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Minolta 35mm f/1.4
Full-Frame for MAXXUM and Sony (1987-today)
World's first aspherical wide angle lens
World's first super-speed AF wide lens
World's first rear-focus lens
World's first aspherical AF lens

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Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4

Minolta MAXXUM AF 35mm f/1.4 (metal 55mm filter thread, 16.6 oz./469g, 1'/0.3m close focus, about $800 used or $1,500 new at Amazon or at Adorama. My biggest source of support is when you use this link directly to them at eBay (How to Win at eBay) and to them at Amazon or at at Adorama, 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. I'm not NPR; I get no government hand-outs and run no pledge drives to support my research, so please always use any of these links for the best prices and service whenever you get anything. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

October 2013   Minolta   Minolta Lenses  Sony  Pentax  Nikon  Canon  more

Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures.

 

Sample Image File

Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4

Palm, 01 October 2013. Sony A99 at 10 MP, Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4 at f/8, 1/125 at ISO 100. Full resolution.

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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The Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4 is an extremely high-performance and very well made normal-to-wide lens for all Minolta MAXXUM and Sony Alpha cameras.

This Minolta 35 1.4 is a superb lens today, and was an absolutely spectacular lens beyond anything ever seen from LEICA, Nikon or Canon when it was introduced, and none of these brands had anything comparable for years afterwards. The reason so few people have ever heard of this professional lens is because it was introduced by Minolta, which wasn't a brand used by professionals. Pros don't shoot Minolta, and Minolta shooters didn't want to pay for this pro lens.

This Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4 set so many world's-first records that it took decades for other makers to catch up:

This is the world's first internal (rear) focusing camera lens.

This is the world's first aspherical wide-angle SLR lens.

This is the world's first autofocusing super-speed wide lens.

This is the world's first aspherical autofocus lens.

As an aspherical rear-focusing ultraspeed wide-angle lens, it far exceeded the performance of LEICA's conventional SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 of the time. LEICA didn't make an aspherical 35/1.4 copy until 1990, and didn't copy the floating elements until 2010. LEICA still doesn't make an internal focusing 35/1.4; LEICA's newest still moves in and out as focused.

This groundbreaking Minolta 35/1.4 far exceeds the performance of Nikon's 35/1.4, which is only a manual focus lens. Nikon never caught up with any kind of autofocus 35/1.4 until 2010, which also copied the aspherical rear-focusing deign of this lens from 23 years before. Nikon's newest AF 35/1.4 is OK, but mostly plastic, not solid alloy as is this Minolta MAXXUM masterpiece. I returned my Nikon AF 35/1.4 when I realized it had a plastic filter thread, not metal like all the other brands.

Canon's EF 35/1.4 L is a great AF aspherical rear-focus lens. It only took Canon 12 years to copy this Minolta lens in 1998, and today is still one of Canon's most popular lenses.

On today's Canon and Nikon lenses you may move the focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override, while this classic Minolta lens requires you to move the AF-MF switch on the camera to swap between modes. You may not turn this Minolta's focus ring while in AF mode, in which it turns by itself as autofocused.

Used on today's Sony A99, this 1980s Minolta AF 35/1.4 lens has image stabilization and very fast autofocus.

This Minolta 35mm 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.

This original Minolta lens is a marvel of precision, far better made than the plasticy garbage Sony sells today. This Minolta lens has a super-smooth and precise focus helicoid, metal filter thread and hood mount, metal focus ring and even an all-metal barrel.

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.

Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4

Minolta Maxxum AF 35mm f/1.4. enlarge.

 

History

This groundbreaking lens' optics are still the same today after 27 years. Only the outer cosmetics and quality of barrel materials has changed. I may have missed some versions here; it doesn't matter: they are all the same lens.

 

1987-1998

This version is the world's first.

It was introduced in 1987, 2 years after the first Minolta MAXXUM 7000.

 

1998-2006

Minolta added a rubber focus ring, a focus lock button and a gold-colored ring and a "G" to the name in 1998 for marketing purposes.

It has exactly the same optics.

I don't know if the barrel is still solid alloy.

 

2006-today

Sony bought Minolta in 2006, and still sells the same lens branded as Sony.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

 

Name        top

Minolta calls this the MAXXUM AF 35mm f/1.4 (22).

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

The (22) is the smallest f/stop.

 

Optics        top

10 elements in 8 groups.

