Minolta AF 400mm F4.5 HS APO G A-mount lens review by Rockness

reviewer#44141 date: Oct-6-2018
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.7
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:Sony 70-400mm G2
price paid:$1400 US
positive:The build quality and weight. Perfect compromise of weight and F/4.5 aperture
negative:Not much unless you're against screw drive lenses
comment:I've had this lens for a few weeks. I own the Sony 70-400mm G2. I can't say it's better or worse, just different. I wanted this for the lower light capability. If you compare this to the Sony at 400mm it will beat it hands down. That's not where the Sony shines. Despite all the reviews you hear about the Sony being sharp at full zoom, it's NOT. I've tried several copies. I'm a pixel peeper. Trust me. But put the Sony at 300mm and it actually beats the Minolta at any aperture. But now you're dealing with a smaller image. If you crop that image, even up to 6x, it will still hold it's sharpness and compares well to the Minolta image cropped 4x. Just slightly less quality. You will however get more DOF on the Sony because you're only at 300mm which gives the illusion of an overall sharper image. Something to consider.
My personal copy of the Sony started to squeak when focusing and I don't think it's as fast as it should be. The repair shop said it's fine but I don't believe them. The Minolta focuses just as fast and accurate, just more noisy. Maybe a "non squeaky" Sony is faster?
The Sony is good at F/5.6 but needs to go to F/8 for max sharpness(less of an issue at 300 mm). The Minolta never needs to go above F/5.6. Wide open it is a little softer. Yes, don't believe the hype. If you're not cropping, hardly noticeable. Most likely you're still cropping. The softness is more evident at low ISO but less obvious above ISO 1250(I'm using a crop sensor A77m2) I guess the extra noise masks it a little. Like I said, I'm a pixel peeper.
I also noticed the Sony images had more contrast and the Minolta image was more smooth but still sharp. Hard to explain. I guess the newer coatings help the Sony. I set my Lightroom preset for the Minolta to add a little more contrast and dehaze. That made them pop and look like the Sony. The bokeh on the Minolta is also so much better than the Sony. BTW- all of my test shots were manually focused, bright daylight, low iso, on tripod. I did not want the AF to affect my testing. Although, the Minolta hardly needed any micro adjust. I'm at -3
The final verdict is I love this lens. 400mm and easily handheld. The lower light capability is worth every penny. If there's good light, then it allows me to double the shutter compared to the Sony, which always helps when shooting small birds. I keep the aperture at F/5-F/5.6 all day. If needed I'll go to F/4.5. The softness is minimal but it's there if you crop.
Oh and like the other reviews said, the lens hood is annoying. No different than other primes. Big and bulky. I ditched it and bought a $20 95mm metal screw on hood that's about 1 1/2" long and put a $6 lens cap on it. Perfect solution. Long enough to protect the glass when walking in the field and now you have a real lens cap! I'm not concerned about glare. I just use a hood for lens protection and don't need an annoying 6" tube sticking out in front of my lens. For comparison, the Minolta and the Sony at full zoom are the SAME length. This makes hand holding camera shake equal. The Minolta is just heavier.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 46
  • sharpness: 4.92
  • color: 4.87
  • build: 4.87
  • distortion: 4.96
  • flare control: 4.80
  • overall: 4.88
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