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Comparision test Sony 70-400 vs.Minolta 400mm F4.5

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Post Options Post Options   Quote ijsvogel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Comparision test Sony 70-400 vs.Minolta 400mm F4.5
    Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:25
The lens test was done on Sunday April 19th 2009 in cooperation with Michael, Gustav Kiburg, and Hans Brinkel. Michael kuijpers brought his Minolta 400mm F4.5 and Gustav his Sony 70-400 G lens together with his 1.4 tele converter. Hans provided accessoires, test cases, and the test location.

Why this test?
Currently, there are not too many tele prime lenses available for the Sony photographer. Only the top Minolta prime lenses from the past (all G glass) offer a good alternative. Sony only recently started selling a 300mm F2.8 prime (note: in Europe?) of outstanding quality but also quite pricey. In the meantime, Sony did announce a 500mm F4.5 lens for 2009. (note: or is this still a rumor?)

In 2008, Sony started selling a 70-400mm F4-F5.6 telezoom lens which is currently available for around 1325 Euro. We consider a used Minolta 400mm F4.5 as a good alternative for that lens. However, the used Minolta prime lenses are fairly rare and hard to get. Depending on the state and accessoires of the price for a used 400mm is about 1600-2000 euro.

In this test, we only tested at 400mm. The image quality of a telezoom is generally at its worst at the extreme range so it should give a good impression. The big question for us was how well the new telezoom that is specifically designed for the new digital cameras would do with respect to one of the highest quality tele prime lenses from the Minolta stable. And can we consider the Sony telezoom as a serious alternative for the more expensive used Minolta prime?
Of course, all of this in consideration with the newly announced Sony wide aperture and hopefully cheaper tele prime lenses.

Weather:
The weather was sunny without clouds but with considerable wind. The wind porbably had a small influence on the used test materials (i.e. plastic birds on a stick). Nevertheless, with the sunny weather and by using a good tripod, the differences are fairly small -- and in the real world birds generally don't sit still either :-)

Camera settings on the A700:
White balance was Sunny
2 second shutter delay (= mirror lockup)
Raw capture
Adobe RGB
Manual mode preferring Aperture and no exposure compensation (0,0EV) (with exception for the auto focus test).
ISO 200
Spot metering
AF: spot AF field

Post processing:
Adobe photoshop lightroom 1.4
All photos were processed in an identical way
Whitebalance: daylight
Sharpening: 95
Detail: 30

General conclusions:
The Minolta prime from 1995 is still a performing very well. With regard to image quality in generally still beats the Sony 70-400 from 2008. In itself, this is not a big surprise. What is a surprise is how small the differences between the two lenses are. On short distances of about 7 meters (21 feet), the differences are extremely small. The Minolta prime wins on longer distances where the differences become somewhat larger.

During the testday, I did notice that teh Sony had more trouble with the bright light on this sunny day, and the some photos are somewhat over exposed. Of course, this is also part of learning to handle this particular lens.

The weight of the Minolta is 1920 grams while the Sony is 1500 grams. The Minolta is also slightly more difficult to handle when shooting without a tripod due to the longer length. The Sony is more compact and in my opinion quite usable when shooting without tripod during daylight. Of course, a tripod is in general the best alternative.

The most important difference between both lenses is in my opinion the difference in shutter speed for equal aperture values. The Sony sometimes has significantly longer shutter speeds as the Minolta. I don't have a technical explanation for this.. perhaps someone knows?

Minolta 400 F4.5
Pros:
- Maximum aperture
- Better shutter speeds
- Slightly sharper at 400mm and at 560mm with a TC
- Solid metal construction
- Autofocus delimiter

Cons:
- Rare and only available on the used market
- More expensive as the Sony 70-400
- The Minolta circular drop-in polarizer filter is very hard to get and very expensive. A polarizer might be needed for BIF or reflections on the water during fowl photography)
- The white paint easily chips (as is usually the case for the Minolta prime lenses)
- Need a tripod

Sony 70-400 F4-F5.6
Pros:
- Cheaper as the Minolta (about 650 euro cheaper)
- Available as new
- Can zoom from 70-400mm
- Compact enough to photograph without tripod
- Autofocus is silent and accurate (SSM)
Cons:
- No autofocus with the teleconverter
- Price difference of Sony 1.4 tc with respect to Canon
- Solid build, but not as good as the Minolta
- A plastic hood (but this does save weight)

Final conclusion
Those who want the best result still need to go with the faster Minolta lens, or have to have more patience until Sony releases a 400mm F4.5 prime lens. Even in that case, the price difference might be steep between the Sony 400mm prime and the Minolta 400mm prime. It is also hard to find a Minolta 400mm prime on the used market.

