Rated 5 out of 5
To preface this review: I'm an enthusiast wildlife photographer; I just do it for fun and don't make a living from it. If a photo isn't perfectly sharp then, eh, no skin off my nose. I got the shot and the moment. I realize not everyone is like that and the more critical reviews of this lens are totally valid.
That said, I also handhold this monster when shooting because I am out of my mind. I'm a small woman of fairly average strength. The fact I get any sharp shots is a testament to the lens itself.
As for the review: I adore this lens. I make excuses to go out and use it whenever I can. It's the only first party lens I own for my Sony A7RIII - the others being Tamron and Sigma lenses. It absolutely focuses basically instantly in comparison. I've shot with this lens in horrid, overcast rainy weather, heavy shade, and bright, sunny skies. It has performed wonderfully each time and I've gotten so many shots that make me smile looking back on them.
If you have similar sentiments to me and you're on the fence about this lens, I say go for it. I don't think you'll be disappointed at all!
Rated 2 out of 5
Really wanted this to be my go to wildlife/bird photography lens. Research the reviews here and abroad and despite a few unfavorable ratings I thought I'd give it a spin. Glad I did. I shoot with Sony A7iV so I felt this lens would be a great fit with the upgraded focusing system from my earlier A7iii. Took my setup out to the local park during the Spring migration. Mainly the smaller Warblers/Songbirds with a few hawks and owls as subjects. Setting were perfect for most shots in flight, High shutter ap f7/f8 good light. Time after time shots were not in focus, especially from the long end. And if they were in focus they were soft. I Immediately took it back in and exchanged for another, same issue. I was reading that maybe it was do to the getting use to the weight as hand shake might be the culprit. When shooting Canon, all I've ever shot with were long tele's 150-600. Tampon, Sigma Sport. No problem with either. This Sony lens is simply inferior for high end photography. The performance is great. The make is solid, the sharpness just isn't there.
I ended up switching to the Sigma DG DN 150-600 Sport.as a second option. But now, believe it or not, I shoot with the very sharp Sigma Sport 150-600 EF (cannon mount that I traded in when I jump over to Sony. I slap it on my Sony with the Sigma MC-11adapter and have never been happier.
No, I would not recommend this Sony lens.
Unique lens, a must have for those needing a telezoom
Rated 5 out of 5
Stop pixel-peeping. Stop complaining. This lens is:
a) sharp (remember non-premium telephoto lenses, especially zooms, 10 or 20 years ago? No? Some things are better be forgotten. And mind you, those 6/8/12/16 Mpix were not modern 24/33/50/60);
b) lightweight (I had 18 years with DSLRs and their zooms under my belt before switching to mirrorless completely. They say that 2.5 kilos for 200-600 is heavy? Meh, try lugging Canon 35-350 AND 400/2.8L IS v.1, AND two EOS 1D IIn bodies, plus a third body and smaller lenses, and some Ni-MH batteries, and a late-2000s laptop...);
c) quick to focus (YES, QUICK. Yes, 400/2.8 and 600/4 are quicker, but just a "tad bit" more expensive...);
d) offers great stabilization, particularly in conjunction with IBIS of A1, A9 II, A7R5 and A7M4, and especially if you know when to use which mode and when to shut IS off completely.
Yes, it wants MUCHO-MUCHO light. Any lens slower than f/4 wants a lot of light and then some. But it rewards you.
Yes, it lacks M after G. It's G, not GM. And it's freakin' better than top-notch (ultra-heavy) telephoto primes of yesteryear. Cheaper, too. Also, I'd rather have a fully monolithic G lens than a GM that expands and contracts. I had my go with extending lens barrels, the less they do it, the better.
No, 200-600 is not an elongated 100-400, it's a completely different design. Also, 100-4001.4 is not the same as 200-600, it's a very different thing.
It is, actually, your only option to go beyond 400 mm (which is paramount if you do birds, planes, certain sports, or occasional paparazzi jobs) while not ruining your wallet, credit history and family integrity.
No, 350 mm on APS-C is not 500. It's 350 with decreased field of view (I'm talking to you, hesitant FE 70-350 OSS owners). Similarly to cropped 300 not being 450 (I'm looking at you, hesitant Tamron 70-300 A041 owners).
Sigma/Tamron 150-600? Meh. No. Just no, if you are a Sony user. They don't cut it. Save up for 200-600. Indeed I'd like extra 50 mm on a short end, but cons of third-party 150-600 are less than pros of the 200-600.
One very important thing that catches many a shooter unawares: at extreme focal lengths (over 400 mm) image becomes really sensitive to air quality. Haze, smog, thermals - they are your adversaries unless you need their effects. It is sometimes just the air that makes people yell "how come my super-duper-expensive new supertelephoto lens is not as sharp as I want?!".
If you want to film skydivers from the ground, I have a good recipe for you. Get a nice spinning reclining chair in the field (every airfield with skydivers should have one. If it does not, bring your own). Get a full-frame Sony mirrorless that can film cropped 4K (A7M4, A7R5, A1...) and attach a 200-600 to it. Install yourself comfortably in the said recliner looking skywards with the backrest as low as possible so that your upper body would be almost flat (actually, hauling out a folding cot, a chaise, or a couch isn't a bad idea either), so that you would have two elbows on elbow rests, main hand (usually right) on the camera, secondary hand (usually left) on the lens holding it steady, and your eye to the viewfinder. Set filming format to 4K at the highest FPS (50, 60, 100, 120 - depending on your region and camera). Set shutter speed at twice FPS. Enable APS-C mode. Make your final movie 1080 with appropriate zooming of your original 4K image during editing.
This trick will give you the field of view equivalent of 1200 mm (or even more if you bother with a teleconverter - which will absolutely and unequivocally require a perfect sunny day and shooting along the sunlight or at least sideways). At that, be mindful of the air quality.
YES, DO IT HANDHELD. No video head or ball head will allow you the kind of flexibility you need for skydivers.
Never forget about the lens hood: it actually protects the front element and the lens barrel, reduces flare, increases contrast and makes weight balance perfect. All hail lens hoods on supertelephoto lenses (and yes, they make your telezoom even longer in the eyes of an unsuspecting casual beholder) .