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Here's a brief look at the Minolta AF 24mm F/2.8 lens.  Scroll down for the review.

Lens

Minolta AF 24mm F/2.8 

Box contents

Front and rear caps, hood and users manual.

Cost

$150-$250 used on eBay

Build quality

Very good

Additional information

Full frame and no Sony equivalent yet.

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

8 elements in 8 groups

Angle of view

84° full frame, 56° APS-C.

Aperture

7 blades, straight

Full frame and APS-C

Yes, made for full frame.   APS-C equivalent, 36mm

Depth of field and focus scales?

Yes and yes

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

10"  (254mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

6"  (152mm)

Hard stop at infinity focus?

Yes

Length changes when focusing?

No

Focus ring turns in AF?

Yes

Filter size

55mm

Filter ring rotates?

No

Distance encoder?

No

Max magnification

0.16x

Min. F/stop

F/22

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Dimensions W x L (my measurements)

2.6" x 1.7"   66mm x 44mm 

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

1.7"  (44mm)                                                      

Weight bare (my scale)

7.5oz  (211g)  8.2oz (233g) with caps


Requisite product shots.

Aug08/m24sd.jpg
Side shot
Aug08/m24ft.jpg
Front element much larger than 28mm F/2.8
Aug08/m24sdhd.jpg
Side shot with original hood.
Aug08/m24bk.jpg
Rear view
Aug08/m24comp.jpg
Left 28mm, right 24mm.

 
 
All testing done with the Sony A 700 and A900For full frame results, go to the bottom of the page.  For a better understanding of my review methods and terminology, go here.
 
This page has a copy of the orignal owner's manual. 
 
The Minolta AF 24mm F/2.8 is a compact lens, about as small as you're going to get.  Externally, it's nearly identical to the Minolta 28mm F/2.8, the only thing different is the larger front element on the 24mm lens.  Build quality is very good.  This model is from the original 1985 design.  It has a satin black finish with white index marks along the focus distance window.  It also has an Infra-red focus index, the red dot on the aperture scale.  The lens says "Japan" so I'm assuming it's made in Japan.  Focusing is quick and accurate, especially with the Sony A700.  Manual focusing is a chore, since the ring is slightly stepped down at the end of the barrel, plus the ring is very narrow and hard to manipulate with your fingers. 

The lens is multi-coated with the mild magenta/green look.  The same as most other Minolta lenses from this era.
 
Filter size is 55mm.  Sharing this size in the Sony lineup are: 50mm F/1.4, 50mm F/2.8 macro, 55-200mm, 100mm F/2.8 macro, 75-300mm, 35mm F/1.4 and the 18-70 kit lens.
 
Filter use.   Regular filters cause no additional vignetting on full frame or APS-C cameras.

Lateral color fringing.  I see some red fringing on the sides.  Stopping down doesn't help, but it's not really noticeable unless you look at your pictures at 100%.  Very similar to the 28mm F/2.8 lenses.  Average control here. 
 
Bokeh.  Depends, close at F/2.8, a little harsh, stopped down to F/4-5.6 it's smoother, without the donuts.  Longer subject to background distances look good.  See crops below.
 
Color looks nearly the same as other Minolta/Sony lenses. 
 
Coma.  Strong at F/2.8, better at F/4 and nearly gone at F/5.6.
 
Flare and ghosting.  With the sun inside the frame, you'll see several blobs, followed by a golden arrow or two, depending on angle.  Similar to the Minolta 28mm F/2.8 lens.  The supplied hood really doesn't do much, use your hand for best results with the sun outside the image.  See images below.
 
 

Sun centered, F/5.6

Sun in shot, F/5.6

24mmffgst2.jpg

24mmffgst.jpg

Bokeh, F/2.8

Bokeh, F/4

24mmffbok28b.jpg

24mmffbok40b.jpg

 
The top shots show what happens when you have the sun in the shot.  This lens holds up well to ghosting and flare.  There is very little flare with the sun just outside the frame, good control here.  When the sun is centered, left image, everything looks great.  With the sun offset, you'll get a few small blobs of color opposite the sun, and a retrograde ghost, (blob on the other side of the sun).  Overall, the lens performed well here.  Bokeh examples on the bottom.  The F/2.8 shot looks busy, the F/4 shot is smoother, but you can see some heptagons from the straight bladed aperture occasionally in harsh, bright backgrounds. 
 
Distortion. I notice a mild to moderate amount of barrel distortion, very similar to the Minolta 28mm F/2.8 lens reviewed here.

Aug08/m24mmdis2.jpg
Barrel distortion.

Light fall-off below.
 

F/2.8

F/4

Aug08/m24mm28lf.jpg

Aug08/m24mm40lf.jpg

 
light fall off or corner shading is well controlled on this lens.  On an aps-c size sensor there is a mild amount at F/2.8, but it's very gradual, and blends nicely towards the center making it nearly invisible in real world pictures.  I gets better as you stop down.  The picture for the corners below shows light fall-off at F/2.8.

Next, we have the corner sharpness sample frame crops.  Go below to read the results.

2008/min24splshot.jpg


This is the overall view of the corner crops below, above shot at F/2.8.

