The Legendary Minolta "Mini Beer Can"

29th July 2018

I'm a regular listener to the Classic Lenses Podcast. In episodes nine and ten, they talked about Minolta lenses and the Minolta 35-70mm f/4 zoom came up in episode 10. According to the podcast, all the versions of this lens that Minolta made, from manual to auto-focus, are meant to be very good and produce excellent images. In fact, Leica is reputed to have bought this lens design from Minolta (I’m assuming this was for their range of SLR cameras) so, it can't have been too shabby a design.

After listening to the podcast, I remembered I had a version of this lens languishing on a shell, doing nothing. I'd bought my copy of the 35-70mm, very cheaply, second-hand, from someone at camera club who was offloading his old Minolta gear (I also got a Minolta 75-300, "big beer can" from the same person). My version is the a-mount autofocus "mini beer can" model, like this one, here (pinterest).

I originally bought my 35-70mm to use on my Sony A7 via a Sony LA-EA4 a-mount to e-mount adapter; but, other than making sure that the lens worked, I don't think I ever got around to using it. Probably because: I had the A7's kit lens (I never use that much, either, to be honest); I much prefer my old manual Minolta Rokkor lenses; and, finally, I don't like the LA-EA4 adapter, it's slow, eats batteries like sweeties and unbalances any Sony camera it's slapped on to.

To see if this lens was as good as the Classic Lenses Podcast claimed, I thought I'd finally give my 35-70mm a bit of an outing. For this small test, I was going to use a recently acquired Sony A68 SLT, which I'd bought, second-hand, for wildlife photography. Over recent years I've managed to acquire a number long focal length a-mount lenses, but I'd given up on using them with the LA-EA4 adapter on e-mount cameras for the reasons I've already stated.

Like all Sony SLTs, the A68 is an a-mount body so, my "mini beer can" fit straight on to it. The A68 also has an APSC sized sensor so, the 35-70mm was going to act more like a 50-105mm on my A68.

The location for my informal test was to be the St Cyrus nature reserve, a few miles from where I live. In the brief few hours I was at St Cyrus, I managed to get a range of shots from landscape to still life and a even a macro shot. Overall, I was quite impressed with the results from this lens. Although I'm still not a fan of zoom lenses, this little fella has won me over, somewhat; it's a small and nicely constructed little zoom lens, with a macro capability that gives good results. It will be staying in my A68 kit bag.

Here are this week’s keepers using the Minolta "mini beer can".

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