Sony 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II Review: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Sony has been working hard to re-release new iterations of its existing lenses because although many of the early lenses were decent, they still left much to be desired. The original G Master zooms, for example, were priced like high-grade professional lenses, but came up short optically.

Editor’s note: The 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II we received was technically pre-production, but based on the experience the team felt that we had enough information to give a recommendation through a final review.

Most notably, Sony released new versions of the G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 which were more compact and yet optically superior to the predecessors. Now it’s the G series’ turn and Sony has created a more compact 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II. Does it follow the same trend? Let’s find out.

Sony 70-200 f/4 II Dear Rouge
A 70-200 telephoto is such a handy lens for everything from portraits, to concerts, and even the occasional wildlife.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II: Handling and Build Quality

Dressed in the same light beige livery as the f/2.8 G Master, the 70-200mm f/4 G OSS II is even more compact than before. It’s important to note that although the lens is smaller than the previous version, it also expands and retracts when zoomed, unlike the internal zooming design of the older lens. This means that in the hand the lens isn’t as compact as you might think, but when stored in your bag it takes up minimal space.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 G OSS II Extended
Even though the new 70-200 f/4 extends when zoomed, it’s still a lightweight lens that fits easily in most camera bags.

The 70-200mm f/4 II is weather sealed with customizable buttons positioned behind the somewhat sloppy manual focus ring. At least the zoom ring feels tight and can be locked into the retracted position.

The lens has the usual accouterment of buttons, such as a focus limiter switch, focus selector switch, and image stabilization on/off switch. At only 28 ounces (790 grams) this is a very easy telephoto to carry around. There is an optional lens collar that can be purchased, but I don’t think many users will need it considering how manageable the weight and size of the lens are.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 G OSS II
It’s not a G-Master lens but its sure equipped like one.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II: Out in the Field

If you want the versatility of a macro-capable optic without having to bring along an extra lens, the 70-200mm f/4 II has you covered. You get a very usable 1:2 life-size macro ratio at any part of the zoom range, and Sony says that when combined with a 2x teleconverter it becomes 1:1.

Shooting at 200mm gave me the most working distance and made this lens excellent for skittish subjects like bumblebees and creepy crawlies.

Sony G 70-200 f/4 OSS II honey bee macro
With 1:2 life-size macro reproduction at any range, the 70-200 f/4 is immensely versatile.

Built-in optical image stabilization adds to the stability of this lens hand-held and assists greatly when shooting handheld macro. Thanks to two XD linear motors, I had no issues getting quick and snappy autofocus confirmation on fast-moving subjects.

From about one meter to infinity, the 70-200mm snaps to your subject post-haste. However, because of the lens’s excellent close-focusing capabilities, I did discover that it slows way down when autofocusing from an outstretched arm’s length away to infinity. It’s a pretty minor issue, but something to keep in mind if you are starting from within a few feet of a subject.

Street portrait Sony 70-200 f/4 OSS II
It’s very rare that I need to use a f/2.8 aperture. Even for portraits, I find that I prefer to stop down. Having a lens only go to f/4 isn’t often the downside that people think it is.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II: Image Quality

The Sony 70-200 f/4 II might not say G Master on the badge, but the optical performance is definitely professional. Shooting our test chart wide open at f/4 — regardless of zoom range — produced tons of detail extending right to the corners. Stopping down the lens helped very slightly to tighten things up across the frame with a little more contrast, but I’d happily shoot this lens wide open all day long.

Dear rouge Sony 70-200 f/4 OSS II
There is plenty of detail to zoom in on thanks to the inherent sharpness of this lens.

A little bit of cat’s eye bokeh will manifest in the corners when shooting out-of-focus specular light sources, which largely goes away by f/5.6. Otherwise, bokeh balls are smooth and always round with minimal soap bubble effect, and subsequently a smooth appearance to the transition of out-of-focus subjects. No onion rings were seen either, and despite the somewhat slower maximum f/4 aperture, this lens is capable of rendering stunning shallow depth-of-field results.

Sony 70-200 f/4 OSS II cats eye bokeh
If you’re gonna show “cat’s eye” bokeh, might as well have some cats in the foreground. It goes away by f/5.6, but I don’t mind a “cat’s eye” effect when shooting portraits.

Shooting subjects where light edges meet dark edges abruptly yielded no nasty chromatic aberrations. Furthermore, loca — or longitudinal chromatic aberrations where out-of-focus areas pick up a harsh and vivid color tone — were absent as well. This is a good thing, as loca is hard to deal with in editing software. If you’re shooting backlit portraits or towards the sun rest assured that flare is very well controlled. I didn’t see any ghosting either, even when stopping the aperture down. Sony has done a great job creating a lens with very few optical issues.

Sony f/4 70-200 OSS II Loca
There is no LOCA or longitudinal chromatic aberrations to take care of in post.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 Macro G OSS II: What’s Not to love?

With the $1,699.99 Sony 70-200mm f/4 G OSS II, we have a sharp lens with excellent optical characteristics. It is compact and lightweight with a rugged build quality. Out-of-focus areas are rendered beautifully, and the lens focuses on those areas swiftly. And to top it all off, we get a decent close-up macro lens as well with good working distance and image stabilization to keep shots stable. What’s not to love?

Sony 70-200 f/4 OSS II canada day
Canada day is worth celebrating, but so is the release of this new 70-200. It is one of the few lenses that seems to be the whole package.

Are There Alternatives?

The older Sony 70-200mm f/4 OSS is a fairly large and heavy lens in comparison. It can’t compare optically with the new version either. Unless it was a steal of a deal, I’d get version II.

You could of course move up to the excellent 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II if the budget allows for it. It is quite compact in its own right, and optically gorgeous too. However, it is a big jump in price and might be more than you need even if the wallet allows for it.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. Resoundingly yes. It really ticks a lot of boxes unless you absolutely want a faster aperture.