This is the sort of lens that you whip out (or perhaps the more apt term is lug out) when you want to make a statement. Its focal length covers a generous reach from a more standard 70mm through to a telephoto 200mm and weighing in at 1.34kg it's certainly likely to cause a large protrusion in your lens arsenal, and your bank balance (AU$3499).
This lens is constructed like a tank, and feels incredibly well made. White plastic surrounds the main lens elements, with black rubber focusing and zooming rings toward the front and the centre of the lens respectively. The zooming elements are all contained within the body and unlike many other zooms, no part of the lens extends and retracts on the outside, meaning what you see is what you get at all times. The movement is relatively smooth but it does have a fair amount of resistance. It consists of 16 lens groups with 19 elements, and has a maximum aperture throughout its reach of f/2.8. Filters with a diameter of 77mm can be attached to the front of the lens element.
It's compatible with all Sony Alpha digital SLR bodies and we tested it attached to an A230. The lens completely counterbalances the weight of this dainty camera and makes it difficult to hold without needing both hands to secure the lens — it's most definitely suited to a bulkier camera like the A900. As a result the lens has a tripod mounting collar included so when positioned on a tripod its weight is more evenly distributed. There is also a flower-shaped lens hood included in the box, alongside a pleather carrying case.
When automatic focus is selected on the lens, it will seek out a focus point within the selected focal length without needing to depress the shutter button, unless one of the three focus hold buttons around the unit is pressed. Automatic focus is incredibly quiet, indeed almost silent, and it obtains focus in under a second in sufficient light. Bokeh is pleasing but not as diffused as perhaps you'd expect from a lens with a consistent wide aperture across the focal length. In the shot below with a significant level of background detail, f/2.8 produced a nice blur but not enough to attract attention solely to the subject in focus.
Sharpness across the frame was very good indeed with minimal levels of distortion, though optimal sharpness was obtained by stopping down to a range between f/8-f/11. A slight amount of vignetting became visible at f/2.8.
A comparison of the sharpness between f/2.8 (top) and f/11 (bottom). (Credit: CBSi)
For the price, you'd expect the 70-200mm to be an excellent performer and it certainly delivers in this regard, but its bulk is really only suited to full-frame Alpha cameras and its weight certainly makes it difficult for everyday photography.