If you want to shoot sports, wildlife or birds, having a telephoto lens is a must.
These lenses allow you to get close to the action without distracting anyone, or risking your life.
In the past few years, Sony has luckily released quite a few telephoto zoom lenses. We made this list based on what gives you the best image quality, fast auto focus and great usability (easy to use etc.)
This list is for Sony E-Mount cameras, which includes all A6, A7 and A9 models.
5 Best Sony Telephoto Lenses
What to know before buying a telephoto lens?
- Anything over 70mm+ is telephoto, but having 200/300mm is a must for small animals such as birds
- Build quality of the lens is also important if you plan on shooting in difficult terrain (dust, sand, rain etc.) since you don’t want to damage your gear
- Fast auto focus with reliable accuracy is a must for shooting fast sports or animals
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1. Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS
Want a cheap and lightweight telephoto for animals? The Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS is your best option.
Quality is quite good, although at 210mm the lens tends to produce a little soft results. Given the price though, it’s you the most affordable way of getting into telephoto photography, and is the only inexpensive E mount zoom anyways. Used on any of the A6 models, the 1.5x crop factor makes it an equivalent to a 85-320mm lens. Stopping down to f/8 at 210mm improves the quality quite a lot, but you don’t always have the possibility to do that.
If you like traveling light, the 55-210mm is ideal as it only weighs 12.17 oz (345g). The lens extends as you zoom (typical at this price) and the zoom ring feels very smooth, not too stiff.
2. Sony 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
The Sony 70-200mm f/4 G OSS was released in 2014 and was for quite a long time the only Sony telephoto lens good for professional use.
Like with every 70-200mm from other brands, Sony delivered. The f/4 versions has very quick auto focus and the image quality is top notch. It’s fairly compact for an 70-200mm zoom, and is much much lighter than the f/2.8 version. It’s also $1200 cheaper too.
The reach is very versatile and perfect for portraits, animals, sports, landscape, concerts and much more. You’ll have to shoot with a higher ISO when indoors, but for the price, quality and relatively compact size, this is the best telephoto available. When zooming or focusing, the lens doesn’t extend or rotate, which is good if you’re using filters. Speaking about filters, the diameter is 77mm. Its minimum focus distance is 3.15 feet and it has a 11-blade aperture for getting that beautiful, circle bokeh.
3. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
Same zoom capability, but 1 stop bigger aperture. The Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is a lot more expensive, but for certain photographers the advantages are super important.
For example, if you know you’ll often shoot wildlife super early or late, having f/2.8 really helps with being able to shoot with a fast shutter speed. When there’s not a lot of light and you want to free motion, every little bit helps.
While image quality is very similar with both, the f/2.8 version features 11 vs 9 diaphragm aperture blades, slightly shorter minimum focus distance, bigger magnification (0.25x vs 0.13x). Fast and accurate auto focus and great colors even at f/2.8.
Any issues? As you’d expect, it’s heavier and bigger than the f/4 version. It could easily be too heavy if you’re using the A6 and aren’t used to bigger lenses.
The f/2.8 is also a lot more suitable for weddings, concerts or any other indoor activity. If you’re into those types of photography besides wildlife, this is something you should consider if you can’t decide between the 2 versions.
4. Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS
The Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS is your best wildlife/birds/outdoor sports Sony right now.
Going an extra 100mm further than the telephoto above, you do lose one aperture stop worth of light as it closes down to f/5.6 at 300mm. However, for outdoor use where you’ll most likely use it anyways, it will be excellent! Combined with the built-in OSS and good ISO performance, you don’t have to worry that much when the day gets darker.
For around $1000, you know the image quality better be good, and thanks to 2 x ED elements and 4 x aspherical elements, the aberration control and ghosting are very good. It delivers sharp images with good contrast and colors even when at 300mm. Ghosting is a common issue when shooting at long lengths so the Sony Nano AR coating helps tremendously.
As far as weight is concerned, it’s only a tad heavier than the 70-200mm f/4, but this is a common thing with telephoto lenses.
Auto focus is also quick and capable of focusing on fast moving subjects. There’s no point in a telephoto lens that can’t focus well, even if it’s optically amazing.
5. Sony 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS
The Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS was released in mid-2017 and is a wish come true for many Sony photographers.
If you’ve ever shot birds, you know that you can never have too much focal length. 400mm is a whole different world compared to 300mm, and you’ll still often find yourself in situations when you’ll need to sneak closer to the action.
On APS-C models such as the A6500, the 100-400mm is actually equivalent to a 150-675mm. Talk about length!
Let’s talk about the cool features of the 100-400mm. First, you can adjust how much torque the zoom ring has so you make it faster or slower, depending on your preferences.
The OSS (stabilization) works in 5-axis, it’s got 9 diaphragm blades for smooth background blur and a focus limit button to limit how far away the lens can look for focus.
Speaking about focus, AF is very quick, silent and precise, a must for any wildlife/sport activity. You can definitely count on getting some amazing crisp shots.