Minolta AF 100mm F2.8 Soft A-mount lens review by QuietOC

reviewer#45716 date: Jun-12-2021
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.4
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 have experience with this lens
compared to:Lensbaby Velvet 56 F1.6
Sony FE 85 F1.8
Tamron SP 85 F1.8 USD
Canon EF 85 F1.8 USM
Minolta MD 85 F2
Sony 85 F2.8 SAM
Tamron SP 90 F2.5 Macro
Canon EF 100 F2 USM
Minolta MC 100 F2.5
Minolta AF 100 F2.8 Macro RS & D
Cosina AF 100mm F3.5 Macro
Canon EF 135 F2.8 Softfocus
Minolta AF 135 F2.8
Vivitar 135 F2.8 Close Focusing
Sony 135 T4.5 STF
price paid:375 USD (used)
positive:Smooth mechanisms
9 curved aperture blades
Soft Focus adjustment doesn't shift focus
Chromatic aberration
Busy background with Soft 0
Extends for sharpness and close focus
No distance encoder--no 5-axis stabilization
comment:A new looking "excellent" copy with original hood, caps and case purchased via best offer from a large photography eBay seller. I bought a second copy from Japan missing the hood and with many scratches on the body. Minolta had an earlier Varisoft 85 F2.8 that was introduced in 1978 for their previous lens mount. This lens was introduced as the third A-mount 100mm prime a year after the macro lens was restyled. It is slightly lighter than the older 100 F2 and much smaller and lighter than the Macro lens. Many copies are available for purchase unlike the earlier F2. "JAPAN"

This copy is somewhat misaligned and probably not as sharp as it should be at the 0 setting wide-open. The second copy was much sharper in center but the bottom left corner had problems. The complicated soft focus mechanism probably makes misalignments more likely. It is a fairly typical amount of misalignment for a Minolta prime--the much simpler 5-element 100 F2.5 was similar.

The controls feel very nice. It is not clear what the Soft numbers on the scale mean, but there are detents at those locations. Maybe they correspond to other Minolta products. They do allow some repeatability. Settings between the widely spaced detents can also be used. The soft setting doesn't seem to be reported electronically to the camera.

It focuses alright on the Monster modified LA-EA4 at least with Soft set to 0. I did get some missed autofocus when using AF with the soft effect enabled. The LA-EA5 works alright with the Softness disabled.

One large problem I have using this lens is because Sony has not provided any sort of stopped down focusing and composition with A-mount lenses. The only reason for this seems to be this is how film SLRs operated. Many Minolta lenses have focus shift from spherical aberration and benefit from stopped down focusing. This is especially true for a lens like this which is specifically designed for spherical aberration.

As it is what you see is not at all what you get when using this lens, at least if you want to control the effect of the aperture. Sony cameras do have an aperture preview and shot results preview, but that only displays full-screen on the tiny, low-resolution displays. Sony image review controls are also poor. Sony, fix this!

Third-party party EF adapter allow EF lenses to follow E-mount behavior with full stopped down focusing. Because of this the inferior Canon EF 135 F2.8 Softfocus becomes easier to use despite the fact that it shifts focus whenever the soft adjustment is moved. The Canon lens does show on the focus scale approximately how far the focus shifts. Canon only has 2 marked soft settings to Minolta's 3.

At the 0 setting the Minolta Soft Focus seems to have somewhat less axial CA than the Macro lens, a slightly tighter angle-of-view, and much less corner shading. Also Like the Macro it has basically no distortion. It is also better optically than the 5-element Minolta MC 100 F2.5. There's no Lens Compensation support for this lens, but it also has very little need for any electronic compensation.

This seems to use the same or similar clip-on plastic circular hood as the contemporary AF zooms, and not the turn-on one used by the Macro lens.

After trying a second example I've ruled this lens out. I prefer the rendering of the brighter primes and diffusion filters can achieve a similar soft look.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 27
  • sharpness: 4.89
  • color: 4.93
  • build: 4.52
  • distortion: 5.00
  • flare control: 4.74
  • overall: 4.81
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