PriceLess Photography
 Blog for Budget Minded Photographers

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

You don't have to spend big to get big quality. My Minolta AF Zoom 70-210 f/4 is easily the least expensive but most successful lens in my collection. I often boast how this lens cost me $84(Australian) including postage right after I have blown them away with an image captured by my 'beercan'.

Let me say straight up if you're thinking about getting this lens - just do it!

Image below taken on Sony Alpha 65 with the 'beercan' at a Twotale concert at the Brunswick hotel, affectionally known as the 'Brunny' in Melbourne Victoria. Not bad for a 30 year old lens.

Shade on Doors

Tragically the 'Brunny' closed not long after this shot but my Minolta has kept going. Built in 1991 purchased by me in 2016, on a hunch, when I went through my 'ebay' lens phase it fast became and still is my go to lens.

Obviously I'm not the last of the big spenders or even the first. My hobby has had been on a drip feed for around ten years affording a few second hand cameras and lenses with the occasional new one thrown in the mix. But it has been enough to satisfy. When you pull off a shot such as below - I'm content.

Prague Castle foreground with the Church of Our Lady before Tyn immediately behind, taken through the window of the tour bus stopped at the lights. A bit grainy due to high ISO but chose not to improve in post because the magic was already there. The 4 metre high statue of King Charles IV with a totally accidental 'forced perspective photo'.

No not his finger, it's the foundation bull of the Prague University.

But the name jumped out at me before I knew what it was and it stuck.

Finger of God

I'm not going to pretend to be a guru on lenses I'm simply talking about bang for buck. In my opinion the Minolta hits way above its priceline. I bought another one for my son who took possession of the Sony A65 so I could hold onto my own copy. This cost $100 together with a AF Minolta 28mm which I'll talk about another day.

No doubt the 'beercan' is heavy and long. At 695g plus 167g for the Sony LA-EA4 and another 769g for my A7, total weight equals - lots! The lens length of 168mm plus 43mm adapter and 50mm for A7 is overall 261mm. The weight is in the metal construction it feels pretty solid and could probably take a few drops but I'll leave that for others to tell those stories. The length has the bonus feature of internal zoom. Lens external measurement doesn't change as you zoom in and out. The 'beercan' is heavy and long, consequently I use a monopod where I can and shoot high shutter speed to compensate for camera shake.

Solomon's Envy

I'm a fan of the internal zoom but not the thin manual focus dial at the front of the lens. The lens will hunt sometimes so I'll go to manual focus. After switching camera to manual, the 5mm thin beercan focus ring can be initially stuck and require some force to loosen. Unsticking this ring isn't easy when gripping between the pointer finger and the thumb. When loosened adjusting the focus ring with fat fingers and thumbs can be a challenge. In addition the focus delivery while adjusting the ring is not particularly satisfying. Micro adjustments are more guess work than science. I rely on peaking which generally works ok. So holding this heavy lens and turning a thin, sometimes stuck, focus ring with two fingers over 260mm away from your face, often results in a sore arm and a missed shot.

The beercan has its limitations but we're not talking about high stress photography here. I'm realistic enough to know that if I want something that will focus quickly I'm going to have to spend a bit, or a lot more money. However I rarely need that sort of focusing speed and if I do I change lens I'll pull out my Sony 55mm or even the 28-70mm kit lens, which takes a lovely image also. My shots are largely landscape or nature and both of these usually aren't going to fast. Cetainly not fast enough for me to spend an extra $1500 to $2500 dollars on a native mount lens. Although I miss a lot of shots, that's often about the user not the lens. I have learnt to anticipate a shot and also have all settings right and ready to go in manual focus. It comes back to what I really want to achieve in photographic experience for that day, more often than not that aim is covered well and truly by the Minolta.

In the end the images are definitely sharp enough for me to be content boasting about them. I'm not a pixel peeper but I do like to see reasonable sharpness in good detail and contrast in an image. The Minolta has delivered time and time again and I have a website full of shots taken with the beercan that I proudly show off to the whole world, if they are willing to look!

Moses the Grey

All in all I'm overwhelmingly positive about this lens. The quality of photo it achieves time and time again makes my breath pause. At those moments I'm not thinking about it having cost me less than $100, I'm just celebrating in the beauty of the image it has captured. It has its limitations it's heavy and hard to focus manually. I'm realistic enough to know there are faster focusing sharper lenses at the end of the rainbow along with what remains of the pot of gold spent purchasing them. In the meantime I'm keen to keep using my beercan because it generally achieves photographically what I desire. I guess down the track I'll upgrade, but I'm definitely not going to let this one go. I might even have it put in my coffin, along with my dog, butler, car keys etc.

Thanks for reading this my first blog. I’m hoping to start monthly at first and work up from there. Feedback would be appreciated as the learning curve on blogging correctly is currently pretty steep. Apologies if I haven't set the site up for properly for feedback etc yet. Try my email.

Snap you later. David.

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