Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 SSM G (SAL-70400G) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha/NEX (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2009

Special thanks to Dieter Scherk for providing the lens for testing purposes!


The Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 SSM G is one of the latest lenses in Sony's quest to catch up with the big boys (Canon and Nikon that is). The Sony lens belongs to the G ("Gold") lineup - Sony's designated professional-grade lenses. The price tag is accordingly high at around 1400-1500€/US$ - this is about in line with its Canon/Nikon counterparts. The 70-400mm G is a full format lens but naturally it works perfectly on Sony Alpha APS-C DSLRs with a field-of-view equivalent to 105-600mm. Typical applications include sports and wildlife photography. In the beginning there were some controversial discussions in the community about the silver finish of the lens and it's still pretty much a consensus that white or black would have been more appropriate for a professional grade lens. Sony felt probably the need "to be different" here. Anyway, technically this is rather irrelevant and the finish ensures that the lens does not heat up when shooting under strong sunlight.

The build quality of the lens is truly superb - the lens body is mainly made of metal and high quality plastic parts assembled with very tight tolerances. The focus and zoom control rings operate very smooth. It is a bit unusual that the zoom ring is located in front of the focus ring (at the front of the lens) but you shouldn't have any problems to get used to this. Typical for all lenses in this class the lens extends when zooming towards the long end of the range. The front element does not rotate thanks to the internal focusing (IF) system. The lens does not feature any seals which is somewhat unfortunate regarding the (professional) target audience and relative to its comparatively high price tag. The lens is supplied with a deep, petal-shaped lens hood.

An interesting aspect of the lens is the SSM - the SuperSonic AF Motor which is similar to Canon's USM or Nikon's SWM. The variant used in the 70-400mm G is reasonably fast (reads: not blazingly fast) and near silent. We did see some focus accuracy problems in the field when shooting at f/8 but we can't rule out that this was more a camera problem. Sony did also incorporate a dedicated focus-stop button as well as a focus limiter. It makes sense to take advantage of the latter in order to avoid excessive hunting because the focus path of the lens is rather long.

Equiv. focal length105-600 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/6-f/8.4 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction18 elements in 12 groups inc. 2x ED elements
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance1.5 m (max. magnification ratio ~1:4)
Dimensions94.5 x 196 mm
Weight1490 g
Filter size77 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodpetal-shaped, snap-on, supplied
Other featuresDMF, focus stop button, focus limiter

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