Recommended Sony Alpha telephoto lenses for action, sports, wildlife and portrait photography

 
If you want to get close to a distant subject, you need a telephoto lens. These are ideal for sports and wildlife photography, along with capturing candid shots of people at a distance. They’re also great for getting closer to details in both natural and urban environments which are lost in a larger view. Their broad flexibility coupled with a desire to zoom-closer than a standard kit lens makes a telephoto model the natural choice when most people start shopping for a second lens.

There’s a large variety of telephoto lenses out there and the first question you need to ask yourself is how close you want to get to your subject. If you’re shooting portraits or close-range action, then a zoom in the equivalent range of 70-200mm will be ideal.

 

If you need to get closer to mid-range action or start photographing wildlife though, then you’ll want at least 300mm at your disposal, and if you really get into wildlife, and especially bird photography, you’ll want the longest lens you can afford.

While the natural desire for many people is to always go for a zoom lens, don’t rule-out fixed-primes. If you always find yourself zooming-into the maximum focal length, you won’t miss out on any flexibility, but you’ll enjoy a lens that’s typically superior in overall quality.

If you’re shooting fast-moving subjects, a lens with quick focusing will be invaluable; in Sony's range, look for models with SSM focusing motors, and these have the additional benefit of being quiet too.

Anyone shooting action or working in low light will also appreciate a lens with a larger aperture, indicated by a small f-number, such as f2.8. These may make the lens bigger, heavier and more expensive than models with average apertures, but have the major advantage of gathering more light. This allows quicker shutter speeds to be selected, which in turn enable you better freeze action or reduce camera-shake without having to increase your camera's sensitivity and compromise the image quality. Smaller f-numbers also allow you to achieve greater blurring on backgrounds, which is desirable on many action, wildlife or distant portrait shots.

Note when we mention full-frame (FF) bodies we’re referring to models like the Alpha A850 and A900. When we mention cropped-frame (APS-C) bodies, we’re referring to every other model in the Alpha range, including the A230, A330, A380, A450, A500, A550 and A700. If you’d like to learn more about lens specifications, from focal lengths to f-numbers, please see our lens guide. If you find the information here useful, please support us by shopping at the stores below and if you have any questions about lenses, feel free to ask in the forum!



 
SAL-55200-2 DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6 SAM

Specifications

Focal length:
55-200mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: A-mount
APS-C Equiv: 83-300mm
FF compatible: No
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: SAM
Closest focus: 95cm
Filter thread: 55mm
Hood: ALC-SH102
Optics: 13 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weight: 305g
Size: 72x85mm

     
The Sony DT 55-200mm is an affordable telephoto zoom designed for owners of entry-level DSLRs; as a DT model, it’s not compatible with full-frame bodies. The DT 55-200mm picks-up where the standard DT 18-55mm kit lens stops, extending the equivalent coverage to a maximum of 300mm. At this price, don't expect any frills or quick focusing (SAM is not the same as SSM), but it remains a great telephoto zoom for those on a budget.


 
SAL75300 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 - full review

Specifications

Focal length:
75-300mm
Aperture: f4.5-5.6
Lens mount: A-mount
APS-C Equiv: 113-450mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: requires AF motor in DSLR
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 55mm
Hood: ALC-SH0007
Optics: 13 el. / 10 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 460g
Size: 71x122mm

     
Costing only a little extra, Sony's 75-300mm works on both cropped and full-frame bodies, although as another budget model, it's best-suited to the more affordable Alpha DSLRs. The benefit over the DT 55-200mm is 50% longer reach when zoomed-in, and most won't miss the 15mm gap when zoomed-out. Once again, don't expect any frills: the focusing is relatively slow and noisy, and it's also around 50% heavier than the 55-200mm, but it's still a good choice for 300mm coverage on a budget.



 
SAL70300G 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G SSM

Specifications

Focal length:
70-300mm
Aperture: f4.5-5.6
Lens mount: A-mount
APS-C Equiv: 105-450mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: SSM
Closest focus: 120cm
Filter thread: 62mm
Hood: ALC-SH103
Optics: 16 el. / 11 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weight: 760g
Size: 83x136mm

     
Sony's 70-300mm represents a significant step-up from the previous model. Despite sharing a similar focal range, the 70-300mm is a member of Sony's G range boasting excellent optics, superior build quality, quick and quiet SSM focusing, proper manual focusing, nine aperture blades for pleasing out-of-focus effects, and a closer minimum focusing distance. The price is a bigger and heavier lens which costs over three times as much, but discerning Alpha owners will appreciate the difference.



 
SAL70200G 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM

Specifications

Focal length:
70-200mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: A-mount
APS-C Equiv: 105-300mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: SSM
Closest focus: 120cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: ALC-SH0010
Optics: 19 el. / 16 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weight: 1340g
Size: 87x197mm

     
Sony's 70-200mm f2.8 is another high quality G-series lens which works on both cropped and full-frame bodies, and like the previous model features quick and quiet SSM focusing. What makes this lens really special though is the constant f2.8 aperture which allows faster exposures for action shots and nice blurred backgrounds for portraits. This capability makes the lens relatively large, heavy and expensive, but pro photographers will love it.



 
SAL70400G 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM

Specifications

Focal length:
70-400mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: A-mount
APS-C Equiv: 105-600mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: SSM
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: ALC-SH107
Optics: 18 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weight: 1490g
Size: 95x196mm

     
If you want a high quality telephoto zoom with longer reach, consider the Sony 70-400mm. Another member of the prestigious G-series with SSM focusing, superb optics and great build, it's ideal for capturing distant action or wildlife. It may not feature the f2.8 aperture of the 70-200mm above, but boasts double the maximum range at a slightly lower price. It's therefore a great option for pros who favour higher magnification over a brighter aperture.



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