Minolta AF 35mm F/2 Review - Photo Jottings

Minolta AF 35mm F/2 Review

Here’s a brief look at the Minolta AF 35mm F/2 lens.  Scroll down for the main review.

Minolta AF 35mm F/2
Box contents
Front and rear caps, user’s manual, hood and possibly a hard case.
$550-$700 used, at the time of this review.  Check the price trend here.
Build quality
Very good
Additional information
Similar in design and optical performance to the Minolta AF 28mm F/2
Specifications below
Optical configuration
7 elements in 6 groups
Angle of view
63° full frame, 42° APS-C.
7 blades, straight.  Restyled version has curved blades.
Full frame and APS-C
Yes, full frame and APS-C.   APS-C equivalent, 52.5mm
Depth of field and focus scales?
Yes, see product shots below.
Minimum focus, image plane to subject
11.8″  (300mm)
Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject
7.87″  (200mm)
Hard stop at infinity focus?
Length changes when focusing?
Focus ring turns in AF?
Filter size
Filter ring rotates?
Distance encoder?
Max magnification
0.17x, or 1:5.88
Min. F/stop
Sony teleconverter compatible?
Length changes when zooming?
Dimensions WxL  (my measurements)
2.6″ x 1.9″   67mm x 49mm.
Maximum  extended length (my measurements)
2.15″  (55mm)
Weight bare (my scale)
8.3oz  (236g)  9.2oz (260g) with caps
Requisite product shots.

Side view with original hood
Side shot with focus fully drawn in
Front element
All testing done with the Sony A700 12.2MP and Sony A900 24.6mp cameras.  See full frame results at the bottom of the review.  For a better understanding of my review methods and terminology, go here.
This page has a copy of the original owner’s manual.
This page has a short comparison between this lens and the new, or “restyled” version.
The Minolta AF 35mm F/2 is a compact lens, and is the exact same size, although slightly lighter in weight as theMinolta 28mm F/2, also reviewed here.  Build quality is very good.  It has a gloss black finish with ribbed rubber inserts around most of the circumference.  Also included is a focus distance window with ft and m in different colors along with DOF hash marks.  It has an infra-red focus index mark, the red dot on the aperture scale.  The lens is made in Japan, and I believe this copy was made in the late 1980s.
This lens has a short focus throw, and it focuses very quickly and accurately using the A700 or A900.  There’s a little bit of slop on the focus ring if you wiggle it by hand when engaged, and none in actual MF use.  Manually, the ring is somewhat tough to manipulate with a finger and thumb, especially with the hood attached.  A quarter turn gets you from close focus to infinity.  The focus ring turns in auto-focus mode, but thankfully, not the filter ring.
This lens has the typical multi-coatings from the 1980s, which is a somewhat bluish/purple cast, and as a result, you’ll see a lot of blue/purple blobs and/or arcs depending on angle and aperture.  The sun doesn’t have to be in the image to make a mess of things, so be sure and block any intense light sources which can wreak havoc with your pictures.  The lens originally came with a nice plastic hood that has a flat anti-reflective finish on the inside surface, unfortunately, as is the case with most wide angle lenses, the hood doesn’t do much good, use your hand for keeping the sun out of the shot if possible.
Minolta ripped us off!  The 28mm F/2 and 35mm F/2 use identical hoods, only the lettering is different.  Logic tells us the 35mm hood could be a little longer, and actual testing confirms the hood could be about 1/2″ or 13mm longer, resulting in more effective front element shielding.  I’m sure this was a cost saving measure, but these were expensive lenses “back in the day” and each should have received their own appropriate hood.
Filter size is 55mm.  This is the most popular size for Sony and Minolta, and the 35mm F/1.4, 28mm F/2, 100mm F/2.8 macro, 50mm F/2.8 macro, 50mm F/1.4 primes use the same size.
Filter use.  A regular filter causes slight additional vignetting at F/2 on a full frame camera, none on APS-C.
Coma is noticeable at F/2, and gone by F/2.8.  Of course full frame coverage shows more.  See sample crops below.
Color looks the same as other Sony/Minolta lenses.
Close-up filter.  Works great.  Makes the reproduction size equivalent to about 0.32x.  See the results here of Minolta 28mm F/2.8 lens using a +4.
Bokeh is busy at F/2, but smooths out some at F/2.8.  See crops below.
Color fringing is present along the sides of the image, but not very apparent unless you shoot bright white subjects flanked by dark areas–and–look at your images greatly enlarged on your computer screen.  I mostly came upon red and cyan, though red is usually more noticeable.  Stopping down won’t help with this type of CA.  Also noticeable is some axial color fringing (purple) at F/2, but is mostly gone at F/2.8.  See color fringing in the corner crops below.
Distortion.  You’ll notice mild barrel distortion using an APS-C camera.  Full frame coverage shows more distortion.  Check out the cropped sample below.  Distortion seems about the same from infinity to close focus.
Distortion example directly below.
Very minor barrel distortion.
Bokeh crops next.
           35mm F/2
             35mm F/2.8
           35mm F/4
             35mm F/5.6


Bokeh is harsh at F/2, but softens as you stop down.  The aperture shape shows up at F/2.8.



Coma crops below.


         35mm F/2
          35mm F/2.8
Jan2010/35cma700f2.jpg Jan2010/35cma700f28.jpg


Minor coma is noticeable when the aperture is wide open, but goes away one stop down.


