Saturday, May 5, 2012

Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review

Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review
May 2012, Carl Garrard
Konica Minolta may no longer be in the camera business officially (at least for the time being) but that doesn't mean they aren't in many of the hearts and minds of the photographers who still use their equipment. With 17 million lenses available still on the used market (the number at least in 2006 when they handed Sony the business), that means that a great deal of lenses not only still exist, but that there is quite a range to choose from. And out of that range stand out a few classic Minolta lenses that are wildly popular in the "KM" A-Mount community. One such lens is the Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO, which has seen two different versions with the "D" version being one of Konica Minolta's last and the subject of this review.

Konica Minolta 100-300mm Used Prices

Konica Minolta described the 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 as such : 

"This lightweight and compact 3X telephoto zoom lens has a circular aperture and two AD (Anomalous-Dispersion) glass elements to correct chromatic aberrations. It delivers defocusing effects and photographic results that feature remarkable high contrast and high resolution. The advanced focus ring has been widened and will not rotate while in AF. The lens is equipped with a focus-hold button and focus-range limiter for reduced focusing time and improved operation."

The question is, does the "APOD" live up to its popularity and KM's marketing? Let's just put it this way- out of the hundreds of lenses I've used from all manufactures on film and digital SLR cameras, no one lens impressed me with color and contrast more right away than the 100-300mm APO D. It took all of fifteen minutes of shooting and reviewing to know that I had my hands on something special. But lets not leave things there.

Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO D vs Sony 70-300mm G Prices

Also in all of the reviews I've done, I typically take much more time to test and evaluate a lens or camera prior to publishing a review. Yet this lens by far holds the record for shortest time used vs. the review going to publication. It won me over so fast I just had to share my thoughts with readers ASAP. This may not be a long review, but sometimes short and sweet is just the way it needs to be. With the going used prices ranging from $200-600 USD, the APOD is still considered affordable by most standards.  So with that said lets get on with it. The images for this review were made with the Maxxum 7D DSLR.

Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review:  Introduction and First Impressions

  • Specifications I Like: Nine blade curved aperture, 1:4 magnification ratio (on full frame), 450 grams (approx), focus hold button, weight and size, build quality, clutched large focusing ring (does not spin during auto focusing), and smooth zoom ring with no gravity creep. It is full frame coverage, compatible with every DSLR/SLT made in the A-Mount which includes Minolta film bodies too, and shows no vignetting for APS-C sized sensors- all which are big time bonuses to the A-mount shooter. *Since I'm shooting with my Maxxum 9 film camera more than ever, this is THE perfect all purpose telephoto for that camera. The bokeh,which I'll mention later, should look even better on full frame. I will publish results on vignetting etc.for full frame after I get my film digitized.
  •  Specifications That Challenge: Front lens element will rotate during autofocus, louder and slightly slower focusing than SSM (depending on what body you attach- some of the newest DSLR/SLT bodies will focus as fast as SSM). The minimum focus distance is quite long so you'll need to be some 3-4 feet away from your subject.
Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO D vs Sony 70-300mm G Prices

    Zoom Range and Macro Area- Here are two shots showing the range of zoom which equates to 150-450mm on an APS-C sized sensor. These shots were made nearly 100 yards away yet, look at the detail! Well suited for sports shooting in the stands (small and discreet, easy to get in).

    100mm (150mm equivalent)
    300mm f/8 even more detail!
    Maximum Magnification (plenty for most macro)

    Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review: Size, Handling, and Features

    The size of the Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens is very welcome. It's not too short or stubby to sacrifice handling, and much smaller than other lenses with this zoom range that cover full frame sized sensors. It's half the size and weight of the legendary 70-300mm Beercan, for example. Here are some size comparison images of the APOD.

    Compared to Beercan 70-210mm, Lens Retracted, no/hood

    Compared w/hood

    Compared w/hood fully extended
    Compared to dainty the Classic Minolta 50mm f/1.7

    Handling wise this lens makes a perfect match to a KM 7D or larger than average DSLR or SLR camera. Even though it's not an internal zoom lens, extending the APOD to 300mm does not shift balance to the front of the lens- this is very important. The inner tube and front element/hood are light enough not to affect handling and when shooting moving subjects handling is vitally important.

    Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO D vs Sony 70-300mm G Prices

    I believe the APOD  was made for a larger body because it balances so well on them. It's perfectly fine on smaller/mediums sized cameras too, but seems most at home on the larger ones. Here are some images of size and how well balanced it looks on the Maxxum 9.

    APOD on the Minolta Maxxum 9

    APOD on Maxxum 9 next to KM 7D and KM 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

    Holding the APOD in the left hand is very comfortable, it has nice soft rounded edges with excellent rubber on the focus and zoom rings- both of which are spacious and easy to operate. This lens is a joy to use in every aspect, it has no weakness worth mentioning in this regard. That doesn't happen often.

    Features wise the APOD isn't going to thrill you but it's got good stuff where it counts. Here is a photo montage of the APOD's features w/captions:

    Rear metal Mount and 8 Pin Arrangement
    Common 55mm Front Element w/bayonet hood Mount
    Enclosed focus distance scale and large soft front/rear focus and zoom ring

    Focus hold switch clearly on the left hand side of the body (can be configured)
    Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO D vs Sony 70-300mm G Prices

    Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review: Build Quality

    Overall the APOD is built rather fine. The exterior finish is a smooth black satin finish that matches the back panel of the KM 7D DSLR. The lens exhibits no zoom creep under gravity, very little wobble of the lens tube fully extended, and the mount is metal. Zoom and focus rings operate tightly but smoothly, and precise manual focusing is a pleasure. The front element housing is plastic, and so is the lens hood (a bit thinner than makes me comfortable on both counts). So be gentle with the front.

    Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review: Image Quality

    Not only is the build quality extremely excellent on this lens, the weight is minimal, the size compact but the ace in the hole of this lens is the color and contrast. I've not been so blown away by the clarity and color of a lens like this since I reviewed Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Absolutely impressive and inspiring. I'll simply want to use a telephoto lens much more often as a result. Note that contrast and sharpness both increase up to f/8/9 which seems to be the sweet spot of this lens, but it's not bad at f/5.6 either.

    f/5.6 contrast and color are excellent
    Ridiculous contrast and accurate color, simply ridiculous
    300mm about 20 yards away f/8 excellent color (slightly underexposed, my bad)
    Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, f/8 300mm (distance from subject about 15 yards)

    Bokeh too, is absolutely acceptable. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the king of all Bokeh , the 135mm STF, I'd give the APOD a very solid and impressive 8.5 rating (with the beercan getting the same or slightly lower overall rating- for comparison).

    Buttery smooth bokeh, the 9 blade curved aperture helps too!
    Bokeh at 200mm focal setting f/8. Nice, right?

    The sharpness too is quite excellent however, At f/5.6 or wide open at f/4.5 the APO D 100-300mm lens is already quite good, stop it down to f/8 and you'll see the kind of magic that only the highest priced lenses can give. The contrast is on par with Zeiss, the color on par with the best of the G lenses- all at a fraction of the price.

    Moon 300mm f/5.6
    Moon 300mm f/8
    Moon 300mm f/11

    CA's (color fringing), flare etc, are superbly controlled, and that includes internal reflections as well. This lens is definitely at home on film or digital cameras- very modern optics that perform quite well! This is one of those lenses you'll spend a lot less time correcting color, or distortions in post. That saves you a lot of time and to me is invaluable. The lens comes with great optics (with two APO elements to combat CA's), it doesn't need in camera digital manipulation or post process manipulation to make images look great- undeniably excellent.

    Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO D vs Sony 70-300mm G Prices

    Konica Minolta 100-300mm APO D f4.5-5.6 Lens Review:   Final Conclusion
    Konica Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO D vs Sony 70-300mm G Prices

    This lens is the telephoto bargain of the A-Mount, hands down. Sony would definitely prefer this lens not be on the market but I have to tell you that Sony should simply reintroduce this lens as a more bargain price than the 70-300mm G SSM. I do think that for $499.00 new, this lens would sell zillions of copies, and blow away the new Tamron 70-300mm. Price, weight, color, contrast, size, this lens has them all beat. Sharpness is similar to the 70-300mm Sony and bests the current Tamron model.

