Sony’s new full-frame 600mm f/4 is a $13,000 monster of a lens

Even if you own a Sony full-frame mirrorless camera, you probably don’t need the new FE 600mm f/4 telephoto lens — and if you do need it, you still probably can’t afford it. Announced June 11, the lens will be priced at $13,000 — that’s enough to buy a new Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display XDR, overpriced monitor stand and all, and still have a grand leftover. This lens is aimed squarely at the very upper tier of professional photographers and news organizations; the closest you’ll likely come to touching one will be seeing it on TV at the sidelines of the next Olympics or World Cup, mounted to the speedy Sony A9.

But that doesn’t mean your dream of reaching 600mm, if you have one, has to vanish. Sony also introduced a 200-600mm zoom that costs just $2,000. If you’re wondering how a 600mm prime is worth over six times as much as a 200-600mm zoom, it all comes down to the maximum aperture and the overall quality of the optical design.

The 200-600mm zoom has a variable maximum aperture of f/5.6-6.3, meaning it gets smaller as you zoom. At the 600mm position, it can let in less than half the amount of light as the more expensive 600mm f/4. Interestingly, both lenses feature 11-blade aperture diaphragms, a number usually not seen shy of professional cinema lenses, which will produce more circular out-of-focus blur (or bokeh) even when not shot wide open.

The larger prime is also part of Sony’s highest-end G Master line, and as such uses an advanced optical formula that combines several fluorite elements, an extreme aspherical element, and nanocoatings. Collectively, these technologies help reduce chromatic aberration, ghosting, and flaring. Sony’s Optical Steady Shot stabilization will help steady the lens for monopod and — if you dare — handheld shooting.

Despite costing so much less, the 200-600mm actually looks pretty good, too, at least on paper. It also uses an 11-blade aperture and nano lens coatings, and features five extra-low dispersion elements in an optical design meant to minimize chromatic aberration. Impressively, it is compatible with both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters; with the latter, it has a maximum reach of 1,200mm and effective aperture of f/13 — and yet, it still promises full autofocus capability. It is also optically stabilized.

And unlike some other relatively affordable super-telephoto zooms, like the Sigma 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Sports, the Sony 200-600mm features internal zooming. That means the length of the lens does not change as you zoom, a feature common on professional-level lenses but generally not used on such “budget” alternatives.

With these new lenses, the longest telephotos Sony has ever made, Sony is showing that it does indeed take sports and wildlife photography seriously, two genres that have seen photographers cling to their trusty DSLRs rather than switch to mirrorless. Both lenses are expected to ship in August.

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