Sony has been flooding the market with high quality mirrorless cameras in recent years, most notably the a9 and a7R III. Until now, however, the most serious sport and wildlife photographers have been somewhat excluded from enjoying the fruits of this labor. But “extensive research and testing” (you could have just asked me) have revealed to Sony execs that these pros want in. Hence, today they welcome to the family the 400mm F2.8 GM super-telephoto lens.
A gorgeous, spaceship-looking piece of hardware, the lens resembled the earlier, and smaller, telephoto lens offered for the E-mount, the 100-400mm GM lens. But with its $12,000 price tag, you can bet it packs a whole lot more punch.
The lens is equipped with two high-speed Linear Motors driving its focus—an addition that Sony’s testing reveals improves moving-subject tracking by 500% over their 500mm model. To compensate for the increased power, algorithms had to be specially built to minimize lag and control noise.
A member of Sony’s exclusive G Master series, the 400mm comes with all of the goodies necessary to enable the performance we’ve come to expect from this group of lenses. This means three distinct fluorite elements to minimize chromatic aberration and color bleeding, a Nano AR coating (a Sony original) for eliminating glare and reflection, and compatibility with Sony’s lauded E-mount tele-converters (both the 1.4x and the 2.0x). Finally, the 400mm features an 11-blade aperture mechanism allowing for sweet, sweet bokeh.
The 400mm is meant for the most rough-and-rugged situations, and is built accordingly. Whether you’re dealing with hyenas kicking up dust, or sweaty football players tumbling into your equipment, it’s supposed to be a survivor.
This means a magnesium alloy body and a carbon fiber hood, along with a fluorine coating to protect the most susceptible elements from dirt and fingerprints. It also comes certified as dust and moisture “resistant” (though not “proof”). Finally, it’s got an array of hard controls—a welcome rewind to the good ol’ days of reliable hardware > glitchy software—which can be programmed to control the features (such as Eye AF, for example) of your choosing.
While the 400mm is about as impressive as we’d expect from a Sony super-telephoto lens, it packs one unexpected surprise: a weight only “slightly more” than 6 lbs (competitors mostly come in between 8-12 lbs). This makes it—somebody call Guinness—the world’s lightest 400mm F2.8 lens. According to Sony’s in-house testing, this results in a 50% reduction of inertia as compared to their 500mm super-telephoto.
Here’s renowned sport photographers Bob Martin and Nick Didlick reminiscing about their experience with the lens:
And here’s Sony’s introduction of the lens:
The 400m F2.8 will begin shipping in September for about $12,000. You can pre-order it from B&H here.