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Author Topic: Best Alpha Mount Lenses? (ie, for sony a900)  (Read 25924 times)
AVA Creative
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« on: February 10, 2009, 05:10:54 PM »
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Hiya folks at LL -
I've been loving the intelligent reviews and banter on this site for years, and am finally faced with a tough question. I'm definitely getting a Sony a900, but need to plan my lens line-up. I've read the the LL articles on the a900, which include some very useful info - but there's really a wide range of lenses available for the alpha mount (older Minolta lenses, Tamron, Sigma, etc). I'm a big Zeiss fan and use them on my Contax 645. However, I've heard that SONY is actually producing/manufacturing the alpha mount Zeiss series, and Zeiss is only participating in the lens design.
Anyhow, without further preamble, I suggest we try to achieve a 'best-of-class' list for alpha mount lenses - in terms of resolution and sharpness - include both MF and AF lenses - with a stress on real tests and comparisons rather than general brand favorites (dyxum does well, but the ratings are perhaps a bit overzealous and not 'best-of'). So, by general category (with some possibilities listed):

Best 50mm-70mm macro? (Sony / Minolta - AF 50 F2.8 Macro? Minolta - AF 50 F3.5 Macro?)
Best 90+mm macro? (Minolta AF 3x-1x 1.7-2.8 Macro? Minolta AF 100mm F2.8 Macro RS or D? Minolta 200mm F4 AF apo macro? Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro?
Best wide prime? (Minolta - AF 20 F2.8 RS? Sony 35mm F1.4 G? Minolta - AF 28mm F2 RS? Sigma 24 F1.8 EX Aspherical?)
Best standard prime? (Minolta - AF 35 F1.4 G RS? Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM? Sony 50mm F1.4?)
Best mid-tele prime? (Zeiss-Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA? Zeiss-Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA? Sony 135mm F2.8 [T4.5] STF? Minolta AF 85 F1.4 G?)
Best long-tele prime? (Sony 300mm F2.8 G Telephoto? Minolta AF 200mm F2.8 G APO HS?
Best wide-to-mid zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35 F2.8 ZA SSM Zoom? Minolta - AF 17-35 F3.5 G?)
Best mid-to-tele zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar f2.8 24-70mm Zoom? Minolta AF 28-70mm F2.8 G?)
Best tele zoom? (Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-Series SSM Zoom? ? Sony 70-300mm G SSM Zoom? Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8? Minolta AF 70-200mm F2.8 APO G D SSM?)

Hope this is a hot topic, and hope the above research helps get us started!
thanks
Kyle at AVA Creative
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 04:27:06 AM by AVA Creative » Logged
Plekto
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2009, 07:15:40 PM »
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http://www.dyxum.com/lenses/index.asp
These guys are a tad more crazy about such things.      Good site for information.

http://www.dyxum.com/lenses/detail.asp?IDLens=152
Sigma 24 F1.8 EX Aspherical
This appears to be a gem in hiding.  Back it off to 2.8 and it'll likely crush a normal 28/2.8(I can't tell much difference between 24 and 28mm myself, and any distortion is easy to tweak on the computer)  The only minus is it's not as damage-proof as the OEM lenses.

The 35mm f/2.0 is also great for not a lot of money.  Thanks to the A900s internal stabilization, the lenses don't need to have any of that, either.  Just good, clean optics.  Since you have to pull the 35mm 1.4s in a stop or two, very few people report a real difference between the more expensive 1.4 one and this.

The Minolta AF 85 F1.4 G is also a superb lens.  Yes, it's pricey used, but is equal to the much more expensive new Zeiss option.  

Zooms aren't my forte, though.  I prefer scenery and people.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 07:16:50 PM by Plekto » Logged
AVA Creative
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2009, 10:54:09 PM »
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Thanks Plekto!
I've added your suggestions to the list above. When you mention "The 35mm f/2.0 is also great for not a lot of money." - is this a Minolta or Sigma, etc?

Kyle
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2009, 11:21:39 PM »
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Hi!

