Lens Review: Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master lens

Sony’s FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS lens (Pre-Order for $1498 from B&H Photo | Amazon) becomes the fourth lens in Sony’s G Master lens line and it boasts a revolutionary lens design offering the smoothest bokeh ever. It’s also the world’s first true Smooth Transition Focus lens featuring Autofocus and Optical Stabilization.

Sony 100mm F2.8 G Master

The lens features an 11-blade circular aperture a APD Apodization lens element for lifelike rendering to eliminate bokeh distortion, Nono AR Coating to reduce ghost and flare and ED glass to suppress chromatic aberration.

Sony 100mm STF GM APD-Element

The effect of the APD Apodization lens element is most pronounced at F2.8 and gradually diminishes until F8 where the lens operates like a normal 100mm lens – but if you’re after beautiful bokeh, I don’t have to tell you that you’ll want to shoot wide open…

What this lens is not…and what it is…

The Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS lens is not a low-light lens to shoot in near darkness. If you need a F1.4 lens you should buy a Sony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master. However if you’re opening the lens to F1.4 just to blow the background out of focus, you’ll get prettier backgrounds with the FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS at F2.8 along with more of your subject in focus.

If you’re looking for swirly bokeh, or cat’s eye bokeh, or soap bubble bokeh that scream for attention – this is not the lens. However, if you’re looking for a 100mm fullframe lens that offers the smoothest and most natural bokeh – keep reading…

The Greater the Apodization Lens Light Loss – The Better the Bokeh

Apodization lens Light loss

Among the four APD Apodization Lenses on the market, Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS has the greatest light loss – with a T-stop a full two stops below the rated max F-Stop. BUT this is NOT a bad thing. It means the FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS has the strongest APD Apodization effect. In other words – it has the Best Bokeh. Bear in mind that most lenses on the market have of T-stop between 1/3 – 1/2 stop less than their rated max F-stop.

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS T-Stops
Once you get to F8 and below, the Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS operates like a standard telephoto lens with no additional T-stop compensation.

Bokeh Comparisons to Standard 100mm F2.8 Lenses

If you’re asking yourself “why” would you want such a lens – the answer is in the background – as in the area you didn’t focus upon. While many lenses in Sony’s line up produce extremely sharp in-focus areas, the Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS quite simply produces the most natural out-of-focus bokeh of any lens ever made. Here’s a comparison with a standard 100mm F2.8 (non-APD) lens:

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master lens bokeh
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro lens
Sony a7RII | Sony 100mm f/2.8 AF Macro + LA-EA3 Lens Adapter | F2.8 | 1/40 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony


Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master lens
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro
Sony a7RII | Sony 100mm f/2.8 AF Macro + LA-EA3 Lens Adapter | F2.8 | 1/40 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony


Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro
Sony a7RII | Sony 100mm f/2.8 AF Macro + LA-EA3 Lens Adapter | F2.8 | 1/40 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Close Focus to 1:4 Magnification

Sony FE 100mm STF GM Close Focus

While not a macro, the Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS has a close-focus switch that shifts a lens element for added close-focus range down to 0.57 meters for 1:4 magnification as shown in the images below.

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS close focus

Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/100 sec | ISO 400

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS bokeh

Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/60 sec | ISO 400

Field Notes

I found that the Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS paired extremely well with the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM for a day of walking and shooting. I’ve always found 70 to 85mm a bit too close together. I much prefer the jump from 70 to 100mm …

More Test Images

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS portrait

Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/125 sec | ISO 400

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master black and white portrait
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master portrait
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 G Master lens test
Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/20 sec | ISO 100
LIGHTING: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL + Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS lens test

Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/800 sec | ISO 100

Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS Madrid

Sony a7RII | Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS | F2.8/T5.6 | 1/15 sec | ISO 400

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Order Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS From B&H Photo | Amazon

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26 thoughts on “Lens Review: Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS”

  1. This is the kind of review I was looking forward to see with plenty of comparison photos, thanks so much for it.

    For some reason the photos with the Sony 100mm f/2.8 AF Macro seems a tad warmer than the STF which I prefer but it wins in definition and softer bokeh. Not sure if you used the same camera swapping the lenses or they were two cameras.

