Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Minolta AF 28mm F/2 Vintage Lens Review

John Riley has been combining the old with the new, putting the Minolta AF 28mm F/2 vintage lens to the test on the 42MP Sony A7R III mirrorless camera.

| Minolta AF 28mm f/2.8 in Vintage Lenses

Minolta AF 28mm F/2 Vintage Lens Review: There are plenty of Minolta, Konica Minolta and Sony A mount lenses around, all designed for use with the SLRs or DSLRs of the period. Obviously, they can be put to normal use on a suitable DSLR, but with the demise of the Sony A mount cameras, the purpose of this vintage review is to take a Minolta AF 28mm f/2 lens in an A mount and see how it handles and performs using a mirrorless camera, in this case, the 42MP Sony A7R III. This means using an adapter and the choice then becomes either a simple manual adapter or the electronic Sony adapter, the LA-EA5 being the latest version. Many Sony A mount lenses will retain AF using this adapter, but the Minolta/Maxxum range of lenses will not, although all the other electronic functions such as aperture control, exposure and EXIF data are intact. This helps with the handling of the lens, but we will have to flex our manual focus skills - let's see how it all works out.



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Minolta AF 28mm F/2 Handling and Features

Minolta AF 28mm F/2 Vintage Lens Review:


The lens in question is a Minolta AF 28mm f/2 Type 1, manufactured between 1986 and 1999. This is identified by the red AF inscription, the IR focusing marks and the style of the focusing grip on the lens barrel. The second version of the lens continued until 2006. It is a lens designed for film SLRs and as such may not perform as well at the edges as more recent designs. Lenses for digital cameras aim for a telecentric design, where the light rays exiting the lens are as parallel as possible, whereas older lenses, especially wide-angle ones, deliver peripheral light rays at an oblique angle, causing higher levels of CA at the edges. However, the lens may still be of interest as it is obviously well made and looks to be of high quality, certainly far too good to simply discard.

The first hurdle is to obtain an adapter, and simple manual ones are readily available from Amazon and other sources. However, these lose the EXIF data and the ability to control the aperture from the camera and are also, of course, manual focus only. The Sony LA-EA5 adapter used in this review is another matter altogether and many later Sony A mount lenses will retain all functions, even AF. The Minolta lens here will retain all functions apart from AF, so we will have to use manual focus, but with an f/2 optic with its bright image, this might not be so onerous. This turns out be exactly right and the image does snap in and out of the focus point very nicely.


Minolta AF 28mm F/2 Vintage Lens Review:

Starting our tour of the lens there is a bayonet fit petal lens hood that clips firmly into place, although not with the slickness of more modern lenses. Within the bayonet mount is a conventional 55mm filter thread. The lens weighs in at a modest 285g and measures just 66.5mm in diameter x 49.5mm long. Sony adapter LA-EA5 will add 88g to that, plus about 31.7mm in length. The diameter of the adapter is 66.0mm. The overall combination of lens plus adapter still balances well with the camera body.

The focusing ring is very thin and lies right at the front of the lens, in common with many 1980s AF lens designs. It is not too loose in its action though and does the job perfectly well. There is a clear transparent window over the distance scales, clearly labelled in feet (yellow) and metres (white). Engraved on the lens barrel is a depth-of-field scale that also shows the infrared focusing mark. Lenses generally focus IR light at a different point to visible light, so first, we focus normally and then turn the focusing ring to bring the IR index mark to the indicated distance. Focusing is down to 31cm, or 12 inches, for a maximum magnification of 1:7.7, or 0.13x. This is pretty much as expected and is close enough to be useful in creating dramatic foreground interest.

Minolta AF 28mm F/2 Vintage Lens Review:

There are no further controls on the lens itself, so no aperture ring, for example. This means that the adapter used must have some sort of means of adjusting the aperture. This can mean a manual adapter with a click-stopped ring but no actual markings, in which case we can count down the clicks to get an approximate aperture value. Alternatively, the Sony LA-EA5 is fully operational and the camera will adjust the aperture value in the usual way.

Optical construction is 9 elements in 9 groups, with no special elements, as we would expect from a 1980s lens. The diaphragm comprises 7 blades, but in any event, the bokeh is pleasant. There is no weather resistance, again as we would expect. The lens is multi-coated.

There are quite a few cameras these days that offer 28mm-equivalent lenses as standard lenses, and in fact it is a very good compromise. Our tastes have changed and wider lenses are now accepted as the norm and travelling with just this lens proves to be quite a pleasure in its simplicity. For anyone who feels they are getting bogged down with too many choices and too many lenses, along with the accompanying weight and bulk, it could be useful to try the one lens approach. Not every photo opportunity will be possible, but the 28mm does prove to be quite versatile. Handling is hazard free, with only the prospect of manual focus needing our attention. As fast-action sports pictures are unlikely to be the order of the day, this is not really much of a problem.


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NeilT3 Avatar
20 May 2023 10:49AM
There seems to be some confusion with lens and adapter compatibility by the author .
The Sony LA-EA5 behaves the same as an LA-EA3 on older E mount cameras in the AF only functions with lenses with a motor in them . These being Minolta SSM and Sony SSM and SAM lenses .
Minolta and Sony lenses with a screw driven AF system would need the earlier SLT type adapter , the LA-EA4 .
Then full functionality including AF will work on the a7Riii .

The only lenses than cannot be used on E mount cameras are a few Power Zoom and Zoom Xi lenses ( no loss there !) Or the dedicated Minolta and Sony teleconverters .*

On later cameras such as a7Riv, a6600 and a1 ( and possibly some other more recent models ) the LA-EA5 is fully functional with SSM,SAM and screw driven lenses .
I have this lens along with most of the early Minolta AF lenses and with the LA-EA5 they work great on my a7Riv and a6600 as well as cameras such as my a99ii .
With the later cameras and the LA-EA5 I'm getting great results with this lens and lenses such as the Minolta 200mm G f/2.8 , the 300mm f/2.8 G and 400mm f/4.5 G lenses , all screw driven , but AF is as good as on A mount bodies when used with the LA-EA5 on the Sony a7Riv.

Anyone looking at buying an A to E adapter for their camera need to check compatibility first on Sony's website.
The LA-EA4 works on all E mount cameras up until the bodies I mention , but the AF unit isn't the best in it .
The LA-EA5 works on all bodies but with the restrictions I mention .

New bodies released by Sony have dropped compatibility with the LA-EA4, so it no longer works , therefore you would need the LA-EA5 if you planned an upgrade if bodies .

*A third party ( Monster Adapter) do a converter chip to upgrade the LA-EA4 into the LA-EA4r where the mirror is removed to use the cameras on sensor AF and also supports teleconverters .
The zoom Xi lenses are still not supported , possibly due to hardware issues of power supply .

Hope this helps if anyone's looking at getting screw driven Sony or Minolta lenses to use with their E mount cameras .
johnriley1uk Avatar
20 May 2023 2:25PM
Many thanks for the info, always appreciated.

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