lone horse and rider running towards the finish line

Hands-on With the New FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II

Aleksandra Szmigiel

As a professional sports photographer, Aleksandra Szmigiel, a fast aperture 70-200mm lens has always been a permanent fixture in her kit bag. “I love the quality of the G Master lenses and even though it’s quite heavy, the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM is such a versatile lens for a lot of the situations I’m shooting.”

a horse shaking water from its head

© Aleksandra Szmigiel | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II + 2x teleconverter | 1/1600s @ f/5.6, ISO 1000

The new version comes in at almost 30%  lighter than the previous model, so when Aleksandra first picked up the lens, she was delighted with the lighter weight construction.

I couldn’t believe I was holding a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens – it’s so incredibly light and balances beautifully with my Alpha 1.”

To thoroughly test the new features of the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II, Aleksandra visited a racecourse in her home city of Warsaw. “Horse racing is extremely fast-paced and I wanted to see how the new lens coped with AF tracking speed. I also like to be very mobile when I work, so I was interested to try shooting hand-held all day without a monopod, to see how the lens balanced with the Alpha 1.

two horses with riders at speed

© Aleksandra Szmigiel | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II + 2x teleconverter | 1/1250s @ f/5.6, ISO 200

“I positioned myself at the side of the track and fired off a number of shots as the riders sped past. Another of the new features is the addition of a 3rd stabilisation mode which is designed for shooting moving subjects. Using a slow shutter speed, I panned as the riders went past and managed to grab some blurred action shots. I found that the framing seemed more stable on the vertical axis, but I was able to follow the horizontal sweep without any issues. The lightness of the lens was also a huge advantage here, as it easier to follow the subject without the setup being front-heavy.”

blurred horses running at speed on the racetrack

© Aleksandra Szmigiel | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II | 1/25s @ f/11, ISO 200

The new lens also sports a manual aperture ring, a feature that videographers will find extremely useful. “This is a welcome addition for me,” says Aleksandra. “I always shoot in manual exposure mode, so the ability to change aperture quickly means I can concentrate on composition. I’m also a big fan of the ‘retro’ style! I also found the zoom control ring to be smoother than on my existing lens, but perhaps this is a result of the lighter construction?”

a horse and rider in mid run

© Aleksandra Szmigiel | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II + 2x teleconverter | 1/1250s @ f/5.6, ISO 200

Needless to say, with any action photography, autofocus accuracy and speed are of the essence. The new lens boasts four XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors delivering high thrust efficiency that boosts AF speed by up to 4x that of the previous model.

I was always happy with the AF speed of my existing 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, but this new version is just crazy fast. Even with horses galloping directly towards me, the lens had no issues at all keeping focus – even as I changed focal length while shooting.”

“Another lens I often shoot with is the FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS which is a gorgeous piece of glass, but on the occasions I like to stay mobile, I find the 400mm slows me down. Even though I would lose a couple of stops of light, I was keen to see how the new lens performed using my 2x converter and I was not disappointed! Focusing speed was blisteringly fast and I had no issues tracking a horse running directly towards me. The fact that I can carry a lightweight, high quality lens and a small converter with me, and still have the range I need for a sports shoot - with no loss in quality – makes this lens absolutely perfect for anyone needing a long telephoto option.

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