The Minolta ‘Beer Can’ Lens! (images coming soon)


As a NEX 5/6/7 owner who had been anticipating an eventual full-frame version from the get-go, I was an early adopter of the Sony A7 – it’s what I had been waiting for.

There’s definitely a thrill, and a bit of an adrenaline rush, that comes from pre-ordering a camera and being one of the first (with the exception of those lucky few who get to test it before release) to explore such new territory!

Sony NEX5 16mm f2.8 1/4000 ISO200 (August, 2010)

Sony NEX5 16mm f2.8 1/4000 ISO200 (August, 2010)

I know just how Leif Ericson, Christopher Columbus, and Dr. Livingston must have felt!!!

OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

After all, how could they know the joy of photography? Rune-carving simply can’t compare… and I suspect ‘wet head’ (wet plate collodion process) photography, like origami, probably sounds more fun than it actually is.

Sony A7 and (similarly sized) Nikon EM (film)

Sony A7 and (similarly sized) Nikon EM (film)


But if you’re an ‘early-adopter’ like me, then you know it comes at a price. There’s a downside. In fact, there are many downsides.

One such for me was not having a lot of information about the new Sony FE lens roadmap.

Fairly early on it became apparent that Sony’s strategy was to keep the lenses small(ISH) and light in matching with the body. Did that mean that fast, native AF lenses were ‘not-in-the-cards’ for the A7 system?

Would there be some exception to the small/light strategy in time, as the line-up began to fill out?  As customer began crying out for fast glass (as I believe they will)??

My hope was (and still is) that there will  be such exceptions!

Sony A7 and 35mm f2.8, 1/60th, ISO500

Sony A7 and 35mm f2.8, 1/60th, ISO500

Sure – give me a relatively small, light, good quality f2.8 35mm.

But why not also offer a bigger, heavier (and faster!) 35mm too?

Choice is good – to each their own.

The truth is, ultimately, I’d likely end-up with both. And wouldn’t you rather sell me two versions of each lens (a small one, and a fast one)?

Sony A7 & 55mm, 1/40th, f2.8, ISO3200

Sony A7 & 55mm, 1/40th, f2.8, ISO3200

I GOTTA HAVE IT! (A 70-200mm I MEAN)
The 35mm was just by way of example (likely one that more people can relate to as many have voiced their wish for an f2.0 version such as the one from the RX1… or even an f1.4 version to compete with CaNikon).

In actuality, what I’d truly like is a fast f2.8 70-200mm zoom.

Certainly the A-mount version (with LA-EA4 adapter) is an option. But a native FE mount, with OSS, would be nice (especially considering the cost-of/investment-in such a lens)

Instead, what’s available (in FE mount) is the Sony 70-200mm OSS F4 G lens. Hmmmm. F4…    F4?      F4??

Would F4 be fast enough? More specifically – would F4 provide enough subject isolation/separation for me in the situations I’d typically use it??

Sony A7 & 35mm, 1/125th, f4.5, ISO100

Sony A7 & 35mm, 1/125th, f4.5, ISO100

I looked through my past outdoor event images: RenFest, Street Events, FanExpo, Buskerfest, etc.

These are the types of places I most use the 70-200mm and where the ability of the lens to provide subject isolation is important to me.

Often in these scenarios you have a limited ability to manipulate the scene and your camera-to-subject-to background distance. You are where you are, and your subject is where your subject is. If you’re lucky you can pre-plan a little. Anticipate. That’s about it.

It’s not quite like coaching a model.  As two heavily armored Knights charge toward one another on horseback, jousting lances at the ready… jumping-up from your seat and yelling ‘Wait!  Wait!!’ Stop!  ‘Let me just… re-position myself here… a little…there… yes, yes, that’s better’.  ‘And you, on the grey steed – do you think you could turn your head just a touch to the right.  I’m getting a lot of reflection off of it’… is generally the type of thing that leads to an announcement over the loudspeaker that the crowd is in for a special treat as following the match there will be a rarely seen demonstration of the ‘drawn-and-quartered’ technique.

Anyways… a look at the EXIF data from these photos (taken with the D700 and 80-200mm f2.8) revealed that most were taken fairly (if not fully) wide open: f2.8, or f3.2.

Virtually nothing at f4 or above!

Concerning… but not alarming.

Just because I DIDN’T shoot it at F4 doesn’t mean I COULDN’T have shot it at F4 (and gotten the results I wanted).

Nikon D700 & 80-200, 80mm f3.2, 1/1000th, ISO400

Nikon D700 & 80-200, 80mm f3.2, 1/1000th, ISO400


Apologies for the little bit of the mumbo-jumbo that follows… DoF Calculator shows the difference between F2.8 and F4, at 200mm, with a subject distance of 20 feet to be .2’

At a distance of 30 feet the difference of in-focus area increases to .5’

It’s not until we get to a subject distance of 50 feet that we see over a foot of DoF difference (3.19’ vs 4.52’).

That info is nice to know – but what does that look like in ‘real life’?

What is the impact to the visual?

Nikon D700 & 80-200mm f2.8 1/3200 ISO200

Nikon D700 & 80-200mm f2.8 1/3200 ISO200


Ultimately, I need to take more images at F4 and get a better feel for how they look.  Or, better, see how they ‘feel’.

I could bring out the trusty D700 and take some shots at F4 with the 80-200. I could even then take the same shot from the same spot in the same light at F2.8 and compare. Wouldn’t that be all ‘methodical-like’ of me.  DP Review would be knockin’ at my door!

Hmmm… no – that sounds too much like ‘work’.  And also borrrrrrrinnnnnng.

I’m having fun shooting with the A7 right now and I’m simply too busy to spend time on something that resembles ‘work’ (if even remotely).

Besides, next thing you know I’d be shooting brick walls and test charts (it’s a very slippery slope!)

What can I do with the A7 instead?

I know! Why not just pick up the FE 70-200mm F4 G (when available) and give it a try?!

Click. Click. Click.

Click. Click Click… $1599.99!!?

Nikon D700 & 80-200mm @160mm, f2.8 1/100th, ISO200

Nikon D700 & 80-200mm @160mm, f2.8 1/100th, ISO200






OK… ‘Plan B’.

Click.   Click.  Click.   Click.  Click.

Ah – there it is!  I’ve always wondered about this renowned lens.  70-210mm, F4. From a very reputable dealer.  Looks clean. $9o bucks?  That’s more like it!


And so, I’m now the proud owner of The One… The Only… The Legendary… ‘Beer Can lens‘ – the Minolta 70-210AF F4!

I hope to get out with it soon and share some images.

Beer on ice

Beer on ice

5 thoughts on “The Minolta ‘Beer Can’ Lens! (images coming soon)

  1. I agree with you on this one. In my opinion, the holy grail of photography is a good ff camera with a 24-70mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8, both with IS. Add to that two specialist lenses (a macro lens and an ultra wide lens), and you are covered for all photographic needs.

    • I’ve always considered the fast wide angle and tele the foundation of a good FF system. I’m willing to give the F4’s a try but I hope they come with an f2.8 in future!

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