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Here's a brief look at the Minolta AF 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6  zoom lens.  Scroll down for the main review.

Lens

Minolta AF 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6

Box contents

Front and rear caps, users manual, a possible hard-case, and a hood.

Cost

Available on eBay at the time of this review for around $350, depending on condition.

Build quality

Good, to very good

Additional information

Not to be confused with the newer version, which is much cheaper in build quality.

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

13 elements in 11 groups

Angle of view

32°-8° full frame, 21°-5° APS-C.

Aperture

9 blades, straight

Full frame and APS-C

Yes, full frame and APS-C.   APS-C equivalent, 112-450mm

Depth of field and focus scales?

Distance window, and IR index marks at 75mm, 100mm, and 300mm.

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

60"  (1.5m)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

48.25"  (1226mm)

Hard stop at infinity focus?

Yes

Length changes when focusing?

Yes

Focus ring turns in AF?

Yes

Filter size

55mm

Filter ring rotates?

Yes

Distance encoder?

No
 

Max magnification

0.26x

Min. F/stop

F/32-40   

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Length changes when zooming?

Yes

Dimensions WxL  (my measurements)

2.9" x 6.46"   73mm x 164mm  

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

8.27"  (210mm)                                                    

Weight bare (my scale)

30.4oz  (862g)  31.2oz (884g) with caps


Requisite product shots.

August09/75300bcft.jpg
Front element
August09/75300bcbk.jpg
Backside
August09/75300bcsdex.jpg
Side view, with full zoom and focus extension
August09/75300bcsd.jpg
Side view, fully drawn-in
August09/75300bcsdexhd.jpg
Side view, full zoom and focus extension, with original hood

 
 
The Sony A700 and A900 were used for this review.  For full frame results, go to the bottom of the page.  For a better understanding of terms and methods used in this review, go here.
 
To view the original owner's manual, go here
 
The Minolta AF 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6 reviewed here is the original mid-1980s version, not the newer, mid-to-late 1990s version, which is smaller, lighter and has a cheaper build quality. 
 
This original series Minolta AF lens looks very similar to the super-popular 70-210mm F/4, which is sometimes known as the "Beercan."  The 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6 (sometimes called the Big Beercan) is a little different from the former in the fact that the lens extends while zooming out, has a variable aperture, and comes with a focus limiter switch.   The 70-210mm zooms internally, and has a constant F/4 aperture across the entire zoom range. 
 
The original Minolta AF 75-300mm sports a focus limiter switch, so you can limit the travel of the focusing, thereby making it faster, but limiting it to a smaller window of focus range, see more about this in the next paragraph.  There is the standard focus distance window, along with three infra-red focus index marks at 75mm, 100mm and 300mm.  Farther down the barrel are the focal length index marks at 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, 250mm and 300mm.  The EXIF data matches up with the focal length marks.  Turning the zoom ring is very easy, and results in the barrel extending out if allowed to hang down while walking.  Also, the zooming action is not smooth across the range, I found the middle area to be slightly stiffer than the ends, but still only requires one finger to move--which is good.  I can't find any info about "ED" elements or special coatings used, I don't think it uses any, based on performance.  This lens is multi-coated and has a predominately green, to amber look.  In the box you would find the lens, manual, plastic hood, and maybe a black hard case, depending on when you bought it.
 
Focusing.  Manual focusing is done with the narrow ring on the front of the lens, and isn't all that convenient since this lens is quite long, but then again, these lenses were never really meant to be focused manually.  Manual focusing takes just over 1/3 turn from Close-in to infinity.  Auto-focusing is not very fast, but adequate, and is mostly accurate. 
 
