Review: Sony 100mm f2.8 G Master OSS STM FE (Sony Full Frame E Mount)

The Sony 100mm f2.8 G Master OSS STM lens is a bit of a weird one for a lot of photographers who don’t necessarily understand F stops and T stops–but those photographers should also know just how great the potential image quality is. This lens is a smooth trans focus lens, which means there is an extra element that sort of acts like an ND filter. To that end, this element also cuts down a lot of light–in this case two stops of it. Considering that it’s a G Master lens too, you can be sure that Sony put a lot into its creation.

Despite all this fantastic work though, I’m somehow or another just not as super impressed by it as I should be.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fast focusing
  • Great build quality
  • Sharp output
  • Pretty good price point for what you’re getting

Cons

  • Considering how much engineering and work went into this lens, I feel Sony may have engineered the character out of this lens.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 100mm f2.8 OSS STM G Master lens with the Sony a7, Sony a7r II, and the Impact Venture TTL monolight.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from our first impressions post

  • Premium G Master series Mid-range telephoto prime

  • Optical apodization (APD) element for magnificent bokeh

  • Nano AR coating for outstanding clarity

  • Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) for quiet, highly precise focus lens control

  • Dust- and moisture-resistant design3

MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE
2.79 ft/0.85 m (at “0.85 m–∞” position); 1.87 ft/0.57 m (at “0.57 m–1.0 m” position)
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO (X)
0.14 (at “0.85 m–∞” position); 0.25 (at “0.57 m–1.0 m” position)
FILTER DIAMETER (MM)
72
WEIGHT
24.7 oz (700 g)

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

First, the Sony FE 100mm f2.8 STM GM is styled and built right in line with the rest of Sony’s G-Master lenses. It feels very solid in the hands but at the same time is not particularly heavy or bulky, which is nice for a big portrait lens like a 100mm F2.8. The focus ring is smooth, it has a little more resistance than we prefer, but it’s not hard or annoying to turn for you manual focus lovers. The focus ring is positioned near the front of the lens. As well, the switch for AF and OSS are solid and have a nice hard click when you switch either setting on or off.

 

One thing that was interesting about the Sony FE 100mm f2.8 STM GM was the focus limiter on the base of the lens where you would normally expect the aperture ring to be. Due to this addition on the lens, the aperture ring is actually more towards the center of the lens with the focus ring right up at the front of the lens.

Build Quality

The Sony 100mm f2.8 STM G Master OSS lens is built to be dust and splash proof–which means that when paired with an equally protected camera, it should be able to stand up to more abuse than you’re probably willing to take your camera out into.

The lens has a plastic exterior with texture similar to the other G Master lenses. Overall, it feels really nice in the hands but I’ve felt much better 100mm lenses.

Ease of Use

Now this may be a bit complicated to lots of photographers who don’t understand how it works. The Sony 100mm f2.8 STM G Master OSS lens has the depth of field equivalence of f2.8. But because of the built in ND filter, it’s sucking up a lot less light–and that’s why it’s T stop rating is f5.6. So that means that when you’re firing off a flash in TTL mode, you’re probably best off adding +2 to your output–but you’re best off shooting with manual lighting. At that point, you’re metering for f5.6 when shooting wide open. However, you’re supposed to get better color.

Otherwise, it’s an autofocus lens with an aperture ring; just like many of Sony’s other high end options. Once you wrap your head around using one, it’ll be pretty simple.

Autofocus

On both the Sony a7 and the Sony a7r II, this lens can be a bit slow to focus in more typical studio conditions without using a modelling lamp or strong constant lights. In good lighting outdoors though, it’s pretty fast and accurate to focus with.

Image Quality

Now here’s where I’m very torn. Is the image quality good? Yes. But personally, I feel like the Laowa 105mm f2 STM has A LOT more character to it and its image quality. Don’t get me wrong, the Sony 100mm f2.8 STM G Master OSS lens is amazingly good when it comes to overall image quality, but I still feel like there’s something missing.

Bokeh

This lens is a bokeh monster: the Sony 100mm f2.8 STM G Master OSS lens has 11 aperture blades, an f2.8 aperture and then throw in the 100mm focal length factor. I personally like the bokeh from the 85mm f1.4 G Master better, but that’s a very personal preference.

Chromatic Aberration

This is a G Master lens, and considering the quality controls that Sony puts into the lenses, I found no major chromatic aberration issue.

Color Rendition

Colors here are a bit more muted than I’d like personally. The 85mm f1.8 is even a bit more saturated when it comes to colors and I believe it has to do with the ND filter.

Sharpness

Despite my qualms so far, this lens is crazy sharp and that’s something you really can’t take away from it.

Extra Image Samples

Now, let me show you a bit about what I’m speaking of here with character and an overall look to the lens. These images above are obviously from the Sony lens. But now look at what the Laowa 105mm f2 offers below.

There’s more character! There’s something about the Laowa 105mm f2 STM that delivers better skin tones and colors at the sacrifice of just a bit of sharpness. I can’t complain much about a bit of sharpness loss considering I’m primarily a medium format film shooter these days. But the Sony has a very “digital photography” look to it.

Let me put it this way: it’s like Kodak vs Fujifilm. Fujifilm will render more green (and that’s present in all my images here) and Kodak will go more towards purple. Frankly, when it comes to film I’m more purple. And in this case, Laowa is Kodak.

Does that mean Sony put out an awful lens? Heck no. It’s just too clinically perfect for my needs and wants. I feel it’s over engineered.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Build Quality
  • Smooth bokeh indeed
  • Fun to work with as a creative challenge
  • Over engineered for the digital photographer

Dislikes

  • Over engineered for the digital photographer to the point where I feel the lens lacks character.

Now don’t get me wrong here either, Sony has a fantastic lens. It’s sharp, it’s got good enough colors for most photographers, it focuses fairly quickly, and it’s built well. It’s also available at an incredibly fair price. Most photographers will be naturally drawn to this lens but I feel like only strobist photographers will make the most of it due to how flash can bring out the most from a lens like this.

All in all though, while it’s a great lens. I feel like it lacks character as I explain and demo in the image quality section. I would’ve been fine with a lens not as sharp if it gave me more vivid colors. But in this case, I’m a bit let down. However, I’m sure it won’t let you down.

The Sony 100mm f2.8 G Master STM OSS lens earns four out of five stars.