The first thing someone usually tells you upon purchasing your first DSLR, is to ditch the kit zoom lens and get yourself a prime. In the Sony universe, most will recommend the Minolta 50mm 1.7. It’s a great lens, built solidly, and performs sharply. It also can be had for roughly $80. I’ve owned one, then sold it, then searched for it again. I went a different route, spend a few more bucks and obtained the f1.4 version of Minolta’s standard lens. Here’s why:
-on the a77, light is important and I could use the extra third stop
-as far as bokeh on a crop sensor behavior is more like the full frame equivalent of 2.1 vs 2.55, rather than 1.4 vs 1.7.
-sharper overall at wider apertures
-Sony equivalent is twice as much as the Minolta
They are both great choices as short tele-portrait lens (remember 50mm on an aps-c is really 75mm) and are built from an era of durability. They are also really small compared to other brands since the focus motor is screw driven and doesn’t require a mechanism in the lens body. So they are truly pocketable. The manual focus ring is tiny however, and though the rotation is smooth on the copies I’ve had, it really was designed for autofocus. An autofocus that is loud but quick on the a77.
The Minolta 50mm 2.8 Macro. This oldie doesn’t have a nickname but it doesn’t need to. Here’s what it does have though…1:1 magnification. Many of today’s zoom lenses have the word “macro” written somewhere on the lens. It’s somewhat misleading and in best case scenario gets you as close as 1:4. Moreover much of today’s dedicated macro lenses have a maximum magnification of 1:2. Serious macro photography requires 1:1 magnification.
The most popular focal distance is 100mm. The smaller the focal distance, the closer you must be, which essentially means there is less natural light to work with. This is one reason why the 100mm is usually preferred over the 50. However, if you put a 50mm on an aps-c sized sensor, such as the Sony a77, that gives a FOV equivalent of 75mm. This is a nifty tradeoff since this lens fits in your pocket. Minolta did make a 100mm 2.8 Macro lens that some considered to be THE best macro lens period.
The biggest plus is you can find this lens going on ebay for half the price of either the Sony equivalent, which is the same optically, or the 100mm Macro. As a bonus, the 50mm macro can double up as a medium portrait lens good for 1/4 body shots.
Minolta made some “G” or “L” class lenses in there first go round with autofocus. Legend has it that through it’s formal cooperation with Leitz (more known for it’s Leica division) Minolta integrated unusually high performance optical technology that some would prefer over the twice as expensive Zeiss. With a focal length of either 85mm on a full-frame or 127.5mm on an aps-c combined with an ultra fast 1.4 aperture it makes for a beastly portrait lens. Creamy Minolta bokeh, rich colors, and a hulk-like build add to the credence to it’s nickname “Queen of Portraits.”
Sony lenses that are accessible to me are crap. Nice images. Cheap, but cheaply made. Plastic mounts. Flimsy focus rings. Lightweight, sure and that has its benefits but one drop and…..
This got me searching for some comparable Minolta lenses. Love! Metal mounts, brick-like build, brick-like weight (maybe that’s not a plus), and the colors! The creamy bokeh! My collection was unmanageable. I had to let a few go. I now feel compelled to shine a light on a few of them while they’re in my possession.
The “Beercan” is probably the most well known of Minolta’s first generation AF glass. It is heavy. 70-210mm and a constant f4 is a pretty nice feature set considering ebay prices go around $150 US dollars. The autofocus is driven by the camera’s in-body motor and the glass is propelled by a screw. The zooming is in body so the barrel doesn’t extend as you zip across the range. It’s pretty long though and looks obscene mounted on the a77 without a grip. It’s sharp from around 5.6. The focus ring is narrow and not the best for full-time manual adjusting.
The “Beercan” produces much better IQ than the “Big Beercan” (75-300), is faster than the “Mini Beercan” (100-200) and has more reach than the “Baby Beercan.”
In the Sony/Minolta world of cameras, it’s a must have. It is legendary.
For all Alpha and Nex users here is the link. The project is led by Someone 1.00 who managed to hack the a55. It is also backed by the infamous and legendary Vitaly Kiselev who hacked the GH1, GH2 and Gxx series of Panasonic cameras. This is exciting as Vitaly once said that Sony’s firmware was infinitely more difficult to hack than the Panasonic’s. But here we are!
Fingers crossed it makes its way over to the a77. Just as the hack on the GH2, any modifications to the firmware that allows bitrate and/or audio controls will make for a much better movie making camera. The alpha line records at a maximum 28mbps in AVCHD 2.0 codec which delivers fairly decent video but lacks detail and resolution. The hack may not help that, but 28mbps AVCHD can break up in post. Generally the higher the bitrate the better. The hacked GH2 can deliver up to 176mbps all intra frames. They both use the same stock codec, which means the first (i) frame is the most detailed followed by b and p frames that is composed by the processor’s guess of where movement in the video will occur. This can create macro-blocking and odd artifacts in the video. As such, a hack producing a codec with all first i frames and a high bitrate is popular.