Minolta AF 28-135mm F4-4.5 A-mount lens review by Calistoga Guy

reviewer#3367 date: Mar-16-2008
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 3
overall: 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 own this lens
compared to:50mm f1.7
Zeiss 16-80mm
price paid:170
positive:Can be very sharp and pleasing. Beautiful front element. Lens 'locks' at short and tele end so no creep
negative:Heavy. Min foucus distance can be a pain. Can be too soft below f7.1 slow to focus and hunts a bit more than normal on my A700. NOT a low light/indoor lens. Lens barely fits in my bag.
comment:After reading many reviews for this old classic (and many others) I worried about zoom creep. Why nobody ever mentions that this lens 'locks' on the short end and tele end is beyond me. If it has been mentioned, I don't recall. Anyway how did I get here? I had a zeiss 16-80mm and it was bad, I don't care what anyone tells me, there are bad copies of that lens out there.

That lens had a bad habit of making sure nothing in the pic was in focus. Of course when it nailed it (not often enough) boy was it a sweet sharp lens. So I dumped it. I ended up using only my 50mm 1.7 for much longer than I thought I would. I just didn't like anything out there for the price. Took a chance on this lens with a very tiny scratch in the glass, hence the low price.

So far I see the lens (at least this copy) is far too soft in too many instances. What are they? First, go beyond about 90mm and it can get too soft. Virtually everything that would be at 'infinity' is too soft, especially at 28mm. This lens can be sharp for me in two cases as well. If I open the lens up to say f4 to f5-ish it can be sharp for nearby objects and people. Far away, and it can just be way too soft or hit and miss (heavy on the miss). Now for people and things 15 feet way and beyond, this baby seems like it needs to be at f8 to f11 to be sharpish.

In that range, as a walk around lens shooting street style photography and candids about a quarter of shots taken in that way will be just short of what I would call razor sharp for a lens like this or in this price range. It has never, nor will it ever be razor sharp like say a big G lens.

Color and Contrast are strong, and I so far haven't really noticed much CA even when pixel peeping. On my A700 it can hunt more often than my prime when I'm using focus points that are not in the center, and sometimes just the simplest scence can cause it to hunt, but it hasn't been a big issue. Right now I'm loving this lens as a BRIGHT daytime walk around lens.

Indoors, opening it up to get a decent shutter speed it can be a bit soft. I hate using a flash, however stepping this lens to about f7 thru 9 and hitting someone with a flash indoors it can be prime sharp, dare I say a tad sharper than my 50mm every now and then. It could be that my copy isn't 100% and that it's just old... reasons I might not give praise as others do so take my opinion with that in mind.

Beyond the 100mm mark, well I try not to use it too much. To get sharpness f10 is the min and it's not very common to get any real sharpness at 135 even with a fast shutter and f11. I don't see sharpness get better beyond f11.

Ok now for the macro, it's not that bad, not so great but here's why it's a blessing. The min focus distance is yes near five feet. Worse yet, it can be more than that. I've notice that if I'm about 5-6 feet from something and I zoom to 100mm up to 135, the lens can't lock focus until I move back about another foot or two. Even manually the lens isn't physically capable of focusing in such instances.

So yes the macro mode won't let you take truly gigantic pics of flowers and bees, but the range will let you take pics of anything from a few inches to nearly a foot away, it's good enough to get close for ebay pics and such. I still keep my prime for indoor stuff as this lens can get too soft at f4-f5 and such. For the money I paid it's a top notch lens compared to what's out there in this price range.

If you can get a copy at a good price, it's at least worth taking a chance on. I'm glad I did in spite of its quirks. Almost forgot about flare. For night pics with some bright lights, it's better than my prime. While my prime is fast, it's a flare monster in such cases, here it's more controlled and rarely a problem. In bright light, I haven't seem much flare, but because there is no hood, I've had the sun hit my lens often.

This causes my images to wash out and lose contrast, but to actually see flare, I usually have the sun in frame or nearly in the frame. Also be careful. Unlike other 72mm zooms, there's virtually no distance between the front element and the edge of the barrel. Hitting that glass can be super easy. I'm looking at a filter, maybe the new Zeiss 72mm T* coated ones.

And one final bonus of this lens. Its big barrel and 72mm front is something I like. Bonus, when taking pics, especially last weekend at a local Jazz and Blues fest, people get the heck out of your way, they stop rather than walk in front of you, and just notice and or respect you a little more. It sounds funny, but going from a dinky prime or zoom with a 55mm front element, you'll notice a difference in those around you.

I've got pics taken with this lens here


Pics are labeled so you know what lens I've used, all are taken with an Alpha A700 only, and all are big-ish in size, no dinky 600 x 800 pics, just click on the full size option. I'm posting pics there all the time.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 201
  • sharpness: 4.62
  • color: 4.82
  • build: 4.80
  • distortion: 4.41
  • flare control: 3.44
  • overall: 4.42
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