Review: Sony 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens

Have you ever been in the situation where you’ve tried a lens, you love it, you want it, but just can’t figure out a good reason to buy it?

Well, if you’re a conservation and animal welfare photojournalist, welcome to my world of pain and the spectacularly light, fast, compact, sharp Sony 300m GM f/2.8. Others will have no problem adding this lens to the bag, which I’ll get to.

Image: Sony
Image: Sony


At 290mm long and weighing just 1470g (without the tripod mount), the 300mm f/2.8 is an insanely compact lens. Indeed, its only 90mm longer and less than 500gm heavier than Sony’s record-setting 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II. You have to wonder how Sony did it.

Fully weather-sealed, the front element has a fluorine coating to help repel oil (e.g. fingerprints) and water droplets and make it easier to clean.

Coming with a removable tripod-collar, like its predecessor, the 300mm has a reversible lens hood with a flocked interior (to help prevent unwanted reflections)?). Unlike the larger primes however, it attaches like many smaller lenses via a button mechanism which makes it much easier to attach and take off than the larger primes which have a screw mechanism.

A silicon rubber front edge to the lens and lens cap allows you to easily (but never advisedly) rest and balance it face down on its front edge when changing lenses.

The 88mm front diameter means that filters at the front are a no-go; they can be applied using a standard 40.5mm diameter drop in mechanism near the camera body; the same mechanism used with all large primes.

My only niggle is the lens hood case. It appears it was initially designed for the larger screw type lens hood mechanisms. This isn’t an issue to use, it’s just a little bit strange.


With one ED and three Super ED elements to help suppress spherical axial and lateral chromatic aberration, Sony state they have used a new optical design to suppress colour bleeding. I didn’t notice any so maybe this works.

Sony also state that during manufacture each lens is individually calibrated (that’s impressive) to optimise bokeh – which was nice and pretty circular when stopped down.


There are five toggle switches to control AF/MF, focus zoom range, OSS (vibration control) On/Off, and a toggle switch to move between stabilisation modes (of which there are three) and a Direct Manual Focus (DMF) override toggle; the latter allows you to tweak the autofocus, or shift it significantly to a new range, even when you are using autofocus.

It’s a feature that can be really useful in dynamic situations when the AF locks onto the wrong subject.

Speaking of focus (which can be as close as around 2 meters), there are four customisable focus hold buttons on the barrel, each sitting at 90 degrees to each other. These can be reconfigured from the default focus auto-lock, but there is no option to assign each one differently. 

The manual focus ring is large, ribbed, easy to hold and turns smoothly and continuously.

There is also a function ring that can enable either APS-C / Full-Frame switching as assigned from a compatible camera body - which would be great for wildlife photographers wanting to quickly digitally crop in – or an electronically driven manual focus shift; something I’d never use (but more of that under autofocus).

If there was a downside to the external buttons, some might note the lens doesn’t come with a focus pre-set feature and the tripod foot is not Arca-Swiss compatible. For me, two things I don’t care about, but important to note.

Image quality

I used the 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS with Sony’s A1 and found the results outstanding in all applications. I even found myself using it for some clandestine in-field portrait work, taking pictures of dogs running on the beach, as well as wildlife.

Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS + 1.4X Teleconverter (420mm). 1/800s @ f4, ISO 160.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/500s @ f2.8, ISO 100.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS + 1.4X Teleconverter (420mm). 1/500s @ f4, ISO 800.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/2000s @ f2.8, ISO 500.

As I’ve written before, I’m not a pixel peeper, but I do look closely at any images I like or might publish or crop in. With that in mind, I can say the 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS is sharp, very sharp, even at the edges.

Stopping down didn’t seem to improve quality which to me is important in high end lenses. Why? Well, if you have to do this to improve quality, you have to ask why you are spending so much money on a fast lens only to have to stop, make it less fast but more useful.

As with most of Sony’s G series lenses, the 300 mm f/2.8 offers three image stabilisation modes: Mode 1 is ‘standard’, mode 2 is specifically for panning (so the horizontal gyro is turned off) and mode 3 is designed for very erratic movement.

How many stops does this add? Tough to say as I couldn’t find any specifications on this, but I’d have to guess 4-5 stops.

