The FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM is a professional grade telezoom, and thankfully it performs like one optically. Let’s take a look at the specifics.
The FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM is a very sharp lens. Right from wide open, the lens maintains very high sharpness in the central 2/3 of the image, and still very good (but slightly lower) sharpness at the edges. This is true both at the wide end and the telephoto end, which is great. Stopping down a touch brings the edges to excellent territory, with even quite sharp corners. It’s definitely a lens that you can simply choose the aperture based on depth of field, and not worry about sharpness, as the lens will provide plenty of resolution at any setting. Here is a 100% crop from the image below.
Like the other GM lenses I’ve had the pleasure to test, the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM has very nice bokeh. Out of focus areas are rendered very smoothly, with lovely falloff. Specular highlights are quite neutral, with no bright ring outlines and very even illumination. The smooth character is most pronounced up close, but while backgrounds maintain high contrast, things still look fairly smooth even at further focus distances throughout the focal range. I was quite impressed by the rendering of backgrounds with this lens.
Color, Contrast and Chromatic Aberration
The 70-200 GM produces images with excellent color and contrast at every setting. Color is rich and vibrant and contrast is excellent, even at wide apertures. There’s really not a lot to discuss in this department, as I was extremely pleased with the contrast profile of the lens right out of camera.
The GM also controls chromatic aberration very well. Lateral CA is extremely well controlled and isn’t field relevant in any way. Even longitudinal CA / bokeh fringing is very well controlled, with only the very slightest touch of a magenta or green fringe in rare circumstances, and even then only visible if really scouring the image for it. Overall, I’d view CA control as exceptional.
Distortion, Flare and Vignetting
I didn’t have any issues with flare using the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, though to be honest, I didn’t directly test it for flare performance. Still, in shooting outdoors in sunshine, I didn’t have any problems, which isn’t surprising given the narrow angle of view and the deep lens hood.
The lens isn’t free from distortion, with some moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom range, which flattens out and turns to moderate pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. Both types of distortion are corrected in the JPEG images and easily applied to RAW files with a Lightroom profile, but there will be a very minor impact to edge sharpness when applying correction. Given the high-resolution that the lens produces, applying the profile is worthwhile, as the sharpness impact really won’t be visible. The middle focal lengths between around 100-135mm have very minimal distortion. If you are shooting architecture, you’ll definitely want to correct the distortion at the edges of the zoom range. The pincushion distortion at 200mm is especially noticeable when shooting flat subjects with straight lines, as can be seen below. The top image is uncorrected, and the bottom is the same image with Lightroom’s distortion and vignetting profile applied.
As you can also see from the above images, there is some vignetting with this lens as well. It’s moderate at f/2.8 and becomes less visible as you stop down, but never fully disappears. However, the falloff is generally pleasing and doesn’t cause any major issues.
Overall, the optical quality of the 70-200 GM is on a very high level, with excellent sharpness, contrast, bokeh and CA control, and while there are some minor compromises with image distortion, they are certainly forgivable.