Minolta AF 600mm F4 APO G HS A-mount lens review by cocciasik

reviewer#44276 date: May-3-2019
sharpness: 4.5
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.5
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 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:SAL500F4G, SEL400F28GM, SAL300F28G2, Tamron 150-600 (first version), SAL70400G2, Minolta 400 f/4.5, Sony 500 f/8 reflex
price paid:4000 EUR in 2016
positive:It is a very sharp lens, it can compete (under certain conditions...) with modern lenses such as SAL500F4G for A-mount or SEL400F28GM for E-mount. It is a tank, I believe it will last for centuries! AF speed does not look bad at all when compared to SSM technology.
negative:There are mainly two flaws in this lens when you analyze it in 2019 and compare with modern lenses: Purple Fringing and weight.
comment:In 2019, you can still think of buying a lens that old instead of a much more expensive modern one. If you have limited budged, it is a no brainer. If you can afford a more modern lens, it really depends on what you need and your style of shooting.

My main complain about this lens is purple fringing and, to a certain extent, chromatic aberrations. If you shoot a high-contrast subject, you will certainly have to deal with purple fringing. Wide open, it will kill you. If you stop down to f/5.6, you reduce it a lot (and get a boost of sharpness) but it is still there. You can alleviate the problem in postproduction, but it is extra work. Backlit subjects can very easily let you give up and delete a picture that could have been a keeper if shot with another lens.

If the overall contrast and tonal transition is low, you can safely shoot at f/4 (better off f/5.6 if you need to crop a lot or if you use an APS-C camera) and love what this lens can still produce, even with a high-megapixel camera such as A99II. The 1.4x teleconverter also does a good job when paired with this lens, no real need to stop down for sharpness, but it amplifies the purple fringing issue. Therefore, when using the TC, I end up closing to f/8 most of the times to get acceptable level of PF -- without eliminating it.

The other problem is weight. Forget about handholding it. If you walk around while carrying the lens in your hand or in your (huge) backpack, you get tired pretty quickly, also because you have a sturdy tripod attached to the lens that you cannot get rid of. This lens makes sense only when you carry it from your car to the hide -- and it should not be too far away.

If you can live with the problems above, you do not really need to upgrade to a much more expensive lens. It competes with Sony 500mm f/4 wide open, the 500mm gets slightly sharper (which compensates the shorter focal length...) with a bit more contrast at f/5.6 -- plus, of course, no PF, faster AF and 2kg less to carry around.

If you want to play in a completely different league you have to use the new Sony 400mm f/2.8 (even with a 1.4x teleconverter, to do a fair comparison). Lighter, sharper at any aperture, faster AF than both Minolta 600 and Sony 500. But it is E-mount, and you have a waaaaay higher price tag.

If you are on a budget, Minolta 400 f/4.5 is a good alternative. Sure, you are comparing 400mm with 600mm, but it works well with the 1.4x teleconverter and purple fringing is way better. Since you have to stop down with the Minolta 600mm anyway, the comparison is not that crazy. I would exclude the Tamron 150-600 as an alternative, at least the first version, since we are talking about another category of sharpness (a level down). Better off seeking for a good deal to buy a used Sony 70-400 and crop the pictures taken at 400mm to 600mm equivalent. The Sony 500mm f/8 reflex is also another alternative to consider, but mainly for its incredible portability. Sharpness is not bad at all, but not at same level of the other lenses that I mentioned.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 16
  • sharpness: 4.88
  • color: 4.88
  • build: 4.94
  • distortion: 4.94
  • flare control: 4.63
  • overall: 4.85
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