VMLP 10: Minolta 50mm f2.8 Macro (AF) —The Everyday Macro

To be honest, the only reason I bought the 50mm f2.8 macro lens was was fear of losing or damaging my 100mm f2.8 macro. I’m almost embarrassed to say this now. The 50mm 2.8 is sharp and handy, and it allows one to shoot from only a few inches away. It is a great lens to have on hand. What’s not to love?  

Background
The 100mm 2.8 macro came first—a macro seemed to be a natural choice for shooting flowers. I saw many reviews of the 100mm 2.8 but none of the 50mm 2.8. One of the few mentions I did find that discussed both said buy the 100mm because one could shoot from farther away. That advice seemed reasonable, so I added the 100mm f2.8 to my new Maxxum 7000i kit. I don’t regret buying the longer lens—I LOVE my 100mm—but I do regret ignoring its shorter sibling for so long.  

Ibraar Hussain, by way of this post, introduced me to the capabilities of the 50mm f2.8 macro. The post, ostensibly about the Maxxum 7, has many shots taken with the 50mm f2.8, and those images convinced me to buy a copy. (It was the same post that made me buy a Maxxum 7. Thanks, Ibraar!!!) 

Early on in my photography journey, my budget for lenses was 35.00 per lens, a little more for my idea of a good one. At the time, the 100mm 2.8 cost more than four times that amount. I loved it and was scared to take it out of the house. After being convinced the 50mm was cheaper but nearly as good, I got a 50mm to use around the city. 

Technical Specs
The first version was introduced in 1985, and there have been two more since, a 1993 Restyled version and a 2001 “D” version. All are considered equally good. Minimum focus distance (MFD) is a little less than 2 inches from the front of the lens. It has a 55mm filter ring, which is the size for which I have the most caps and filters. The maximum aperture is 2.8, minimum is 32. It has seven blades. The filter does not rotate when focusing. 

Buying
Dyxum gives all versions scores in the 4.7 range. I have two copies of this lens, one 1985 and one 1993 version. The 1985 version came in a lot with four other lenses; the 1993 model was a standalone purchase. On eBay, the price of this lens varies widely. Mine cost 45.00 (auction), but I have seen sold listings with prices as high as 105.00. Judging by recent sales, anything below 70.00 is a good price. I have never seen a D version for sale. 

Images
Images included were shot with the 8000i (XP2) and Sony a100 (color), but I have used this lens with nearly every Maxxum camera I own. All images are either home developed and scanned or digital. Sharpness tests were done at f2.8 and f5.6 (XP2) using the 8000i. The alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily) flowers image was a test shot taken with the Sony a100 immediately after receiving the 1993 model. I was very happy with that initial image!

Alstroemeria, Sony a100

Impressions
I use this lens instead of the 50mm f1.7; it is sharper, and since I’m either shooting with studio light or outdoors in the garden, I never need the extra stops. The same is true for walking around the city. I have a 50mm f1.4, and I still use this use the 50 macro more frequently.  

My 50mm f1.7 lens has been relegated to duties where I don’t mind losing or damaging a lens. I will probably sell them and keep the f1.4 and the 50mm macros. One really wonderful thing about using a macro lens as a walk-around lens is its versatility. One can shoot scenes from 100 feet away or from a few inches and never change lenses while being assured of sharp, colorful images. If you don’t need the extra stops, buy a 50mm macro instead of the f1.4, the macro lens is cheaper and can be used in a wider range of shooting situations. To borrow a phrase from Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, “Get thee a 50mm macro!”

4 Comments

  1. I just acquired the 50mm f2.8 a little over a week ago (for a really good price, I thought) but haven’t yet seen the results. Quite excited about it, though.

    1. Author

      You will be amazed at the results. One thing to keep in mind—when shooting up close, depth of field is very shallow, so use the smallest reasonable aperture. You may wish to experiment with a Depth creative card, if you have a 7000i to 700si body.

  2. I love macro photography! I have 50 macros for my Nikon and Olympus bodies and I use them a lot. Your 50/2.8 looks like it’s both fun and capable!

    1. Author

      Yeah, this has become my favorite lens to grab on the way out.

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