Check this, too:

http://www.newcamerareview.com/lens_reviews_id21.html

I have the following lenses myself for the Alpha 900

Minolta 20/2.8, good when stopped down
Sony 24-70/2.8 ZA (Zeiss labeled), very good but not perfect (bad extreme corners), very crisp images
Minolta 80-200/2.8 APO, significant lateral CA, can be compensated in raw conversion, very sharp and crisp
Minolta 100/2.8 Macro, the jury is out
Sony 70-300/4.5-5.6 G, new lens, the jury is out
Minolta 400/4.5G + extenders, very sharp if correctly focused, questions about AF accuracy
Minolta 50/1.4

Sample pictures here:
http://www.pbase.com/ekr/a900_test





Quote from: AVA Creative
Hiya folks at LL -
I've been loving the intelligent reviews and banter on this site for years, and am finally faced with a tough question. I'm definitely getting a Sony a900, but need to plan my lens line-up. I've read the the LL articles on the a900, which include some very useful info - but there's really a wide range of lenses available for the alpha mount (older Minolta lenses, Tamron, Sigma, etc). I'm a big Zeiss fan and use them on my Contax 645. However, I've heard that SONY is actually producing/manufacturing the alpha mount Zeiss series, and Zeiss is only participating in the lens design.
Anyhow, without further preamble, I suggest we try to achieve a 'best-of-class' list for alpha mount lenses - in terms of resolution and sharpness - include both MF and AF lenses - with a stress on real tests and comparisons rather than general brand favorites (dyxum does well, but the ratings are perhaps a bit overzealous and not 'best-of'). So, by general category (with some possibilities listed):

Best 50mm-70mm macro? (Minolta - AF 50 F2.8 Macro RS? Sony - AF 50 F2.8 Macro? Minolta - AF 50 F3.5 Macro?  Sigma - 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro?)
Best 90+mm macro? (Minolta AF 3x-1x 1.7-2.8 Macro? Minolta AF 100mm F2.8 Macro RS or D? Minolta 200mm F4 AF apo macro? Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro?
Best wide prime? (Minolta - AF 20 F2.8 RS? Sony 35mm F1.4 G? Minolta - AF 28mm F2 RS? Sigma 24 F1.8 EX Aspherical?)
Best standard prime? (Minolta - AF 35 F1.4 G RS? Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM? Sony 50mm F1.4?)
Best mid-tele prime? (Zeiss-Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA? Zeiss-Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA? Sony 135mm F2.8 [T4.5] STF? Minolta AF 85 F1.4 G?)
Best long-tele prime? (Sony 300mm F2.8 G Telephoto? Minolta AF 200mm F2.8 G APO HS?
Best wide-to-mid zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35 F2.8 ZA SSM Zoom? Minolta - AF 17-35 F3.5 G?)
Best mid-to-tele zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar f2.8 24-70mm Zoom? Minolta AF 28-70mm F2.8 G?)
Best tele zoom? (Sony AF 70-200mm f/2.8 G-Series SSM Telephoto Zoom? ? Minolta AF 70-200mm F2.8 APO G D SSM?)

Hope this is a hot topic, and hope the above research helps get us started!
thanks
Kyle at AVA Creative
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Brammers
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2009, 11:37:00 PM »
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Many Sony lenses are rebadges of the latest version of the corresponding Minolta, updated cosmetically and electronically.  A couple are not...

Best 50mm-70mm macro?  

Minolta 50 f3.5 macro is allegedly the sharpest, but it's only 1:2 macro.  Otherwise either the latest version of the Minolta 50, the Sony 50 or the Sigma 70, even though it gets soft towards infinity.

Best 90+mm macro?

Minolta RS D or Sony for 100mm macros.  Minolta 200/4 G for 200mm macro.

Best wide prime?

Minolta 35/1.4 G D or Sony 35 1.4 for 'look'.  Minolta 35/2 or 28/2 for sharpness.  Wait for PMA - strong rumours regarding Zeiss 24/2.  

Best standard prime?  

Sony 50 1.4 - it's an previous unreleased update to the Minolta RS - optical differences.  Or the Siggy.

Best mid-tele prime?  

Any of the (5!) 85s, either of the 135s.  

Best long-tele prime?

All of the long tele-primes are well regarded, the 200mm 2.8 especially so.  Choose depending on your focal length needs.

Best wide-to-mid zoom?

It's the Zeiss - in the tests I've seen it takes the Minolta G to pieces towards the edges.

Best mid-to-tele zoom?

Zeiss again - it's pretty spectacular.

Best tele zoom?

Sony & Minolta 70-200 2.8s are optically identical.  Very good things coming out about the Sony 100-400 G if you want longer.  Sony 70-300 G if you're after something less exotic.


Final tip, if you're really into studio portraiture you really owe it to yourself to at least rent the STF.  I couldn't justify it over the Zeiss 135 because it is slow - T4.5 - but the images...  It's not a soft focus or a DC lens, it's a bokkeh enhancer and it's utterly gorgeous.

