with this one the other day. Flat out and adjusting myself to suit the camera B-) Go get one, you know you need it!

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