Minolta AF 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 D A-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#30693 date: Oct-1-2016
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.5
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
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 35mm f1.8
Sony 50mm f1.8
Sony 18-55mm f3.5-5.6
Sony 18-135mm (tried, not owned)
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
Tamron 28-200mm aspheric
Various other wide angle and tele lenses plus MF primes & zooms.
price paid:£48
positive:Very small and compact lens
Good range of focal lengths on FF & APS-C
Sharp enough
Bokeh generally pretty good
Reasonable MFD (good enough for flower close-ups)
Very little CA/PF
Good flare/ghosting performance
Good aperture at full length.
negative:Not quite as sharp as dt lenses
May not be wide enough for some on APS-C
Front element is close to front of lens and will need careful protection.
Slightly stiff zoom control
Bokeh can sometimes be less good!
comment:I bought this s/h at less than half the price I've seen on e-bay, from a non-specialist on-line shop with a guarantee but no indication of condition. I got lucky!
I already have a range of lenses quite wide enough for most purposes, but wanted a small walk-around lens with a longer focal length than the 18-55 and which would allow the camera to sit nicely on my chest without the usual telephoto droop. I also wanted something which would cover this focal length range for train photography on APS-C, where perspective distortion at the 18-22mm end is too upsetting and the longer end is useful for trains which aren't as close.
This lens has proved an excellent choice, and I think the results are better than the quite-good 28-100 and (almost as importantly!) it's black and not silver.
100% crops on a 20Mp APS-C camera show the lens isn't quite as sharp as the Sony dt lenses listed, and a little softness may be noticeable at full tele when cropping heavily, but it's quite sharp enough for normal use, and vastly better than either of the two 28-200mm lenses I've owned.
Close-up performance is okay, though not as good as the dt lenses which have a lower MFD, but flower close-ups work well enough, and if I want insects sharp I would expect to use a macro lens.
Geometric distortion is quite low with just a slight amount of bowing of the horizon on wide angle pics when it is near one edge, though this doesn't seem to be any worse on film that it is on APS-C digital.
Colours are nice, and the lens is pretty free from CA and PF unless you examine 100% edge/corner crops; neither this nor the Sony version benefit from in-camera jpeg corrections, unlike the dt lenses, but it stands up well against the corrected dt lenses.
For those occasions where I want more length than the 18-55 I don't miss the wide end that much - I have ultra-wides I can take instead if I wish - and on film and FF digital the range is just about perfect. I don't generally do a lot of telephoto work on film but the range nicely overlaps the Minolta 75-300mm or 100-300mm.
The aperture is also good - not quite constant aperture, but the almost-one-stop benefit over the usual xx-f5.6 cheaper zooms is a usefully smaller DOF on narrow-angle views and portraits plus the ability to zoom in and out in A-priority mode without losing the f4.5 setting.
Best of all, though, is that the lens is pleasant to use and handle, and the bokeh is great*. Background sparkles usually produce lovely circles of uniform density and smooth edges, like the Minolta 50mm f1.7, with none of the harshness that more recent lenses (usually optimised for sharpness) so often show.
One area in which some of the older lenses do suffer is veiling, flare, or ghosting from sun either in-shot or just outside. However despite the front glass element being so close to the front of the lens itself, the 24-105mm seems to suffer very little from this, being much more typical of the later well-coated Minolta and Sony lenses than early ones. My copy didn't have the lens hood, but I found a 62mm collapsible rubber one which works a treat on APS-C, though on film it needs to be collapsed at 35mm and below to avoid vignetting. However I have discovered the SH0005 lens hood fits and cheap chinese copies of this are available on e-bay.

I feel that Minolta were right to produce a range of lenses which gave very good results but which were small and light. Today there are lots of bright shiny new lenses with amazing performance, but the cost of this performance (apart from the £ & $ required) is that they are so big and heavy. If you don't really need f2.8, it's nice to have a small, light lens you can rely on to produce good pictures.
The cheaper plastic 35-100mm lens makes an interesting comparison; in most respects that one is worse, much less sharp and with terrible corners (see my review) but if you want a soft portrait or close-up lens with good bokeh it may be better.
So, all in all, I really like this lens and it will be a regular visitor to my cameras. Note that I didn't feel the lens quite merited a '5' in several categories, but overall is much better than the total score would suggest; if I could have given it a 4.5 I would have done.

*Edit: Did some more careful bokeh tests on APS-C digital and film in the 50-100mm region. In general, bokeh looks pretty good, soft and smooth; however at some combinations of focal length, focus, and distance (eg white flowers in close-up), there is a noticeable bright edge to the blur circle which can on occasion make the near-background look very busy, and curiously this was much more obvious through a film OVF than the A58's EVF.
However blur circles do remain complete circles over the whole APS-C frame and well into the sides of an FF frame, with only a little squashing in the very corners at FF, and this is much better than many other FF lenses.
Contrast this with the 35-105mm N (the plastic one) where the bokeh in the centre is softer and with less bright an edge, but squashes immediately you leave the centre. I guess the smaller, cheaper lens has smaller bits of glass in it.

Edit 2: Recently acquired an A900 which has 100% FF coverage on the OVF, and it is now clear that the corners darken heavily at 24mm near full aperture, something which wasn't obvious on print film with the 600si. If you have a narrower coverage VF you may not notice it, but expect to crop a bit from the sides at 24mm near full aperture unless you correct it in PP.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 109
  • sharpness: 4.25
  • color: 4.51
  • build: 4.12
  • distortion: 4.14
  • flare control: 4.24
  • overall: 4.25
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