Minolta Lenses to look for

Written on:January 14, 2014
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Though no longer existent, Minolta is still an important name in the world of photography. Many photographers claim that such incredible and well-built lenses are no longer manufactured. This is especially true for Minolta lenses manufactured pre-mid-1990s as they provide unrivaled color and contrast matching. This was because Minolta made all their own glass, from the mix to the coating, they did something which no other maker did at the time. They used the lens coatings to balance color and contrast, so that an entire set of lenses would need no Color Correction filters if tested critically on a single roll of film. Sadly they changed their philosophy considerably once the Malaysian plant was opened.

Below is a list of some the most popular Minolta lenses and their characteristics I compiled based on researching a number of lens review and discussion sites.

Prime Lenses

Minolta AF Maxxum 28mm f/2.8 (1985 Version)

A great performa for a great price. The lens is compact, lightweight, low distortion and quick focusing. Great for any full frame camera, but also a choice for APS-C cameras, where it’s equivalent to a 42mm lens. There is a 1990 version, sometimes identified in reviews with the added letters RS, as in restyled. Also looking at the front of the lens, the “Maxxum” brand is not included in name. The other difference being that the RS version constructions contains many plastic parts.

Minolta AF Maxxum 35mm f/1.7 (1987 Version)

Similar in design and optical performance to the Minolta Maxxum AF 28mm. The mid-to-outer image areas are sharp, making use on an APS-C camera that much better. For APS-C cameras it has about the same focal length as a 50mm lens on a full frame camera, and coma and light fall-off is almost avoided due to the crop factor.

Minolta AF Maxxum 50mm f/1.7 (1985 Version)

Excellent affordable prime lens considering how “fast” it is and how very good the optics are. All in all the lens is compact, lightweight, low distortion, quick focusing, low color fringing, very sharp image and low light capability. It is a small lens, easily carried, great for portraits and general shooting. Bottom line for FF cameras it is a excellent lens, which is a bit long (75mm) for a APS-C camera.

Other Prime Lens Options

Minolta AF Maxxum 100mm f/2.8

Considered the gold standard of macro lenses. It was the world’s first 100mm AF macro lens, introduced a year after the world’s first AF SLR, the Minolta MAXXUM 7000. This is also the world’s first 100mm lens that can focus directly to life-size (1:1) without adapters. It took Canon and Nikon each four years to catch up, in 1990! It is extremely sharp, has very low distortion and is ultra-fast auto focusing. It does the same thing as Sony’s 100mm f/2.8 Macro for less than half the price.

Minolta AF Maxxum 135mm f/2.8

A good short to medium length shoots with a fast aperture at an affordable price. At 135mm, on digital APS-C cameras it is like shooting with a 200mm telephoto lens. It has a nice, wide f/2.8 aperture glass in a very small package as well as excellent optics and build. Any zoom that covers this focal length will be f/4 or smaller in aperture at this price.

Zoom Lenses

Minolta AF Maxxum 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 (1985 Version)

An alternative for those that did not get the Sony 18-55/70mm kit lens. It does have the 1:4 macro capability, a bit better image quality and very nice Minolta ‘colors’. A great combo without the kit lens would be a Minolta 17-35mm or the vintage 35-105mm. The drawback is that these wider lenses are more complex and therefore more expensive.

Minolta AF Maxxum 28-135mm f/4-4.5

This is one of the original Minolta AF lenses from the mid 1980s, and is now over 30 years old. It has the vintage Minolta solid metal build and legendary Minolta ‘colors’ in its image reproduction. With all that metal and glass, it’s no lightweight. Focusing accuracy is quite good, most likely the result of the low f/4 maximum aperture. It is very sharp, has the 1:4 macro and fast AF with its unique (at the time) rear internal focus design. It’s wide focal range minimizes lens changes.

Minolta AF Maxxum 35-70mm f/4 Macro (Mini/Baby Beercan)

Nicknamed The Mini or Baby Beer can, the Minolta Maxxum 35-70mm f/4 Macro is originally built for film SLR but due to its great performance it is still accepted as one of the best performing Minolta lens even on a DSLR. The lens is well built and is sharp over the entire range. It has a macro switch for close up shots. The only down side are the limited range and a big minimum focus distance. As to its nick name, How’s the name come by, it looks very similar in identical color, out of focus rendering to its big brother the 70-210mm f/4 which is called the ‘Beercan.’

Minolta AF Maxxum 70-210mm f/4 Macro (The “Beercan”)

It’s a step up from the 100-200mm in every way. The lens is well built, very sharp, creates great pictures, great macro (scale 1:4), stable f/4, Can work with teleconverters (1.4x & 2.0x). Great classic lens well build with long range. The main reason for wanting this lens is the use of f/4 at 210mm. Many people claim this is the greatest telephoto zoom lens Minolta ever made.

Minolta AF Maxxum 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (Big Beercan)

Originally produced by Minolta (1986), and currently produced by Sony, the AF 75-300mm F4.5-5.6, is a telephoto zoom photographic lens. The first generation body is made of metal. There is a focus limiter switch to speed up focusing. The lens and the Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 lens are known as the “big beercan” and “beercan” because their lens shape and size closely match the proportions of a typical aluminum beer can. The 75-300mm is a little different from the 70-210mm in the fact that the lens extends while zooming out, has a variable aperture, and comes with a focus limiter switch. The 70-210mm zooms internally, and has a constant F/4 aperture across the entire zoom range.

Minolta AF Maxxum 100-200mm f/4.5

The lens was issued as a less expensive alternative to the Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 telephoto zoom lens in the late 80s. It is sharp and lightweight, with the nice vintage metal build. The maximum aperture is a constant f/4.5 whereas most other zooms float up to f/5.6 or higher. The reproduction ratio of this lens is a diminutive 0.12x which isn’t so great, and isn’t nearly as good as the 70-210mm f/4, (0.25x) but that only comes into play when trying to focus on something closer than about 6ft, or 2 meters.

As mention I compiled the list to help me decide which Minolta lenses to add to my two Sony kit lenses (18-55mm & 75-300mm) that were bundled with my Sony A65. Next week I will let you know which lenses I added.

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