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Minolta 100mm f/2.8
Full-frame MAXXUM AF Macro (1986-)
For Minolta and Sony Alpha
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Minolta Maxxum AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Minolta Maxxum 100mm f/2.8 Macro (metal 55mm filter thread, 18.1 oz./513 g, about $400 used if you know How to Win at eBay). My biggest source of support is when you use this link directly to them at eBay, or use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Please always use these links when getting any of your gear so I can continue to share what I know for free — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. Thank you for your support! Ken.

Sample Image Files

before ryan's haircut

Before Ryan's haircut, 11 June 2013. (Sony A99, Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro, f/2.8 at 1/200 at Auto ISO 1,250, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) Bigger or Full-resolution SMALL JPG.

 

before ryan's haircut

Crop from above - at f/2.8!

 

Flowers

Not really macro, 13 June 2013. (Sony A99, Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro, f/22 at 1/50 at Auto ISO 100, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) Bigger or Full-resolution MEDIUM JPG.

 

June 2013   Minolta   Sony   Pentax   Nikon   Canon   All Reviews

Why fixed lenses take better pictures.

 

Sony 100mm f/2.8 (same optics, sold 2006-today)

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 VR (2006-today)

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 AI-S (1983-today)

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 AF-D (1990-2007)

Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L (2009-today)

Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM (1990-today)

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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This Minolta Maxxum AF 100mm f/2.8 is a macro lens for all Minolta MAXXUM and Sony Alpha cameras. It is insanely sharp and has the lowest distortion I've ever measured in a macro lens: zero at every distance!

Used on today's Sony A99 it has image stabilization and ultra-fast autofocus. It does the same thing as Sony's 100mm f/2.8 Macro for less than half the price.

The Minolta 100/2.8 is the world's first 100mm autofocus macro lens, introduced a year after the world's first AF SLR, the Minolta MAXXUM 7000. This is also the world's first 100mm lens that can focus directly to life-size (1:1) without adapters. It took Canon and Nikon each four years to catch up, in 1990!

The all-metal Minolta 100mm f/2.8 works perfectly on today's Sony A99, except that the AF-D Depth Map AF (whatever that is) and the automatic lens corrections don't work. So what, the images look fantastic and everything else works, like face recognition and all the focus modes including Direct Manual Focus (DMF) override, so all is well.

It's all solid alloy and much better made than Nikon's similar 105mm f/2.8 AF Micro. which didn't come out until 1990. This Minolta 100 2.8 Macro has an all-metal exterior, metal mount, metal focus ring, metal filter threads, and an all-metal barrel. The only plastic is the focus window, the red mounting dot and the rubber grip.

This is a full-frame lens for 35mm film and full-frame digital, and will be reviewed thusly. Feel free to use this on cropped-frame cameras, too, on which it will give even closer apparent results.

 

Palms

La Bimbosa, 13 June 2013. (Sony A99, Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro, f/14 at 1/80 at Auto ISO 100, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) Bigger or Full-resolution MEDIUM JPG.

 

History

 

1986-1993

This original version seen here was the world's first. It has a focus limiter.

 

1993-2000

Minolta downgraded the focus ring to rubber and cheapened the distance scale to show both feet and meters in white, not yellow for feet and white for meters as it should be.

Minolta also added a handy focus-lock button on the barrel.

It has exactly the same optics as the 1986 version, and the same product number: 25811.

Casual amateurs gave this a street name of "RS," or "restyled."

 

2000-2006

Minolta enlarged the focus ring and added improved electronic distance coupling for better flash exposure — but at macro distances, this distance coupling is often a bad thing since it's sending the camera the distance to the film, which is usually different from the distance to the flash.

It retains the same focus limiter and focus lock switches of the previous 1992-2000 version, and has exactly the same optics of the 1986 version.

Minolta added a "D," for distance, to this versions marketing name.

 

2006-today

Sony bought Minolta and renamed the lenses to "Sony." The Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro is the current version.

Today's version has exactly the same optics as the 1986 version, as well as the two focus range and lock switches, in an oddly shorter package.

 

Minolta Maxxum AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Minolta Maxxum 100mm f/2.8 Macro at 1:1. bigger.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

 

Name        top

Minolta calls this the MAXXUM AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro (32).

MAXXUM is Minolta's autofocus brand, also called Dynax outside the US.

The (32) is the smallest f/stop.

 

Optics        top

8 elements in 8 groups.

"Double Floating System," with three different groups of elements moving around on cams to provide optimum performance at every magnification from infinity to 1:1.

Multicoated mostly in green and light magenta.

 

Diaphragm        top

Front, Minolta MAXXUM AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro at f/32. bigger.

9 straight blades.

Stops down to f/32.

Non-compensating system. The 100/2.8 loses 2 stops of light at 1:1, and the camera still tells us that this is an f/2.8 Macro lens — even though it's really only an f/5 lens at 1:1.

 

Coverage        top

35mm film, full-frame and smaller format digital.

 

Focal Length        top

100mm.

When used on an APS-C style camera, it sees an angle of view similar to what a 160mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 35mm camera.

 

Angle of View         top

24.4º on full-frame.

 

Close Focus        top

1.155 feet (0.352 meters or 352mm or 13.68 inches) from the image plane.

 

Working Distance        top

6.3 inches (160mm) from the front of the lens at 1:1.

This is the reason for this lens instead of the 50/2.8 macro: the 50mm macro has only two inches (50mm) in front of the lens at 1:1!

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:1 (1.0 x life size).

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top

Yes.

This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.

 

Focus Scale        top

Yes.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale        top

Yes, but abbreviated.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index        top

Yes.

 

Aperture Ring        top

No.

 

Filter Thread        top

55mm.

Solid alloy.

Does not rotate, but moves in and out as focused.

 

Size        top

2.72" (69mm) diameter by 3.86" ~ 5.75" (98 ~ 146 mm) extension from flange.

It gets longer as focused more closely.

 

Weight        top

18.100 oz. (513.1 g), actual measured.

Minolta specifies 20.5 oz. (520g).

 

Hood        top

Bayonet.

 

Caps        top

55mm snap-in front cap and standard MAXXUM rear cap.

 

Quality         top

Made in Japan.

 

Minolta Product Number        top

25811.

 

Price, USA        top

About $200 used if you know How to Win at eBay.

People pay from $130 to $290 for them in 2013.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh    Distortion    Ergonomics

Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing   Ghosts

Hood    Lateral Color Fringes    Macro    Mechanics

Sharpness   Spherochromatism  Sunstars   Survivability

 

Overall       performance     top

The Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro works very well, especially on a Sony A99, with ultra-fast autofocus and extreme sharpness as we expect from a 100mm macro lens.

It's as sharp and distortion-free as Nikon's 105mm AF and 105mm VR, and Canon's 100mm Macro USM and 100mm Macro L IS, and makes better sunstars than any of them.

 

Autofocus       performance     top

 

AF Speed

AF speed is ultra fast on a 2013 Sony A99, and fast on a 1985 Minolta MAXXUM 7000.

One full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw brings it from infinity down to 8 feet.

The 100 macro has to cover a lot of ground with its huge focus range, and it does so quickly. On an A99 it will rack itself all the way from one stop to the other without much waiting, although it can take a moment on the MAXXUM 7000.

 

AF Accuracy

On the Sony A99, focus is always dead-nuts on at f/2.8; I don't need any AF fine-tuning.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is fast; a 190º turn of the ring brings you from infinity to 1:1.

It's fast enough for macro use, and reasonably precise for general use with a focus magnifier.

 

Focus Limiter

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Focus Limiter Switch, Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro. enlarge.

When flipped to "LIMIT," the focus limiter prevents the lens from focusing through the range of 1.75 to 2 feet (0.55 to 0.6 meters or 1:3.5 to 1:4 repro ratio).

