Minolta AF 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 N A-mount lens review by transiently

reviewer#35791 date: Mar-13-2017
sharpness: 3.5
color: 4
build: 4
distortion: 3
flare control: 3
overall: 3.5
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:28-80D, 18-55 SAM, 35-105 original, 28-85, 24-85. All are clearly technically superior in terms of giving sharp, punchy results at wide apertures (yes, even the el plastico not too good 28-80 D), but the type of image rendering this lens gives at F8-11 is one I find much more beautiful than the first two, and perhaps even sometimes prefer to what I can get from the others.

The original 35-105 is in a totally different league for sharpness, but that doesn't mean that this one is useless..in fact it is extremely useful if you are shooting in good light.

price paid:about 16 GBP I think
positive:Extremely small and light (eg shorter and slightly narrower than the Sony 18-55 kit), quite nice to use. I like the colour and the type of rendering in general. Contrast is lower than all the other lenses mentioned, but that doesn't mean it's seriously lacking here. Focus is much faster than older Minolta zooms as there is so much less weight to move (this lens was the first of the second generation lenses released in 1988 at the time of the 7000i camera). Flare and distortion look a little lower than from the 35-105 I and 28-85.

My lens focuses rather fast and very reliably on my A37.

My sharpness rating is ungenerous since the lens gives truly excellent results at some settings, but reflects the lack of joy you'll have shooting near maximum aperture near maximum focal length, and the field curvature problem.
negative:High levels of unsharpness at all focal lengths much longer than about 50mm until stopped to about F6.3. F8 is much better. Shoot at F10 or 11 to maximise sharpness.

Usual Minolta veiling glare into the sun (though not quite as easy to provoke as it is with eg the 28-85 or 35-105 I), plus weirdly-shaped ghosts.
comment:This is a perplexing, but interesting lens. In many ways it gives a very old-fashioned performance, with its need to be stopped down heavily. My initial tests at distances of about 10 feet suggested it was going to be almost useless much away from 70mm as the edge performance was so utterly hopeless; however taking it outside showed that the extreme lack of flatness of field that caused big problems shooting flat objects at short distances was not quite such a big issue in real world shooting nearer infinity.

The optical performance is technically not a patch on the original 35-105 nor even any of the other lenses I've listed above, until you stop it down to F8-11. At these apertures it is good at every focal length and can easily beat the first two lenses listed above. In real world use, 35-50mm requires noticeably less stopping down than than 70-105 and some shots at 35mm F4 look OK. F10 gives the best performance at all focal lengths.

I love its small size and weight, and like its focal length. I find the results at F8-11 pleasing. At wider apertures, there is a tendency for a "painterly" rendering due to spherical aberration. Interesting swirly bokeh when used for close-ups at 50mm/70mm.

I have the idea that I like it more than most of the lenses listed above, despite its obvious flaws. It is clearly technically inferior to eg the 24-85, yet I think I prefer the way photos from this lens look. Am I crazy? I will revise if necessary...

The sharpness score is tricky for such an inconsistent lens, as I'd score it about a 2 for close work, and about the same for its telephoto performance used away from its aperture sweet spot...yet at F8-11 it is perfect for real-world shooting at all focal lengths, as long as you aren't photographing paintings or anything flat at indoor distances.

I think it very well worth trying if you like small, light lenses, but you can't expect too much from it. The 28-85 absolutely blows this away and doesn't usually cost much more. The original 35-105 is even better. It is fascinating that Minolta replaced that incredibly sharp lens with this one...yet on a bright day, this is the lens I'd take on a walk...at least on 1.5 crop. Full frame could be a quite different story!

I have started a flickr group to explore and discuss what this lens can do, as I find it an interesting little lens. https://www.flickr.com/groups/3545438@N24/

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 78
  • sharpness: 4.16
  • color: 4.67
  • build: 4.22
  • distortion: 4.29
  • flare control: 4.08
  • overall: 4.28
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