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Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Lens Review

by Bob Atkins, May 2008

photography by Bob Atkins and Hannah Thiem

Sony makes two zoom lenses in this range: the Sony 70-300 f/4-5.6 G SSM, (buy from Amazon), and the Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6, (buy from Amazon). This review is of the latter, less expensive lens, so don't confuse it with the "G" series lens, which uses ED glass and has an SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor). Both lenses provide coverage of the full 35mm frame.

The Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 appears to be similar, if not identical, to the earlier Konica-Minolta 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens which was in production before Sony took over the Konica-Minolta line of cameras and lenses.

The Sony 75-300/4.5-5.6 is available from amazon.com for about $225.


The Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 has "twist-to-zoom" operation using a wide ring in the center of the lens. Manual focus is via a narrower ring at the front of the lens (AF/Manual switching is done via a switch on the camera body, not on the lens).

Auto focus operation is quiet and reasonably fast, but not of course as quiet or as fast as a lens using the Sony SSM motor system. I did notice some focus hunting with the lens on a Sony Alpha A700 (review), when used at 300mm in low light, but under normal daylight conditions focus was pretty positive and the lens did not hunt.

The lens drops to an f/5.6 maximum aperture at a fairly short focal length setting (around 125mm).

Optical Performance

I only had the opportunity to test the 75-300/4.5-5.6 lens on a Sony Alpha A700, which is an APS sensor DSLR. The lens has full frame coverage (though currently Sony doesn't have a full frame DSLR). Optical performance would be expected to be worse at the corners of a full size 35mm frame than at the edges and corners of an APS-C sized sensor.

Test charts are a pretty severe test of optical performance and as you can see from the 100% crops above, the 75-300/4.5-5.6 shows some problems when used wide open, especially in the corners at 300mm and to a lesser extent at 75mm. The best performance is seen around 135mm (f5.6).

Stopping down to f/8 improves things a bit as can be seen from the set of crops above. Again performance is best at 135mm.

Finally, here's a real world example captured at 300mm and f/5.6. On the left (above) is the full image and on the right (above) is a 100% crop. This image is taken straight from the camera using all default settings. It can be sharpened up by some post-exposure processing in an image editor such as Photoshop. On the left is the same image shown above, but this time sharpened somewhat. As you can see it looks quite a bit sharper and isn't showing too many undesirable sharpening artifacts. Remember that a 100% crop from the A700 when displayed on a 17" monitor at 1280x1024 screen resolution is equivalent to looking at a crop from a print that's at least 24"x36", so it's a significant enlargement.


The Sony 70-300 f/4-5.6 G SSM, (buy from Amazon), is Sony's other lens in this range, but it's built to a higher standard using ED elements to maximize image quality and a Sony SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) for fast and silent focusing. The downside of the increased quality is cost, and the 70-300 G-series lens costs about 3.5x as much as the 75-300.

The Konica-Minolta 75-300mm f4.5-5.6 D appears to be essentially the same lens as the Sony. It's no longer in production, but if you can find one it may well be significantly cheaper than the current Sony lens. The last street price on the lens was around $140 (new).

Sigma has the well rated Sigma 70-300/4-5.6 DG APO Macro for Sony, (buy from Amazon), which goes to 1:2 (half life-size) magnification and uses two Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements to improve image quality.

The Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro for Sony, (buy from Amazon), is another alternative that also provides 1:2 magnification and uses LD glass for better image quality.


The Sony 75-300/4.5-5.6 is a typical inexpensive telephoto zoom. Performance peaks around 135mm with sharp images both in the center of the frame and at the corners of the APS-C frame. As the lens is zoomed in or out the image softens somewhat, especially in the corners, and chromatic aberration becomes more visible at the edges of the frame. If you don't mind 3rd party lenses, the offerings from Sigma and Tamron would seem to be well worth considering based on their greater macro magnification, use of LD glass and lower price.

Where to Buy

You can get this lens from amazon.com. It's normally in stock and overnight shipping is available.

Sony 75-300/4.5-5.6 Specifications

Focal length 75-300mm (112.5-450mm full frame equivalent when used on APS-C DSLR)
Filter Size 55mm
f-stop range f/4.5-f/28 (70mm); f/5.6-f/32(300mm)
Aperture 7 blades (circular)
Minimum Focus distance 1.5m
Maximum magnification 1:4 (0.25x)
Groups/Elements 10/13
Length/Diam 122mm/71mm
Weight 460g

Further Reading


Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Sample Images

Sony Alpha A700, set at 230mm, 1/640s, f/5.6, ISO 200, multi-segment metering. Even though the edges of the images may get a little soft with this lens at 230mm, in many situations (such as this one), the center of the image is much more important than the edges (which will be out of focus anyway)

Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6, set at 180mm, f/5.6, 1/40s, ISO 400, multi-segment metering, manual exposure mode. Although this decorative light fixture was photographed against a luminescent window, the A700 did a great job with the colors, sharpness. I used the AE Lock button to focus on the colored object before recomposing the image.

Sony Alpha A700, set at 75mm, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 400, multi-segment metering. At 75mm the image sharpness is quite good across the frame.

Sony Alpha A700, set at 75mm, 1/100s, f/5.6, ISO 400, multi-segment metering. Though the sky is bright and the foreground dull, the A700 has just avoided overexposing the sky (average level around 252, where 255 is featureless white).

Text ©2008 Bob Atkins; Images ©2008 Bob Atkins or Hannah Thiem.

Article created May 2008

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