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I’ve been wanting a fast lens with a bit of telephoto reach. The Minolta “Beercan” 70-210 I picked up recently is a great lens, but with a max aperture of f/4 it simply was not capable of giving me what I needed in low light situations.
Sony offers the Sony AF 70-200 F2.8 G SSM SAL-70200G. It’s one of their top of the line, highly coveted “G” series lenses. Basically a re-branding of the Minolta AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Apo G (D) SSM with a few updates and modifications.
You can pick up the Sony for just under $2,000 and find the Minolta on the second hand market for few hundred dollars less. There’s also a Minolta 80-200mm f/2.8 which you can readily find on EBay for around $1,300.
I had a chance to play with the Sony version and it’s an EXTREMELY nice lens. The HSM (high speed motor) makes it lightning fast to focus and it produces fantastic images. And I am sure the older Minolta lenses do as well. But crimminy! It’s a lot of money for a lens.
That’s not to say I wasn’t ready to spend it, because I REALLY wanted something in this focal range for concert work.
As I was researching I became aware of two lenses that were announced for the Sony mount. The Sigma 70-200mm HSM and the Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro. Both lenses were out for Canon and Nikon, but not available yet for Sony but would be by the Sept/October time frame.
What was particularly interesting about these lenses was that they retailed for much less than the Sony/Minolta branded lenses. The Sigma runs around $800 and the Tamron for $700.
Reading the reviews and looking at test shots, the Tamron was producing some great imges on the Canons and Nikonas and looked like it could offer some real competition for the Sony 70-200mm.
Sharp wide open and even sharper stopped down a bit. Good colors and contrast. It lacked the HSM of the Sony so focusing would be a bit slower and not as quiet but hey, I’m not shooting sports or in silence so it looked to suit my needs just fine. And for $1300 less.
All I had to do was wait for the lens to be released in the Sony mount and see what the critics had to say. In the mean time, I decided to sell off some of my unused lenses as well as some old GI JOE action figures on EBay to fund the pending purchase if the pundits pontificated positively about the lens.
Sure enough, once the lens was released Sony owners who purchased them started to post samples on various discussion forums. Reports were glowing of how well this lens performed and the sample images bore this out. The drawbacks were as I expected in terms of focusing speed and noise.
The Sigma received favorable reviews and while it featured the fast focusing HSM, reports were that the image quality was not as good as the Tamron. Close, but not as good.
I chose the Tamron for image qulaity over the Sigma’s fast focusing.
I waited to see if one would show up on Ebay for a reasonable price and as soon as one did I used the proceeds from my EBay sales to snap it up. I also used the Live Search Cashback feature I used previously for an additional 30% off and picked the lens up for a song.
My initial impressions are very good. The lens focuses well, even at f/2.8 and works well in macro mode.
Here are a few samples:
Oh yea, the in-body image stabilization of the Sony takes this lens even further. A Nikon lens in this focal range that’s this fast with image stabilization is around $1700 as is the Canon.