One aspherical element.

Rear focusing; nothing except the focus ring moves externally as focused.

Multicoated mostly in magenta and green.

 

Diaphragm        top

Front, Minolta MAXXUM AF 35mm f/1.4

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 at about f/5.6. bigger.

9 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Circular to f/2.8.

Nonagonal from f/4 to f/22.

 

Coverage        top

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

 

Focal Length        top

35mm.

When used on an APS-C style camera, 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 full-frame.

 

Close Focus        top

1 foot (0.3 meters) from the image plane.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:5 (0.2x 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.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index        top

Yes, but not on newer versions.

 

Aperture Ring        top

No.

 

Filter Thread        top

55mm.

Solid alloy.

Does not move.

 

Size        top

2.50" (63.5mm) diameter by 3.0 " (76mm) extension from flange.

It does not change size as focused.

 

Weight        top

16.555 oz. (469.3g), actual measured.

Minolta specifies 16.6 oz. (470g).

 

Hood        top

Minolta Maxxum 35mm f/1.4 Hood

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 with hood.

Plastic bayonet hood included.

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

 

Caps        top

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

 

Quality         top

Made in Japan.

 

Minolta Product Number        top

25911, later 2666118.

Sony number SAL35F14G.

 

Price, USA        top

November 2013: About $800 used (How to Win at eBay).

June 2013: About $950 used.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Coma   

Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters   

Flash Exposure   Focus Breathing   Ghosts   

Hood    Lateral Color Fringes    Macro   Mechanics   

Sharpness   Spherochromatism  Sunstars   Survivability

 

Overall       performance     top

The Minolta 35mm f/1.4 has great optics in a better package than Nikon's newest professional lenses today.

It works great on an original 1985 MAXXUM 7000 or the newest 2013 Sony A99.

Today in 2013, it is still a fantastic lens. Today's designs aren't much different, and aren't significantly better — other makers just took decades to get back to where Minolta was in 1987.

 

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 2.5 feet.

 

AF Accuracy

On the Sony A99, focus is always dead-nuts on at f/1.4; I don't need any AF fine-tuning.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is perfect: smooth and precise. The thin metal focus ring might be a little harder to find at first, compared to newer lenses.

You have to move the AF-MF switch on the camera to swap between modes. You may not turn the ring while in AF mode, in which it turns by itself as autofocused.

A 130º turn of the focus ring brings you from infinity to 1 foot (0.3m).

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Dada and Sasha

Dada and Sasha. (22 June 2013, 7:51 PM, cropped from Sony A99, Sony flash, Minolta 35mm f/1.4, f/4 at 1/60 at ISO 320, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) bigger.

 

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 bokeh

Palms at f/1.4, June 2013. bigger.

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is fair at f/1.4 and neutral at smaller apertures.

 

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 aspheric lens has just a tiny bit of coma on full-frame at f/1.4.

 

Distortion       performance     top

The Minolta 35mm f/1.4 has moderate barrel distortion.

I can be corrected by using these factors in Photoshop's lens distortion filter:

On full-frame
+2.4
10' (3m)
+1.2*

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some waviness remains.

 

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

Minolta 35mm f/1.4

Minolta 35mm f/1.4.

Ergonomics are easy; the whole lens is a big metal handle for mounting and unmounting.

For shooting, the entire metal barrel is grip.

The manual focus ring is the little ribbed metal ring on front. Nothing else moves. 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 no instant manual-focus override in the lens itself.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on FX and 35mm is visible at f/1.4, and gone otherwise. It will be even less of an issue on APS-C type cameras.

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 35mm f/1.4 falloff on full frame and 35mm, no correction:

f/1.4
f/2
Nikon NNmm f/FF falloff Nikon NNmm f/FF falloff
Nikon NNmm f/FF falloff Nikon NNmm f/FF falloff
f/2.8
f/4

© 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 two stacked filters.

The filter ring doesn't move.

 

Flash Exposure        performance     top

Dada and Sasha

Dada and Sasha. (22 June 2013, 7:51 PM, cropped from Sony A99, Sony flash, Minolta 35mm f/1.4, f/4

This original 1985 Minolta MAXXUM AF 35 1.4 gives great exposure with flash.

 

Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image gets bigger as focused more closely.

 

Flare and Ghosts       performance     top

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

Here's looking directly into the disk of the sun, which was blinding in person:

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 ghosts

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 at f/8.

