Minolta AF 35-200mm xi F4.5-5.6 A-mount lens review by artuk

reviewer#2526 date: Jul-9-2007
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 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 24-105 f3.5-4.5 D
Minolta 70-210 f4
Minolta 100-300 f4.5-5.6 D
price paid:Ł80 used
positive:Incredible focal length range
Very good sharpness
Manual Focus difficult with Xi
comment:When Minolta launched this lens in the easrly 1990s, most wide range zooms were optically compromised in some way, usually with bad vignetting or mediocre resolution. This was probably the first lens to offer this focal length range and excellent optical performance. It was very well reviewed at the time and blew away the concerns regarding lenses of this type. The complexity and performance of it's design was reflected in it's launch price of Ł600.

Produced during one of Minoltas many phases for adding arguably un-necessary automation, the Xi series lenses all feature a motorised zoom drive, rather than the more traditional manual mechanical zoom. When the zoom ring is turned, a motor in the lens powers the zoom. The speed of zooming is controlled by the amount of rotation applied to the zoom ring. It takes a little time to get used to, but with practice it becomes more natural to apply a small turn to zoom the lens slowly, or a larger turn to zoom the lens quickly.

Manual focus uses the same motorised arrangement, the zoom ring being pulled towards the camera and turned to engage the manual focus. Again, the degree of turn of the ring controls the speed of the focus drive.

A focus hold button is also present, used to lock the AF independently of the metering on most Minolta bodies. Some cameras of the same vintage as the lens, such as the 700Si, also allow the focus lock button to control the zoom. When a subject is moving toward or away from the camera and the focus lock button is pressed, the lens will automatically zoom within its range to keep the subject to the same scale within the frame as it moves. Ingeniously and surprisingly useful!

The lens offers very good optical performance across it's range. Even at full aperture it is surprisingly sharp. The central image is good across it's focal length range, though at full aperture corners suffer a little at 35mm on full frame. Stopped down, the optical performance is very good. I would regard it as good as some of it's more recent 3rd party alternatives from Sigma and Tamron in the 28-200mm range .

Colour and contrast are very good. Colours is quite saturated and in the Minolta tradition, although perhaps not in the same style as some of the older Minolta "classic" lens designs (e.g. Minolta 28-135 f4-4.5). Contrast is quite high but maintains shadow and highlight detail surprisingly well. I would suggest that high edge contrast is used to give the impression of high resolution, as with some other Minolta lens designs (e.g. some generations of Minolta 100-300 f4.5-5.6). This is not unique and is often used in "mid range" lens designs that sit between entry level "kit" lenses and high-end "prefessional / premium" designs. The overall effect is quite pleasing.

The build is very good, a mixture of engineering grade plastic and metal. The livery is typical of early to mid-1990s Minolta "re-styled" lenses, and is fairly resistant to marks.

Distortion is also very well controlled for a zoom lens with such an ambitious focal length range. There is inevitably some barreling at the wide end, and a little pin-cushion distortion at the long end. This may preclude it from use for critical architectural work, but for general photography it is unobtrusive.

Flare control is also good. The front element is 62mm, but unfortunately the supplied Minolta lens hood is almost useless, a uniformly thin piece of plastic (not petal shaped) to match it's 35mm wide end. Light sources in the image may cause some flare, as may strong light sources in front of the camera but out of frame. Overall, a good to very good performance.

The biggest criticism I can raise against this lens is its modest speed. This is the only reason that I would not use it for general photography. None-the-less, on full frame the lens is a surprisingly good "fair weather" travel tool.

A often overlooked possible classic.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 23
  • sharpness: 4.24
  • color: 4.43
  • build: 4.35
  • distortion: 4.30
  • flare control: 3.74
  • overall: 4.21
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