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

reviewer#35794 date: Mar-15-2017
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:100-300 APO: This 70-210 lens gives a more glowy look at times but probably resolves as much detail even at most of those times. There may well be settings at which this lens resolves more. Both lenses are very good, but not perfect. I'd rather carry the 100-300 and its range is even more useful, but this lens has a very usable F4 and a shorter close focus distance at 1.1M (compared with 1.5 for the 100-300). A big plus for JPG shooters is the relative lack of colour fringes with the 100-300 APO. Both have a "look" or way or rendering the image that appeals to me, but in this respect I give the slight advantage to this lens.

AF with the 100-300 is slightly faster and feels less effortful, but manual focus is much easier with this lens, due to the lower gearing...this is entirely typical when comparing first and later-generation Minolta AF lenses.

This is much better with the Teleplus/Kenko teleconverter than the 100-300 APO in every way apart from...you guessed it...those colour fringes!

This lens also works better with diopter close-up lenses. I have had excellent results shooting butterflies with a +2 screwed to the front of this lens.

I only tried two examples of the 70-210 3.4-4.5 (the lens that replaced this in 1988). It's not rubbish, but the colour fringing problem is actually more of a problem with the newer lens than with my beercan. I definitely prefer the results from this beercan lens. Not everyone agrees, but that's my view. The first 3.5-4.5 I tried also had an annoying amount of zoom creep. There is a fair amount of sample variation among all these lenses, particularly after nearly 30 years of use and sometimes abuse.
price paid:Something like 40GBP
positive:Very even optical performance, particularly considering it's a zoom whose optical design dates back to the early 80's.

For practical purposes, central sharpness wide open is definitely adequate wide open at all focal lengths. The long end is a little weaker than the rest, particularly at infinity, but still impresses.

Works quite well on Teleplus 7 element 2x teleconverter, and WILL autofocus with it in bright light, though sometimes it will hunt. Both purple and green fringing are exaggerated, but quite decent results are possible even wide open with the combination.

Easier to focus in manual focus compared with the post-1988 zooms.
negative:The purple fringing, which doesn't really improve massively when you stop it down. But it is not very strong, nor at all obvious in most situations. Yes, you can get rid of it in software, but if your workflow doesn't include too much of that stuff, or, like me, you shoot in JPG, you'd better not mind some purple highlights in bright light, and not be totally averse to green against bright light(yes, it is sometimes possible to induce green CA as well as purple)!

Edges and corners are not always quite as good as you'd ideally hope for. They're absolutely never dreadful, but they don't always sing.

Carrying the thing.

Purple aperture reflections and severe veiling glare into the sun. 2.5 might be the right score for flare.

Linear distortion is fairly mild and won't normally be noticeable, but it is there at both ends of the range. The amount of it at 70mm is a slight disappointment. 3.5 would be the right score for this.

The weight of the front cell gives more work to the camera's AF motor than most alternatives, and like almost all 1985-88 Minolta AF zooms, the focus is a little rattly-sounding in AF.
comment:My first thought was of a sharpness score of 4, but that seemed a little ungenerous given the decent sharpness wide open. Remember that this lens is truly usable at F4!

A very good lens with definite plusses, but you may have to work around its flaws a bit. Well worth owning in my view, based on my example. I personally like it a lot, yet I freely accept that they were probably somewhat over-hyped for a while. That doesn't mean they aren't without unique strengths, or that they cannot be great buys.

If faced with the choice of this or a 100-300 APO for a similar price, that lens might be preferable overall for most people. This one is way better than the non-APO, though, and in any case has an appeal of its own. I wouldn't always want to carry this, so I've picked up a 3.5-4.5, but in performance terms I much prefer this beercan to its replacement.

My lens has a very light and easy to turn zoom ring which I suspect denotes some mechanical wear, but the non-extending design seems to mean there is no problem with zoom creep. And it is a great performer. Absolutely a keeper!

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 397
  • sharpness: 4.49
  • color: 4.78
  • build: 4.84
  • distortion: 4.56
  • flare control: 3.98
  • overall: 4.53
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