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pegelli
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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2009, 12:16:04 AM »
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Regarding your macro questions:

Don't have a lot of info for short macros, but they're all good. Even the old Minolta 50/1.7 + extension tubes does a very good job on macro as well.

100 mm: Minolta RS, Minolta D and Sony are optically the same with round aperture, only the "original" 100/2.8 has a more cornered aperture (noticable in bokeh) but still has the same glass. Sigma 105/2.8 and Tamron 90/2.8 are also highly regarded and even the old cosina 100/3.5 (also called the "plastic fantastic") is optically very good but build quality is a real downer, but hey you can ususally find them very cheap.

200 mm: the APO f4 is a real collectors item and supposed to be supurb. Yesterday one went on german e-bay in excess of 1400,   , so for me a clear case of "enough is enough" and look for a Tamron or Sigma 180/3.5 which are also excellent.

If there is one "old" lens you really need to consider it's the 200/2.8 APO. Probably one of the best lenses ever produced in the Minolta A-mount. Hard to describe but the pictures taken with it have some real magic crispness and plasticity. There's a "standard" and a "high speed" version but they are optically identical. They're not cheap, around 700 - 950 depending on condition/version, but if you can find a good one I think it's worth every penny spent on it.

Happy hunting, and don't forget: every lens you buy, new or 20 years old, is stabilised !
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pieter, aka pegelli
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2009, 12:39:51 AM »
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I can't comment on many of the lenses you mentioned because I've never really had that kind of $$$ to spend on glass, but I've owned as many lenses as most people on dyxum, so I'll give you the "cheapskate" list:

Macro:

Minolta 50mm f/3.5 1:2. Optically perfect in every way. Seems to fully resolve the A900 wide-open. Kind of hard to find, but usually go for around $250. Can double as "standard" 50mm, focus is quite good for a macro.

Sample shot from 50mm f/3.5

Ultra WA:

Sigma 15-30mm EX DG. Excellent build, tack sharp stopped down just a bit, bad flare control. Around $400. The CZ 16-35mm will likely be the lens to have in this area.  

Sample shot from Sigma 15-30mm

Wide-zoom:

Minolta 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5. A super-compact zoom. Excellent when stopped down to f/6.3. Light falloff at 24mm, but nothing a tiny bit of PP can't fix. Rich Minolta colors with nice bokeh. $100-150.

Mid-zoom:

Minolta 28-135mm f/4-4.5 ("Secret Handshake"). It runs about $300 on ebay and has about the best range you'll find (24mm would've been great!) in a pro-type zoom. It compares well with the CZ 24-70mm w/r/t sharpness and has better bokeh.

100% crop from the 28-135mm on an A900. VERY fast focusing on A900.

Tele-zoom:

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8. An amazing lens, especially considering it's roughly 1/3-1/2 the price of it's Minolta and Sony counterparts. Slow low-light focusing. $650-750.

Sample shot from Tamron 70-200mm

OR

Minolta 70-210mm f/4 "beercan". A true Minolta classic with rich, beautiful color and silky-smooth bokeh. Sharp wide-open, but CA is gone and sharpens up more stopped down to f/5.6 or so. Around $180 used for a good copy.

Sample shots from beercan


I just ordered a Minolta 85mm f/1.4, so I'll update when it arrives.

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pyl
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2009, 02:05:27 AM »
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Quote from: lattiboy
Minolta 28-135mm f/4-4.5 ("Secret Handshake"). It runs about $300 on ebay and has about the best range you'll find (24mm would've been great!) in a pro-type zoom. It compares well with the CZ 24-70mm w/r/t sharpness and has better bokeh.

An excellent lens with one huge drawback: the minimum focusing distance is about six feet! I sold this to partly finance my Zeiss 24-70 instead which I'm happy with. The Zeiss does have some issues with flare though.

The best tele zoom is without question the Sony 70-200/2.8. It does have some issues with extreme corner sharpness and there has been rumours about this lens being upgraded for quite a while now.
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lattiboy
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2009, 02:20:28 AM »
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Quote from: pyl
An excellent lens with one huge drawback: the minimum focusing distance is about six feet! I sold this to partly finance my Zeiss 24-70 instead which I'm happy with.

