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When it comes to price and specs, here is a table comparing each of the lenses. I’ll go over the specs that I think are important and tell you my opinion at the end.
The first thing to go over is price. Since that's probably the first thing you saw when comparing these lenses online. The lenses have a dramatic price difference, the f/2.8 gII is $2800, while the f/4 is $1700. But what are we getting for that giant price difference?
The size and build quality are the next things you’ll notice. Setting these lenses side-by-side, the size difference is almost as great as the price difference. The f/2.8 is 8 inches, while the f/4 is 6 inches.
The size and weight of these lenses also come down to how these lenses zoom, the 2.8 zooms internally, while the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II zoom by extending the barrel.
The Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II has an aperture control ring, the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II does not. I love using the aperture control ring, especially on my FX6, because adjusting aperture on the FX6 is annoyingly difficult going through the menus, even assigning a customizable button. This is less of an issue on the alpha cameras since there is a dedicated wheel, but on the FX6 it’s oddly annoying the change on the fly.
Autofocus on both of these lenses is extremely fast.
I used both of these lenses on a client shoot recently, and both were able to focus very quickly in well-lit conditions and in low light. I was using manual focus, and they were easy to control - but I was using both lenses around f/10 since I was zoomed into a product.
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When it comes to flaring on both of these lenses, they are very well controlled thanks to the coatings on these newer Sony lenses. However when there is a small light source, both of these lenses have a flare when the light source is slightly off camera, and fades when the light comes into frame, maybe the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II has an edge here but unless you have these lenses side by side, you may not be able to tell the difference.
If you want the best performance, the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II winner.
The bokeh difference between the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II and Sony 70-200 f/4 G II is apparent if youre shooting on the wider end, but towards the longer end of the lens not as much. There is still a difference, it’s just not as apparent as the wider end.
This comes down to personal preference, which of these do you prefer?
For sharpens and image quality, surprisingly, these lenses are both pretty close in image quality. The 4 linear XD motors in each of these lenses allow very quick and reliable autofocus. Both lenses are sharp in the center, but when comparing the outer edges, the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II has the advantage here.
The Sony 70-200 f/4 G II is still very usable in my opinion, but the 2.8 has a slight advantage when comparing the two. Is the image quality advantage worth $1,200 to you? Let me know in the comments below.
The minimum focusing distance for each of these lenses is usable on the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II, coming in at 15.7, but the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II is the clear winner here at 10.2. This is a macro lens, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison, but the close focusing distance on the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II is very fun to get some interesting shots with and makes this lens very unique. If you don’t have a macro lens yet, this lens can do double duty. It’s not as sharp as my 90mm macro, for example, but it’s still plenty sharp and workable for casual shots or social media.
Both of these lenses have little to now focus breathing, and if you have a camera with focus breathing compensation, you won’t notice it at all.
For image stabilization, each of these lenses have three different modes. One is for standard stabilization, two is for panning, and three is for moving subjects. Using the proper mode will help you in those situations, but remembering which mode is which is the most difficult. I typically keep it in mode 1 for light work, and 3 for heavier movements.
If you’re traveling and want to save space in your bag and travel light, the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II is the clear winner here.
However, if sharpness, autofocus accuracy in all lighting conditions, and image quality are your top priority, the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II is a fantastic lens.
Another way of looking at this, is that if you’re shooting for clients that demand the best image quality and like the wide-open bokeh look, the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II is worth the extra investment. Also, if you have a dedicated macro like the 90mm macro for the sharpest macro quality anyways. So you probably wont be using the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II for it’s macro capabilities.
If you’re a hobbiest, run and gun filmmaker, or someone who finds themselves using a telephoto and shooting macro shots in well-lit conditions.. the 70-200 f/4 G II is a slam dunk for you. And you can save some money over the f/4.
Modern sony camera that can shoot at dual ISOs can get around losing the stop of light between the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II and Sony 70-200 f/4 G II, but the bokeh difference between 2.8 and 4 is something that only can come from the lens. If you want a really shallow depth of field, a prime is going to be your best bet still but then you have to lug around another lens.
This all comes down to your shooting style and how you find yourself filming. For me, I’m going to keep the 2.8 and send back the Sony 70-200 f/4 G II. That doesn't mean it’s the right decision for everyone though.
Which of these lenses would you keep?
I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.
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