Minolta AF 20-35mm F3.5-4.5 A-mount lens review by Phil Wood

reviewer#45565 date: Aug-16-2020
sharpness: 3.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.3
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:Sigma - 12-24 F4.5-5.6 EX Aspherical DG
Sigma - 12-24 F4.5-5.6 II DG HSM
Sigma - 21-35 F3.5-4.2
Minolta - AF 20 F2.8
Minolta - AF 20 F2.8 RS
Minolta - AF 24 F2.8
Minolta - AF 28 F2
Minolta - AF 28 F2.8
Minolta - AF 35 F2
price paid:48 GBP
positive:Compact well built wide zoom, decent if unspectacular IQ over a very useful FF range.
negative:Lens hood is a joke.
Range makes no sense for APS-C.
comment:I collect Minolta AF lenses, so I wanted one of these, but I had seen the Dyxum user rating - so I wasn't about to spend hugely to get a copy. I finally got one in a nice LH-1035 case at a sensible price.
It arrived yesterday and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by it.
20-35mm is a nice range on FF - there is little appeal for APS where a cheap kit lens like the Sony DT 18-55 SAM II is as good and more useful.
IQ is better from my primes, no surprise there.
The Sigma 12-24s are nicer, but the range is less useful, more specialized. The only real comparison I have is with the Sigma 21-35 which has similar IQ and a better hood. However, the Sigma's hood is fixed (which I'm not keen on) and it's a clunkier design. All in all my Minolta bias and fear of Sigma gear stripping leads me to prefer the 20-35, but not for any photographic reason apart from the extra 1mm.
The lens hood, as others have noted, is barely worth using (in common with all those non-petal hoods Minolta supplied for wider zooms). This wasn't a bargain basement lens and deserved better.
I like the look of this lens, it's compact with the wide ribbed focus ring of the later Minolta designed zooms (not the Tamron-sourced Minoltas) - it just needs a nice petal hood.
Sharpness - 3.5 to indicate reasonable performance for a zoom. It is perfectly good enough for a 10x8 print, but look for something better if you want to print posters or crop heavily (why would you do that with a wide zoom?). Stopping down helps, and corners are softer, especially wide open - like all but the very best lenses.
Colour - superb, Minoltas excel in this area.
Build - it's not the metal dominated build of the first AF lenses, there is plenty of plastic - but it's solidly built, feels good, operates smoothly, focuses well and is in pristine condition 20+ years after it was manufactured.
Distortion - there is distortion, as one expects from a wide angle lens, and no worse than alternatives. It is not severe and is easily corrected if you feel it necessary.
Flare control - not really tested yet, the sun has not been shining.
Chromatic Aberration - Dyxum don't include a CA category, but it is an area where older lenses can be problematic. The 20-35 certainly suffers from both purple and green fringing, fairly typical for a 1990s lens. Not the worst performance, but not good either - correctable in PP.
Until I get a 17-35G I can see this lens getting some occasional use.
UPDATE 22/8/20: The sun came out and I looked at flare and ghosting. The lens is pretty good, well up to the standard of the day if not the best of today. Flare is there, but not out of control and it took effort to get ghosts - I'd give it 4.25 if I could.
UPDATE 26/8/20 Just to note that the database has the release date wrong - this lens was launched in 1998.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 8
  • sharpness: 3.88
  • color: 4.25
  • build: 4.00
  • distortion: 3.25
  • flare control: 3.13
  • overall: 3.70
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