Minolta AF 50mm F1.4 A-mount lens review by Phil Wood

reviewer#44211 date: Jan-21-2019
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.8
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 50 F1.7
Sony - AF DT 50 F1.8 SAM
Minolta - AF 50 F2.8 Macro
Minolta - AF 50 F3.5 Macro
price paid:80 GBP
positive:Sharp, fast, Minolta colours
negative:Significant vignetting wide open, awkward and pathetic lens hood, focus ring too narrow.
comment:This is a very good lens, but very noticeable vignetting lets it down wide open - even though it is easy enough to correct in LR. There are definitely situations where I prefer the f1.7 - but probably not enough to buy both unless you are a collector. The f1.4's biggest advantage is that extra half stop and the thin DOF it provides. In situations where the corners don't matter much - portraiture for example, the faster lens wins. So far I have only used it on FF, I suspect I will like it more on APS-C where the vignetting should not be an issue.
Build quality is excellent - 20+ years old and still going strong. Colours are great if you like Minolta colours (I do). Distortion is not really noticeable on FF apart from the aforementioned vignetting (which is a real let down). Flare is an issue with all older lenses, but it's not a big issue, the f1.4 was a premium lens in its day and it shows. The hardest rating to mark is sharpness - because I find it difficult to decided where to draw the line between 4.5 and 5 - the 50mm macros are sharper, does this mean the f1.4 should be 4.5? But I see plenty of 5s for zooms that I know aren't as good - so I gave it 5.
Comparing it with my other AF 50mms:
f1.7 - given that the two are almost indistinguishable it is funny that the f1.7 feels better - probably just me. On the positive side my f1.4 focus is spot on, my f1.7 needs microfocus adjustment - the f1.4 will see a lot more use on my A58!
f2.8 - the f1.4 isn't as sharp but is faster and lighter and sharp enough, however, the f2.8 has 1:1 macro and remains my favourite 50mm.
f3.5 - the f3.5 is a bit toylike compared to my other Minolta 50mms - sharper than the f1.4, bigger but much the same weight. I prefer the old metal lenses but, like with the f2.8 the real choice is between macro (1:2 in this case) and the considerably wider aperture of the f1.4.
Sony f1.8 - I can't see any advantage of the Sony APS-C lens apart from a decent lens hood, weight (only 70g) and perhaps price, though I'd gladly pay more for the extra build quality, wider aperture and FF capability of the f1.4. I suppose I might opt for the Sony if I was planning some contre-jour portraiture where the hood and modern coatings should be an advantage (I'll update this review after try the f1.4 on APS-C).
Bottom line, if I had to give up all but one of my 50mms I'd keep the f2.8, but I'm hanging on to the f1.4 and looking forward to trying it out on APS-C.

UPDATE
Having spent some time with the lens on an APS-C body (A58) I can confirm that, as expected, vignetting is not an issue. It also has a great advantage over my f1.7 in that it focuses accurately without the need for micro-adjustment. All of which makes it a pretty good portrait option on APS-C, a good wide aperture short tele. That said it is not a focal length I like too much on the smaller sensor - I prefer a longer lens for portraiture if space allows.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 122
  • sharpness: 4.68
  • color: 4.80
  • build: 4.65
  • distortion: 4.77
  • flare control: 4.11
  • overall: 4.60
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