Now I'll explain the workings of the focus range limiter switch as mentioned above.  This switch allows faster focusing times for the set distances, although the actual focusing speed is not changed, the difference is the lens will not run through the entire focus range hunting for the correct focus, or focus on objects that are in the image, but are not of the item you want to be focused on, that's what they mean by "faster focusing."  The focusing range limiter works in the following way; when turned to "full" you get the full focusing range, from close-in to infinity.  When turned to "limit" you have two options; you can limit the focus range from 1.5 meters to 3 meters, you do this by manually setting the focus distance to 1.5 meters, then turn the switch to "limit."  For the range of 4 meters to infinity, you set the focus distance to ∞, then turn the switch.  The switch is just a mechanical block that keeps the lens focusing between the set areas.  Note; you cannot get proper focus between 3-4 meters with the switch set to "limited."


Lens flare/ghosting.  About average control for a 1980s zoom, but well below average for a twenty-first century zoom.  I see at least one large blob and massive glare if the sun is near, or inside the image.  Look below for examples.  Veiling glare is strong, so be prepared to block the sun or other super-bright light source with your hand to keep the contrast up in your shots.  Similar results at 300mm as you see below in the crops.

Color fringing (CA).  Bad by today's standards, but about average for a 1980s Minolta long zoom.  This lens has some axial color fringing, but stopping down helps when close to 75mm.  Towards the long end, it never really goes away, even at F/16.  Lateral color fringing (along the sides) is strong at the long end, especially near 200mm and beyond, stopping down doesn't help with this type of color fringing, but does remove some of the axial color fringing.   See full frame section for sample crops.
 
Bokeh.  Harsh looking at wide angle, smooth at the long end.  Look below for sample crops.
 
Color.   Same as other Minolta lenses.
 
Close up filter+4 tested.  Cloudy at 300mm, so use at 75mm for best results.  Allows closer distance, about 8" (203mm) between subject and lens barrel.  
 
Coma.  No coma on APS-C or full frame cameras.
 
Regular filters cause no additional light fall-off problems with APS-C cameras, and only very slight additional light fall-off with full frame cameras at F/4.5, 75mm.  
 
Filter size is 55mm.  This is the most popular size Sony uses, which makes it handy to share filters.  Sony lenses that use 55mm filters are; 18-55mm SAM, 18-70mm, 55-200mm, 50mm macro, 100mm macro, 35mm F/1.4, 50mm F/1.4, and the 75-300mm.
 
Distortion.  You'll notice mild barrel distortion at the wide end, becoming flat around 105mm, then pincushion distortion increasing out to 300mm using an APS-C camera.  Of course, full frame coverage shows more distortion.  Check out the images below.
 
Distortion examples directly below.
 

August09/75300wdis.jpg
75mm, very mild barrel distortion.
August09/75300tdis.jpg
Mild pincushion at 300mm.

 

Lens flare/ghosting examples

 

75mm F/5.6, massive ghosting and glare with sun just out of image

75mm F/5.6 hand blocking sun

August09/75300w56gst.jpg
August09/75300w56gst2.jpg

Bokeh, 75mm F/4.5

Bokeh, 75mm F/5.6

August09/75300bokw45.jpg
August09/75300bokw56.jpg

Bokeh, 300mm F/5.6

Bokeh, 300mm F/8

August09/75300bokt56.jpg
August09/75300bokt80.jpg

 
I see some colored blobs when the sun is close to the edge of the frame, or inside the image. This lens has a somewhat heavy amount of veiling glare when the sun is close to, or in the frame.  Make sure you try and shield the sun from hitting the front element, the hood really doesn't do much good, your hand is better.  I show 75mm crops above, but 300mm showed similar results.
 
Bokeh, (cropped) looks harsh at shorter lengths, and quite smooth towards the long end, even slightly stopped down. 
 

Aperture/focal length guide for the Minolta AF 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6 

 

Maximum aperture

F/4.5

F/5

F/5.6

Range

75mm-100mm

105mm-135mm

150mm-300mm

 
Light fall-off.

See the crops below.  Light fall-off or corner shading is not noticeable in real pictures at any focal length or aperture using an APS-C camera.    

           75mm F/4.5

             75mm F/5.6

August09/75300bbvigw45.jpg
August09/75300bbvigw56.jpg

           300mm F/5.6 

             300mm F/8

August09/75300bbvigt56.jpg
August09/75300bbvigt80.jpg


Center and corner sharpness.

