VMLP 14: Minolta Maxxum 70-210mm (Beercan)—It’s De Rigueur 

Get a Minolta Maxxum camera, then ask around about what lenses to buy. If you already have a 50mm lens, the next suggestion will nearly always be “get a Beercan.” I ran into this advice on just about every blog and forum I visited, so the 70-210mm f4 was the first lens I bought after getting the Maxxum 7000i. I have not been disappointed.

It was dubbed the Beercan because of its shape, and it is much lauded among Minoltaphiles. It is known for its sharp images and excellent color rendition. Considering the fame of the lens, it has received only a few reviews over the years. The lens seems to be taken as a basic requirement, as an essential Maxxum kit item. It is almost as if no one reviews it because what would be the point? If you have a Maxxum camera, you must have one. It is simply what is done.

Before buying my 70-210mm f4, I had never used a zoom lens. At the time, I had two Maxxums, a 3000i gifted to me many years before, and a new-to-me 7000i.  So, within minutes after my Beercan arrived, I popped  a roll of Fuji Xtra Superia 400 in each of my Maxxums and went looking for subjects.  I shot both rolls of film in only a couple of hours. Since I mistakenly believed I could shoot hand-held at 1/30, many of those first shots were blurred. However, the good shots hooked me on the lens.

Background
Introduced in 1985 with the Maxxum 7000, the Beercan seems to have been a hit from the start. Based on how often they pop up on eBay, Minolta sold a lot of them. Look on eBay, and most Maxxum 7000 sets also contain a Beercan. This pairing is so common that I would not suggest buying a Beercan as a standalone purchase.

There is an MD Zoom 70-210mm f4 for the SR mount, which is the predecessor of the AF version, and that version of the lens is also quite well respected. I have the MD version but have yet to use it. The 1985 version stayed in production until supplanted by the 1988 version, the 70-210mm f3.5-4.5. The last AF 70-210mm was an f4.5-5.6 version produced in 1993. Don’t bother with the 1988 and 1993 versions. They are okay, but Beercans are cheap, so why bother with the others? Only the 1985 version can be appropriately referred to as the “Beercan.”

Technical Specs
The minimum focus distance (MFD) is a little more than 3 feet, 7 inches (1100mm). It has a 55mm filter size and different zoom and focusing rings. It is sturdy and well-built with an all-metal frame and weighs about 1.5 pounds (695 gms). Notable is its constant f4 aperture. I’ve found that feature handy when using a 1.4x teleconverter. The lens features internal zooming, so the length does not change when zooming. (For more detailed specs and tests, see Dyxum or Kurt Munger.)

Sharpness

Buying
As mentioned earlier, many Maxxum 7000 sets come with a Beercan. Since standalone lenses can sell for 35.00 – 50.00, one can often grab a Maxxum 7000, a Beercan, and a few accessories for the same amount of money as a standalone lens.

Be warned, almost across the board, the 1985 first generation of Maxxum lenses are the best of the consumer-focused Maxxum lenses. From 1988 on, the quality went downhill.

Images
The black and white images are XP2 exposed at box speed using the Maxxum 7xi. Color images were made with a variety of cameras. As usual, the first four images are my sharpness tests. Two images were made at 70mm (f4 and f8), and the two were shot at 210mm (f4 and f8). No images are cropped. Black and white images were home-developed using CineStill chemistries and scanned with the Epson v600. Color images are Fuji 400 Xtra Superia, and all were commercially developed and scanned.

Woodland Phlox, Maxxum 7D
Red Roses, Green Filter

Impressions
I like this lens, though I do find its weight of 1.5lbs a little much at times. Sharpness wide open is a little less than hoped, especially on the long end. However, in the mid-apertures and focal lengths, the lens performs very well. I have used it outside in mid-day sun and had no problems with flare (I haven’t shot toward the sun—no reason to). Using it for garden shots, I find that it renders colors beautifully. On my Maxxum 7D, it performs well.

I use my Beercan and the 28-105mm 3.5-4.5 more than any other Maxxum lenses by far. I wish the MFD were shorter, but when the need arises for a shorter MFD, I use the 28-105mm. I have had little luck with teleconverters, but this lens does well with a 1.4x converter. Using it with a 2x converter is iffy because many times it will not lock focus.

Overall, I have to go with the crowd and say if you have a Maxxum camera and want a quality zoom, the 70-210mm is a good bet. It is heavy, but the image quality is worth it. Also, you will be hard-pressed to find a better Maxxum zoom without spending at least 150.00 more than a Beercan would cost. Besides, it’s de rigueur for Maxxum shooters.

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