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

reviewer#41976 date: Dec-30-2017
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
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:Minolta 50mm f1.7
Minolta 50mm f1.7 RS
Minolta 24-50 f4
Minolta 35-70 f4 & f3.5
Minolta 28-80 f3.5-5.6
Minolta 28-85mm f3.5-4.5
Minolta 28-100mm f3.5-5.6
Minolta 35-105mm f4-5.6 N
Sony 30mm f2.8
Sony 35mm f1.8
Sony 50mm f1.8
Sony 18-55mm & 18-70mm f3.5-5.6
Sony 18-135mm (tried, not owned)
Sony 18-250mm
Sony 55-200mm f4-5.6
Sony 55-300mm f4.5-5.6
Soligor 60-300mm f4-5.6
Tamron 90mm f2.8
Sigma 28-200mm#
Sigma 28-105mm f2.8-4
Tamron 28-200mm aspheric
Various other wide angle and tele lenses plus MF primes & zooms.
price paid:£50
positive:Sharp even at full FL
Sharp fully open
light and more compact than most 300mm zooms or primes
Virtually no lateral CA
MF is nice when needed
works well with TCs
works with digital and film cameras
Useful on FF and APS-C
negative:MFD is a bit too long for comfortable flower close-ups
Nothing else.
comment:Having tried the non-APO version and liked its size and weight, I wondered if the APO version would kill the CA you always get on 100% crops of film-era lenses.
And it does. I use this for birding (it's now my mainstay for this instead of the Sony 55-300 as it plays well with Kenko TCs, unlike the Sony) so it has to cope routinely with heavy crops for those pesky little birds that hide away. And it does very well at this for what is a compact and fairly cheap lens (yes, I expect the f2.8 and f4 beasts would be better, but I don't have them).
Shooting jpegs in camera I rarely see any significant lateral CA (okay, occasionally there's some axial CA = bokeh fringing on OOF twigs) but I can't recall having to reject even a heavily-cropped image for CA, which I can certainly not say for the other 300mm-capable film-era zooms I've used. So, no LR profile needed. :-)
I tend to use a 1.4x Kenko DGX attached, which replaced an earlier 5-pin one that also worked, and the combination AFs fine at the short end, and in good light at the long end.
MF is also good to use (even with the TC) on an EVF camera with either focus peaking or focus magnify, and I sometimes use 1.4x or 2x digital zoom as well which doesn't improve the resolution much (if any) but helps to align the focus square and the exposure.

Is a TC actually worthwhile on a cheap 300mm zoom?
Good question. Most film-era zoom lenses reaching 300mm at f5.6 barely show much improvement in resolution and do show lots of CA, so usually no, on a modern 20+MP DSLR/DSLT (different matter on a 12Mp camera!). On this lens the 1.4x definitely does improve the resolution of feathers, claws, etc, and I've done a lot of tests with TC and lens combinations, which always show the 2x TC is a waste of time unless you have a high-contrast target like the moon. If you want 2x magnify, use a 1.4x TC and 1.4x digital zoom, which gives you the best res and only 1 stop light loss.
For a while I favoured the Sony's clear-image zoom, but now I don't. The straight digital zoom seems to work better, and somehow seems betetr than cropping afterwards too, which is slightly surprising. Possibly something to do with how the jpegs are prepared.
Anyway, the 100-300 APO is my new favourite birding lens on the A58 DSLT (which has an EVF necesary for the focus assist) and it's also one of my favourite long teles on the A900 (though not for birding), together with the smaller of the two Minolta 70-210mm zooms which have shorter MFD and are good for nature close-ups.

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
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