Review: Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE (Sony E Mount, Full Frame)

There are few lenses that have the extra versatility that something like the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE does–it’s a decent option for wildlife, landscapes, outdoor sports, and a variety of other applications that really need longer focal lengths. Though at the same time, I don’t expect it to be one of Sony’s most popular lenses. Why? Well, the 70-200mm f2.8 with teleconverters provide photographers with a fair amount more versatility. But in addition to that, I just don’t see most photographers using it vs something like the 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. That’s an obviously given fact. And with all that in mind, that doesn’t at all mean that the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE is a bad lens. In fact, it’s fantastic!

But at the same time, its release was a curious one. The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE was released with the Sony a9. In terms of the sports world, that makes sense; but where are Sony’s long telephoto fast primes for this type of photography? At the time of publishing this review, they’re nowhere to be seen.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Pretty lightweight
  • Ring around it that allows you to adjust how tight the zoom is
  • Image stabilization
  • Weather sealing
  • Sharp
  • Nice bokeh
  • Close focusing for what this lens is
  • Convenient focal lengths
  • Not too badly priced for a lens like this
  • Good for tracking subjects when shooting sports outdoors

Cons

  • Tracking moving subjects still more or less demands that you stop down the lens when shooting interior sports

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE with the Sony a9, Sony a7, and Sony a7r II.

Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Sony page listing.

MOUNT
Sony E-mount
FORMAT
35 mm full frame
FOCAL LENGTH (MM)
100-400
35 MM EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C)
150-600
LENS GROUPS / ELEMENTS
16-22
ANGLE OF VIEW (35 MM)
24゚-6゚10′
ANGLE OF VIEW (APS-C)
16°-4°10′2
MAXIMUM APERTURE (F)
4.5-5.6
MINIMUM APERTURE (F)
32-40
APERTURE BLADES
9
CIRCULAR APERTURE
Yes
MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE
3.22 ft/0.98 m
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO (X)
0.12-0.35
FILTER DIAMETER (MM)
77
IMAGE STABILIZATION (STEADYSHOT)
Optical SteadyShot
ZOOM SYSTEM
Manual
TELECONVERTER COMPATIBILITY (X1.4)
SEL14TC
TELECONVERTER COMPATIBILITY (X2.0)
SEL20TC
HOOD TYPE
Round, bayonet type
DIMENSIONS (DIAMETER X LENGTH)
3-3/4 x 8-1/8″ (93.9 x 205 mm)
WEIGHT
49.3 oz (Without tripod mount) 1,395 g (Without tripod mount)
  • Hood (model): ALC-SH151
  • Lens front cap: ALC-F77S
  • Lens rear cap: ALC-R1EM
  • Case
  • Other: Tripod mount

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master lens looks a lot like the company’s A mount 70-300mm lens offering. However, it’s probably also decently more compact in some ways. What you’ll see from the start is this greyish white outline, the G master branding and the control rings.

On the side, you’ll be able to spot more controls. This lens has OIS, focus limiters, etc.

Of course, a lens like this doesn’t all zoom internally. Instead, it becomes quite a bit larger when working with it at the longer end.

Build Quality

The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE lens has weather sealing built in, so no need to worry or stress about taking it into the rain for the most part. Their cameras aren’t typically as well built and sealed as their lenses though; so be sure to keep that in mind.

One of the best things about the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE is the ring that keeps the zooming feature tight or loose. When it’s loose, expect lens creep. But if the lens is tight then it won’t move very much without careful twists of the zoom ring. Combined with a camera, the lens and camera combination are incredibly lightweight yet still feel very serious. In practice, what you’ll mostly be dealing with is the big zoom ring more than anything else. So when you’re turning it, you’ll be gripping onto the big rubber ring for a majority of the time.

Ease of Use

If you’re a sports shooter tracking a subject moving closer and closer towards you, it’s a great idea to keep the lens zooming ring set to loose to enable you to have a bit more versatility. When you’re not shooting that much, consider keep it it tight. Considering that this is an autofocus lens, and that most photographers will really use autofocus more than anything else, I’m amazed at how large the manual focus ring is. Sony has the DMF feature that lets you touch up your autofocus manually with this ring but most of the time the camera you’re using does a good job with this if the phase detection area is turned on. The best use you’ll get out of this lens is when it is attached to a camera like the a9. The Sony a9 has continuous silent shooting enabled where the Sony a7r II doesn’t. Plus using Sony’s Lock-on AF and setting it to the center means that all you’ll need to do is pan the camera and lens occasionally.

In my experience, this works best outdoors with a whole lot of light vs in more indoor sports situations. So with that said you’ll get the best use of this lens when shooting baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse, and photographing dogs running around. The problem with autofocus indoors has more to do with Sony’s autofocus algorithms than anything else. Be sure to dial down or up the AF tracking sensitivity accordingly when you use this lens.

Autofocus

When using the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE, you should know that there is a focus limiter switch. I expect most photographers to use the full range though. I tested the lens when shooting athletes indoors, and with both the Sony a9 and the Sony a7r II I’m impressed with the results but I’ve also admittedly seen better results from Canon and Nikon. To be fair, I’m the last person to call myself a sports shooter.

Comparatively speaking, I’ve also seen great results from Olympus. However, their lenses are essentially stopped down to f5.6 or f8’s depth of field equivalent in full frame.

Image Quality

You’re paying over $2,000 for a lens, and so you should expect the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE to deliver stellar images. Indeed, the image quality is the last thing that you need to worry about here as the lens is capable of delivering lots of sharp details, wonderful colors, great bokeh, and all the while keeps the chromatic aberration down. No matter what camera I mounted the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE onto, the images were always awesome.

Bokeh

What would a Phoblographer review be without portraits? Indeed, I used this lens on the shorter end for some portrait tests and I really do enjoy the bokeh and the overall look here. The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE has nine aperture blades and manages to produce some gorgeous bokeh that you’re surely going to love. However, I don’t really think that bokeh will be the primary concern of most shooters using this lens unless they’re shooting sports or photojournalism. Even then, you still have nothing to worry about.

Chromatic Aberration

In my tests, I found no real issues with fringing with the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE. Distortion is pretty much a thing of the past too.

Color Rendition

The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE has a more neutral color profile than many of Sony’s other lenses. Photojournalists that want to most versatile image possible will appreciate that quite a bit. That means that you can use the Sony Deep, Vivid, Clear, Standard and Portrait color profiles without any sort of worry.

Sharpness

When the Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE nails the focusing, the details are super sharp. For the landscape photographer, you may want to reach for the Sony a7r II. For the sports shooter, get the Sony a9 and know that your images won’t be as sharp as the a7r II’s output.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Versatility allowed for a specific segment of photographers
  • Image Quality
  • Build Quality

Dislikes

  • I think Sony should have come out with fast prime lenses first.

The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE lens is a great lens for the working professional photographer that needs it. I see it mostly being used by landscape photographers, travel photographers, photojournalists, sports photographers, and that’s about it. For those professional shooters, this lens gives you a great option within the Sony ecosystem. But as the system progresses, it may fall into obscurity vs a number of other options that Sony is bound to come out with.

Still though, the lens performs as well as it possibly can. Sony’s autofocus will continue to improve and when it’s absolutely perfect (and they’re bound to get it that way) then this lens will be all that much better.

The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE receives five out of five stars.