This video tutorial gives a succinct overview of the discovery and development of photography from the origins of the camera obscura through the Daguerrotype process. Next week's tutorial will cover...
Preliminary list, based on what I've owned and used. Full reviews will be
split out into separate pages as they appear. Have a favorite lens that I don't
discuss? Send me a review in email.
STF 135mm/f2.8 [T4.5] (New!) For those who think
Minolta doesn't make exotic special-purpose lenses, here's a doozy. When it came
time to fill the gap left by their long-discontinued 135mm/f2.8 (see below), the
folks at Minolta decided to build a high-tech siege gun designed to wage war on
the out-of-focus areas of your pictures, particularly portraits. I'd never heard
of an apodization filter before, but it's there, along with a second ten-blade
aperture designed to give precise control over aperture (the two features
together are responsible for the T-stop designation). The goal is to produce a
very smooth transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas in your pictures,
and reduce or eliminate distracting background effects. When I get my test roll
back I'll know whether or not it delivers on its promises, but there's one thing
I can say right now: this is the easiest-to-focus lens I've ever used, period.
[full review coming soon]
16mm/f2.8 Fisheye A local camera shop was going out of
business, and gave me an excellent price on this rather specialized lens. Well
made, with built-in vestigial hood and internal filters, but to be honest I
haven't shot even a single picture with it yet. It's very easy to take bad
pictures with a fisheye lens, and many people have, so it'll probably gather dust
for a while until I think of something interesting to do with it.
24mm/f2.8 Good solid wide-angle lens. Fast internal focus,
55mm filter, flower-shaped bayonet lens hood.
28-135mm/f4-4.5 (discontinued) The secret handshake
of dedicated Minolta users, this surprisingly sharp and contrasty zoom is a hot
item on the used market. The slow maximum aperture and relatively poor
close-focus ability (five feet) are the tradeoffs the designers made to allow
this lens to perform extremely well, even wide-open. 72mm filter (but don't
actually try to use normal 72mm filters below about the 40mm setting), fast
internal focus, variable flare (mine seems fine, others have to use it carefully,
and it wasn't designed to take a dedicated hood), no lens hood. Has a special
"macro" mode that I've never seen much point to, that gives you roughly 1:5.
If you want to fit a hood to this lens, you have two choices: buy a 72mm
wide-angle rubber hood, which gives you a little protection at the 28mm setting
and is completely useless at 135mm, or buy a 72-77mm step-up ring and a 77mm Hama
zoom lens hood. Use it folded back at 28-35mm (you may get slight
vignetting), at the official "wide" setting at 35-50mm, at the "normal" setting
from 50-90mm, and at the "tele" setting from 90-135mm. [full review coming
28-70mm/f2.8 G Given the performance of the 28-135 mentioned
above, my primary interest in this lens isn't the quality or the speed, but
simply the ability to focus closer than five feet. I do expect higher quality,
but that's a bonus; the real win is not having to elbow as many people out of my
way when I'm shooting casuals in a crowded room. 72mm filter, non-rotating front
element, relatively slow AF.
35-105mm/f3.5-4.5 (second version, discontinued)
Small, light, inexpensive. Also a bit flat and prone to flare, but still capable
of decent pictures when pointed at the right subject. 55mm filter, clip-on lens
50mm/f1.7 Lighter, cheaper, better-corrected, and with
faster autofocus than the more expensive 50/1.4, this lens is the same incredible
bargain that it is in every other line. 49mm filter, built-in lens hood. It has
reportedly been discontinued recently, but with luck they're just clearing out
old inventory before introducing a new version.
70-210mm/f4 (discontinued) The little brother of the
80-200/2.8, this is a better lens than the ones that replaced it. In looks it
reminds me a lot of the 20-ounce beer cans my college roommates used to bring
home most weeknights. Reasonable autofocus performance, good flare control, 55mm
filter, clip-on lens hood, focuses down to 3.6 feet.
80-200mm/f2.8 APO (old version) This is where I get
to say "nyah, nyah" to Nikon users, because even the old version of this lens has
a built-in tripod mount that can be rotated for shooting verticals. Of course,
they get to laugh right back, because it only focuses down to six feet rather
than the five feet that every other lens in this category is capable of.
Reasonable autofocus performance, solid construction, 72mm filter, rotating front
element, bayonet lens hood, excellent flare control. Depending on which reviews
you believe, this is either optically just as good as everyone else's, or at
least close enough to still produce professional quality, even wide-open. The
newer version promises faster autofocus and a white finish.
85mm/f1.4 (old version) This lens gets top marks from
all who try it, including me. My first test roll was terrific, and I'm looking
forward to using it often. It balances well, is easy to focus manually, and is
very, very sharp. 72mm filter, bayonet lens hood, non-rotating front element
(recessed for excellent flare control).
Tamron 90mm/f2.8 Macro This lens costs $10 less than a
Minolta 100/2 and $155 less than a Minolta 100/2.8 Macro, making it an excellent
compromise if you want to shoot both portraits and close-ups while saving some
money. Very sharp, terrific contrast, reasonable AF speed, and excellent flare
control even without the hood, due to the deeply recessed (1.75 inches) front
element. The focusing ring can be pushed forward to rotate freely when the camera
is set to auto-focus, or pulled back for well-damped manual focus, and there's a
focus-limiting switch at the 1:3 mark to reduce the "hunt" distance for AF. 55mm
filter, bayonet lens hood, non-rotating front element.
135mm/f2.8 (discontinued) My Christmas present to me,
this hard-to-find lens comes highly recommended, and I'll be taking it out for a
spin as soon as I get a chance. 55mm filter, non-rotating front element, built-in
lens hood, internal focus, minimum focus distance about 3 feet.
200mm/f2.8 HS APO The smallest of the sexy white lenses in
Minolta's pro telephoto line, this fast, easy-to-handle lens is a superb
performer wide-open, and is compatible with Minolta's dedicated 1.4x and 2x
teleconverters. It has fast internal focus, takes a 72mm filter, and focuses down
to five feet. Manual focus is smooth and easy. [full review coming
500mm/f8 Reflex I picked this up cheap, in suspiciously
immaculate condition. I think it had been mounted on a body once by the previous
owner. Internal filter (clear and 4x neutral density supplied), autofocuses with
central sensor only (on some bodies) and hunts more than a bit even then, minimum
focus 13 feet. [full review coming soon]
(At this point, you might ask yourself exactly how long a lens you