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Here's a brief look at the Minolta AF 35-80mm zoom lens.  Scroll down for the main review.

Lens

Minolta AF 35-80mm F/4-5.6 shutter cap    2605-600

Box contents

Rear cap and user's manual.

Cost

$30-$50 in good used condition, actual value; worthless.

Build quality

Cheap plastic, but good fit and finish.

Additional information

Introduced in 1988.

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

8 elements in 8 groups

Angle of view

63°-30° full frame, 42°-20° APS-C.

Aperture

7 blades, curved

Full frame and APS-C

Yes, full frame and APS-C.   APS-C equivalent, 52.5mm-120mm

Depth of field and focus scales?

Nothing.

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

19.1"  (485mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

14.75"  (375mm)

Hard stop at infinity focus?

Yes, but no marks

Length changes when focusing?

Yes

Focus ring turns in AF?

Yes

Filter size

46mm

Filter ring rotates?

No

Distance encoder?

No
 

Max magnification

0.18x, or 1:5.6

Min. F/stop

F/22-32

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Length changes when zooming?

Yes

Dimensions WxL  (my measurements)

2.6" x 2.3"   65mm x 59mm.  

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

2.6"  (65mm)                                                    

Weight bare (my scale)

7.6oz  (214g)  8.0oz (228g) with rear cap.


Requisite product shots.

May2010/3580scftclos3.jpg
35-80mm on left, 80-200mm on right. Front shutter closed
May2010/3580scftopen2.jpg
35-80mm on left, 80-200mm on right. Front shutter opened.
May2010/3580scbk.jpg
Backside
May2010/3580scsdlow.jpg
35-80mm on left, 80-200mm on right. fully drawn in
May2010/3580scsdex.jpg
35-80mm on left, 80-200mm on right. fully extended, including focus.

 
 
The Sony A900 was used for this review, (except for the macro shot).  For a better understanding of terms and methods used in this review, go here.
 
Instead of offering quality optics at a low price as a purchasing incentive, Minolta decided to try and lure buyers with a cool looking pair of lenses with a somewhat convenient built-in front cap.  These were kit type lenses, (made in Japan), and released around 1988.  They both featured a front shutter cap that opened and closed like the doors on the Starship Enterprise.  Unfortunately, they weren't futuristic, or ahead of their time.  They were from the bad ol' days, like the TV show "Lost in Space."
 
The product shots show both lenses, but this review will cover only the Minolta AF 35-80mm F/4-5.6 model, on the left side in the shots above.
 
Fit and finish are good, but it still feels like it has an over-abundance of plastic, like the Sony 18-70mm kit lens.  It does have a metal mount and the ability to use 46mm filters.  There is no hood for the lens, and a screw-on type would probably result in additional light fall-off at wide angle, based on tests with a filter.  The color and sheen, black satin, is the same as the later models of Minolta and Konica Minolta lenses, and most of the newer Sony lenses.
 
The shutter cap opens and closes by way of a sliding switch on the side of the barrel, towards the top, see product shots above.  Spring pressure holds the blades closed, but very light finger pressure (or stuffing the lens in a bag) will open them up.  Banging the front part of the lens against something solid would probably protect the front element, but then again, if it broke, there wouldn't be a great loss.
 
All filters go on the outside (or on top) of the shutter mechanism, so they will be prone to damage because they are unprotected.  Unfortunately, the filter is probably worth more than the lens itself!
 
The zoom action is somewhat stiff, but it holds its position well, so there is no zoom creep.  Focal length index marks come at 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm, and the EXIF data matches those lengths.  Zooming runs the extension barrel all the way in around 50mm, then out about 2mm at 80mm.  It's fully extended at 35mm.   Focus extension adds 6mm to the length.  There's a blue "M" at the 80mm mark, that means you'll get the maximum reproduction size, or marco shot at that setting.
 
In the box is the lens, and rear cap.  There is no hood for this lens.
 
Focusing.  AF works good, so don't try and manual focus, it requires turning the extension barrel, and is a real hassle unless zoomed out some.  If you want infinity, crank it over to the hard stop and it will be right.  Focusing takes about 1/5 of a turn from close up, to infinity.


Lens flare/ghosting.  Below average control for wide angle zoom by today's standards.  I see multi-color ghosts if the sun is at the edge, or inside the image.  The ghosts change shape and color with focal length and aperture.  Look below for examples.  Veiling glare seems a little strong as you zoom out, so prepare to block the sun or other super-bright light source with your hand to keep the contrast up in your shots, if the sun isn't actually in the shot.  