    This is the best value in a lens that I've come across yet, it definitely takes the king title. This is also a lens that I will never part with. Although it doesn't see its optimum sharpness till about f/8 or f/9 it's quite lovely at f/5.6 and it's a great moon shooter as well (especially on higher resolution bodies). It seems to be even sharper at 300mm than at 100, but the range in sharpness isn't that great. 

     APOD's aren't abundant and of course there are sample variations, but from what I've seen on my copy, the performance of this lens is actually better in some ways (and not in good in others) than Sony's 70-300mm G lens that will cost you at least double for the condition I bought mine in. Both have mechanical focus hold buttons, but the G gives you SSM focusing. I'll lose that no problem for better optical performance in some regards, and the lower price. Speed wise they are very similar, sharpness very similar.

    I don't know why I haven't searched out this lens before, although I knew quite well of its existence. I guess I was a bit hesitant to try it considering I wasn't all that impressed with its cousin, the 100-400mm APO.

    The question is, is this lens for you. If so, my advice is don't chimp, get the best looking one you can in the best condition possible. Just watch out for robbers and the occasional sub par sample. A good copy should cost from 350-500.00 and is worth every penny. I'm simply numbed from the output for the price. Not only did I get very lucky to find this lens, and lucky to find it for the price I paid, but now that I've reviewed what it can do I'm simply at a loss of words. After testing this lens I'd gladly pay 400-600 dollars for it.

    And here I thought my new like new condition beercan was great. It is, yet the APO simply blows it away in terms of lack of nearly any CA's (color fringing distortion), the increase in contrast, and holds its own when compared to the beercans color rendition, macro capabilities, and bokeh. The coatings on this lens  and the APO elements produce some of the finest image quality I've seen from any DSLR lens in quite some time. My advice is to scoop up an APO D 100-300mm before they are gone. Remember to be sure and get the D model as the standard APO is a different model and you gain some features such as ADI and larger front focusing ring.

    If you are holding out on the high priced 70-300 G SSM Sony, take a look at this lens instead.

    As usual be safe, and happy shooting.

    -Carl Garrard

    Photographic-Central Rating: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


    1. Hello Carl,
      Just wonder, how will I know its APO D and not just APO? And is there any significant difference between those two? I remember that non D cant use HSS, right?

      Thank you for your review, its nice someone uses his time to write review for others.

    2. Corwin, if it has 8 pins, it's a D, if it has 5 it's not a D.

      1. Does that apply to all Minolta alpha mounts...that 8 pin equals apo? or what does it mean.

    3. Correct. Also the lens hood will say D on it as well. The front focus ring has a clutch and is larger than the non APO version too. My understanding of the two lenses is that optically there isn't much difference.


    4. There are actually two non-D version of this lens. Both have the same optical design as the D version. Also, none of them (including the D version) are Konica-Minolta lenses. They were all made by Minolta.

    5. I agree it's a very good lens, but I don't understand this statement: "Remember to be sure and get the D model as the standard APO is a different model and you gain some features such as ADI and larger front focusing ring." I don't think too many people are going to use flash with this lens or manual focus it so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a non-D version.

    6. If the price is the same, why not grab the D instead? At least, that was my thinking behind that comment :).


    7. I have the 100-400 too which is equally good and very nearly matches the Sony 70 - 400 G

    8. Hi Birdie,

      I might then have to seek out a good copy, the first one I used wasn't as impressive as the 100-300mm.


    9. B&H has a good APO D for sale, fyi:

      9 condition too

    10. The 100-300 APO D and the 100-400 APO were not made by Minolta. They were made by Tokina. You can research that on David Kilpatrick's website as he has the full details. My 100-400 APO was a bit better and sharper than my 100-300 APO D, but that's the one I used for my compact, lightweight hiking lens and it did a good job. The 100-400 is better all-round if you don't have to haul it long distances. I recently sold the 100-300 APO D because I'm slowly transitioning over to the NEX system and it was hard to part with, but it will be a while before I can let the 100-400 go.

