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Minolta 50mm f/1.4
Full-frame MAXXUM AF (1985-2006)
For Minolta and Sony Alpha
© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.4

Minolta Maxxum 50mm f/1.4 (first cosmetic version, 49mm filter thread, 8.0 oz./228 g, about $225 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.

March 2014   Minolta   Minolta Lenses  Sony  Pentax  Nikon  Canon  more

Why fixed lenses take better pictures.

 

Sample Image Files

Sago Palm, 11 March 2014

Sago Palm, 11 March 2014. Sony A7, Minolta MAXXUM AF 50mm f/1.4 on Sony LA-EA4 adapter, 1/60 at f/13 at ISO 100, +3 saturation, Athentech Perfectly Clear. Bigger or © Full resolution file.

 

Yellow, 11 March 2014

Yellow, 11 March 2014. Sony A7, Minolta MAXXUM AF 50mm f/1.4 on Sony LA-EA4 adapter, 1/800 at f/8 at ISO 100, +3 saturation. bigger or Camera-original © file.

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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This Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.4 is an unusually sharp 50mm f/1.4 lens for all Minolta MAXXUM and Sony Alpha mount cameras.

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

On NEX cameras like the Sony A7, use the LA-EA4 adapter. You'll get super-fast autofocus and everything works perfectly.

This Minolta 50mm f/1.4 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 plastic on the outside, and metal on the inside. It even has a built-in telescoping hood!

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

 

1985-1990 (shown in this review)

The original version shown here has a hard ribbed plastic manual focus ring.

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

Feet are marked in yellow on the focus scale.

 

1990-2006

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 newer version also removes the infra-red focus index.

It has exactly the same optics as the 1985 version tested here, and the same product number: 25621.

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

Another downgrade is that the newer 1990 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 sells it as the Sony 50mm f/1.4. I don't like it; they took away the hood and it feels much sloppier than the 1985-1990 version I show here.

 

Minolta MAXXUM AF 50mm f/1.4

Minolta AF MAXXUM 50mm f/1.4.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

 

Name        top

Minolta calls this the MAXXUM AF 50mm f/1.4 (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 50mm f/1.4

Minolta 50mm f/1.4 at f/22.

7 blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Conventional straight blades in the 1985-1990 version shown here.

Curved blades in the 1990-2006 version

 

Coverage        top

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

 

Focal Length        top

50mm.

When used on an APS-C style camera, it sees an angle of view similar to what a 75mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 50mm camera.

 

Angle of View         top

46.7º on 35mm MAXXUM and full-frame.

 

Close Focus        top

1.5 feet (0.45 meters).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:6.7 (0.15x).

 

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.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index        top

Yes, but not on the newer version.

 

Aperture Ring        top

No.

 

Filter Thread        top

49mm.

Plastic.

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

 

Size        top

2.5" (63mm) diameter by 1.5" (38 mm) extension from flange.

It gets longer as focused more closely.

 

Weight        top

8.050 oz. (228.1 g), actual measured.

Minolta specifies 8.3 oz. (235g).

 

Hood        top

Minolta 35/2 with hood

Minolta 50/1.4 with hood.

There is a built-in pull-out plastic hood as shown. It doesn't lock, so it will get pushed back in with use.

 

Caps        top

49mm snap-in front cap and standard MAXXUM rear cap.

 

Quality         top

Made in Japan.

 

Minolta Product Number        top

25621 (both versions).

 

Price, USA        top

About $225 used if you know How to Win at eBay in 2014.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing

Ghosts    Lateral Color Fringes    Macro

Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars   Survivability

 

Overall       performance     top

The Minolta 50mm f/1.4 works extremely well, especially on a Sony A7 as I tried it.

It's super-sharp and has very fast autofocus on the Sony A7 with the LA-EA4 adapter.

 

Autofocus       performance     top

 

AF Speed

AF speed is fast on a 2013 Sony A7 with the LA-EA4 adapter.