Below are crops from the image centers and corners at 75mm.

         F/4.5 center

          F/4.5 corner

August09/75300w45ctr.jpg
August09/75300w45cn.jpg

         F/5.6 center

          F/5.6 corner

August09/75300w56ctr.jpg
August09/75300w56cn.jpg

         F/8 center

          F/8 corner

August09/75300w80ctr.jpg
August09/75300w80cn.jpg

         F/11 center

          F/11 corner

August09/75300w11ctr.jpg
August09/75300w11cn.jpg

 
The 75mm center and corner crops are pretty sharp wide open, but F/5.6 might be the absolute sharpest for the centers, and F/8 for the corners.   
 
 
Below, crops from the 200mm centers and corners.
 

         F/5.6 center

          F/5.6 corner

August09/75300m56ctr.jpg
August09/75300m56cn.jpg

         F/8 center

          F/8 corner

August09/75300m80ctr.jpg
August09/75300m80cn.jpg

         F/11 center

          F/11 corner

August09/75300m11ctr.jpg
August09/75300m11cn.jpg

 

At 200mm, the F/5.6 crops show some veiling haze and axial color fringing, which occurs in all parts of the image.  One stop down to F/8 shows a pretty clean picture, though there is some lateral color fringing around the corners that won't go away.

 

Below are centers and corners from 300mm.

 

         F/5.6 center

          F/5.6 corner

August09/75300t56ctr.jpg
August09/75300t56cn.jpg

         F/8 center

          F/8 corner

August09/75300t80ctr.jpg
August09/75300t80cn.jpg

 
The 300mm center and corner crops show some improvement by closing the aperture one stop to F/8, noticeable in the lower left area of the center crops mostly.  There is no more gain in sharpness by stopping down the aperture more.  The corners are almost as sharp as the centers at this length, but there is a slight difference when viewed side-by-side.  The exposure difference in the corner crops are from very slight vignetting.
 

  
Let's check out the macro capabilities of this lens.

Below, check out the 100% cropped portion (312kb) of the full 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 a very long 48.25" (1226mm), measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.  
 
This lens has a large reproduction size of 0.26x and produced a sharp close shot of the postage stamp.  F/11 was the sharpest at close focus, F/4.5 was rather soft.  You can see magenta color fringing around the black letters.  As a side note; the "1996" on the bottom left of the stamp measures a mere 1mm wide in real life.
 

August09/75300bbmac482.jpg
As close as you can get. F/11. Click for larger image.

 

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 

 

         75mm F/4.5

          75mm F/5.6

August09/75300bbffw45.jpg

August09/75300bbffw56.jpg

         75mm F/8

          75mm F/11

August09/75300bbffw80.jpg

August09/75300bbffw11.jpg

         300mm F/5.6

          300mm F/8

August09/75300bbfft56.jpg
August09/75300bbfft80.jpg

 

Light fall-off shows up slightly with full frame coverage.  Using a regular filter, there will be a tiny increase in vignetting at 75mm, F/4.5, but not enough to notice unless viewed side-by-side.  At the long end, there's mild light fall-off, but it  doesn't show in regular pictures.  

 

Full image from A900 below.

 

August09/75300ffvigover.jpg

 

This mountain scene shows a modified "Hoodoo" or rock stack.  It was taken at 75mm, F/4.5.  Light fall-off is noticeable, but not distracting in my opinion.  Simply use F/5.6 and you'll have no dark corners to worry about.    

 

Lateral color fringing.

 

August09/75300ffcfcrop.jpg

 

This is a 300mm F/5.6 100% corner crop (showing the harsh color fringing you'll likely see using a full frame camera.  It doesn't get much better as you stop down, but you will see some axial color fringing decrease.

 

Axial color fringing.

 

Axial color fringing from center of image, 300mm F/5.6

Axial color fringing from center of image, 300mm F/11

August09/30056w.jpg
August09/30011w.jpg

 

This is an example of the axial color fringing I was talking about earlier.  It's from the center of the image, (100% crop), and does decrease in severity as you stop down, but never goes completely away, even at F/16.  