    11. I doubt that. Looks nothing like it at all. Plastic mount, dual tubes.... way off.

    12. I have the non-D version. I used it a few years ago for airshow photos. It worked pretty well for that purpose, where you can't get enough reach. I find that the contrast seems a bit low, but it captures a ton of detail, and I can always punch it up in post-processing. I love its compact nature, and much prefer this over a big f2.8 monster, even though in some cases a faster lens would make more sense (wildlife, in more dimly lit woods). For most outdoor situations, there is enough light to make use of it.


    13. Carl, That's not the same lens. Tokina had an exclusive deal with Minolta for the 100-300 APO D and 100-400 APO just the same way CZ16-80 was made exclusively for Sony. Here's a link to one of Kilpatrick's statements -

      He goes into more detail in other posts.

    14. David Kilpatrick - "Minolta/Sony used Tokina for a whole bunch of lenses over the past years, the 28-80mm kit lens was Tokina, the 100-300mm APO D and the 100-4000 APO were both Tokina designs sold to Minolta on an exclusive deal."

    15. I have just tried this for the first time and I had to come online to say that I am extremely impressed. The IQ is awesome. I am used to using primes and the IQ is as close to them as I ever thought that I would get with a zoom lens.
      The sharpness, bokeh and colour accuracy are phenomenol. The minor points are that it is slow to focus indoors and I would have liked to have a shorter minimum focusing distance.
      Also the zoom action on my copy is a little stiff.

      Thanks Carl for the heads up.

    16. Hi Carl, I already own a Sony 70-300 G SSM. It is a GREAT lens IMHO. Do you think the Minolta 100-300 APO-D is worthy of selling my Sony and replacing with the Minolta? I am all about image quality...SSM is not that important in this focal range for me.

    17. The results I had with my copy would warrant that if SSM isn't important to you. Remember, 100mm wide starting vs 70, may matter, may not.

      I found the 70-300mm G to be a bit warmer on color than the APO D, only a bit. Both have great color and contrast though.


    18. Thanks Carl!! Yeah, the 70 vs 100 isn't that important either!

    19. Hi Carl

      Thanks for the review

      Confused by the following quote:

      "Remember to be sure and get the D model as the standard APO is a different model and you gain some features such as ADI and larger front focusing ring"

      I thought they were more or less the same apart from the features you mention - at least that they had the same optical formula? I a guess wider focus ring is nice (though the one on the non-D is fine) but is ADI on a tele-zoom useful?

      I have a 100-300 APO which I sometimes use on my A900. It's quite sharp and I like the build-quality (seems solid for a plastic lens) but contrast is slightly lacking and I'm not totally in love with mine. I prefer the quality of image I get from my 80-200/2.8, but then I guess there is a 'slight' difference in price and size/weight...

      I find that the 100-300 APO works well on the A900 as a two lens kit with the 24-105 - my copy of which is a much better lens than many people would have you believe (as long as you stop it down a bit)

    20. Could you explain the usage of "focus-hold button and focus-range limiter". I plan to buy this lens but can't find the manual. I would like to know how to test these features before I buy this used lens. From what I could find on-line, this lens only has focus-hold and not limiter. Thank you very much.

    21. The difference between APO and APO D:
      APO has 9 blades
      APO D has 9 blades circular as well as 100-400APO (no need to write what outcome the picture when the blades circular :-))
      APO and 100-400 APO D created by TOKINA

    22. The difference between APO and APO D:
      APO has 9 blades
      APO D has 9 blades circular as well as 100-400APO (no need to write what outcome the picture when the blades circular :-))
      APO and 100-400 APO D created by TOKINA

    23. I have the 100-300 APO and its still my favorite walk around zoom even today… I use mine manually on an A7...

    24. I have the minolta 100-300 APO and the 70-300 Sony APO G. They are both fine lenses but the G is better in every respect. Sharper, No C.A., and much faster, accurate focusing.

    25. Hi Carl, hope all is well!
      I recently dumped enough other geat to pickup an A7Rii body. For now I've brought in the ea4 adapter and the D-team (24-105D and 100-300D Apo). Bummer that the newest AF system can't be used but i think this will do for now. Also grabbed my old fave, the v.2 70-210 f/3.5-4.5 for a song..