When Sony announced the FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens, wildlife photographers took note. The 400mm focal length is perfect for capturing animals in their natural environment, and the F2.8 maximum aperture allows this lens to be used with the 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters for a 560mm at around F4 and 800mm at F5.6.
Our technical editor David Schloss took the Sony 400mm to test at a New York Red Bulls soccer match, and came away impressed. With the erratic motion of a sport like soccer it’s a great place to evaluate the performance of a wildlife lens, and performance was admirable. Impressive as well is the weight savings in this 400mm lens relative to those from Canon and Nikon, Sony have managed to shave just over two pounds from the weight of the lens, relative to the popular 400mm f/2.8.
This is an important lens for Sony, even if most photographers opt instead for the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens, because 400mm is an important focal length, and Sony was missing a pro-level prime at this length. Essentially this lens plugs one of the last remaining holes in the lineup, adding validity to the system even for those who won’t buy it.
Today's official press release is below. The lens is expected to be available in September with a list price of $12,000.
Additional images and a longer review are available at our sister publication, Digital Photo Pro:
Sony Introduces the Long-Awaited 400mm F2.8 G Master™ Prime Lens
New Large Aperture Super-Telephoto Prime Lens is World’s lightest in its class, with outstanding AF performance, innovative optical design and exceptional image quality
SAN DIEGO, Jun. 27, 2018 – Sony – a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer – has today announced the highly anticipated FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS large aperture super-telephoto prime lens (model SEL400F28GM).
The product of extensive research and testing, Sony’s new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens is the first large aperture super-telephoto prime to join the E-mount lineup. This exciting new lens produces brilliant image quality with extraordinary focusing speed and precision, while also boasting the lightest weight in its class and an extremely balanced design. It’s the ideal choice for professional sports, wildlife and nature photographers, and a perfect complement to Sony’s extensive lineup of high-speed E-mount bodies including α9, α7R III and more.
“We’re extremely excited and proud to officially introduce the new 400mm F2.8 G Master prime lens,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of digital imaging at Sony Electronics. “The latest in our flagship series of G Master Lenses, this new lens offers exceptional image quality and an innovative lightweight design that will give professionals a level of flexibility with a 400mm lens unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. Combined with the unmatched shooting speeds and autofocus capabilities of our full-frame E-mount cameras, it will allow them to capture and create in ways that were never before possible.”
World’s Lightest 400mm F2.8 Prime with Ideal Balance for Monopod or Handheld Shooting
Weighing it at only slightly more than 6 lbs., the new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens provides a level of portability and handheld maneuverability 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.
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, ensuring quicker, more precise panning when shooting handheld or on a monopod.
Fast, Precise Autofocus
To best take advantage of the rapidly evolving shooting and focusing speeds of Sony’s latest cameras, the FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens features two newly developed high-speed XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors that drive the lens’s focus group, achieving up to a 5x improvement[iii] in moving-subject tracking performance. These motors are supported by specially developed motion algorithms to minimize 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.
G Master Image Quality and Bokeh
A member of Sony’s flagship G Master series lenses, this new large aperture super-telephoto prime lens features 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 minimize chromatic aberration and suppress any amount of color bleeding. The lens has also been coated with Sony’s original Nano AR coating to suppress any unwanted reflections, glare, or ghosting.
In addition to the impressive resolution, the lens features an 11-blade circular aperture mechanism that allows it to produce extremely natural and beautiful background defocus or ‘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.
Durability, Reliability and Control
To withstand the harsh conditions of sporting events and wildlife photography, Sony’s new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS is built with a durable magnesium alloy and a strong, lightweight carbon fiber hood. 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 number of hard controls on the lens, including customizable focus-hold buttons in four different locations on the lens barrel, which can be programmed for control of features such as Eye AF functionality, if desired. There is also a ‘Full-Time DMF’ switch to immediately engage manual focus at any point, and a focus ring that features Linear Response MF for fine, responsive manual focus. Additionally, the new lens includes built-in optical stabilization for dynamic 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. It also features a function ring with selectable ‘Preset’ and ‘Function’ settings, which is 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 Polarizing Filter. The VF-DCPL1 filter can be rotated to achieve the desired polarization while installed in the lens.
α9 System Software Update to Support FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS
The latest system software update (Version 3.00) for α9 (ILCE-9) provides support for the new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS (SEL400F28GM) lens to optimize optical image stabilization performance, and enables continuous shooting with auto focus tracking, even when aperture is greater than F11.
The update also provides added option to input the 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.
Pricing and Availability
The new FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS large aperture super-telephoto prime lens (model SEL400F28GM) will ship in September for about $12,000US and $16,250 CA. The optional Drop-in Circular Polarizing Filter (model VF-DCPL1) will ship in December for about $400 US and $550 CA.