Those who choose to be mobile and would like the convenience of a zoom lens, will choose for the Sony 70-400mm. The Sony zoom is very close in image quality to the Minolta prime which is a great achievement. Moreover, the lower price of the Sony is something to consider. ($1600 versus $2400-$3000)

Finally, I would like to thank Gustav and Michael for the help during the test day and for providing their precious lenses. With their help, this test could not have been done.

Good luck with your choice, and enjoy making the photos,

hans brinkel , gustav kiburg

Edited by ijsvogel - 08 May 2009 at 19:42
my picture`s

www.gkiburg.nl A77 A99 SAL70-400 GII SAL300mm 2.8 SSM-G   SAL500mm F4 SSM-G SAL70-400 SSM-G
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/109172/
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote ijsvogel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:27
Sharpness test for short distances
A 3 dimensional bird on a stick with a distance of about 7 meters (21 feet)

Photo 154
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/160 sec


Photo 158
Minolta 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/250 sec


Photo 155
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/640 sec


Photo 156
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/640 sec


Photo 157
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F4.5
1/1000 sec


Crop Photo 154
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/160 sec


Crop Photo 158
Minolta 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/250 sec



Crop Photo 155
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/640 sec



Crop Photo 156
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/640 sec



Crop Photo 157
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F4.5
1/1000 sec


This test did not go entirely according to plan. The wind was quite strong and you can see that in photo 154 where there is some unsharpness due to the movement of the subject. Also, I adjusted the whitebalance of photo 154 somewhat due to overexposure. The value is now equal to that of photo 158. Photo 154 also has a shutterspeed of 1/160 sec and this should have been equal to the shutterspeed of 158 (1/250). The differences are very small between these two lenses and in my opinion hard to see.
my picture`s

www.gkiburg.nl A77 A99 SAL70-400 GII SAL300mm 2.8 SSM-G   SAL500mm F4 SSM-G SAL70-400 SSM-G
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/109172/
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ijsvogel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:28
Sharpness test on long distances

For this test we used a wooden nest place where a pair of common Kestrel's were nesting. It stood on a golf area and the kestrels were used to people. We stayed at a distance of 25 meters. It was not the intention to photograph the kestrels but they did appear anyway in some photos. However, we focused on the upper left part of the nest place and not on the kestrel (since they only arrived later).

Photo 163
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/640 sec


Photo 159
Minolta 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso200
F8
1/500 sec



Photo 162
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso200
F5.6
1/640 sec



Photo 160
Minolta 400 mm
Iso200
F5.6
1/1000 sec



Photo 161
Minolta 400 mm
Iso200
F4.5
1/2000



Crop Photo 163
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/640 sec



Crop Photo 159
Minolta 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso200
F8
1/500 sec



Crop Photo 162
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso200
F5.6
1/640 sec



Crop Photo 160
Minolta 400 mm
Iso200
F5.6
1/1000 sec



Crop Photo 161
Minolta 400 mm
Iso200
F4.5
1/2000


My personal conclusion from this test is that the Sony did best at 400mm which is quite surprising. If we add the 1.4x tele converter, the Minolta does best again. Nevertheless, the differences are very small.
my picture`s

www.gkiburg.nl A77 A99 SAL70-400 GII SAL300mm 2.8 SSM-G   SAL500mm F4 SSM-G SAL70-400 SSM-G
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/109172/
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ijsvogel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:30
D.O.F test.

Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Photo 180
Iso 200
F5.6
1/640 sec


Minolta 400 mm
Photo 181
Iso200
F5.6
1/640 sec



Minolta 400 mm
Photo 182
Iso 200
F4.5
1/1250 sec


My personal conclusions is that the DOF difference is very small between both lenses. The Minolta is perhaps slightly better here than the Sony but I would not buy one or the other based on just this aspect.
my picture`s

www.gkiburg.nl A77 A99 SAL70-400 GII SAL300mm 2.8 SSM-G   SAL500mm F4 SSM-G SAL70-400 SSM-G
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/109172/
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ijsvogel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:31
Auto focustest

For this test we found some ladies willing to cooperate, who were practicing with their horse. A difficult test and even harder to draw solid conclusions. In retrospect I should perhaps have done the test differently. We tried to keep the circumstances as equal as possible with both lenses. In the end I do not have a firm conclusion but I feel that both lenses perform equally well.

The autofocus of the Minolta lens makes much more noise, while the Sony uses SSM and is completely silent -- one can even wonder if the AF is working at all. This test was done without a tele converter and we used aperture mode with F6.3 for all photos. Notice how the shutter speeds differ even though the aperture was fixed for both lenses to F6.3.