Yes, a very fair point. At 135mm, it's not too difficult, but you're certainly not going to be doing any closeups with it. Still, for 1/6 the price of the Zeiss, the IQ is very similar.
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rickk
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2009, 02:28:30 PM »
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So far in experimenting with older Minolta lenses on the A900 (and wishing I hadn't sold off my various Maxxum lenses a few years ago), the 28-135 has been a real surprise in just how good it is for a zoom. Although I expect to use the excellent 50 and 100 macros whenever possible, the 28-135 will probably be on the camera when some focal-length flexibility is needed. The 35-70 isn't as good in the overlapping range, but if you want a very small mid-range zoom that is not bad at f/8-f/11, these lenses are a real bargain. My copies of the 24 and 135 f/2.8 are not as good as I hoped they might be. The 100-400 is about as expected: OK and about on par with the Nikon 80-400 on a Kodak. As you are all well aware, the prices of used Minolta glass are jumping up fast. Good luck finding some gems.

Rick
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Plekto
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2009, 02:36:23 PM »
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Quote from: Brammers
Minolta 35/1.4 G D or Sony 35 1.4 for 'look'.  Minolta 35/2 or 28/2 for sharpness.  Wait for PMA - strong rumours regarding Zeiss 24/2.

This also is in response to the OP's question.  The *Minolta* 35mm/2.0.  The problem is, IMO, that while the 1.4 versions are great, they also suffer as do all large aperture lenses at this focal length.  So you have to almost entirely forget the last stop or two anyways on the 1.4s.  A smarter choice for less money would be the 2.0s, which can be used at 2.0 quite well.  Looking at results that were posted for a 1.4 backed off to 2.0 versus a 2.0 fully open... Too close to call.

Given that digital tricks like bracketing and pushing the exposure when you process the raw files exist, being a stop too low hardly matters any more.  It's just not quite as critical in most situations to get that last little bit of light.  Win-win in most cases.  Now, AF usually craps out if there's not enough light and the lens is too dim.  But even then bumping the ISO one notch is usually more than enough to compensate.  Unlike the old days, ISO 100 versus ISO200 or 400 isn't even noticeable on most good bodies.  The fact that you can get away with lenses that would have given film fits is another often overlooked bonus to using older lenses on a digital body.

As for Zeiss, I don't know... I don't see the massive improvement any more.  And the prices are a bit silly as well.
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AVA Creative
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2009, 04:18:46 AM »
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Quote from: pyl
The best tele zoom is without question the Sony 70-200/2.8. It does have some issues with extreme corner sharpness and there has been rumours about this lens being upgraded for quite a while now.

Other than the 2.8 aperture, is the Sony 70-200mm really much better than the Sony 70-300mm? Both are G lenses, and I've heard good things about the clarity and resolution on the 300mm. Has anyone done comparisons? To quote one side of the story (from http://www.newcamerareview.com - mentioned by someone in this thread - a great resource for this topic):
"This lens (70-300mm) gives better results in light fall-off, ghosting and corner sharpness than the much more expensive Sony 70-200mm F/2.8 G, as I've mentioned earlier.  If you don't need the extra two stops, this lens will save you about $1000. "
-find the full review here: http://www.newcamerareview.com/sony_70_300...5_6_gid224.html
(sorry, not sure about the rules for linking here)

Any who agree or disagree? Does anyone have mount-strain issues with the 70-300mm? Its ~800g, and no tripod collar. The 70-200 has the extra tripod collar on the lens (no doubt due to its weight ~1500g).

Thanks everyone - great posts!
Kyle
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pegelli
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« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2009, 04:37:51 AM »
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Quote from: AVA Creative
Any who agree or disagree? Does anyone have mount-strain issues with the 70-300mm? Its ~800g, and no tripod collar. The 70-200 has the extra tripod collar on the lens (no doubt due to its weight ~1500g).

I don't have either of the two lenses myself but value Michaels' field experience, and this is what he wrote about the two in his article "what worked and what didn't":

" The Sony and Zeiss lenses continue to please, and the Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G was my most used lens by far, for shooting not only from the ship but also from Zodiacs and onshore. This is my personal favourite focal range, and this lens is about as fine as I've used at these focal lengths. I also had along and occasionally used the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G, and while a very fine lens I found that I used the slightly longer 70-300mm not only because of its greater range but also lighter weight. "

Two other comments:
My father has the 70-300 and I have done some test shots with it. A very good lens, decent sharpness wide open and very well behaved without the large amount of CA that you often see with the older Minolta beercans and big beercans. So if you don't need the large aperture I would go for the longer reach and lower weight.