         F/2.8

          F/4.0

2008/min24cr28.jpg

2008/min24cr40.jpg

         F/5.6

         F/8

2008/min24cr56.jpg
2008/min24cr80.jpg


The corners sharpen up nicely as you stop the lens down.  The corners are pretty sharp at F/5.6 and beyond.  Don't worry about soft corners at F/2.8, you wouldn't be using F/2.8 in daylight anyways, and in low light it won't show, so it's really not a problem.


Center sample results.  Read below.

2008/min24ctrov.jpg


This is the entire scene of the sample center shots below.

F/2.8

2008/min24ctr28.jpg

F/4

2008/min24ctr40.jpg

F/5.6

2008/min24ctr56.jpg

F/8

2008/min24ctr80.jpg

F/11

2008/min24ctr11.jpg


Above, look at the ridiculously boring pictures trying to split hairs on sharpness.  At F/2.8, it's pretty sharp, but not the sharpest, which I think is at F/4-F/8, then a slight softening at F/11.  Keep in mind the sample crops are enlarged here to 100%, much larger than most people would normally observe.  Under normal circumstances, you'll never see any soft centers.  There might be a bit less contrast at F/2.8 which can make it appear less sharp.

Below, check out the close focus sample.  Click to see a 100% cropped portion of the full image, 175kb.  The sample shot was taken with the Sony A 700 12.2mp camera The subject is a standard US stamp, 1"x 3/4" or 25.4mm x 19mm.  Also, note the macro shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; In this case, about 6" or 152mm, measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.

Aug08/99m24mmmac2.jpg
F/5.6, click for larger image. 175kb


This doesn't have much in the way of a macro ability, and you shouldn't expect it to.  It is sharp though.  I also see some moire, so don't shoot patterns like this from 6" (152mm) away.  If you want a good macro on a lens with low magnification, use a close up filter like I did here.
 
 

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 

 

         F/2.8

          F/4

24mmvig28ff.jpg

24mmvig40ff.jpg

 

Light fall-off is worse than the APS-C crops shown earlier.  At F/2.8 it's heavy, and noticeable in real shots, but one stop down and things change dramatically for the better.  It doesn't get much better by stopping down past F/4.

 

Full image from A900 below.

 

24mmoverff.jpg

 

The dark corners are not very noticeable here, then again this example isn't the best. This shot was F2.8, ISO 200, 1/3200sec.  As always, don't shoot normal daylight shots wide open.

 

Corner samples next.

 

         F/2.8

          F/4

24mmffcn28.jpg

24mmffcn40.jpg

         F/5.6

          F/8

24mmffcn56.jpg
24mmffcn80.jpg

         F/11

          F/16

24mmffcn11.jpg
24mmffcn16.jpg

 

The corners are softer than the APS-C crops show.   Don't sweat this too much as a normal landscape shot would be at least F/5.6, and low light shots would probably hide soft corners depending on subject matter.  F/8 looks good, though It does appear F/11 produces the sharpest corners, but not by much.  F/16 is not needed as it is no sharper.  The exposure differences are from light fall-off.

 

Distortion.

 

24mmffdis.jpg
Barrel distortion on A900

 

There is slightly more barrel distortion, but the only way to notice it is to toggle between the two images. 

 

Coma results with full frame.

 

F/2.8

F/4

24mmcma28.jpg

24mmcma40.jpg

F/5.6

F/8

24mmcma56.jpg

24mmcma80.jpg

 

This is coma on the A900.  It's heavy at F/2.8, but clears up quite a bit at F/4.  I wouldn't be afraid to shoot night time street scenes at F/4, but if you use F/2.8, make sure you try and keep points of light away from the corners, otherwise, you may have a messed up shot.  Keep in mind the images above are 100% (corner cropped) portions of the whole image, and printed out as you might see it on your computer screen would measure 65" (1.9m) wide using the A900.

 


Conclusion

The Minolta AF 24mm F/2.8 lens turned in a pretty good performance. It's fairly sharp at F/2.8, and sharp at F/4 to F/8.  The corners are soft at F/2.8, but that's no big deal as stated above.  It's more useful than the 28mm on an APS-C camera; equaling 36mm, which is a nice walk around focal length in my opinion, better than the 42mm equivalent of the 28mm.  Current prices are running around $150-$200 on eBay, which is an excellent bargain if you can live within the focal length.  This lens will deliver sharp shots at F/2.8, for those that look at their images at 100% all day, use F/4. 
 
Full frame users will notice some soft corners unless stopped down to F/8, and some heavy coma wide open, so watch the street scenes at night.  This is a good lens, and provides a small, light package compared to the zoom lenses starting at 24mm.  I'm not sure you're really getting much else though, as the overall results aren't much different than the Sony 24-105mm, though that lens starts at F/3.5, which is just 2/3 of a stop more.  I guess if you need a small, inexpensive wide angle lens of this focal length, it makes sense.  I'd be willing to trade 2/3 of a stop of light and the portability of a prime lens for the convenience of a zoom lens, that's just me.
 
Update; this lens is not so impressive when comparing it to the modern Sony CZ 24-70mm F/2.8 zoom.  The Minolta 24mm prime lacks contrast, and isn't as sharp all around as the CZ at 24mm, but the prime does better at controlling ghosting.