Minolta lens on Sony


Early Spring is a great time to be out in the woods, especially on a sunny day – the trees may still be bare, but the forest floor is bursting with life… the under-story plants, shrubs and smaller trees rush through their flowering and leafing cycles quickly, to take advantage of the unrestricted sunlight – in a few weeks, once the trees leaf out, the canopy blocks off most of the light, and the small bushes go into the “quiet survival mode” until Fall when they get their chance in the sun again!

I’ve been out with the Sony Alpha 700 and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6. The choice of lens for woodland photography may seem surprising, but I find that the Tamron is very useful – the extended zoom range (the 70-300mm is equivalent to 105-450mm) on the Sony Alpha provides an useful stand-off distance so one can zoom in on an intresting flower or bud from a distance of at least 5 feet away without having to brave the underbrush and wicked looking brambles – the woods around here are chock full of wild raspberries and dog rose brambles. This also has the advantage of not blocking the light.

Besides, the Tamron 70-300mm is also a 1:3.9 macro, and since can focus down to 5 feet at the extended end of the zoom range, it does a great job. Moreover, I marvel at the fact that the Sony’s built in anti-shake allows me to handhold the 450mm equivalent lens. I would never have been able to do that with my manual Olympus bodies or even the auto focus Minolta 800si.

By the way, I purchased my Tamron lens about 8 years ago, back in June 2000 – I know they still make this lens, but I am not sure how the build quality has changed, or if it is still made made in Japan. I’ve always been very pleased with the Tamron, and even more so now…. with it’s super-zoom length of 450mm f/5.6 and equivalent when mounted on the Sony Alpha 700, it’s a formidable piece of optical engineering, and very cheap at the price. This is a true “cheap awesome lens”.


Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. I used a Polarizer.



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

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These were taken on Bachman’s Valley Road – the old Meyer Farmhouse. The owners are in the process of restoring the buildings as much as possible, but it’s going to take a long time. The Farm is over a 100 years old, and all the barns and outbuildings are in fairly good condition, but the exterior could use some preservative and paint. I took these pictures on the way back from Union Mills. The light was tricky, overcast, but with patches of sun shining through.


Meyer’s Farm

Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

A few days ago, I had my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 lens mounted on the Alpha for some family pictures. (The lens is a 75mm equivalent on the A700, and thus serves as a very fast medium telephoto lens ideal for framing ‘head and shoulders’ shots, especially effective indoors for Available Light photography. I’ll be posting some of the “candid” portraits in another post soon). Anyway, I was out in Carroll County, and driving up on Rte 97 north when I came upon the Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill.

I’ve documented my use of the Minolta 50mm f1/7 as a landscape lens on my 35mm AF Minolta Dynax 800si elsewhere on this blog since I’ve had great fun with the Minolta 50mm lens in Colorado and other locations. Now that the Minolta is an effective 75mm, its still great for landscape and building photography, especially for capturing architectural detail – it’s a challenge if there isn’t much room, though.

I would recommend a 28mm or 35mm lens on the Sony Alpha for close-up architectural work. For old farmhouses and general scenery where you can step back far enough, the 50mm (75mm) is a fine choice, especially in low light conditions.

These photographs were taken at Union Mills Homestead, just off MD Rte 97 in Carroll County. Union Mills dates back to the 1790’s and has many stories to tell… being on the way to Gettysburg, it saw its share of Union and Confederate activity. You can read all about Union Mills Homestead here. I got to the site late in the afternoon – it was clearing up after a storm, and the post rain sunlight coming through the clearing clouds was bright and clean. Everything had a just-washed clean look.


Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Across the Road from Union Mills
Across the Road from Union Mills
Union Mills Homestead

Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead

Photographed with the Sony Alpha 700 and Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 lens, ISO 200, Skylight filter under a sunny/cloudy/post-rain situation



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

In an earlier post discussing the DSLR crop factor, I had mentioned that if you really need to shoot really-wide angles, just use your film camera – because ultra wide-angle PRIME lenses (24mm equivalent or better) for DSLRs are still prohibitively expensive. The Kit zoom lens that Sony bundles (18-70mm) and the other lenses such as the 18-200mm and 18-250mm are all equivalent to 27mm at the wide end.

The Sony 16-105mm Zeiss zoom is equivalent to 24mm at the wide end, but markedly more expensive than the other lenses. So if we need 24mm and better, it’s either shelling out the big bucks for the Sony 16-105, and if choosing a prime, there’s not many choices. It’s one area where a film 35mm camera like my Minolta 800si still has an edge especially if you currently own a 24mm lens.