I have had no mount strain issues on my Konica Minolta 5D and Sony A700 using the big beercan (also ~ 800 grams) with the camera tripod mount, I'm even lazy and not even always use the tripod collar on my 80-200/2.8 HS (~1300 grams) and haven't had any issues with my two cameras. Hardly scientific, not the A900, but a datapoint you can consider.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 05:19:07 AM by pegelli » Logged

pieter, aka pegelli
lattiboy
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« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2009, 09:26:34 AM »
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I had the 70-300mm G for about 2 months and really enjoyed it. It's got great micro-contrast (like the Zeiss lenses) and very nice bokeh. The macro ability is also quite impressive. For the prices they're going at Circuit City liquidation now ($469!) they're an absolute steal!.

PS If you don't have a Circuity City that carries them near you, they're going for around $600-650 on ebay.
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aaykay
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2009, 10:43:32 PM »
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I have the following, currently being used on the A900:

Carl Zeiss 24-70 f/2.8 SSM Vario-Sonnar - Superb+
Carl Zeiss 16-35 f/2.8 SSM Vario-Sonnar - Superb++
Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar - Superb++
Carl Zeiss 135mm f/1.8 Sonnar -  Superb++
Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro - Very Good (used it till date as a non-macro normal - sharp right from wide-open) but not used it yet as a macro
Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro  -  (have not used it yet, since I just bought it a week or so back but it has a "superb" reputation)
Sony 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 SSM G - Excellent for the price - sharp from wide-open and highly portable for the range.  Lighter and sharper than its bigger brother, the 70-200 f/2.8 SSM G.
Sony 24-105 f/3.5-4.5 - Good for stopped-down usage  but not a good performer wide-open on the A900, but very small, light and portable, with an excellent range on the A900.

I just bought a 135mm STF, along with the 16mm Fisheye too.  Even though I already have the CZ 135mm, it would have been a shame to have an A900 and not use the unique STF, the likes of which are unavailable in any other mount.  
« Last Edit: March 02, 2009, 03:31:08 PM by aaykay » Logged
worstphotographer
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« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2013, 01:26:26 PM »
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Hi everyone,  I hope we are all having fun!

I just got a Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm f/1:1.4(22) with 5 electronic pins serial # 55102933 and need a question about how it should function on my perfectly good a900 answered A.S.A.P.
so I can return it to the seller if need be!  It does NOT Auto Focus unless it is 'AUTO' mode and then only opens up to a max of F/2.0.

In other modes I can use the camera body dial to select f/1.4  but then there is NO AF!  Is this normal ot is there a lens problem?

This finding is with the ISO set at  100 in a dark room.

Thanks much to anyone who has this combination and can share their knowledge.
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Fine_Art
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« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2013, 02:20:52 PM »
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Hi everyone,  I hope we are all having fun!

I just got a Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm f/1:1.4(22) with 5 electronic pins serial # 55102933 and need a question about how it should function on my perfectly good a900 answered A.S.A.P.
so I can return it to the seller if need be!  It does NOT Auto Focus unless it is 'AUTO' mode and then only opens up to a max of F/2.0.

In other modes I can use the camera body dial to select f/1.4  but then there is NO AF!  Is this normal ot is there a lens problem?

This finding is with the ISO set at  100 in a dark room.

Thanks much to anyone who has this combination and can share their knowledge.

Probably a defective aperture. Can you move it manually? there is a tab that turns as you put the rear cover on the lens.

I have always had good results from the 50 macro 2.8, 100 macro, 300 f4. The tammy 180 is very good at macro range. Don't use it as a regular 200 at range.

The 135 STF is a reason to use the sony system. The 135 zeiss is also very good. The 200 2.8G and 300 2.8G also have very good reputations.

The good (non the old cheap zooms) lenses are sharp in focus. OOF seems to just dissolve. Very attractive.
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Hans van Driest
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« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2013, 05:22:42 AM »
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Any who agree or disagree? Does anyone have mount-strain issues with the 70-300mm? Its ~800g, and no tripod collar. The 70-200 has the extra tripod collar on the lens (no doubt due to its weight ~1500g).


[/quote]

I do have the lens and no mount strain issues. An issue I do have, but that is more to do with the a900 itself, is that at critical shutter speeds (1/5th-1/60th) and vertical mounting on a tripod, the shutter introduced enough vibration to blur the results in the 200-300mm range. when mounted horizontally, the tripod seems to handle the impact, but in vertical position the shutter introduces some twist and the results are not critically sharp anymore. This is all with a RRS L-bracket, but I do not think mounting will make much of a difference. The best way to solve this is a a99. electronic first curtain and problem completely gone.
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