One full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw brings it from infinity down to 5 feet, which is pretty fast.

 

AF Accuracy

On the Sony A7 with the LA-EA4 adapter, focus is always dead-on at f/1.4.

I don't need any AF fine-tuning.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus smooth and precise.

An 125º turn of the focus ring brings you from infinity to 1.5 feet (0.45 m).

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus areas, not simply how far out of focus they are, is quite good for backgrounds at f/1.4.

 

Distortion       performance     top

The Minolta 50mm f/1.4 has moderate barrel distortion, about the same as other new 50/1.4 lenses in 2014.

Use these values in Photoshop's lens distortion filter to correct it completely.

Full-frame and 35mm Film
10' (3m)
+2.0
3' (1m)
+3.0

© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

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

Minolta 50mm f/1.4

Minolta MAXXUM 50mm f/1.4. bigger.

Ergonomics are easy; the only control is the focus ring and the rest of the lens is a 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 visible at f/1.4, mostly gone at f/2 and gone by f/2.8, typical performance for a 50mm f/1.4 lens.

 

Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting on full-frame, even with a thick filter.

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 more closely.

 

Ghosts       performance     top

Flare and ghosts are low to moderate. You won't seen them, but if you're crazy enough to shoot directly into the sun or bright lights at night, this is the worst I could make it look:

Minolta 50mm f/1.4 ghosts

Minolta 50mm f/1.4 at f/8.

 

Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

None on an uncorrected 24 MP Sony A7 with the LA-EA4 adapter.

This is superb.

 

Macro       performance     top

It gets as close as every other modern 50mm lens: 1.5' or 0.45m.

The Minolta MAXXUM AF 50mm f/2.8 Macro gets much closer, and the Minolta MAXXUM AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro makes more sense for dedicated macro use.

See also The Best Macro Lens and How to Shoot Macro.

 

Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Minolta 50mm f/1.4

Rear, Minolta 50mm f/1.4.

The Minolta 50mm f/1.4 AF is all plastic on the outside, and all metal on the inside.

 

Filter Threads, Hood Mount and Forebarrel

Plastic.

 

Focus Ring

Plastic.

 

Barrel Exterior

Plastic, rubber covered around the bottom.

 

Internals

Seems like all metal, especially the focus helicoids.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

Yes.

 

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

Some 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 50mm is super sharp, but less sharp in the full-frame corners wide-open.

As shot on the full-frame 24MP Sony A7 with LA-EA4 adapter on the test range at infinity:

 

f/1.4

Very sharp and contrasty in the center.

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

 

f/2

Almost perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

In full-frame corners, slightly less contrasty.

 

f/2.8

Perfectly sharp and contrasty throughout most of the image.

Slightly softer in the corners of full-frame.

 

f/4

Perfectly sharp and contrasty throughout most of the image.

In full-frame corners, slightly softer in the last two millimeters.

 

f/5.6

Perfect everywhere.

 

f/8

Everything's perfect, f/8 is optimum.

 

f/11

Everything's perfect.

 

f/16 and f/22

Diffraction starts to dull the image at f/16 and f/22.

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

 

Sunstars       performance     top

Minolta 50mm f/1.4 Sunstar

Wimpy sunstar at f/8. bigger.

The AF 50/1.4 makes weak, but well-formed 14-pointed sunstars.

 

Survivability       performance     top

This Minolta 50mm f/1.4 is almost 30 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 50/1.4 AF ought to last last for plenty of more decades of great pictures.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

This classic Minolta MAXXUM 50mm f/1.4 AF is a great performer. It's actually sharper at larger apertures than the Minolta MAXXUM AF 50mm f/2.8 Macro!

The 50/1.7 isn't as sharp as either of those at large apertures, that's why it sells for much less used.

This ought to be your main lens on full frame with any Minolta MAXXUM or Sony Alpha cameras, or the NEX with the the LA-EA4 adapter. (The simpler LA-EA3 adapter won't autofocus with this lens.)

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 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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