However, if a moderate wide angle is fine, the fine Sigma 24mm f/2.8 AF is still widely available at a reasonable price. On the Sony Alpha DSLR, the Sigma 24 is an apparent 36mm focal length with a 63 degree view angle. A true 24mm has a view angle of 74 degrees.

The Sigma 24mm AF Super-wide II is a particularly good deal, since it is available at a reasonable price. One of the reasons (other than that it’s a 3rd party prime) was that the lens came with a matte black “Zen” finish that tended to flake off easily, giving even well cared for lenses a used and battered appearance. This means the prices are often substantially marked down.

My recommendation? Don’t be afraid – unless you are a stickler for cosmetic appearances, the external finish does not affect the lens performance at all. It is an excellent lens by all accounts, and I can vouch for that.

The Sigma lens was also re-badged and sold by Ritz Camera as a house-brand Quantaray 24mm lens, but with a different, more durable, though cheesy finish, gold line and all. It’s still the same optics, though. Don’t be fooled by the appearance – this is a very high quality lens. Besides, the Sigma 24mm can be used as a 36mm normal lens, since many photographers prefer a 35mm lens as their standard lens.

The 24mm has well corrected distortions and moderate wide-angle allows us to include more of the subject, having the effect of ‘getting into the picture’ . We’d pay hundreds more to get a similar “designed for digital” Sony (or any other OEM) lens. High-priced lenses are an anathema for the thrifty amateur, of course.

These pictures are from Westminster, MD – the little park at the intersection of Green Street and Ridge Road (MD Rte 27) looking towards St. Paul’s Church and Green Street. I used the Sigma 24mm AF lens on the Sony Alpha 700 – the 1.5x digital crop gives me an apparent focal length of 36mm. The soft morning light with a light overcast sky was just right.


Westminster, MD

Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD

Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD
Westminster, MD

Here’s a couple of pictures of the Sigma 24mm mounted on my Sony Alpha 700. It’s a small lens, about the size of a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 normal lens.

Sigma AF 24mm Super-Wide on Sony A700
Sigma AF 24mm Super-Wide on Sony A700
Sigma AF 24mm Super-Wide on Sony A700

Here’s my daughter Sunny, making faces from very closeup as I was checking out the Sigma lens. She though the distortions were hilarious.

Being Silly

Here’s a some pictures taken with the Sigma 24mm at sunset – I was in Bohrer park with Sunayana and the light was changing rapidly. Note the reddish light in some of the pictures.

Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park
Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park
Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park
Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park
Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park
Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park
Sigma AF 24mm – Sunset Bohrer Park

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super-wide II (the lens has an apparent focal length of 36mm when mounted on the Alpha 700)



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

I was up in Westminster again a couple of days ago, and on the way back, I drove out towards New Windsor. I took the old winding Wakefield road to the Strawbridge Shrine – it’s been a while since I stopped there, there have been some changes – first, they finally erected a second life size granite statue – of Elizabeth Strawbridge, the good pastor’s wife and companion.

I wish they had placed the statues lower – more eye-level, so to speak. The pedestals somehow seem too much. These were simple farming folk who were called to spread the word of God. Robert Strawbridge was never ordained, and thus faced a lot of criticism and censure for daring to preach. When called upon to defend himself and his actions, he is said to have replied “No right but that of the Divine. The Need creates the Grant”. The good Bishop Francis Asbury of Baltimore wasn’t having any of that, though. Apparently, he gave him a really tough time.

In spite of all that, Robert Strawbridge’s ministry thrived, and grew. That whole part of Carroll County – New Windsor to Sam’s Creek is called ‘Strawbridge Country’. It’s bounded by Rte 27 to the East, Rte 140 to the North, Rte 407 to the South and Rte 31 to the West. The area is very rural and picturesque. Archaeological opinion is that the site may not be authentic, and that Strawbridge may never have lived there.

Be that as it may.. .it does not matter in the least. There is a sense of peace and serenity at the Strawbridge shrine that whether or not the good man actually lived and preached in that spot, you understand the spirit that drove him. It’s a shame that he never made it into the Heroes of Methodism book (published in the mid-1800’s) along with other primitive preachers like Bishop Asbury and others. Guess you had to be an ordained minister, or a Bishop. The irony of it all is that the museum at the Shrine is named after Francis Asbury, the very man who tried to put poor Robert and Elizabeth out of business.Correction: David Bearr wrote to let me know that the Visitor center is actually named after a Asbury Smith, a Methodist minister who helped develop the site. I apologize for the error.