Color fringing (CA).  below average control.  Look for moderate to heavy amounts of lateral color fringing (green and magenta) at the wide end, and moderate to heavy amounts (blue and yellow) near the long end.  Other than massive pinkish veiling haze at the widest aperture, I see no axial color fringing anywhere.
 
Bokeh.  Poor at all focal lengths and apertures.  Look below for sample crops.
 
Color.   Same as other Minolta AF lenses. 
 
Close up filter.  N/A    
 
Coma.  Full frame shows a moderate amount at F/4 at 35mm,  none at F/5.6.  See crops below.
 
Regular filters cause very minor additional light fall-off on full frame cameras at 35mm, F/4.  
 
Filter size is 46mm.  This is an odd-ball size, and not used on any other Minolta lenses, except the bigger brother to this lens, the Minolta AF 80-200mm F/4.5-5.6.
 
Distortion.  You'll notice strong barrel distortion at the wide end, becoming flat around 50mm, then minor to moderate pincushion distortion out to 80mm using a full frame camera.  Check out the cropped samples below.
 
Distortion examples directly below.
 

May2010/35mm3580.jpg
35mm, strong barrel distortion.
May2010/80mm3580.jpg
80mm, minor to moderate pincushion distortion.

 

Aperture/focal length guide.

 

Maximum aperture

          F/4

       F/4.5

        F/5

        F/5.6

Range

35mm

40mm - 55mm

60mm - 70mm

80mm

 
Bokeh crops next.
 

           35mm F/4

             35mm F/5.6

May2010/35f4bok.jpg
May2010/35f56bok.jpg

           80mm F/5.6

             80mm F/8

May2010/80f56bok.jpg
May2010/80f80bok.jpg

 

Bokeh is harsh at all focal lengths and apertures, but does smooth out ever-so-slightly by stopping down.     

 

 

Flare and ghosting below.

 

35mm F/5.6, ghosting.

35mm F/11 ghosting

May2010/35f56ght.jpg
May2010/35f11ght.jpg

80mm F/5.6

80mm F/11

May2010/80f56ght.jpg
May2010/80f11ght.jpg

 
I see multi-colored blobs when the sun is near, or inside the image. This lens produces an average amount of veiling glare, especially zoomed out, but overall control of glare and ghosting is not very good when compared to modern wide angle zooms.  When the sun is in the center of the shot, there is a red ring visible around the image periphery, (at smaller apertures).  I use F/5.6-11 because they're an often used aperture.  As always, try to use your hand to block any stray light that may fall on the front element.  Check out the 80mm F/5.6 shot, you can see in this full-resized image that F/5.6 is really soft, and was not mis-focused!
 

 
Light fall-off.

See the crops below.  Light fall-off or corner shading is very heavy at 35mm, F/4, especially when focused close.  Stopping down helps.  At longer focal lengths, there is little light fall-off, even wide open.    

           35mm F/4

             35mm F/5.6

May2010/35f40.jpg
May2010/35f56.jpg

           35mm F/4 close focus

             35mm F/4 infinity focus

May2010/35f4near.jpg
May2010/35f4far.jpg

           80mm F/5.6 

             80mm F/8

May2010/80f56.jpg
May2010/80f80.jpg


Center sharpness.

Below are crops from the image centers at 35mm.

         F/4

          F/5.6

May2010/q35f40ctr.jpg
May2010/q35f56ctr.jpg

         F/8

          F/11

May2010/q35f80ctr.jpg
May2010/q35f11ctr.jpg

         F/16

          Sony CZ 24-70mm @35mm, @F/2.8

May2010/q35f16ctr.jpg
May2010/cz28centz.jpg

 
Center sharpness is very poor when used wide open at 35mm, however, one stop down at F/5.6, things look much better.  Unfortunately, stopping down further doesn't seem to make much difference.  The centers don't really have much contrast at any aperture, any it only gets worse as you move towards the image sides!  The bottom right crop is from the Sony CZ 24-70mm @35mm, F/2.8 from the center, and this crop is the same as the one used in the comparison review, taken at a different time.  It just shows you how poor this lens is, especially at F/4.
 
 
Below, crops from the 35mm mid-section.
 

