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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Essential Minolta Lenses for the A-Mount Shooter

If you relatively new to the A-Mount or, you are hunting around wondering what lenses to buy for your Minolta or Sony DSLR (etal), these are a list of 'must have' lenses for your kit. Know that none of the lenses listed here will break your wallet, and they all offer excellent optical performance in one or more important practical performance characteristics ( performance you'll appreciate when printing or looking at the images). Links are the best I could find for Amazon, just as a quick reference.

1. Minolta 70-210mm f/4 Beercan (from 100-300 dollars USD)
Minolta Maxxum AF 70-210mm F/4
2. Minolta 35-70mm f/4 Macro (from 30-100 dollars USD)
Minolta 35-70mm f/4
3. Minolta 50mm f/1.7 (from 40-100 dollars USD)
Minolta 50mm f/1.7 Lens
4. Minolta 100-300mm APO (or APO D model) f/4.5-5.6 (from 80-300 dollars USD)
Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO
5. *Minolta 24-50mm f/4 Macro (optional to the 35-70mm f/4 from 35-125 dollars USD)
Minolta 24mm-50mm f/4
6. Minolta 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 (from 25-90 dollars USD)
Konica Minolta 18-70mm lens
7. Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro (from 125-250 dollars USD)
Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

I doubt I'll get many objections to this list as being essentials, and probably more additions. The folks that have used them I'm sure can testify how well they perform- I'd listen to them, not those who haven't used them. This entire lens list covers from 27mm equivalent to 450mm equivalent and gives you a 1:1 macro option as well as 3 1:4 macro options (meaning versatility for close ups, unrivaled!).

This entire list will cost you well under $1,000 (USD) even for an excellent condition sample of each lens if you take your time looking for a good copy and price of each lens. The best thing, is that every single lens on this list covers full frame cameras as well, with the exception of the 18-70mm Minolta. They don't perform badly on full frame either! A very versatile and useful list of lenses.

If you follow ebay, I highly recommend watching J.D. Katz. He usually gets excellent equipment, he's always fair on prices and accurate on description, and has past ties to Minolta dealers which allows him to get rather rare items most sellers don't usually get. Everything I have bought from him has been excellent!

Bookmark this page and refer to it when in doubt. If you get a good condition lens, any of these on the list, the price for performance is simply off the charts. Good luck to you!


Notes on Lenses:

1. 70-210mm Beercan- Great bokeh, sharp stopped down very good wide open, good macro/magnification ability, versatile focal range, internal zooming. Will show CA aberrations.

2. 35-70mm f/4- Super small and light, sharp as a tack, good macro ability- very popular.

3. 50mm f/1.7- Affordable bright prime, decent bokeh, sharp at f/4, a must have. Sharp stopped down to f/4, not so sharp wide open/CA's too.

4. 100-300mm f/4.50-5.6 APO (D)- Top winner for Color, sharp stopped down, beautiful bokeh, good max magnification, small for a zoom telephoto, lightweight. Focusing can be a little slow at times, but when it locks it's sharp.

5. 24-50mm f/4- Sharp wide angle zoom, good macro, good wide open. Small and light, no real weaknesses.

6. 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6- Very decent kit lens optically, great magnification ability, versatile zoom range, lightweight, small, inexpensive. Soft wide open at wide angle and mid range, stop down to f5.6 minimum or f8 for respectable sharpness at all focal lengths.

7. 50mm f/2.8- Super sharp wide open, excellent bokeh, 1:1 magnification no real weaknesses. Awesome macro!


  1. Where did you link too on that? Took me to a different page. It was kind of fun though!

  2. Oops, I'm sorry, is it fixed now?


  3. Hi Carl, I have the 70-210 Beercan, also 2 other prime lenses you never mentioned...
    35mm f1.4 stunning lens, warm colours and great bokeh...low light wandering lens..
    128mm above !
    Both are good for portraits...but apart from the my 16-105mm Sony, I dont have the experience of other lenses, but figure if I cant get a good a shot with the above glass....nothing else will help...but jeez I'd love to try !
    Cheers Lindsay Gibb

  4. used to have 18-70
    jast can't understand how could you compare such awfull lens to other minolta diamonds!

  5. What about the 80-200mm APO?

  6. Astonished you didn't include the remarkable 28-135mm zoom. An optical marvel and a great handling lens (even though a bit heavy). Ok - 1.5m min focus and a bit flarely but just look at those perfectly rendered pixels. I use 5 copies of this lens professionally on full frame, APS C and video and, when used properly, unbeatable.

  7. "Astonished..."

    Don't be, it's an essential list. This is a list of lenses to get started with. Seven lenses that you can get in great shape for under $1,000.00 USD total for all. After this list, they are no longer essentials to me, just luxury.

    While the 28-135mm is an optically excellent lens its not near as popular as most on the list.

    "what about the 80-200mm APO?"

    What about it? Great lens, not an essential one. You can't even get one like new copy of an 80-200 APO for less than 1K.

    "Just can't understand how you could compare..."

    I'm not comparing. These are a list of essential lenses. That kit lens is very good for the ... price... and overall range/magnification etc.


  8. Carl, I agree with the above poster that the 18-70 does not run with the rest of the kennel here. Having shot through the gamut of Minolta glass, I have to concur with the previous poster that the secret handshake must be included in any list of essential lenses for our system. It produces images that are well worth working around its limitations, and its range cannot be beat on full frame. Other than those two, nice list: I'm to see you include the pony beer cans, and well as the full pint.

  9. Ok, we all three can agree to disagree then :). Like I said, the 28-135mm is a great lens, owned two of them, very great optically. But if you are going to put a kit together for under 1K, its hard to argue not including a wider angle lens in the mix- and the 18-70mm is the only one you can get that is wide and will still keep the price under 1K.

    It's not the best lens in the bag by far, but its a heck of a lot more decent that most make out- a real good bang for the buck.


  10. Not that it hasn't been mentioned before... But I can't imagine why you put the 18-70 lens in your list...

  11. Not that I haven't already explained it twice, or three times either.


  12. A lot of overlap, 24-50, 35-70, 50 1.7 & 2.8, 18-70, then 70-210 & 100-300.
    I use Maxxum 7 and A33 so my 24-105 D was useful on both, until I got a 28-80 at $25 for the A33. The 28-80 D lens is smaller with more telephoto than the 18-55 which other than wider angle I really didn't like (too short telephoto). I haven't seen the 18-70 & still is $100+ used.
    My 100-300 APO D works well on both, being much lighter and smaller than the 70-210 that I sold to get the 100-300. What surprised me was the 135 F2.8 being very useful (and small) for low light telephoto work, especially on A33. My 100 F2 is going up for sale soon, as the 135mm is lighter, built in hood and faster AF.
    The 28-135mm minimum 5 ft. focus distance always made me stop and say no when I tried it at a camera show or store.
    Interesting what others consider essential/useful vs. my own collection and having tried and never warmed up to.

  13. I would like to buy something longer for my A77. Can't decide between the Beercan and the 100-300 APO. I prefer the smaller lens but is the 100-300 as good optically as the 70-210?

  14. What is your opinion of the Minolta Maxxum AF24-85mm?

  15. How about the old Minolta 11-18 to cover wideangle and get rid of that horrible 18-70

  16. I'd to add minolta 28-135 f4-4.5 to the list. It does not break your wallet neither, and it performs outstandingly on full frame cameras. It is my primary daylight zoom lens for A99.