It was almost sunset when I got there, and very cold. The light was fading fast, and I just managed to get some photographs. Unlike my previous visits, where I was using film, this time I had the Sony Alpha 700, so I could switch ISO’s quickly to accommodate the fading light.

I switched between a couple of lenses as well. Most of the pictures were made with the Minolta 35-105mm (52-157.5mm eq. 35mm format) and the rest with the Sigma 24mm wide angle (36 mm eq).

I even had a chance to chat with the site curator for a few minutes. Rev. Laura Apostol lives right next door and offers guided tours from April onwards.


Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine

Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Minolta AF 35-105mm and Sigma AF Super-wide II 24mm f/2.8 lens. I’ve posted some additional photos here.
Here’s my previous post on the Strawbridge Shrine.



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to using lenses designed for 35mm cameras on the current crop of Digital SLRS. Many photographers have sizeable investments in 35mm lenses for their film cameras, and for the most part their lens investments drive them towards a particular digital camera body, whether it’s Nikon, Canon, Minolta (Sony), Pentax or Olympus.

Luckily, all the manufacturers retained their old AF mounts, except for Olympus, which uses the newly designed Four-Thirds mount. Sony retained the Minolta ‘A’ autofocus bayonet mount for the Alpha series cameras, allowing all the fine 35mm lenses out there since 1986 to be used. The same goes for Nikon and others.

However, due to cost constraints at the present time, most digital SLRs use a sensor that is smaller than the 35mm format size of 36mm x 24mm. This smaller format is 22.7mm x 15.1mm, and is known as the APS-C format. Sony and Nikon (and others) use a sensor size that is approximately the APS-C format size. As can be seen, the APS-C size provides a much smaller image area, 342.77 square millimeters versus 864 square millimeters for the standard 35mm format.

When a 35mm lens is used on the current crop of digital cameras, the smaller sensor size means that the 35mm lens will now have a narrower angle of view (also called FOV or field of view) than when used on a 35mm film camera body. This is due to the fact that the 35mm lens creates an image on the film (or sensor plane) that is is sufficiently large enough to cover the 36x24mm frame it is designed for.

When used in a Digital SLR that has a smaller sensor (and thus image size), the image formed by the 35mm lens is still the exact same size as before, but the smaller sensor can only use a portion of it. In effect, this constitutes an “in-camera” crop. This cropping is determined by the ratio of the sensor size to the 35mm format size, distance of the image plane from the front of the lens etc.

In most of the cameras using APS-C size sensors, the ‘cropping’ is equivalent to using a lens that has a narrower angle of view (telephoto effect). This Crop Factor (also known as Focal Length Multiplier) is around 1.5x (Sony Alpha) 1.6x (Nikon). In some cameras, Canon uses a sensor size that is slightly larger, which gives a 1.3x factor (this is the APS-H format). The Four-Thirds system used by Olympus and Lumix (Panasonic) has a 2x factor.

The focal length does not really change, of course. The smaller sensor’s ability to register only a portion of the total image causes an APPARENT increase in focal length due to the cropping. This has the effect of using a lens with a narrower angle of view, the same as using a telephoto lens. (Luckily, the sweet center portion has the sharpest part of the image).

The image edges which may not be sharp, or have aberrations are cropped in-camera. For the user, it’s easier to remember by multiplying the focal length of the lens they are using with the factor for that particular body, and that gives us the APPARENT focal length.

A lot of the confusion can be eliminated by using the term APPARENT rather than EQUIVALENT. for example, on my Sony Alpha 700 (which has a 1.5x multiplier for 35mm lenses), it would be more accurate to say that my Minolta 50mm lens has an APPARENT focal length of 75mm, rather than saying my Minolta 50mm is EQUIVALENT to 75mm.

This apparent increase in focal length does not affect the aperture, so the APPARENT focal length of 75mm is still at a fast f/1.7. This will serve as an excellent portrait lens, since it can frame head and shoulders perfectly, but you’ll find yourself having to move back when you want to include more of the scene.

For most wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and even landscape photographers, the apparent increase in focal length can be a unexpected blessing – they get more ‘bang’ for the buck from their existing lenses. When coupled with the higher ISO capabilities of DSLR cameras and in-camera image stabilization that will let them handhold the camera in situations that would have required them to lug along a heavy tripod.