         F/4

          F/5.6

May2010/r35f40mid.jpg
May2010/r35f56mid.jpg

         F/8

          F/11

May2010/r35f80mid.jpg
May2010/r35f11mid.jpg

         F/16

          F/8 from center

May2010/r35f16mid.jpg
May2010/q35f80ctr.jpg

 

At the mid-section, (APS-C corner area) contrast is evaporating, and the lens can't even align the image, at least on the right side (see last set of crops). The bottom right crop is from the center for comparison.

 

Below are the corners at 35mm.

 

         F/4

          F/5.6

May2010/s35f40cn.jpg
May2010/s35f56cn.jpg

         F/8

          F/11

May2010/s35f80cn.jpg
May2010/s35f11cn.jpg

         F/16

          F/8 from center

May2010/s35f16cn.jpg
May2010/q35f80ctr.jpg

 
The 35mm corner crops are horrible, especially on the right side.  Using F/16 at wide angle is the only way out of a mess with this lens, although the left side is better, see the crops below.
 
 
Differences between left and right side mid-sections and corners.
 

         F/4 Left side corner

          F/4 Right side corner

May2010/35mmlc.jpg
May2010/35mmrc.jpg

 
Here is an example of what I was talking about above.  The left side, (crop locations here are somewhere between the APS-C corners, and the extreme corners) is almost acceptable stopped down, (although not here at F/4), but the right side doesn't seem to align properly, and looks terrible.  There was no camera movement, and multiple tests were done to confirm this, including the studio shots here.
 
 


Center sharpness at 80mm.

Below are crops from the image centers at 80mm.

         F/5.6

          F/8

May2010/p80mmf56ctr.jpg
May2010/p80mmf80ctr.jpg

         F/11

          F/16

May2010/p80mmf11ctr.jpg
May2010/p80mmf16ctr.jpg

 
As with the wide end, the center sharpness at full telephoto suffers from poor contrast with the aperture wide open, thankfully, one stop down to F/8 makes things look much better.  
 
 
Below, crops from the 80mm mid-section.
 

         F/5.6

          F/8

May2010/e80mmf56mid.jpg
May2010/e80mmf80mid.jpg

         F/11

          F/16

May2010/e80mmf11mid.jpg
May2010/e80mmf16mid.jpg

 

At the mid-section, (APS-C corner area) contrast is poor unless stopped down, but there is no alignment problem as we saw in the wide-angle (35mm) crops.

 

Below are the corners at 80mm.

 

         F/5.6

          F/8

May2010/w80mmf56cor.jpg
May2010/w80mmf80cor.jpg

         F/11

          F/16

May2010/w80mmf11cor.jpg
May2010/w80mmf16cor.jpg

 
The corners are almost devoid of contrast, and don't really look decent until stopped down to F/16.
 
 
 
Let's check out the macro capabilities of this lens.

Below, check out the 100% cropped portion 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 14.75" (375mm), measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.  
 
This lens has a reproduction size of 0.18x which is somewhat small for a kit-type lens in today's world.  Contrast is noticeably poor.  F/11 was the sharpest at close focus, but F/8 looked nearly the same.   As a side note; the "1996" on the bottom left of the stamp measures a mere 1mm wide.
 

May2010/3580mmmac263.jpg
As close as you can get. F/11. No larger image

 

Coma sample crops.

 

         35mm F/4

          35mm F/5.6

May2010/3580cma40.jpg
May2010/3580cma56.jpg

 
Coma is somewhat strong at F/4, 35mm, but stopping down helps get rid of it.  Don't worry about this, as it's the least of your problems with this lens.  
 
 
Conclusion. 
 

This is easily the worst lens I've ever tested.  It's so bad, you can see the dull image as you peer through the viewfinder!  There is no reason to buy this lens, in fact, you would be worlds ahead if you stick with the Sony/KM 18-70mm kit lens.  Unfortunately, there isn't anything good to say about this lens, it is what it is.

 

Instead of quality, Minolta tried to use a gimmick to get buyers in the store.  The gimmick is the shutter cap, and the idea is you will never lose it, and it won't be a nuisance etc.  I guess back in the film days, you wouldn't notice poor optical performance too much with 4"x6" prints, although when used wide open, you would probably notice it!

 

It was fun reviewing this lens because it performed so poorly, and provided me with some much-needed laughter, but I guess I wouldn't want to review optically substandard lenses all the time.