Lens flare/ghosting examples


F/5.6, ghosting.
F/11 ghosting.
F/5.6 sun just out of shot.
F/5.6, sun blocked by hand.
Beware the blue blob!  The 35mm F/2 has about the same trouble with the sun and bright lights as its wider brother, the 28mm F/2.  When the sun is in the shot, expect results similar to the images above.  I’ve deliberately made the ghosts stand out against the shadow areas to better highlight the issues.  The more you stop down, the more pronounced the ghosts.  When the sun is just outside the image, use your hand to block stray light form hitting the front element.  The supplied hood really isn’t all that effective in stopping ghosting, and of course it won’t do anything if the sun is part of the image.
Light fall-off.
There is no noticeable light fall-off or corner shading in real pictures at any aperture using an APS-C camera.

           35mm F/2
             35mm F/2.8
Center and corner sharpness.

Below are crops from the image centers and corners.

         F/2 center
          F/2 corner
         F/2.8 center
          F/2.8 corner
         F/4 center
          F/4 corner
         F/5.6 center
          F/5.6 corner
         F/8 center
          F/8 corner
         F/11 center
          F/11 corner
The centers seem about the same in sharpness from F/2 to F/11, and the corners are almost as sharp as the centers, though F/2-2.8 are a little soft.  The A700 can’t really pick up on the flaws in this lens like the A900 can.  See this comparison for a better idea of how good this lens really is.  Check out the mild color fringing (mostly red) along the tan walls in the corner crops on the right.  Shots above were taken at infinity, about 100m away.
Let’s check out the macro capabilities of this lens.

Below, check out the 100% cropped portion of the full image (no link to larger image).  The sample shot was taken with the Sony A 700 12.2MP camera.  The subject is a standard US stamp, 0.87″x 1.0″ or 22mm x 25mm.  Also, note the macro shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; in this case 7.87″ (200mm), measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.
This lens has a reproduction size of 0.17x which is average to slightly above average for a wide-angle prime lens, and produced a very sharp close shot of the postage stamp.  An aperture of F/5.6 produced the sharpest shot at close focus, but F/8 looked nearly as good.  As a side note; the “1996” on the bottom left of the stamp measures a mere 1mm wide.
As close as you can get. F/5.6. no larger link


Full frame section next.



Full frame results using the Sony A900 below.


Check out the differences when using a film or full frame camera below.  I’m only pointing out the noticeable issues as compared to the APS-C bodies, so if I don’t show it here, the results are not significantly different enough to warrant posting an additional set of images in this section.


Light fall-off


           35mm F/2
             35mm F/2.8
           35mm F/4
             35mm F/5.6


Light fall-off is definitely stronger with full frame coverage.  I see moderate to heavy levels at F/2, however, by closing the aperture one stop, things clear up nicely.  Regular filters cause additional light fall-off, although almost unnoticeable unless compared side-by-side.


Full image below illustrating light fall-off from A900.




This full scene shows actual-use light fall-off.  It’s really not too noticeable, and certainly not distracting in my opinion.  This bright daylight scene would normally be shot around F/5.6, where everything would be in focus, and light fall-off would be completely gone.  Data for the image is; F/2, 5000sec, ISO 200.


Lens flare/ghosting samples.


35mm F/5.6
35mm F/11
35mm F/5.6 sun out of shot
35mm F/5.6 sun centered


Noticeable above is the slightly different ghosting artifacts with full frame coverage.  This stuff is visible in the viewfinder, so just pay attention, although there’s nothing you can do when the sun or other bright light is inside the image.  All samples above show the entire image, and are not cropped.


Color fringing crops below.


Axial color fringing (center) at F/2.
Axial color fringing (center) at F/2.8.


Here are some samples of axial color fringing, which goes away as you stop down.  These crops are from the A700, I put them down here in the full frame section because I’m too lazy to make a spot in the top section, plus it looks the same on the A900.  The two 100% crops were taken from the center of the image, and shows some moderate purple fringing, fortunately, it almost goes away just one stop down.


Full frame corner samples next.


     F/5.6 from center
     F/2 from center


The full frame corners are soft at F/2-2.8, but sharpen up nicely at F/5.6, as a side note; these crops are the same as I used in the comparison review.  Not shown here are the sharp mid-to-outer areas of the frame, fortunately, I have crops showing those areas which can be seen in the comparison review.  I threw in a couple of center crops at the bottom row for comparison.  Crops taken from the last 300 pixels of the lower left corner.  Exposure differences are from light fall-off.


Distortion next 

Mild to moderate barrel distortion on A900


I see mild to moderate barrel distortion with full frame coverage.  Although very slightly wave-type, it can be corrected well in post processing.


Coma results below.


         35mm F/2
          35mm F/2.8
Jan2010/35mmffcma20.jpg Jan2010/35mmffcma28.jpg
         35mm F/4
          35mm F/5.6
Jan2010/35mmffcma40.jpg Jan2010/35mmffcma56.jpg


Coma is somewhat heavy in the corners at F/2, but diminishes to nothing by F/5.6. This lens seems to have better control of coma than the Minolta 28mm F/2 lens.



Overall, I’m very impressed with the old Minolta AF 35mm F/2 lens, it’s sharp in the centers at F/2, with the corners sharpening up at F/5.6.  I also like the way the mid-to-outer image areas are sharp, making use on an APS-C camera that much better.  Light fall-off is slightly noticeable on full frame when used at F/2, but APS-C users avoid this issue.  Distortion is mild to moderate, again, depending on sensor size.  Ghosting is poor by today’s standards, as is coma, but that stuff is manageable.  It’s a shame Sony hasn’t re-issued this lens with updated coating like they did with the 35mm F/1.4.  In fact, if you go here, you can see the 35mm F/2 performs better all the way around in sharpness, although you do miss an extra stop of light.


The Minolta AF 35mm F/2 is the best of the wide to normal primes available for your Sony camera (or Minolta) in my opinion, although the 28mm F/2 performs about the same, I guess it all depends on what your favorite focal length is.
APS-C users; has about the same coverage as a 50mm lens on a full frame camera, and coma and light fall-off is almost avoided due to the crop factor.

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