Minolta AF 28-85mm F3.5-4.5 A-mount lens review by transiently

reviewer#12092 date: Jan-14-2015
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 3
flare control: 3
overall: 4.1
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 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta AF 35-70/4, Zuiko 35-70/4, Canon FD 35-70/4, Minolta MD 35-70/3.5, Minolta AF 50/1.4, Minolta AF 35-105 3.5-4.5 first series, and all kinds of lenses over the last 25 years or so!
price paid:came with other gear
positive:Sharpness levels on APS-C 16MP are excellent. (And I have to say that I am quite a heavy pixel-peeper).
Colour is superb.
I find something special about the way it renders, particularly when compared with Minoltas made in the 1990s and later. It may be the micro-contrast or more to do with the basic high overall contrast, but, rather like the 70-210 beercan and original 35-105, colour can really pop like a good prime. If you can stop it down a little (I usually choose F 6.3), about 35mm to about 60mm renders punchy results as perfectly outstanding as the those of the 35-105 beercan. The long end of the range needs just a little more stopping down to attain similar excellence by about F8. The wide end is only worse because you might possibly notice the distortion with some subjects.
Build is extremely solid...not much plastic in this thing! Particularly smooth zoom control, probably feels even better than all my other Minoltas.
negative:Linear distortion at 28mm is a bit high, which is unfortunate, even if it is fairly typical for this lens type.
Flare is a definite problem in very bright light unless the sun is behind you. It needs hand shade to avoid purple shapes and maintain contrast in many contre-jour situations, and problems are unavoidable when the sun is within the frame in such situations. Flare control is even poorer than other first generation zooms. Flare control rating: 2.5.
Minimum close focus is a bit on the inconveniently long side at 0.85m (though nothing like as bad as on the original series 35-105, which only focuses to 1.5m unless you go into manual "macro" mode!). You can focus closer at 28mm using manual focus.
There is a reduction in contrast at wide apertures at 85mm, but the detail levels are still high.
It's heavier than I am now used to at nearly half a kilo, though I quite like the balance on camera.
Probably the biggest negative is not actually attributable to this lens itself, and is the fact that the 35-105 is capable of similarly outstanding results with less need to stop down, and with possibly slightly lower levels of distortion at the wide end, and with an even lower risk of colour fringing. I think that in the early 80's when these lenses were designed, it was simply a little harder to come up with a really great 28-85 than it was an epic 35-105. On its own merits, this is a very good lens.

Although the build is technically first rate and almost all metal, there is a clunkiness to the manual focus on both samples of this lens that I've used. Like almost all 1985-88 Minolta AF zooms, the focus is also a little rattly-sounding in AF.
comment:I used this lens extensively in the early 1990's and liked it a lot, only selling when I changed systems sometime later in the 90's.

I recently picked up another, slightly more battered one as part of an outfit, and didn't have incredibly high expectations of its performance on digital. Maybe I got a good one (there is always going to be sample variation with 30 year-old zoom lenses; hell, there's enough variation when they're new!), but I'm very seriously impressed. I can hardly believe how well the results hold up, and how fast the A37 manages to move the elements in and out to focus it.

I don't know if there's a reason other than sample variation that explains quite why this particular lens divides opinion so very sharply. I consider it an excellent lens on 16MP crop sensor. I have some doubt that it would please me quite as much on high res full-frame.

I recall that this was a very expensive lens when first launched, although used prices fell pretty sharply and my first one was bought used from a camera dealer around 1990 for 60 GBP.

My current one was found with a not quite working 9000 body, a nice 50/1.4 and 100-300 4.5-5.6, and a 75-300 original series in very imperfect condition in a secondhand shop in Valencia in late 2014. I think I paid 100 EUR for the whole kit; he took my first offer although he wanted something like 130 or 150.

I have several Minoltas around this focal length, but won't be selling this one. I hope to try it one day on Sony full frame.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 111
  • sharpness: 4.29
  • color: 4.68
  • build: 4.86
  • distortion: 4.16
  • flare control: 3.61
  • overall: 4.32
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