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

reviewer#21420 date: Nov-12-2015
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 3
overall: 4.3
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 75-300mm f4.5-5.6 AF D,
Minolta 135mm f2.8,
Minolta 200mm f2.8 APO HS
price paid:£75
positive:Small and light when compared to equivalent 70-200mm lenses, solid build, stabilised on Sony bodies, fast focus, classic feel, constant aperture, no zoom creep, length stays the same when zooming.
negative:Noticeable distortion when zooming out (not in end photo though), extending focus, front element rotates, hood is flimsy.
comment:This lens may not be the fastest or longest range telephoto zoom out there but what it offers is what makes it appealing to many Sony shooters.

On full frame, constant f4 is more than enough. The only real difference between f4 and f2.8 is when shooting at dusk, which rarely ends well anyway. The weight difference is not worth it.

My copy and the one before that were sharp wide open throughout the range with minor light fall off at 210mm and some barrel distortion at 75mm.

Autofocus is fast enough and accurate for my use, though people looking for a sports lens may need a lens with SSM.

The focal range is perfect for portraiture offering options from full body to headshots without having to back up or change lens. For outdoor portraiture, 210mm at f4 is excellent for full body shots, shoot through the foreground for maximum subject isolation and bokeh. For those in APSC land it is like a 50mm on steroids.

For landscapes the focal range is excellent for tight compositions, isolating elements such as mountain peaks, cutting out distractions and compression. My favourite travel shots have come from this lens.

CA and purple fringing are a non issue for my copy, others seem to vary. Flare control is on the poorer side but is a plus for portraits, free lens flare when you shoot into the sun = less time in lightroom, but can be a pain when you want clean shots.

The lens hood is too flimsy to bother with. The metal one on my first copy broke when a dog ran into it. Plus it spins around when focussing which is annoying. The plastic one may be sturdier if you really need a hood.

Be careful using UV filters on this, my copy which I recently bought as I missed my first one after trading it for a 200mm f2.8 had a terrible filter attached to it which made everything blurry and low contrast. Once I took it off image quality was back to normal. I only use a filter when near sand and water.

Contrary to what others say, I think this lens is relatively small and light compared to close equivalents such as Sony FE, Canon and Nikon's 70-200mm f4 models, and I frequently go on long walks and sessions with it attached to my a900 with no problem.

Comparisons:

The plastic Minolta 75-300mm I had was reasonably sharp and when used well was acceptable, but the Beercan is on another level in every way. Constant f4 is a plus. Not extending like a bazooka when at 210mm is another plus. For my photography I don't need 300mm.

The 135mm f2.8 I tried was a nice light little lens and I may buy one again in time for travelling, but I prefer the zoom capability from my 70-210. Weirdly my 135 and others in online galleries had noticeable red and green fringing that none of my other lenses had. Kind of distracts from having all Minolta glass for their consistent looks when one keeps giving you red blobs.

I bought a 200mm f2.8 after realising I was mainly at 210mm using the Beercan and IQ wise it puts it to shame. My first Beercan was promptly sold. The 200mm's colours are spot on, its sharp wide open, bokeh is beautiful, excellent compression, all in a package the same size and weight. But I found I missed the zoom range when travelling for landscapes, and at £75 the Beercan isn't that far away in quality but is ultimately replaceable if it gets broken, lost or robbed, so I bought another one. Plus is isn't white, which is not ideal when walking around cities and in busy areas.

I'm keeping the Beercan for landscapes and indoors, the 200mm for portraiture.

On APSC the Beercan is essentially longer, which means you miss out on the 70-200mm feel, usefulness and appeal. However it can make a nice wildlife or outdoor sports lens.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 389
  • sharpness: 4.49
  • color: 4.79
  • build: 4.84
  • distortion: 4.56
  • flare control: 3.98
  • overall: 4.53
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