In practical terms, in mode 1, standing still, hand holding, I was able to shoot relatively still objects at an impressive 1/100th second and sometimes at 1/80th. Sitting down, I managed close up at 1/20th. It’s also important to highlight, given how small and light this is to hold, it makes holding it still easier than a heavier and bigger lens hence the results here.

Adding a 1.4 multiplier, sharpness and contrast was impressively comparable to the 400mm f/2.8 (set at f/4) with light transmission about the same.

Left: 70-200mm F2.8 GM II + 1.4X teleconverter (280mm), Right: 300mm F2.8 GM OSS
Left: FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens @ 300mm, Right: 300mm F2.8 GM OSS
Adding a 2 x multiplier, sharpness was very close, however contrast dropped a little. ISO also needed to be 25% higher due to the extra glass reducing transmission (i.e. increasing the t-stop) so doing this you lose 1.25 stops, but overall the results were impressive.
Left: FE 400mm F2.8 GM lens, Right: FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS + 1.4X Teleconverter (420mm)
Left: FE 600mm F4 GM OSS lens, Right: FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS + 2X teleconverter (600mm)


AF on this lens is fast. How fast I can’t say, however given it was launched around the same time as the A9III which shoots 120fps, you’d have to think it must be fast to handle that.

Sony state that the two XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors and an advanced control algorithm specially fine-tuned for the 300mm, are not only fast, but means the AF causes minimal vibration (which is especially important in longer lenses), giving “…exceptionally responsive, precise, quiet, low-vibration AF operation.” Is that marketing hype? Didn’t seem to be.

Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/2000s @ f3.5, ISO 1000.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/1600s @ f2.8, ISO 640.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/2000s @ f3.5, ISO 400.

As noted previously, on the body is not only a decent manual focus ring (which was smooth) but a narrower second ‘function ring’ to help drive the focus forward or backwards, returning to neutral when released.

The purpose? Video I guess. It was pretty slow and not something I think videographers will highly value but some might find it useful.

The wrap-up

After spending only a few days with the Sony 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens, I’m so impressed. Across the board from focus speed, image stabilisation, autofocus, image quality, size and weight, this is an amazing lens.

Perfect for action at a ‘medium’ distance (dogs on beach, indoor sports), I inferred at the beginning that it might be tough for me to find a reason to buy this lens because of the type of work I do.

But I think after testing, I have worked out a justification, and one which could work for anyone.

Taking this lens in the field with a 1.4 x or 2 x extender, I suddenly have a 300mm f2.8, a 420 mm f/4 and 600mm f/5.6 G master lens that’s only about 30 cm long and weighs under 1.5kg! Also, as its lighter and smaller, I feel I’m probably getting at least one additional stop of image stabilisation as it’s so easy to hold.

Adding this to my 24-70 f/2.8 GMII (695gm), 70-200mm f/2.8 (1045gm) and two A1 bodies with batteries (1474gm), I really have everything I need for less than 5kg – and that’s not only good for my back and shoulders, it means it fits easily into a carry-on bag with room to spare!


HANDLING ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

At this price level, you’d expect a premium build quality, and that’s what you get: Great weather-sealing, good image stabilisation, super-fast autofocus and well balanced.

But where this prime lens becomes a ‘wow’ lens in this category is weight and size. A pleasure to hold and use, even one handed!


Incredible sharpness wide open and to the edges there is no need to stop down to improve. Great handling of CA, and whilst a little different the larger primes that people might be used to, nice bokeh.

FEATURES ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I’m don’t think I would want anything more on this lens. With super-fast AF, three modes of OSS, DMF, dedicated aperture ring, weather sealed, good minimal focus distance, and a fluorine coated front element, this lens has the features professional photographers want in the field.

Oh, and did I mention it’s insanely compact and easy to hold still?


At a RRP of $10,498 (currently seen online for approximately $9,000) given how light and compact this lens is, and how well it works (even with - or especially - with a 1.4 or 2-times multiplier if you need closer), this lens if pretty amazing.

Primes like this are not cheap, however when you consider the Sony 400mm f/2.8 is $19,499 (and with that you can’t also shoot 300mm), given you can add a 1.4 x to the 300 f/2.8 to get a 420 f/4 and hold it stiller, this lens seem like a bargain.

More images

Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/1600s @ f2.8, ISO 640.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/2000s @ f2.8, ISO 250.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/2000s @ f2.8, ISO 200.
Sony A1, FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS. 1/1600s @ f2.8, ISO 640.