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

reviewer#37835 date: Apr-17-2017
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:35-105 N (The 1988 lens is much weaker at wide apertures but excellent stopped down, though with lower contrast; it's also much smaller and lighter with considerably more useful close focus distance and better flare performance; also focuses faster).
28-85 (Very similar look and optical performance but this needs just a little less stopping down overall to deliver its best).
price paid:
positive:High levels of sharpness from wide open at pretty much all focal lengths. Very good sharpness and contrast, which I'd place in the same league as the 28-85 and 70-210 beercan. Images have that great look to them, with high contrast and saturation, as per 28-85 and other first series Minolta AF lenses. Unsure whether to score 4.5 or 5 for sharpness, but, at least on APS-C, I haven't seen better overall sharpness performance from a Minolta zoom, and I have used most of them. Yet it isn't perfect - at 105mm, the extreme corners are softer than the centre at infinity at and near maximum aperture on my example.
negative:Distortion and, particularly flare performance are no better than most other 1980s Minolta zooms. In most conditions, problems are not enormous. It is unfortunate that there is some visible pincushion at 105mm. My lens is more spectacularly consistent across the frame when shot at close distances than at or near infinity, where it is still nevertheless very good.

The lens will sometimes produce purple fringes against bright light. The amount is very small compared with many Minolta zooms (70-210 3.5-4.5 and 100-300 non APO being by far the worst offenders that I've used), but the 24-85 and I think 28-85 do it less still. The ratings don't allow me to give 2.5 for distortion, but this is what I give.

Slightly heavier than I am now happy to carry around for long periods at this sort of focal length.

Ridiculously long minimum focus distance of 1.5m - unless you are able to modify your lens. 1.5 metres really annoyingly long, although it will go quite close at 105mm via the MF only macro switch. There seems to be an appreciable gap between the longest focused distance using macro and the 1.5M shortest "normal" distance, at least on my lens. Annoying!

I don't feel distortion to be as well-corrected here than with most of the better of the newer Minoltas. It mostly shows at 35mm, though it is not tragically bad, and is less obvious than with the 28-85 @ 28mm.

Because of the weight of the front of the lens and the unusually short travel in the zoom mechanism, zoom creep seems almost inevitable on averagely-used examples. This seems much more prevalent on these than it is with the 28-85.
comment:Excellent lens, though well and truly hyped-up (perhaps over-hyped), and no longer as easy to find inexpensively as it used to be. It may be slightly more optically capable than the 28-85 (as its reputation suggests), but I am not really convinced that it is. Both lenses deliver that high contrast look which is very attractive alongside their Minolta colour. Both are very strong performers with some flaws.

For me the advantages of the 35-105 N are such that I tend to prefer to use it over this one when carrying equipment a long while, despite its (considerably) inferior sharpness at wide apertures. When I need a lens that is sharp at wide apertures, I have others I can use.

A first (returned) example had medium amounts of mechanical wear and was noticeably decentered, particularly at longer focal lengths. My keeper example also has average mechanical wear and autozooms to 105mm within a few yards when walking. It seems to perform optically as it would have done on the factory test bench.

The unfeasibly long minimum focus distance of 1.5 M is as much a spectacular pain in the arse as the tremendous consistency of sharpness and contrast are a boon. Not a lens I'd be happy to sell, despite its irritations.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 155
  • sharpness: 4.78
  • color: 4.87
  • build: 4.87
  • distortion: 4.58
  • flare control: 4.09
  • overall: 4.64
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