Sony 500mm f/4 G SSM review: The longest super telephoto prime lens ever tested by DxOMark

By Kevin Carter - Thursday March 21 2013

Lens Review
Introduction | Sony 500mm F4 G SSM lens performance | Sony 500mm F4 G SSM versus competition | Conclusion

Sony is often quoted as having aspirations to rival Nikon and Canon but, since taking over the SLR business of Konica Minolta, has so far shown only a handful of pro-grade lenses. The SAL500F40G is one such lens, more popularly known as the 500mm f/4.0DG SSM, and with a price tag of $13,000 it’s aimed squarely at professionals and well-heeled enthusiasts. We’ve had the opportunity to assess the new lens at our lab in Seattle, please read on to see how the new Sony performs and if it has what it takes to compete with the current Canon and Nikon duopoly.

Sony announced the SAL500F40G at Japan’s premier imaging show CP+, staged in Yokohama in early 2012, though a prototype was premièred at CES in Las Vegas in 2011, alongside mock-ups of the to-be-released SLT-A77 and A33 models.

Made to order, the $13,000 500mm f/4.0 model is the longest focal length lens from Sony bearing the G-series moniker, once an indicator of premium quality lens designs from Minolta that Sony acquired back in 2006.

The optical construction is a modern design with no less than three ED glass elements plus internal focusing (for quick focusing and minimal disruption to the centre-of-gravity). It also features an ultra-sonic type SSM that’s also compatible with the on-chip phase-detection AF mode of the top-flight SLT-A99 and Nano AR coating (a sub-wavelength type coating optimized for digital capture, reducing ghosting and flare).

To help lessen weight to relatively reasonable levels (it weighs in at 7 lbs 10 oz, or 3460g) the lens features a magnesium alloy body and it’s both dust and moisture sealed.

Sharp-eyed readers may note that the lens doesn’t feature image stabilization, but that’s due to Sony SLT cameras adopting a stabilized sensor. On APS-C SLT type camera the lens is the equivalent to a 750mm f/4 (on a 35mm full-frame,), however, if combined with one of the Sony NEX models using the $400 LA-EA2 adaptor the combination doesn’t benefit from being stabilized.

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Thanks to our new Seattle Lab, we’re now able to evaluate super-telephoto lenses and the SAL50040G is the first of those, with the results of more to be delivered over the coming months.

Sony 500mm f/4 G SSM lens performance

Sony 500mm f/4 G SSM versus competition

Conclusion