    I wish they could keep it as 135mm, to me, those additional 35mm make a difference and it would be perhaps a different segment than the 85mm GM.

    1. I agree that the review glosses over the relationship between focal length and bokeh – to my mind, to lose 35mm of focal length induced bokeh and an additional half stop of light transmission through the apodization filter while maintaining a maximum aperture of f/2.8 is kind of a big deal for a A$2k lens. I shoot the Minolta original STF on a Sony SLT a99v – and have learned to live with the stop loss. Apodization is a 20 year old, brilliant concept – so I would describe this lens as “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary”. That said – AF is interesting although I get focus peaking off the old system. The Laowa offering a shortening of the focal length and speeding up both the f-stop and T-stop is more of an innovation to my mind.

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  3. Thanks for the review. Looking forward to seeing the difference between this new STF lens and the old 135mm STF, which I am very happy with.

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  10. “Among the four APD Apodization Lenses on the market, Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS has the greatest light loss – with a T-stop a full two stops below the rated max F-Stop. ”

    I’m afraid I have no idea what that means. Are you saying at f2.8 it’s really f5.6? Really puzzled at this point.

    1. When the lens is set to F2.8 the light transmission is T5.6.

      Bear in mind that the T-stop of most lenses is between 1/3 to 1/2 stop less than their F-stop. The Apodization element that results in such beasutiful bokeh wide open has greater light loss. This diminishes as you stop down and is gone at F8 (as is the exceptional bokeh)

      1. Sorry to go on about this, but are you saying you lose 2 stops? It lets through the same amount of light as an f5.6?

        Sorry to sound so dense, but I have never heard of this before and I’m trying to get my head around what you are saying. Losing 2 stops, if that is what you are saying, seems like a rather big deal.

        1. “Losing 2 stops, if that is what you are saying, seems like a rather big deal.”

          While it is definitely something to consider I don’t consider it a big deal at all for a few reasons. First of all (and I don’t want to confuse you) T-stops are a film/video term and are different than… F-stops that are used in still photography. T5.6 is roughly equivalent to F4.5 which is a lot less light loss than you are imagining.

          Secondly, this is really a portrait lens, and although it can obviously be used for anything including close ups with it’s close focus mode; I imagine most photographers who buy this will often be using it with some sort of lighting setup if even only a flash or reflector…

          Thirdly, In those other situations such as indoors or night/evening hours, the Sony cameras have incredible image stabilization Allowing for slower shutter speeds than one might normally use.

          And…

          Finally the SENSORS Sony puts in their cameras are amazing with high ISO and noise reduction. I can’t wait to use it on my A7S and I know the sensor in the A7RII is also pretty incredible.

          As a wedding & portrait photographer I feel like this could easily become my go to lens over my 85 1.4 … Anyway that’s my two cents.

  11. René Stöhr

    Hello Brian, thanks for the great review. I saw that you use the LA-EA3 adaper to make the 100mm STF faster but how did you do that? The 100mm STF is a E-Mount lens and the LA-EA3 turns the A7Rii into a A-Mount. So how did u fit that or what do i miss?

    Best regards from Switzerland
    René

    1. I used the LA-EA3 on the Sony A-mount 100mm Macro in order to compare its bokeh with the FE 100mm STF GM.

      LA-EA3 doesn’t change lens speed it just converts A-mount lenses to E-mount bodies.

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  14. I have dozens of lenses and have been shooting video/ stills for 35 years and this lens is nothing short of amazing. If you are sitting on the fence it is time to jump off and buy this lens. You will not be sorry. Feels great in the hand to boot.

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