 

75mm corner samples next.

 

     F/4.5

     F/5.6

August09/75300ffwcn45x.jpg
August09/75300ffwcn56x.jpg

     F/8

     F/8 from center

August09/75300ffwcn80x.jpg
August09/75300ffwctrcn80x.jpg

     F/11

     F/16

August09/75300ffwcn11x.jpg
August09/75300ffwcn16x.jpg

 

The 75mm full frame corners look pretty good wide open, but do sharpen up slightly at F/5.6-8, see the grass plug in the middle right, or rocks on the right.  It looks like F/8 is about as sharp as things get in the corners, which is pretty good.  The corner sharpness doesn't quite match the centers, but it would be hard to tell without looking at crops together like this.

 

200mm corners below.

 

     F/5.6

     F/8

August09/75300cnff56.jpg
August09/75300cnff80.jpg

     F/11

     F/8 from center

August09/75300cnff11.jpg
August09/75300ctrff80.jpg

 

Here I'm trying to eliminate heat shimmer by taking some samples indoor shots, from about 20 feet (6m) away from the card.  This set at 200mm shows the same as other sets I took outside.  There isn't much difference (although slightly noticeable) between the center, and F/8 corner shot.  Exposure differences are from light fall-off.

 

300mm corners.

 

     F/5.6

     F/8

August09/75300ffcntel56.jpg
August09/75300ffcntel80.jpg

     F/11

     F/8 from center

August09/75300ffcntel11.jpg
August09/75300ffctrcntel80.jpg

 

Same thing here, except at 300mm.  This time the distance is about 30 feet (9m) to the book marker.  I deliberately used a different object from the 200mm crops to avoid direct comparisons, and confusion.  More noticeable here is the lateral color fringing, which tends to make the image look worse than it really is.  The brighter F/11 crop shows more lateral CA than F/8 because of slight light fall-off at that aperture.  Again, F/8 looks the best in the corners, but can't quite match the centers.  Still, a good job, especially for the long end of a telephoto zoom.  

 

Distortion next.

 

August09/75300ffvigw.jpg
Mild barrel distortion @75mm on A900
August09/75300ffvigtel.jpg
Moderate pincushion distortion @ 300mm on A900

 

There is mild barrel distortion at the 75mm end, and moderate pincushion distortion as you zoom in.  The distortion curves here are gradual across the frame, and are easy to correct in post processing.

 

 

  
 
 
Conclusion. 
 

The Minolta AF 75-300mm F/4-4.5 is one of the original Minolta AF tele-zooms from the mid-to-late 1980s, and is now over 20 years old.  It's well built, with a minimum of plastic components, which makes it heavy for its size.  Sony has a current lens (Minolta designed) with the same focal length, the Sony 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6, which is much lighter, smaller, and is not built as well.  Sony also has a better lens than this, the Sony 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6 SSM G.

 

Here are the good things about this lens; above average build quality with plenty of metal, and a nice focus limiter switch and focus distance window, it's nice and sharp at F/8 on the long end, near 75mm it's sharp wide open.  The corners are almost as sharp as the centers, even with full frame coverage.

 

Now let's talk about the not-so-good things; both axial and lateral color fringing are very strong towards the long end, especially with full frame coverage, and much of it won't go away by stopping down.  Manual focusing is a chore as the ring is at the end of the rather long barrel.  There is some zoom creep if the lens is not kept level.  This lens is large and heavy, much more so than the less expensive, same focal length Sony model mentioned above. 

 

I can't help but think the Sony 75-300mm F/4.5-5.6 may be about as good as this lens.  Both have the same color fringing issues.  The Sony is smaller, lighter, has Distance integration, and a price tag of about half what you'd currently pay for the Minolta.  I suppose they each have their place, and it all depends on someone's preferences.  Personally, I'd stay away from both the above mentioned lenses and get the highly recommended Tamron 70-300mm F/4-5.6 USD for a little more money.