Most experienced photographers would share the opinion that zoom lenses are a compromise of quality for convenience. Optical designs can become very complex and bulky when building a lens that replaces a bag full of primes. Every decision that goes into its making must balance out many factors that ultimately determine size, capability, and quality. To expect prime-like quality from a zoom would be folly… or would it?
A few weeks ago I was researching Minolta’s lens history hoping to come across something of interest to add to my growing collection. I came across a number of forums with dialog about a Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5. First iterations of the Minolta lens came to market in 1972 and continued in various versions through to the 1980’s. One of the last versions made had the addition of macro capabilities; 1:4 reproduction ratio. While not near as close as a dedicated macro lens, it is useful. It is understood that Minolta achieved something so magical with this optical design that Leica wound up using it in their own-branded version call the Vario Elmar R 35-70mm.
Ebay had a few different versions of the Minolta. I bought the one I believed to be in the best condition with all the original caps and hood. I paid $149.99 it.
Here is a photo I shot of the one I bought. It looks brand new and functions as such.
It’s small and impressively built. You don’t see lenses made like this anymore. I’ve owned the new Zeiss ($$$$) lenses made for the E-mount Sony and they all felt cheaply made by comparison. Additionally, the Zeiss 24-70mm is bigger, heavier, and not as sharp.
Now having some time to use it, I’d like to share the results of my experience. Let me start out by saying, “In-freakin-credible!” Even with the aperture wide open, it’s sharp and gorgeous at all focal lengths. I’m not one of those guys who subjects a lens to test charts and 800% views to find its flaws. I look for the total image quality. Does it make images with excellent dimensionality, color, contrast, character, and non-distracting out-of-focus areas? If I’m happy with all those things, then I don’t care about what weaknesses might be found under lab scrutiny because they obviously didn’t distract me in the first place.
I think I’ve found my favorite walk around lens. The only reason I can see swapping this out for a prime would be if I needed less depth of field, more light from a larger aperture, or a focal length outside the range of this lens. I solidly recommend this lens to anyone with a full-frame Sony Mirrorless. I adapt the lens to my body using an inexpensive Neewer Lens MD/MC Lens Adapter I purchased from Amazon for about $12.
Soon, I’ll be posting the results from two new/old lenses I recently bought.