There is no question that lenses are to many photographers more important then their camera body. A good lens, well looked after, should last decades, much longer than any digital camera body. That’s why professional photographers spend thousands on their lenses. I am not a professional photographer nor do I have thousands of dollars to spend on my photography equipment. That was one of the reasons that I selected the Sony A65 since it can be used with the older line of high quality Minolta lenses which cost much less then the current lineup of Sony digital specific lenses.
My Sony A65 camera came bundled with Sony DT 18–55mm F/3.5–5.6 (SAL–1855) and Sony 75–300mm F/4.5–5.6 (SAL–75300) lens. These two lenses cover the wide-angle to super-telephoto range, with a small gap in the short telephoto range, of the chart below. There are limits to them, for the 18–55mm the 18mm is not wide enough and the 55mm end doesn’t get as close as one would like to the subject. Another limit of the 75–300mm lens is it a slow lens, meaning it doesn’t have a very wide maximum aperture. However, these kit lenses get me started and as for the 75–300mm it serves me as my super-telephoto (200–300mm range) until such time I have saved enough money buy another, better quality lens.
The first lens I added was, on advise from a friend, the Minolta Maxxum AF 35–70mm F/4 (Mini Beercan). Not having a normal (FF@50mm/APS-C@33mm) Prime, I chose this lens to serve as such and also close the gap between my two kit lenses. It is not the fastest, but faster then my other two. I was not disappointed, this lens is sharp at F/4 over the entire range, and barely loses any sharpness a stop down. Particularly the corners are sharp when using one stop down; that is real good performance there. As a bonus the macro feature is pretty sharp and detailed with 0.25x magnification using the macro switch, which by design disables auto-focusing.
My next lens was the Minolta Maxxum AF 70–210mm F/4 (Beercan). I have read so much about it, that I just had to have it. This is a great lens with a constant F/4 aperture, something Sony doesn’t offer. The lens is extremely well built, very sharp at all apertures, and considering the constant F/4 aperture; very inexpensive. The main reason for buying this lens was that the autofocus works with a 2x tele-converter at 210mm because of the constant F/4 aperture. This effectively makes this a 600mm (FF equivalent) lens.
These two lenses in addition to the two kit lenses served me very well in getting back into photography and to learn my Sony A65 camera. However, I noticed that I was always switching between my 18–55, 35–70 and 70–210 lenses, operating mostly in the 30–150mm range. So after some research I went for the Minolta Maxxum AF 28–135mm F/4–4.5 lens. It’s well built which makes it heavy for its size. Focusing accuracy is quite good, most likely the result of the low F/4 maximum aperture. Its equivalent focal length of 42–202.5, and excellent sharpness at F/5.6–8 makes it a good walk-around landscape lens.
My last Minolta lens I got was a prime lens. I found the Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm F/1.7 at a great price I just could not refuse. The lens turns out to a great performer. It is compact, lightweight, low distortion, quick focusing and low color fringing. This 75mm FF focal length lens is remarkably close to one of Minolta’s finest and most coveted prime lens of all time, the 85mm f/1.4 G lens, which sells for in excess of $500 even today. DSLR owners have caught on to the fact that they can essentially obtain the “poor man’s” version of this lens for a fraction of this cost!
The addition of these four Minolta Maxxum lenses brings my collection to the following:
- Sony DT 18–55mm F/3.5–5.6 (SAL–1855)
- Minolta Maxxum AF 28–135mm F/4–4.5
- Minolta Maxxum AF 35–70mm F/4 (Mini Beercan)
- Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm F/1.7
- Minolta Maxxum AF 70–210mm F/4 (Beercan)
- Sony 75–300mm F/4.5–5.6 (SAL–75300)
However, my list has gotten longer since my last Minolta lens purchase, but more about that next week in my article “My other Lenses“.
What makes Minolta Lenses such a great option for Photographers
Minolta Lenses to look for
Minolta AF 500mm Reflex Lens
My other Lenses
Confusing EXIF Lens ID Information