On this video photographer, Toby Gelston takes a look at two of Sony’s zoom telephoto lenses – the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS and the newer FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS with and without the Sony FE 1.4x teleconverter.
If you are using any of the recent Sony mirrorless cameras and you are looking for a long telephoto wildlife/spots or bird shooting lens at the sub $3K range any of these two lenses is got to be on your shortlist (partly because Sony is still lagging behind Canon and Nikon when it comes to the list of long telephoto lenses).
First, you need to understand the differences between the two. The FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS is MUCH more compact (3-3/4 x 8-1/8″ or 93.9 x 205 mm)) compared to the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS (with 4 1/2″ x 12 5/8″ or 111.5 x 318 mm), do keep in mind that the 200-600mm does not extend while the 100-400mm does but the weight difference is certainly something you can feel (49.3 oz / 1,395 g for the 100-400mm vs. 74.7 oz / 2,115 g for the 200-600mm).
There are some other technical differences like the filter size (77mm for the 100-400mm vs. 95mm for the 200-600mm) and a huge difference in minimum focus distance – 3.22 ft/0.98 m for the 100-400mm vs. 7.88 ft (2.4 m) for the 200-600mm which makes it a lens that you are going to use mostly for much more distant targets.
In terms of build quality, both seem to well build and the 200-600mm has the benefit of being non-extending it also has a focus limiter and more OSS options, however, the 100-400mm being a GM lens does have a slight edge here (plus a zoom tightening ring).
AF performance seems great on both lenses although you do need to keep in mind the difference in aperture – the Sony 100-400mm is an f/5.6 lens (at 400mm) and if you use the 1.4x teleconverter it turns into a 560mm f/8 (which can affect your AF performance especially in low light with some Sony cameras). The 200-600mm, on the other hand, is slower on its own at f6.3 but has a longer throw so it typically doesn’t require the teleconverter (unless you really want a long reach and ready to lose a bit of sharpness and a lot of light).
In terms of optics, these are both very good lenses and perform well in their category and respected price ranges. However, there are differences here as well. The 100-400mm lens tend to be slightly sharper in its range (especially at 400mm compared to the 200-600mm at the same focal range), however when you pair it with an extender and compare it to the 200-600mm at the maximum range of both lenses (to be fair it only reaches 560mm) the 200-600mm is sharper with more details – but that should not be too surprising (the teleconverter does effect IQ to some degree and we are not talking huge differences here).
You can check out more of videos from our photography gear guides section here on LensVid.