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Minolta 70-210mm f/4 AF Lens Review

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Make sure to check out our impression the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D camera for additional images from this lens.


Also know as “The Beer Can”, the Minolta 70-210mm f/4 zoom lens is a tank like telephoto for Minolta/Sony a-mount. Added to an APS-C camera and this becomes roughly a 105mm to 315mm field of view lens. This Minolta zoom was made for the film era and we will look and see if it can still be a contender in the digital world!


We have high hopes as we have used other lenses from other manufacturers in similar situations and have found more diamonds than we expected! We’ve also had chance to use other lenses from this era from Nikon and we can compare it to those lenses as well.


All images were processed from RAW in Lightroom Classic and sharpened in Topaz Photo AI.








This reminds me a lot of the similar focal length lenses from Nikon of this era, namely the Nikon 70-210 f/4 and the 70-210 f/4-5.6. pre D and D AF lenses. The main difference is that this Minolta lens is internally zoomed, so the length of it does not increase when going from 70mm to 210mm.

Weight is a subjective thing, and this is definitely heavier than the modern counterparts. It is an all metal and glass construction. I do not find the weight off putting and with the grip on the Maxxum 7D balances well.


I’m not a fan of the lens hood and how it connects. While it has not happened yet, it feels like you could accidentally hit the tabs on it and it would come off quite easily. I may be having undue anxiety about it, but it is what it is.


The zoom ring is very smooth and the throw from 70 to 210 is less than half a turn, making going through the focal range quick. It did not feel too cramped as to over or under shoot the desired framing.


The zoom barrel is also covered with a rubberized material. Being from Ohio and in the fall/winter seasons, this is a bonus to not freeze your fingers off holding onto cold metal. This is one of the negatives I gave the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8. While a stellar performer, the metal zoom and focus rings make it difficult to use in the cold without gloves.


Build is very tank like. Everything seems solid as can be and even given the age, the copy I have is tight.




Weather Sealed


My guess is not, but you never can tell how some of these legacy lenses were built. In my short time with this lens it has been out in temps ranging from 60F down to 26F with no issues. Light rain…no problems. A dunk or downpour…probably would not risk it.




Image Quality

So here is what most want to know. Yes, this is a sharp lens. Is it the sharpest? Probably not – but it is more than usable wide open at f/4 much to my surprise. I expected it to be a little soft, perhaps have some blooming to it. That was not the case. Even the bokeh is pleasant. Shooting with extreme backlighting or with sun in the frame can cause a little blooming, but not all the time.


Colors and contrast are there and I like it very much. If you like the less clinical sharpness and rendering, this is a good lens for you. It is good where it needs to be and gives you a nice film-leaning output. 70mm through 180mm seem pretty great, and past that it seems to lose a little sharpness, but nothing that you cannot account for in post processing. I am liking my toolset of Lightroom Classic and Topaz Sharpen AI or Photo AI for noise reduction and sharpening of the 6mp Maxxum files shot with this lens.


If you want a quality legacy zoom optic in a-mount with good center sharpness – here you go. There may be newer, better telephotos out there, but I like this for it’s legacy rendering.











Focus is competent on this lens. Fast and confident when using the middle AF point. Failings in auto focus are going to be with the camera here more so than the lenses and the non-center points tend to have more misses than the center point does. The aperture is fast enough to give you the light it needs to focus. The early versions of digital SLR hold it back in some areas. I normally shoot this lens wide open and have no issues in focusing or image quality.


It is not something that should surprise you. Repeating vertical lines, low contrast or solid color areas will give the AF system some issues. Knowing this, you can easily work around it.


The focus motor makes noise, but not a lot and it is geared for quickness. I feel it does well.


Manual focus appears to be an after thought as the focus ring is very small. I doubt I’d use it often so not a deal breaker, but if that is something that is important to you – take note.








OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)

This lens has no VR built into it. The a-mount cameras have an ani-shake (AS) system that handles this. There is a sample image below where the lens was used indoors. Hand held (I did have one arm braced on a table) and at ISO 400 – 150mm field of view got a sharp shot at 1/30 of a second.



hand held with the Anti-Shake on the Maxxum 7D activated. Could be a fluke…but here it is! 🙂








Bottom Line

What more is there to say other than that this is a quality, legacy film/early digital standard fast prime lens. It focus’ fast and is sharp enough wide open. If you have a camera that can focus it using the screw drive or an adapter that includes the screw drive -you have a winner here. The weight may be a detriment to some and if that is the case, then a lighter set of primes could be your way to go here. For this setup, I appreciate the convenience of the zoom and this range of 70-210, which gives you a field of view of 105mm to 315mm is a dandy on the Maxxum 7D’s APS-C sensor.


Shooting RAW and post processing are necessary to get the best out of the sharpness, but that can be said for just about every lens.


Bottom Line = Highly Recommend!



This image was heavily cropped, about 50%



This was very backlit, so pushed the camera exposure to +2









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http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


I shoot Nikon, Olympus, and Fujifilm

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I'm amazed at the outstanding quality of these images from such old and allegedly "defunct" equipment. Good show, Andrew! 

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