Minolta Maxxum Lenses Compatible with Sony DSLRs
Maybe you and I will never be professional photographers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to take good photos. Some time back, I purchased a digital camera which I am still very excited about. It is one of the early models in the Sony Alpha line of cameras. Mine is an Alpha 390, and there are many newer models to choose from as well. But it isn't only the camera that I am so happy with. Because of foresight and planning, Sony has made it possible to use the high-quality lenses produced by Minolta in the 1980s and 1990s on their Alpha line of cameras. These lenses, and one in particular, are what actually has me so excited.
Sony Alpha and Sony Nex with Minolta Lenses
This is a review of Konica Minolta Maxxum SLR (film camera) lenses and their compatibility with the Sony Alpha, Sony Nex and Sony Alpha Nex E-Mount line of DSLR (digital) cameras.
The combination of Sony Alpha Cameras and Minolta Lenses is an affordable way to enjoy high quality, digital photography. Particular attention will be given to the 70-210mm f4 Minolta Maxxum telephoto lens, a.k.a "The Beercan."
Useful History About Minolta and Sony
A little history will help to understand the uniqueness of the Sony Alpha cameras. In 2006 Sony Corporation bought the photographic company Minolta. In 1985 Minolta had come out with a new line of cameras which had the auto focus motor in the camera body instead of in the lens. This first of its kind adaptation required a whole new lens mount on the camera known as the A-mount. It also required a new line of lenses known by the name Maxxum.
When Sony bought Minolta, they decided to retain the A-mount of Minolta and use it in their new line of digital cameras known as the Sony Alpha. The benefit of this is that the A-mount on the new digital cameras and the A-mount on the older film cameras is identical. Therefore, all of the old Maxxum film lenses from 1985 onward fit the Sony Alpha line of digital SLR cameras, and the auto focus works like a charm.
Auto Focus with Sony Alpha and Minolta Lenses
Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras and Minolta Lenses
Which Sony Alpha cameras are compatible with Minolta lenses? Sony has caused some confusion on this point. Before, if the camera was an Alpha, it had an A-mount or alpha mount. If it was a Nex camera, it had an E-mount. Now Sony has come out with Alpha E-mount cameras. So from here on out, if the camera says E-mount, it is not compatible with Minolta lenses without the Fotodiox lens mount adapter.
Sony DSLRs Which Are Compatible with Minolta Maxxum lenses
Here are some of the older Sony Alpha DSLRs which are compatible with the Minolta Maxxum lenses and do not require an adapter.
The mounts on these cameras are Alpha mounts which connect directly to the alpha mount Minolta Maxxum lenses.
Minolta Lenses Are Still Available at Bargain Prices
There are literally millions of Maxxum lenses hidden away in garages and attics. I've found them at second hand stores on eBay, Craig’s List and Shopgoodwill.com. These lenses can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of new Sony lenses and often, even though the lenses are decades old, they are still better quality than the new lens.
Minolta Maxxum Prime Lenses for Sony Alpha (AF=Auto Focus)
- Minolta AF Maxxum 135mm f/2.8
- Minolta AF Maxxum 50mm f/2.8 Macro
- Minolta AF Maxxum 100mm f/2.8
- Minolta AF Maxxum 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5
- Minolta AF Maxxum 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5*
- Minolta AF Maxxum 100-200mm f/4.5*
- Minolta AF Maxxum 70-210mm f/4 ("The Beercan")
- Minolta AF Maxxum 70-210mm f/3.5-4.5
- Minolta AF Maxxum 28-135mm f/4-4.5
- Minolta AF Maxxum 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 D
- (*=Author owns this lense)
70-210mm f4 Minolta Maxxum Telephoto Lense
Review of the 70-210mm f4 Minolta Maxxum Medium Telephoto Lens
At this point, I want to focus on one of these excellent lenses in particular. The 70-210mm f4 Minolta Maxxum medium telephoto lens, affectionately known to Minolta Maxxum enthusiasts as "The Beercan", is the most sought after of the minolta lenses on eBay. Here are a few reasons this is such a special lens:
- The price is about $200 on eBay, although I think I have seen a slight lowering of the price recently. There are newer Minolta lenses in this focal range that have slightly better construction and optics, but they cost $1000 to $2,000 on eBay.
- The High quality of the optics
- The durability of the construction
- The Auto Focus is fast
- The colors produced in photos are brilliant.
- 4f throughout focal range.
- The length of the lens does not change while zooming
- Excellent bokeh effect
Negative Aspects of the Minolta 70-210mm 1:4 "Beercan" Lens
The main drawback to the lens, in my experience, is that it does not perform well in extremely cold temperatures. I do a lot of winter photography and this the auto focus reacts slowly after acclimating to temperatures below about 20°F.
I see only two real downsides to these lenses. First is their age. Many are 27 years old and have already seen a lot of use. Now, with their revival due to the Sony Alpha A-mount system, they are being asked to come back and do it again, which means some may wear out relatively quickly. With proper care though, most of these workhorses should last decades more. Second is that they are heavy, weighing 24.5 oz.
Rate the Minolta Maxxum "The Beercan" Lens
If you have ever used the 70-210mm f4, "The Beercan", on an SLR or DSLR camera, please rate your impressions of it in the ratings box to the right.
Summary of the Minolta Maxxum 70-210mm f4
The Minolta Maxxum SLR lenses were among the very best ever made in their price range. In particular, the 70-210mm f4, is a legendary lens. This status is based on its durable construction, high quality optics, fast AF, bokeh effect and brilliant colors on photos. It is expected that anyone using this lens would be willing to overlook the few negatives in light of the numerous positives encased in the Minolta Maxxum "Beercan".
My Personal Experience
I can say from personal experience that the Sony Alpha DSLR cameras combined with the Konica Minolta Maxxum SLR lenses are an affordable way to enjoy digital photography and will yield high quality photographs.