If you’re using a MACRO lens, such as, for example my Sigma 50mm f/2.8 (a very sharp lens with a true 1:1 macro capability) the apparent increase in focal length permits the macro subject to be fill the frame without moving in as close. Since the stand-off distance is greater, more light can reach the subject. The increased distance also helps when photographing skittish subjects that are likely to fly or hop away if approached too closely.

When the subject is framed in the Sony Digital SLR, it is seen that the Depth of Field is greater for the same magnification when compared to using the lens on a 35mm film camera like my Minolta Dynax 800si. This is a great advantage for macro-photography where depth of field and subject lighting are always problematic.

The whole situation is different when it comes to wide angle lenses. This is where most photographers are ready to burst into tears. The 1.5x or 1.6x multiplier effect holds good on the wide angles too, and this means that a normal wide angle like 24mm lens which would give a 74 degree field of view on a 35mm format camera will now only provide a FOV of 62 degrees or so, approximately that of a 35mm lens. In the same way, an ultra-wide 16mm becomes an apparent 24mm a 28mm is an apparent 42mm and a 35mm lens behaves like a 52.5mm normal lens.

Given the fact that most wide angle lenses are EXPENSIVE, no photographer would like to see his investment reduced to a moderate wide-angle or a normal lens. However, such is life. You win some, you lose some. To get a true wide angle on the Sony Alpha 700, I would have to invest in a 18mm to get 27mm (luckily, that’s included in the zoom range of my Sony 18-200mm lens that I bought with the camera). Since the 18-70mm is bundled as a kit lens, most owners will have at least a 27mm wide angle, albeit a slow one).

To get the 24mm, we’d have to invest in the very expensive Sony 16-105mm Zeiss coated zoom lens (apparent focal length 24- 157.5mm). Buying a faster wide-angle prime lens would be prohibitively expensive for any amateur, and even professionals would hesitate.

My advice? If you really need to shoot wide angle, just use your film camera. You can still buy a fine Sigma 24mm f/2.8 AF at a reasonable price. The Sigma 24mm is a good deal, since it had a matte black Zen finish that tended to flake off, giving the lens a “very used” appearance and usually marked down. This is just cosmetic, and does not affect the lens performance in any way.

The same Sigma lens was re-badged and sold by Ritz as their house-brand Quantaray lens, but with a different, more durable finish – but it’s still the same lens. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of either lens – this is a very high quality lens. Besides, you can always use the Sigma on the digital SLR as an apparent 35mm f/2.8 prime lens in place of a ‘Normal’ lens. You’d pay hundreds more to get a similar “designed for digital” Nikon, Sony or Canon lens.

Of course, all this talk about crop factors and multiplication factors will become moot when Full Frame digital SLRs become common. Canon already has one, and Nikon and Sony will follow shortly. In fact, I would not be surprised if the Sony Alpha 900 was not released in a few more months. When that happens, lenses will behave as they were designed and there will be no more confusion.

As for me, I rather like the fact that my Tamron 70-300mm now behaves like a 105mm-450mm super-zoom. With the Image stabilization turned on, I can actually hold that baby steady enough to use hand-held.



Creative Commons License
This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko.

Christmas day was a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the the DC area…with lots of sunshine. A far cry from the bitter cold of the mid-west, I must say. We miss the snow on the ground, but a body (especially me) could get used to this milder winter weather. I believe we’re in Zone 6B-7A here, which makes for milder winters than the Great Plains states.

Sunayana and I headed out to Germantown park so she could work off the excess energy, and I took the Alpha 700 along with my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 prime lens. On the Sony Alpha 700, the 50mm is equivalent to a mild telephoto 75mm (the 1.5x crop factor), and makes an excellent portrait lens. Even better, it is an excellent lens for natural light photography, even at very low light levels.

The light was failing by the time we got to Germantown park, and over the course of the time we were there, it got quite dark. The Minolta 50mm lens handled the failing light very well. I left the Alpha in ISO auto select (ISO 800) and opened up the lens to f/2. The almost dark condition was no sweat at all at those settings, and if I wasn’t there, I would swear that the pictures were taken much earlier in the evening.

By the way, if some of the pictures seem slightly blurry, it’s because she moves at lightning speed. NO camera’s AF can possibly keep up with a 5 year old with pent up energy!

Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700

Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 Lens. Camera was set to AUTO mode and ISO 800.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. Thank you for visiting Olympuszuiko. Have a great day!

Creative Commons License
This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.