If you go out of your way, on rare occasions I can get one blob opposite the sun if conditions are just right.

 

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/2. They differ only in their printed markings!

 

Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes visible on an uncorrected Sony A99 at 24 MP.

There is secondary axial chromatic aberration (a different aberration) visible at f/1.4: you may see slight green and magenta fringes throughout the entire image even if you're in perfect focus at f/1.4.

 

Macro       performance     top

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 macro performance

On full-frame at closest focus distance at f/1.4.

 

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)!

The magenta and green fringes are from axial chromatic aberration These wouldn't be visible if this lens wasn't so sharp at f/1.4.

Minolta 35mm f/2 ghosts

Crop from same 24MP image at 100% at f/8. 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)!

The axial chromatic aberration goes away as stopped down.

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 even sharper.

 

Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Minolta 35mm f/1.4

Rear, Minolta 35mm f/1.4. enlarge.

In action to outstanding optics, the Minolta 35mm f/1.4 is all metal, a real lens instead of the disposable plastic garbage churned out today.

 

Filter Threads, Hood Mount and Forebarrel

Solid alloy.

 

Identity Ring

Solid alloy.

Engraved and filled with two colors of paint.

Minolta is proud of this masterpiece!

 

Focus Ring

Solid alloy.

 

Barrel Exterior

Alloy, rubber covered.

 

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 barrel and filled with white paint.

 

Moisture seal at mount

No.

 

Noises When Shaken

Mild 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 F1.4 is super sharp, but a little 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/1.4

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center, although a little bit of secondary axial chromatic aberration may show slight green-magenta fringes on contrasty edges. Nikon's ED or Canon's UD glass would solve this.

In last two millimeters of full-frame corners, coma makes them a little bit less sharp. They are dark from falloff, so no worries: you'll probably never notice.

 

f/2

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

The last two millimeters of the corners of full frame are still a little bit less sharp; about the same as at f/1.4, but now less dark.

 

f/2.8

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

The last two millimeters of the corners of full frame are still a little bit less sharp, and since they are now as bright as the rest of the frame, you might notice it for test shots.

 

f/4

Perfectly sharp and contrasty in the center.

Full-frame corners are almost perfect, all the way out to the end.

 

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.

 

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 or long lenses.

While I saw axial chromatic aberration, I didn't see any spherochromatism in the Minolta 35/1.4. Out-of-focus highlights have uncolored edges; it's in-focus contrasty things that might exhibit slight green-magenta fringes, but only at f/1.4.

 

Sunstars       performance     top

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 sunstar at f/8

Wimpy sunstar at f/8. bigger.

The circular diaphragm does nothing at large apertures, but by the smaller apertures of f/11 and smaller, the 9-bladed diaphragm makes great 18-pointed sunstars:

 

Minolta 35mm f/1.4 GL550 sunstar at f/16

Sunstars on the Star at f/16.

 

Survivability       performance     top

This Minolta 35mm f/1.4 is from 1987, as tested today in 2013. After 26 years, it still looks and works like new.

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 35/1.4 AF ought to last last for plenty of more decades of great pictures.

 

Compared         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

I prefer this version to newer ones because it feels like a real lens, and costs half as much used. I don't know if newer ones also have metal barrels, or just junky plastic.

Newer ones will have an AF-lock button on the lens, which can be very handy.

Nikon and Canon's fast 35mm lenses have similar optical performance, all of which is excellent.

For Minolta or Sony, this is the lens to get. The Minolta 35mm f/2 doesn't sell for much less, and this lens is a tad better optically. Both are excellent. Minolta's 28mm f/2 is very good optically, but not quite as good as this 35/1.4.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

I bought this Minolta 35mm f/1.4 for dim-light work with my 1985 Minolta MAXXUM and Sony Alpha cameras. It's also wonderful for daylight use, but a zoom is handier if you don't need f/1.4.

Use the aperture-priority mode on the Sony A99 and most Sonys. Sonys have defective programming that rarely shoots wider than f/4 in Program mode, completely wasting the whole point of this lens in dim light.

There is no reason to buy anything newer, unless you want an on-lens focus lock. Spend more money if you want, but you won't be able to make any better pictures with any other 35mm 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 directly to them at eBay as I did (How to Win at eBay) or to them new at Amazon or at Adorama, 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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June 2013