The 1969 Minolta 58mm f/1.4 is a fast vintage lens for Minolta SLR cameras of the age. It was positioned between the budget kit 55mm f/1.7 and the premium 58mm f/1.2 as the middle lens in Minoltas standard lens lineup. In this review, I’m going to take a look at how it performs and handles on the Sony a6300.
This isn’t the smallest vintage lens I’ve used, nor the lightest. At 275g (0.6 lbs) it adds noticeable weight to the camera but it’s not so heavy that it causes issues. With the adapter, it’s about as big as the Sony SEL 50mm f/1.8, which isn’t all that bad. Build quality is fantastic, as with most lenses of the time – the all metal body is built to last and my copy is still in great shape.
Crop Factor and Minimum Focus Distance
On APS-C, this lens fills the role of a short telephoto portrait lens (58 x 1.5 = 87mm on full frame). What this means is you can expect this lens to perform like an 87mm lens on a full frame camera which gives a slight zoomed-in effect.
The minimum focus distance (MFD) of 2 feet is pretty poor for a full frame 50-ish, but on APS-C it’s not that bad given the crop factor. By comparison, Sony’s APS-C 50mm f/1.8 has an MFD of 1.28 feet which is much better.
At f/1.4 there’s a whole lot of spherical aberration casting a dreamy haze over the picture, hiding most sharpness and contrast. It clears up a good deal by f/2.0 and contrast is good. At f/2.8 central sharpness is good and the corners begin to catch up. By f/5.6 the frame has excellent sharpness from corner to corner, and this level of sharpness is maintained going into f/8. From f/11 on diffraction softens the image.
When stopped down for landscapes, you can get some nice pictures.
Some lateral aberrations can be seen in the sharpness tests above.
Longitudinal aberrations are visible throughout the aperture range as well. The above crop was taken at f/4.0, a small amount of blue and green fringing are visible on out of focus lines of contrast.
Barrel distortion – a Lightroom correction of +3 will take care of it.
At f/1.4, it’s pretty significant.
Stop down to f/2 and most of it is gone.
Wide open at f/1.4, out of focus highlights can have a distinct outline. The bubble bokeh crowd will be happy with this, while those looking for creamy goodness won’t.
Scenes that have low background contrast come out better. In these situations you can get some nice bokeh.
At f/2, things calm down a bit. This is my preferred aperture for busy backgrounds.
However, even at f/2 the slightly rounded 6-bladed aperture can be obvious when the subject is up close.
Sunstars and Flaring
Performance here is typical from Minolta of the era – not the best, but not the worst.
With a bright source of light in the frame, you can expect a lot of ghosting and flaring. The example taken above is quite extreme. In the less extreme example below, you can make out some blue and purple ghosts and some flaring.
6 aperture blades means 6 pointed sun stars, they can look pleasant in some situations.
The Minolta 58mm f/1.4 has a lot of character. Wide open it’s glowy and bokeh can be busy. If you’re looking for a lens with these characteristics then this might be your guy, I imagine there are folks out there who could use them to their advantage. Also keep in mind that flaring is average for a vintage lens – awareness and a lens hood will help control it.
On the a6300 I don’t find myself using this lens too often. It has excellent character and I like that for some occasions, but for most others I find myself reaching for something else. I feel this lens may perform better on a full frame camera and I’d like to explore that in the future.
You can pick this lens up on eBay for around $75 in decent-to-good condition, less if you’re willing to wait for a good deal.