Photo 176
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso 200
F6.3
1/500 sec


Photo 177
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso200
F6.3
1/800 sec



Photo 178
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso 200
F6.3
1/800 sec


Photo 172
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F6.3
1/1250 sec


Photo 173
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F6.3
1/1600 sec


Foto174
Minolta 400 mm
Iso200
F6.3
1/1000 sec


All the best,
GUSTAV KIBURG

Originally posted by Hans B Hans B wrote:

We missed the contrast test.
Perhaps Gustav or the moderator can copy and paste this test in his first posting?

Contrast test

Foto 166
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/500 sec


Foto 169
Minolta 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/640 sec


Foto 167
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/2500 sec


Foto 168
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/2000 sec



Foto 170
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F4.5
1/2500 sec



===================================================================

Crop foto 166
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/500 sec



Crop foto 169
Minolta 400 mm plus 1.4 converter =560 mm
Iso 200
F8
1/640 sec




Crop foto 167
Sony 70-400 op 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/2500 sec



Crop foto 168
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F5.6
1/2000 sec



Crop foto 170
Minolta 400 mm
Iso 200
F4.5
1/2500 sec






Edited by brettania - 10 May 2009 at 11:19
my picture`s

www.gkiburg.nl A77 A99 SAL70-400 GII SAL300mm 2.8 SSM-G   SAL500mm F4 SSM-G SAL70-400 SSM-G
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/109172/
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Post Options Post Options   Quote artuk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:37
Originally posted by ijsvogel ijsvogel wrote:

The Sony sometimes has significantly longer shutter speeds as the Minolta. I don't have a technical explanation for this.. perhaps someone knows?



Generally with other lenses I have found this is due to the way the light is distributed across the frame (and therefore the light meter inside the camera throat). Lens manufacturers can often be a little "optomistic" in the stated apertures, and if for example vignetting occurs that can influence the metering.

Whilst interesting, I wondered if you used a tripod? Some of the shutter speeds you quote even with anti-shake are questionable if hand held.

FInally, testing on APS-C only gives half the story with regard to lens performance, since half the covered frame cannot be inspected - and that is the most intersting half, the corners!
Art
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote ijsvogel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:42
hi art

yes thats right

we do the test always on a tripod

greetings
gustav
my picture`s

www.gkiburg.nl A77 A99 SAL70-400 GII SAL300mm 2.8 SSM-G   SAL500mm F4 SSM-G SAL70-400 SSM-G
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/109172/
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Post Options Post Options   Quote oldguy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:47
These kinds of tests are very helpful in understanding lens issues, whether you'll ever get these specific lenses or not. Thanks for the work.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rovhazman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 17:48
Thanks!

I once made comparison between the Minolta 400mm/4.5, Minolta 300mm/2.8HS, Sony 300mm/2.8SSM and Sony 70-200mm/2.8. But I never did a good job as you guys did! And I always missed the Sony 70-400mm...

Very impressive for the 70-400mm!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 18:51
Very nice test - and very informative; thank you very much for doing it and posting it here. Did you do any comparisons of edges of the frame?

In general some light loss will occur within the lens - the more elements the more loss - I'd guess the zoom has a few more elements than the prime.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Octupi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 19:32
Great test and samples. Nice to see a test done in real world conditions.

To me it appears that the Sony has a bit more contrast to the images, this is probably due to the newer coatings on the elements. The new G is no slouch.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote maewpa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 20:04
Thank you Gustav; the cons are expected and not a turnoff; this corresponds to my experience with the 70-300G and 300/4G, although the 300/4 is more clearly ahead at 300mm; suggesting that the 70-400 is a very good zoom indeed, with enough light. In that respect what do the histograms look like - is the 70-400 exposing more to the right at all? In some pictures it looks like that to me, but I do not have a very good monitor, so I don't trust myself to generalise.

Of course I hope both lenses will receive a kingfisher (or similar field) test, because then many other extraneous factors will be taken out of play. Personally I would find that more valuable, but I understand tests are supposed to be objective, even though photography is so subjective.

And I'm wondering whether we should also do the test off the tripod, to give another perspective, even if any such test would be less relaible... time will tell, perhaps?

Finally, the real comparison for many of us is the 70-400 at 400mm vs the 300/4 with a 1.4x TC... but that's for someone else to test!

Thank you Gustav ... and where are your photos? I miss them.*

* Oh, I just found them!

Edited by maewpa - 08 May 2009 at 10:06
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Post Options Post Options   Quote DaveK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2009 at 20:05
Thanks Gustav, for taking time to let us know! Very helpfull!

In a Dutch Photomagazine (Focus) the 70-400 is called: 'Gold in Silver' and is stated as 'SUPER!'.

Nice! A big hand for SONY
Best regards, Dave
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Post Options Post Options   Quote wolfy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 May 2009 at 09:54
I guess thats why it won the TIPA award for best pro lens for 2009.

Thanks Gustav for ably showing us what this lens can do.

BTW, I didnt see it in the notes above, did you have SSS turned on or off when using the tripod?
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