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Minolta AF 35-105 f/3.5 - 4.5 "Old" review : the perfect portraiture zoom


If you are looking for an cheap and excellent autofocus portrait zoom for your Sony DSLR, then read the review of the old Minolta AF 35-105 f/3.5-4.5 Old:

minolta 35-105


The Minolta 35-105 f/3.5-4.5 exists in 2 versions. The beercan generation and the newer also called "New". Be carefull, because they are not the same lenses: the new version is lighter, and it does not feature the nice macro function available on the "Old" one.  If the New version is certainly not a bad zoom, the old one is more recommanded. This review is for the Old version.


minolta 35-105

Introduction date 1985. Discontinued now
focal lenght 35-105
aperture 3.5(22) - 4.5
minimum focus distance 1,5m
macro ratio 1/4 when using the macro button at 105 mm with manual focus
filter diam 55mm
weight 485g

All beercan generation lenses are hyped. But this is not the case of this lens because 35mm is not wide enough on APC-C DSLR to be considered a walkaround zoom, and 105mm is not long enough to be a telephoto zoom. I purchased this Minolta 35-105 on the after market just to compare it with my M42 prime lenses and with the Konica Minolta 18-70 kit zoom. I paid 50€ for it. For this price, I was not expecting fast prime lenses results (and considering it is a 20 years old zoom)

The build quality is typical of beercan generation lenses: built like an tank.

It is compact considering it's range and aperture but heavy considering it's compactness.

minolta 35-105

Mounted on my Alpha 700

Then, with the zoom fully extended :

minolta 35-105

The focus ring rotate smoothly. You cannot use it with a rotating polarizer filter because the front element rotate when focusing.

The minimum focus distance is long also when used in autofocus mode is also very long 1.5 compared to more modern zoom. But the Minolta 35-105 old has a secret: the macro button. When zoomed at 105, this button switch the zoom ring as a focus ring. Then you are locked at 105mm, in manual focus mode with a drasticaly reduced enabling 1/4 macro ratio.

minolta 35-105minolta 35-105

In the blue range, the zoom ring is a macro manual focus ring. (must push the macro button to jump from 105 to this range!)

I have heard about hacks to get autofocus to get autofocus working when in macro mode. But I am used to manual focus when in macro by moving the neck to focus accurately.  So I did not hacked my copy.

In autofocus mode, the autofocus is not very fast and can hunt in low light compared to the Minolta 28-105.

This lens is sensible to flare but it can be used with the lenshood of the beercan or big beercan :

Before having this zoom my favorite lenses for outdoor portraiture were M42 fast primes like the Jupiter 9,  the Helios 44-2 or the Jupiter 37.

Then I tested the Minolta 35-105 and realised i few things:

First, between 60mm and 105mm, for portraiture, the aperture of this zoom provide the exactly needed depth of field for portraiture. With faster lenses, if you will probably get only on eye blured while the other is sharp. Around f/4.0, you get just the needed part of the face sharp.

I have been striked by the color rendition of this lens and by the 3D effect of the pictures (different layers). The bokeh is very nice. My copy produce sharp images even wide opened.

So I loved to use this zoom for outdoor portraiture, with excellent results. The macro function is also usefull for portraiture when you want to shoot a part  of a face or the light on one eye. All of this without having to change the lens on your DSLR. So I think the Minolta 35-105 f/3.5-4.5 is a perfect lens for outdoor portraiture being very versatile.

this lens compared with M42 lenses and with other autofocus lenses :
match @35mm with M42 prime lens Mir  1B, Tamron 17-50 , Minolta AF 35-105, Minolta AF 28-105
match @85mm with Jupiter 9, Minolta AF 28-105, Minolta AF 70-210 Beercan, Minolta AF 75-300 Big Beercan, Minolta 135 AF f/2.8


Last Updated on Monday, 04 January 2010 20:48