Minolta AF 100-300mm F4.5-5.6 APO A-mount lens review by cbanks

reviewer#11533 date: Dec-8-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 75-300mm f4.5-5.6
Minolta 70-210mm f4 'beercan'
Everything else in my lens collection
Some lenses I tested for a friend
price paid:177 USD (used)
positive:Sharp (for a zoom)
Minolta colors
Lightweight and compact
negative:Some CA
Not a 70-210mm f4 'beercan' (see comments)
Based on reviews, quality of copies vary widely
comment:Like many beginners I bought a 75-300mm kit lens with my Sony a65. I researched it and, long story short, saw advantages in Alpha firmware correcting that lens' deficiencies and I was hesitant to pile huge bucks into a focal length I might not use much. For about 2 years that pretty much worked as planned but...

Fast-forward and my 75-300mm was used far more than my 18-55mm kit lens. After 2 years I've started building a fairly large lens collection. Enter the Minolta 100-300mm APO as a planned replacement for my 75-300mm. While my Sony kit telephoto zoom has generated some of my favorite photos (I use 2 as desktop backgrounds and another as smartphone background), the IQ of that lens has left me often wishing for more and often the results don't look sharp enough to me.

My initial results comparing this to a 'legendary' 70-210mm 'beercan' I bought at the same time and some lenses I was testing for a friend at the time was I was pleased with the Minolta's sharpness and overall IQ. To my eyes sharpness is a toss-up with the 'beercan' and the APO edged out the others (Sigma 400mm, Minolta 75-300mm, Minolta 18-200mm). In the real world (highest enlargement I do is 32" widescreen monitor), the only difference I see between the APO and the 'beercan' is in the 'Minolta' colors. The 'beercan' colors are more old school, 80s film-ish while the APO is more true to a digital world (if that makes any sense). Which is better? It depends. As soon as I'm pleased with an APO photo I'll look at the same 'beercan' shot and think it's even better. Go figure. I'm keeping both for now.

The downside of this lens is CA. I posted a cropped example in the linked sample forum. So how bad is it? I didn't notice any CA until I coincidently cropped an image. Still, given the "APO" designation this is disappointing. So far my pictures are on mostly cloudy fall days. I'll have to see how it holds up on bright summer days. Alas, my Sony 75-300mm never exhibited even a hint of CA.

My immediate plans are to use the APO as my go-to lens in this focal length in my bag. It's lighter, more compact, and more manageable on my a65 than the 'beercan'. However, I need to mention a cheap ($30) used Tamron 1.4x teleconverter I paired with my 'beercan' works very well IQ-wise and the AF works well so range-wise it can be made roughly comparable on the long end. Certainly I plan to play much more with my 'beercan' once the weather improves (freezing rain today). The 'beercan' even with the teleconverter figured in is a bit cheaper.

The bottom line? At this point, not even my Sony 75-300mm is going up on eBay but then I'm a bit of a collector even if I was 100% convinced the 100-300mm APO was the way to go. Too bad I can't pair the a65 firmware CA, distortion fixes inherent in the Sony 75-300mm with the classic Minolta colors of the 'beercan' with all the other characteristics of the 100-300mm APO. 8^)

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 69
  • sharpness: 4.20
  • color: 4.58
  • build: 4.00
  • distortion: 4.51
  • flare control: 4.26
  • overall: 4.31
Dyxum.com - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania