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Minolta 35mm f/2
Full-frame MAXXUM AF (1987-2006)
For Minolta and Sony Alpha
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/2

Minolta Maxxum 35mm f/2 (newer cosmetic version shown here, metal 55mm filter thread, 8.2 oz./232 g, about $575 used if you know How to Win at eBay). enlarge. 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.

November 2013   Minolta   Minolta Lenses  Sony  Pentax  Nikon  Canon  more

Why fixed lenses take better pictures.

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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This Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/2 is an extremely well made and high-performance normal-to-wide lens for all Minolta MAXXUM and Sony Alpha cameras.

Used on today's Sony A99 it has image stabilization and very fast autofocus.

This Minolta 35mm f/2 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 a marvel of precision, far better made than the plasticy garbage Sony sells today. This lens has a super-smooth and precise focus helicoid and a metal filter thread and hood mount.

In fact, it's all metal except for the plastic outer barrel of this sample of the newer cosmetic version. The original 1987 version may have had an alloy outer barrel as does the Minolta MAXXUM AF 35mm f/1.4; I haven't used it.

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-cropped results.

 

History

 

1987-1999

The original version, not shown here, has a hard ribbed manual focus ring.

"AF" is marked in red on the front barrel.

Feet are marked in yellow on the focus scale.

 

1999-2006 (shown in this review)

Minolta changed 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 saved themselves another paint step by painting the "AF" on the front identity ring in the same color, white, as the rest of the letters. The first version painted the AF in red. The version here also removes the infra-red focus index entirely.

It has exactly the same optics as the 1987 version, and the same product number: 25971.

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

Another downgrade is that is newer 1999 version curved the seven diaphragm blades, which has no effect on bokeh, but makes the sunstars mostly go away.

 

2006-today

Sony bought Minolta and stopped selling this lens.

 

Minolta MAXXUM AF 35mm f/2

Minolta AF MAXXUM 35mm f/2. bigger.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

 

Name        top

Minolta calls this the MAXXUM AF 35mm f/2 (22).

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

The (22) is the smallest f/stop.

 

Optics        top

7 elements in 6 groups.

Unit focus.

Multicoated, but not particularly well.

 

Diaphragm        top

Front, Minolta MAXXUM AF 35mm f/2

Minolta 35mm f/2 at about f/5.6. bigger.

7 blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Conventional straight blades in the 1987-1999 version.

Curved blades in the 1999-2006 version shown here.

 

Coverage        top

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

 

Focal Length        top

35mm.

When used on an APS-C style camera, it sees an angle of view similar to what a 50mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 35mm camera.

 

Angle of View         top

63.4º on 35mm MAXXUM and full-frame.

42º on APS-C digital.

 

Close Focus        top

1 foot (0.3 meters).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:5.9 (0.17x).

 

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 very compressed.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index        top

Not on this version.

Yes, on the older version.

 

Aperture Ring        top

No.

 

Filter Thread        top

55mm.

Solid alloy.

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

 

Size        top

2.6" (67mm) diameter by 1.9" (49 mm) extension from flange.

It gets longer as focused more closely.

 

Weight        top

8.185 oz. (232.0 g), actual measured.

Minolta specifies 8.5 oz. (240g).

 

Hood        top

Minolta 35/2 with hood

Minolta 35/2 with hood.

Plastic bayonet.

Marked for 35/2, and is identical except for markings to the hood for the 28/2 and 35/1.4!

 

Caps        top

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

 

Quality         top

Made in Japan.

 

Minolta Product Number        top

25971.

 

Price, USA        top

About $575 used if you know How to Win at eBay in 2013.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Coma   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing

Ghosts   Hood    Lateral Color Fringes    Macro

Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars   Survivability

 

Overall       performance     top

The Minolta 35mm f/2 works very well, especially on a Sony A99.

It's super-sharp, has fast autofocus on the MAXXUM 7000 and virtually instant AF on the Sony A99.

 

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 2 feet — that's fast!

 

AF Accuracy

On the Sony A99, focus is always dead-nuts on at f/2; I don't need any AF fine-tuning.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is perfect: smooth and precise.

An 85º turn of the focus ring brings you from infinity to 1 foot (0.3m).

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus areas, not simply how far out of focus they are, is poor in the foreground and excellent in the background at f/2.

I wouldn't worry about it; nothing is ever much out of focus with a 35mm lens.

 

Coma       performance     top

Coma is common in fast wide lenses. It is when points of light turn into weird shapes in the corners, and contributes to the corners blurring at large apertures.

This lens has some coma on full-frame at f/2. It's less at f/2.8, and gone by f/4 or 5.6.

 

Distortion       performance     top

The Minolta 35mm f/2 has no visible distortion.

For more critical use, use a value of +0.7 in Photoshop's lens distortion filter at 3 meters (10 feet). It's higher-order distortion, so there is a tiny bit of waviness left.

 

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

Minolta 35mm f/2

Minolta MAXXUM 35mm f/2. bigger.

Ergonomics are easy; the only control is the focus ring and the rest of the lens is a big grip for 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 or not depending on your camera.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on full frame and 35mm is barely visible at f/2, and gone by f/2.8.

The Shading Correction in the Sony A99 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 35mm f/2 falloff on full frame and 35mm, no correction:

f/2
f/2.8
Minolta 35mm f/2 falloff
Minolta 35mm f/2 falloff
Minolta 35mm f/2 falloff
Minolta 35mm f/2 falloff
f/4
f/5.6

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting on full-frame, even with any reasonable combination multiple stacked filters!

This is because this lens could do with a much smaller filter, but to keep the filter sizes the same 55mm throughout most of the Minolta range, 55mm is much larger than needed, so stack a couple of filters on top of each other and you'll still get no vignetting.

The metal 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 more closely.

 

Ghosts       performance     top

Flare and ghosts are low to moderate. If you're crazy enough to shoot directly into the sun or bright lights at night, you'll see a few ghosts:

Minolta 35mm f/2 ghosts

Minolta 35mm f/2 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

There is a hood available, but I wouldn't use it; it doesn't do much.

The hood is the same as the hood sold for the 28mm f/2 and 35mm f/1.4. They differ only in their markings!

 

Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

None on an uncorrected 24 MP Sony A99.

This is superb.

 

Macro       performance     top

Minolta 35mm f/2 ghosts

On full-frame at closest focus distance at f/8.

 

Minolta 35mm f/2 ghosts

Crop from above 24MP image at 100%. If this is 6" (15cm) here and you printed the entire image at this same high magnification, the print would be 40 x 60" (1 x 1.5 meters)!

It doesn't get very close, and it's not all that sharp at close distances. This is at f/8; at f/2, it's much softer.

If you want macro, either of the Minolta MAXXUM AF 50mm f/2.8 Macro or Minolta MAXXUM AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro get much closer and are much sharper.

 

Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Minolta 35mm f/2

Rear, Minolta 35mm f/2. enlarge.

In addition to outstanding optics, the Minolta 35mm f/2 is all metal except for the plastic outer barrel cover. It's a real lens instead of the disposable plastic garbage churned out today.

 

Filter Threads, Hood Mount and Forebarrel

Solid alloy.

 

Focus Ring

Rubber covered.

 

Barrel Exterior

Plastic, rubber covered around the bottom.

 

Internals

Seems like all metal, especially the focus helicoids.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

Yes, but very compressed.

 

Aperture Ring

None.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Barrel Markings

Paint.

 

Mounting Index Dot

Red plastic ball.

 

Serial Number

Engraved into bottom of the plastic barrel and filled with white paint.

 

Moisture seal at mount

No.

 

Noises When Shaken

Minor clicking.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

Sharpness       performance     top

Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

The MAXXUM 35mm is super sharp, but less sharp in the full-frame corners wide-open.

As shot on the full-frame 24MP Sony A99 on the test range at infinity:

 

f/2

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

In full-frame corners, coma makes the farthest corners a bit blurry. They are darker from falloff, so no big worries.

 

f/2.8

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

In full-frame corners, coma makes the farthest corners a bit blurry. They are a little less blurry than at f/2, but now brighter, so they aren't much better than at f/2.

 

f/4

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

In full-frame corners, coma makes the farthest corners are much better, and almost as sharp in the center. If you're not in a lab looking under a microscope, they're perfect.

 

f/5.6

The center is perfect, and the corners are just about perfect, too.

 

f/8

Everything's perfect.

 

f/11

Everything's perfect.

 

f/16

Diffraction starts to dull the image at f/16.

 

f/22

Even softer from more diffraction.

This is a law of physics, not a lens limitation.

 

Sunstars       performance     top

Minolta 35mm f/2 Sunstar

Wimpy sunstar at f/8.

With its curved diaphragm, the AF 35/2 makes little to no sunstars.

The earlier straight-bladed version (not shown here) probably makes nice 14-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.

 

Survivability       performance     top

This Minolta 35mm f/2 is already ten years old as tested.

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 uses real lead solder, so it ought to be good for a lifetime.

It is perfectly normal for the rubber focus ring or barrel grip 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 35/2 AF ought to last last for plenty of more decades of great pictures.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

The only bad thing about this classic Minolta MAXXUM 35mm f/2 is that it still sells for almost $600 used. Heck, you can buy a very similar 35mm f/2 AF lens from Nikon brand-new today for half that price.

This lens' price has been inflated because they aren't made anymore, and they work perfectly on Sony's Alpha mount digital cameras. The funny thing about Nikon's lens still sold today is that while still sold new, today's Nikon 35/2 lens was introduced back in 1989.

Also consider the masterpiece Minolta MAXXUM AF 35mm f/1.4, which doesn't cost that much more, and offers a full stop more speed with the same optical excellence, but in a bigger and heavier package.

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, 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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