Review: Sony 600mm F4 G Master OSS (A Bird Photographer’s Dream)

The Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS took us by surprise when we heard about it, but it’s great.

When we were shown the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS, I was shocked to see it was coming. My first thought would have been another zoom lens for sports photographers, but it would be unlike Sony to just announce a zoom lens. Instead, the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is an option for photographers that pulls out all the stops. You’re still going to need a monopod or tripod to shoot with it for long periods, but I’m it isn’t imperative. The lens works in combination with Sony’s IBIS system to give the photographer a lot of image stabilization when photographing sports and birds alike. Then, consider the weather sealing inside and the fact that this is the largest lens for a mirrorless camera system that we’ve seen yet. And despite this, we ultimately see the value in it.

Editor’s Note: Due to our incredibly strict stance on ethics, we need to be upfront and share with you all that this review is being posted as such because the likelihood of us ever getting the lens in for review again is very slight. To that end, this entire review was done using locations and events picked by the Sony reps that we work with. Sony put other journalists and us up in a hotel with all expenses paid sans room charges. Typically we ask to finish reviews in our own time and space here in New York City after a trip like this. It means we get to test gear on our own terms. 

 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Build Quality
  • Lightweight (sort of)
  • Fast focusing
  • Image stabilization
  • Weather sealing
  • Nice, sharp image quality

Cons

  • So big
  • Expensive

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS with the Sony a7r III and the Sony a9.

Tech Specs

Focal length 600mm
Lens structure 18-24(Groups-elements)*Including one filter
Aspheric lens XA: 1
Special lenses Fluorite:3, ED:2
Number of aperture blades 11
Max. magnification 0.14x
Min. Focus Distance 4.5 m
Filter Diameter Φ40.5mm
Max. dia. × length Φ163.6×449mm
Weight 3,040g

Ergonomics

When you look at the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS, you’ll realize something; it is a huge lens. It’s dominated mostly by the color white with a big, black focusing ring. There is a sort of standard tripod collar that clicks into places when rotating. Then there is a large lens hood.

If you’re shooting handheld, it may be more advantageous to shoot vertically, while holding the tripod collar. Think of it sort of like a rifle, but not quite. Instead of taking an animal’s life, you’re instead taking their soul.

The side of the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS has several controls. There is a focus limiter, the type of focus, image stabilization types, etc. Near the mount is also a slot for a lens filter if you choose to use one.

Build Quality

The Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS has a whole lot of weather sealing built into it. For $13,000 I think that it’s fair to expect that this lens should be almost bombproof. In hand, it feels hefty and robust in every way possible. Even though it is lightweight, I’d recommend that any professional photographer using one still keep a monopod with them. After extended use, it’s going to become heavy. In addition to that, you’re most likely going to want to bring the case that comes with the lens too.

Ease of Use

As far as using the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS goes, it’s pretty simple–sort of. You need to attach it to your camera, point, autofocus, shoot, and love your image. But consider the switches and things like the focus limiter when it comes to working with the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS. At times, I forgot that I had the focus limiter switched to a specific range and it made me miss shots. We photographed a soccer match with the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS, and it’s excellent for the down-the-field type of photos. But otherwise, you’re better off with another lens. For birding, the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is absolutely fantastic.

Autofocus

The Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS autofocus and how it interacts with the Sony autofocus system per camera varies. With the Sony a9, it’s going to be incredibly fast and accurate. On the other hand, the Sony a7r III is no real slouch either. However, if what you’re looking for is a constant hit rate, then you’ll want to reach for the Sony a9. On the other hand, the resolution of the Sony a7r III will give you the ability to crop in a lot for a print or even the web.

With the Sony a9

The Sony a9 is a fantastic camera in terms of autofocus. With firmware 5.0, the camera and the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS work together pretty flawlessly. There were times when the camera and lens couldn’t really keep track of the subject, but a part of this was because of the zone selection I chose. The lens is still incredibly capable of tracking subjects moving towards the camera and even across.

With the Sony a7r III

The Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS isn’t at all bad at tracking subjects. In the case of these Canadian Geese, the Sony a7r III was able to track them as I panned with the lens and camera. The images are sharp, and with the Sony a7r III’s resolution a whole lot is possible. However, the hit rate wasn’t as high as it was with the a9. Still, I was able to get a lot from the images, and that speaks volumes.

While all of this is fantastic, the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS and the Sony a7r III create rolling shutter when shooting at a higher frame rate and panning at times. That, to me, was unfortunate. It surely can ruin a photo.

Image Quality

As is expected, the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is incredibly sharp. It is, after all, a G Master lens. The photographers who use it will be surely pleased with the results they get. This is only complemented well by Sony’s autofocus system and the sensors you choose to work with. As far as image quality goes, I don’t have much to complain about.

Chromatic Aberration

At first, I thought that the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS exhibited a bit of purple fringing in certain areas, but on further inspection, I found this not to be the case. At this focal length, you’re not really caring too much about distortion or anything else either.

Color Rendition

Despite stadium lighting being stadium lighting, the colors from the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS are very accurate to life. You’ll find this to be more the case when working with the lens and Sony cameras in outdoor settings and abundant natural light. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the color that the Sony a9 exhibited over the Sony a7r III.

Bokeh

Do we really need to say more? The bokeh from the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is excellent. It’s a 600mm lens, and you’re not going to beat it. The subject that is in focus is going to have a whole lot of pop as a result.

Sharpness

The sharpness from the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is best exhibited when using the Sony a7r III. Photographers who want to make big prints will be thrilled. We made 17×22 inch prints from this lens and the Sony a7r III, and we’re pleased with the details.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Sort of lightweight
  • Image quality on the Sony a7r III
  • Autofocus speed on the Sony a9
  • Beautiful image quality

Dislikes

  • It’s big
  • It’s unwieldy in a city
  • $13,000

There isn’t much at all to hate about the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS. It’s a more travel-friendly alternative to many competitors from DSLR cameras on the market. It’s also able to use Sony’s fantastic autofocus system to capture subjects moving quickly. While doing that, it’s capable of resolving a heck of a lot of detail. By all means, the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is a no-compromise lens. Our beef with the lens is the size, but that’s very personal, and I completely understand how and why it needs to be like this.

The Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS receives our Editor’s Choice Award and five out of five stars. Granted we’re not able to test it in our own environments at least at the moment.