Evaluation: During six hours of shooting in San Francisco after the press conference, I worked with one of the very first samples of this lens to come off the production line, using a full-frame 42 megapixel Sony a7R II. Subjects included birds and mammals at the zoo, views of the architecture on the city’s hills from the waterfront and models posing at the eclectic Forbes Island restaurant on the bay.
This is a rugged piece of equipment with a solid barrel and beautifully finished in satin black. As with the vast majority of lenses of this type, there’s no tripod mounting collar; in my estimation, that accessory is not necessary with a lens weighing 854 g. In any event, the image stabilizer provides effective camera shake compensation so I was able to get sharp photos at 300mm in hand-held use at a 1/30 sec. shutter speed. Autofocus was reliable, fast and precise; it was effective with moving animals in small compounds at the zoo, but I did not have an opportunity for testing with faster subjects such as sports or racing action.
When reviewing my over 200 images on a pro monitor, I made the following preliminary assessment. The optics provide high contrast and clarity, with great definition of fine detail. At maximum aperture, the central 70% of the frame is very sharp; stopping down to f/8 provides excellent sharpness across the entire frame. Even in strong side lighting at sunset on Pier 39, the long lens hood and multi-layer coatings effectively prevented flare. While this was only a brief hands-on trial of the new lens, I was impressed with the very fine performance; my best images are suitable for making poster-size prints.
Price and Availability: $1700, Street; May 2016
Specifications: See http://www.sony.ca/en/electronics/camera-lenses/sel70300g/specifications