Depending on where the lens is focused. when you flip the LIMIT switch, you are restricted to either the closer range (1 to 1.75 feet) or the farther range (2 feet to infinity).

If you just happen to be in the dead zone, you won't be able to engage the limiter.

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is neutral, however sometimes one will get some faint false resolution if backgrounds are patterned.

 

Distortion       performance     top

The Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro has no visible or measurable distortion. This is the first lens I've measured for which I can't measure any distortion at any distance! This means that the correction factor in Photoshop's lens distortion filter has got to be lower than ± 0.1, which is about the limit of what I can measure.

Every other 100mm macro lens I've measured from Nikon or Canon, as well as Minolta's own 50mm f/2.8 macro, has some distortion somewhere — but not this 100mmMinolta!

On full-frame
± 0.0
10' (3m)
± 0.0
1:10 (1.2m)
± 0.0
1:5 (0.7m)
± 0.0
1:2 (0.42m)
± 0.0
1:1 (0.35m)
± 0.0

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Ergonomics (handling and ease-of-use)       performance     top

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro.

Ergonomics are easy; the whole lens is a big rubberized metal grip for shooting, mounting and unmounting.

Swapping between auto and manual focus requires moving a switch on the camera, or maybe using the Sony A99's DMF mode, any of which can be a big pain depending on your camera.

There is a focus limiter which is flipped to engage.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on FX and 35mm is barely visible at f/2.8 at infinity, and gone at smaller apertures or closer distances.

The Shading Correction in the Sony A99 probably doesn't recognize this lens; I leave it OFF.

I've exaggerated the falloff by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.

 

Minolta AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff on full frame and 35mm, no correction:

Repro Ratio
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
1:5
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
1:2
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
1:1
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff
Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro falloff

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting on full-frame with any normal filter, or even with multiple stacked filters.

You can stack even more filters at closer distances or on smaller-format cameras.

The filter ring doesn't rotate, but does move forward as focused more closely.

 

Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image of a fixed subject continuously gets larger as the lens is focused from infinity to 1:1.

 

Ghosts       performance     top

Ghosts are no problem, even on the complex Sony A99 which has all sorts of internal mirrors in the optical shooting shooting path.

If you're crazy enough to rig a test like this and look directly into the disk of the noonday sun (which was blinding in person) and put something dark to "catch" the ghosts, you will get a blob opposite the sun:

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro ghosts

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro at f/8.

I'm unsure if the veiling flare seen here is from the lens, or from the fixed mirror in the optical path of the Sony A99 on which I shot this.

 

Hood       performance     top

No hood is needed; the lens barrel is already quite deep at normal distances.

The front elements come forward as focused more closely, but a hood would only get in the way of your light at macro distances.

There is a hood available, but I wouldn't use it.

 

Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

Absolutely none on an uncorrected 24 MP Sony A99.

This is superb.

 

Macro       performance     top

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro ghosts

On full-frame at closest focus distance at f/5 (indicated).

 

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro ghosts

Crop from above 10MP image at 100%. Note the nonexistent depth-of-field; the hand is out of focus! This is normal for all macro lenses.

It gets to 1:1, meaning something 24 x 36mm fills your image on full-frame, or something 16 x 24mm fills your image on smaller-format digital cameras.

It's super-sharp throughout the entire image, even at f/2.8, if you're in perfect focus.

I expected this; this is what macro lenses do.

 

Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Rear, Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro. enlarge.

In action to outstanding optics, the Minolta 100mm f/2.8 is all metal, a real lens instead of the disposable plastic garbage churned out today.

 

Filter Threads, Hood Mount and Forebarrel

Solid alloy.

 

Focus Ring

Solid alloy.

 

Barrel Exterior

Alloy, rubber covered on the bottom.

 

Internals

All metal, especially the focus cams.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

Sort of; only for f/32 and too constructed to be useful.

 

Aperture Ring

None.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Barrel Markings

Paint.

 

Mounting Index Dot

Red plastic ball.

 

Serial Number

Engraved into bottom of barrel and filled with white paint.

 

Moisture seal at mount

No.

 

Noises When Shaken

Assorted clicking and clunking, normal for a lens this complex with as many groups of elements moving around on cams.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

Sharpness       performance     top

Palms

Las Palmas, 13 June 2013. (Sony A99, Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro, f/6.3 at 1/250 at Auto ISO 100, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) Bigger or Full-resolution MEDIUM JPG. Of course the bottom left and much of this three-dimensional subject isn't in perfect focus.

Yes, it's very sharp at every possible setting, duh, but everything has to be in perfect focus. Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

The MAXXUM 100mm's biggest limitation is you! Optically, it performs at the limits of physics.

As shot on the full-frame 24MP Sony A99 on the test range at infinity, there isn't much to say about a perfect lens.

At f/2.8, everything is already perfectly sharp from edge to edge. It makes most other Minolta and Sony lenses look like they're broken.

f/4 and f/5.6 are as sharp as f/2.8, since f/2.8 was already perfect.

It stays equally sharp until diffraction starts to dull the image at f/8. This is a law of physics, not a lens limitation, and the fact that diffraction is already the limiting factor at f/8 is extraordinary.

f/11 looks not that much duller than f/8.

f/16, again only under my microscope under careful laboratory conditions at infinity, is much duller than f/11, and f/22 is duller still. f/32 should be avoided unless you really need it for depth of field — which you do at macro distances!

It can only be this sharp if it's in perfect focus, which never happens for most parts of real three-dimensional subjects. The real world is quite different from shooting flat targets at infinity.

Therefore, this lens is as sharp as it can be. If your picture isn't sharp, you're doing something wrong.

This 100mm macro is much sharper, than even the 50mm macro, but you'll never see that difference outside the lab.

 

Spherochromatism       performance     top

Spherochromatism, sometimes mistakenly called "color bokeh" by laymen, is a minor aberration which can add slight color fringes to out-of focus highlights in fast, long lenses.

I see some mild spherochromatism. Note how the farther sparkles are a bit greenish and the nearer are magenta:

Mercedes GL550 Star 13 June 2013

Sparkles in and out of focus at f/2.8. bigger.

 

Sunstars       performance     top

Mercedes GL550 Star 13 June 2013

Stars on the Star at f/6.3.

With its straight 9-bladed diaphragm, the AF 100/2.8 makes fantastic 18-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light, even at larger apertures. Bravo!

 

Survivability       performance     top

This Minolta 100mm f/2.8 Macro is from 1986 and is still working perfectly today in 2013 after having been bought from a random stranger on eBay.

It has no motors and no encoders. There is nothing critical to go wrong that a good repairman can't fix. The only electronics are a ROM chip that should not wear out unless you go doing something stupid, like trying to take it apart.

It is perfectly normal for the rubber grip on the barrel to turn white from lack of use. The whiteness rubs off with use; a white looking barrel means a lens that hasn't been used much.

Therefore unlike many newer lenses today, this 100 AF Macro ought to last last for plenty of more decades of great pictures.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

This 1986 Minolta 100mm f/2.8 is beyond compromise. I've never tested a more perfect lens. If you need a macro or medium telephoto for your MAXXUM or Sony, this 100/2.8 is unbeaten.

For real macro use, shoot at about f/32 if you need any depth of field Use flash so that motion isn't a problem, either studio strobes or lens-mounted flash up close. You'll get noting in focus at macro distances trying to shoot at moderate apertures, and without flash, exposure times will be too long at the apertures you need for real macro use.

If you've found the time, effort and expense I incur researching and sharing all this information for free, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use this link to get yours at eBay as I did, or use or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Please always use these links when getting any of your gear so I can continue to share what I know for free — because I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. I'm not NPR; I don't get any government grants or have annoying fund drives to help me research and give all this information away for free.

Thanks for your support!

Ken.

 

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