Optical Review Blog No. 17 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5

If you’re deep into the Minolta/Sony A-Mount system, you probably know this lens better as the Secret Handshake; in fact, that’s how my friend (fellow photographer and brother-in-arms) James introduced the lens to me. The nickname, given erroneously, is one of the first instances I’ve heard of an Internet rumour going ‘viral’ when it was shared that Minolta sold these lenses at cost when it was initially introduced with the first Maxxum cameras in the mid-1980s. This rumour is not true; at an initial price of 350$ USD (that’s 1,073.55$ CAD in 2021), honestly, that doesn’t sound like at cost to me. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you believe Minolta did because there is only one thing that matters with this beauty: it is an exceptional one-and-done lens for any A-Mount full-frame camera, digital or film. And the only thing you can say about the nickname is that it is a secret handshake to tell diehard Maxxum/Alpha/Dynax users.

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5

Lens Specifications
Make: Minolta
Model: Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Focal Length: 28mm – 135mm
Focal Range: ∞ – 0.25m (0.086m /w macro)
Aperture: f/4 – f/22 (28mm), f/4.5 – f/25 (135mm), 7 Blades
Structure: 16 Elements in 13 Groups

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5You can see that 1.5m minimum focusing distance works great at the 135mm length (right), while at 28mm (left) I had to get far back from the test chart to get the lens to focus.
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C[/caption]

Build Quality
When it comes to big and bulky, the Maxxum 28-135 has that in the bag. This is not the lens for something that needs to travel light. Constructed entirely out of metal and is among those early Minolta Autofocus offerings that never changed throughout its history, and Sony has never released a replacement for their Alpha lineup. It might throw off balance on smaller cameras when using it, but on a Maxxum 9 or Maxxum 7 with a battery grip, it will work correctly. All the focusing is done internally, although the front sections do telescope out when zooming out to 135mm. The zoom control ring is massive and constructed out of a rubberised material, thankfully not the type that goes sticky with age. The focus ring is a little small, but you’re using a Maxxum for autofocus control again. The focus display window is clear and easy to read. The lens does take massive 72mm filters, but the filter ring is similarly constructed out of the metal. Having only basic multicoating, the lens does tend to flare and ghost when pointing in the direction of a vital light source. And when it comes to focusing, this does not have any real close-focus ability. Even at 28mm, the minimum focal distance is 1.5 meters, which for 28mm is not close at all; it’s decent for the 135mm end. To mitigate that, Minolta decided to add a macro function, which again only works at 28mm and doesn’t do much good anyway.

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5What you can see here at wide open (f/4 at 28mm on the left, and f/4.5 at 135mm on the right) is that there is no fall-off at the corners and despite a narrow DOF, the image remains sharp.
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C[/caption]

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5Here I shot both the 28mm (Left) and 135mm (Right) at f/8, you can see that you have a great DOF at 28mm while it is narrower at 135mm (but that’s to be expected).
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C[/caption]

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5Shooting at f/11 for the 28mm (left) shot, you’re completely covered on your DOF and f/16 at 135mm (right) the DOF is functional.
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C[/caption]

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5Here we are completely stopped down f/22 at 28mm (left) and f/25 at 135mm (right). Total coverage from front to back.
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C[/caption]

Image Quality
One thing that this lens is known for is optical quality. But that should come as no surprise; I have not yet met a Minolta lens that I did not like. The image quality when it comes to sharpness across all apertures on this lens is excellent! And yes, that is even when shot wide open. I think having that f/4-4.5 wide-open aperture works in the lens’ favour. While the depth of field is narrow, especially at the 135mm end, you get excellent results. And the best part is that there is no fall-off at either the 28mm or 135mm end of things. But for best results, you’ll probably want to be shooting between f/5. And f/22 as the aperture sweet spot. However, only one lens in my collection would count as perfect in all respects. The one thing that the 28-135/4-4.5 suffers from is distortion. You have the heaviest distortion at the 28mm mark, yet even with a 1.5m closest focus, you can see the distortion in the table edge. There is a bit of pinching at the 135mm end but not as bad as the wide-angle; it seems the sweet spot on the lens is between 35mm and 100mm, with 35mm showing zero distortion. And finally, the lens does have a basic coating, so it does tend to flare when direct light is near the front of your frame. Sadly I have yet to find a good hood that will fit on the lens.

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C

Applications
The one thing that this lens is perfect for is travel; despite being heavy and oversized, if you only need to bring one lens on a trip, the 28-135mm will suit that trip perfectly. YOu get that lovely wide-angle and a good telephoto lens and decent aperture for an outdoor lens. With f/4 at 28mm and f/4.5 at 135mm, you can easily capture things in most lighting conditions. Plus, if you shoot the Sony Alpha line of SLRs, this lens works perfectly on all crop-sensor lenses and full-frame offerings like the A99. And there’s even an adapter that allows you to use the lens on the Sony E-mount. For outdoor weddings, events, and portraits, this lens won’t have to leave the camera. While that f/4 might cause problems for indoor settings, there should still be plenty of room for a fast fifty in your bag, even with this monster. If I had to revisit some of the previous trips I’ve done with the Maxxum 9, I would probably dump some of the lenses I had with me in favour of the 28-135, Quebec City, Chicago Saskatchewan are the ones that come to mind.

Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C
Optical Review Blog No. 17 - Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5
Minolta Maxxum 9 – Minolta Maxxum AF 28-135mm 1:4-4.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-100 – Ilford Perceptol (Stock) 15:00 @ 20C

The Low Down
I find most interesting about this particular lens because Minolta ever produced a single version of it, with no updates throughout the lens’s whole life. Now Sony did release an understanding of the lens but designed for their E-Mount APS line of movie cameras with a fixed f/4 aperture. But it shows exactly how well Minolta built this particular lens, considering it is among some of the oldest Maxxum lenses out there and was released in 1985 with the initial 7000, 5000, and 9000 line of cameras. On the used market, the lens can be had for an excellent and fair price. Prices range from as low as 50$ for an ugly version of the lens to a new-in-box coming in at 180$, which is not bad, considering how compatible the lens is with modern digital cameras and the performance the lens gives. Personally, this lens hardly leaves my Maxxum 9, and only if I have some severe space constraints or I need something super-wide or fast. I highly recommend this lens to anyone building or who has an A-Mount kit and wants that perfect one-and-done lens.

Further Reading
Don’t just take my view on the Maxxum 28-135mm, check out these other reviews.
Kurt Munger – Minolta 28-135mm f/4-4.5 Review
Ken Rockwell – Sony Minolta 28-135mm Review
Dyxum.com – Minolta AF 28-135mm F4-4.5 A-mount lens reviews

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