Minolta AF 70-210mm F4 (beercan) A-mount lens review by MinoltaMaxxum

reviewer#11653 date: Jan-31-2014
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 2
overall: 3.8
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:* Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DT SAM II
* Sony 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DT SAM II
* Sony 35mm f/1.8 DT SAM
* Sony 50mm f/1.8 DT SAM
* Minolta 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 (Original)
* Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX-II
price paid:140 AUD (used)
positive:* Tough build quality
* Bokeh
* Sharpens up considerably when stopped down to f/5, however not as sharp as 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 at the same aperture
* Reasonably fast autofocus speed
* Common 55mm filter thread
* Good resale
* Exceptional value at current prices, especially when compared to modern lens
negative:* Soft image quality between f/4-5 and towards narrow 210mm end of focal range
* Screw drive autofocus is very noisy
* Chromatic aberration and purple fringing at all apertures
* Prone to lens flare and loss of contrast when shooting with sun in frame
* Very long minimal focus distance
* Requires at least a little post processing to get the best out of it
comment:I will be comparing the Minolta 70-210mm f/4 against the common Sony 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DT SAM II kit lens as many photographers will consider it as one of their first upgrades.

The Sony 55-200mm shows better colour contrast and flare control, especially when shooting with the sun in the frame due to the modern lens coatings. It is also a lot lighter and pocketable. One area where the Sony kit lens fails compared to the Minolta is bokeh and sharpness. The Sony shows one of the harshest and distracting background renditions at different apertures and sharpness is soft even when stepped down.

The Minolta requires at a minimum a lens hood and loses considerable contrast when shooting with the sun in the frame. I recommend either purchasing an additional lens hood or using your hand to block the reflections.

Like many of the other first generation AF lens it suffers from purple fringing however it is towards the extreme end for the first generational Minolta lens and does not disappear even after stopping down. This can easily be which can easily be adjusted in post processing.

The Minolta focuses faster the the 55-200mm, although a lot noisier due to screw drive - mind sounds like a meat grinder and the noise can be startling after using a silent motor lens. It also focus hunts less than the 55-200mm.

The lens is heavy due to metal construction and I would expect it to continue to last longer than any of the current plastic Sony kit and "Easy Choice" lens range, especially when there are copies that are almost three decades old. The minimum focal distance is quite long which makes better to use outdoors.

The Minolta has average sharpness at wide open apertures, however it sharpens up considerably at f/5-5-6 and it is much sharper than the Sony 55-200mm.

The Bokeh is smooth slightly less than the wide end, around 75mm. There is faint green fringing however overall it just gets silkier all the way to 210mm and is one of the highlights of this lens.

If you can find a mint copy, I would strongly recommend this lens for anyone looking to upgrade their kit lens to one of the best bang for buck lens available for Sony photographers, especially for portraiture.

I feel the positives greatly outweigh the negatives and whereas the 55-200mm kit lens is aimed at casual users and unfortunately built to a price and shows it, this is a step up for hobbyists who want a sharper lens, especially at f/5-f/8 apertures, with wonderful bokeh and are prepared to spend a few minutes post processing afterwards.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 396
  • sharpness: 4.49
  • color: 4.78
  • build: 4.84
  • distortion: 4.56
  • flare control: 3.98
  • overall: 4.53
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