Minolta’s line of “professional” top of the line lenses are designated with a “G”. The Minolta 28-135mm f4-4.5 is not a “G” lens, however some consider it an honorary member of the “G” line due to its spectacular optical quality and build.

Despite its compromises, big, heavy (750g/1.6Lbs), long minimum focus distance (1.5m/5ft), an essentially useless macro function and yet, it is beloved by many photographers.

Rumored to have been co-developed with the famed Leica lens makers – this lens does not disappoint with exceptional colors, contrast and resolution. This lens also has an unusual (for Minolta), rear focusing mechanism. All other Minolta lenses have the focus ring at the front of the lens, whereas this has it at the back. This interesting design results in faster than usual auto focusing for lenses of this type.

This beautifully made, all metal lens is probably the best example of the craftsmanship that Minolta put into their products in the early 80s. The lens is carefully dust sealed and features solid lubrication blocks and a bronze bearing for smooth operation. I won’t go into the complex floating element zoom assembly, suffice it to say that it is one most intricately machined components I’ve ever seen.

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Minolta’s line of “professional” top of the line lenses are designated with a “G”. The Minolta 28-135mm f4-4.5 is not a “G” lens, however some consider it an honorary member of the “G” line due to its spectacular optical quality and build.

It is big, heavy (750g/1.6Lbs), has a long minimum focus distance (1.5m/5ft), has an essentially useless macro function and yet still it is beloved by many photographers.

Rumored to have been co-developed with the famed Leica lens makers – this lens does not disappoint with exceptional colors, contrast and resolution. This lens also has an unusual (for Minolta), rear focusing mechanism. All other Minolta lenses have the focus ring at the front of the lens, whereas this has it at the back. This interesting design results in faster than usual auto focusing for lenses of this type.

The 28-135mm is somewhat rare but can often be found on eBay. Except to pay about $200-400. Be careful to buy one from a seller who offers returns (or guarantees the quality) since this is an older lens and there is nothing worse than buying a $300 paper-weight.


Video shot with the Sony a77 with a Minolta 28-135mm lens.

Secret Handshake Lens

The Minolta “Secret Handshake” (or even Minolta Handshake) is the honorary name for the epic Minolta Maxxum 28-135mm f4-4.5.

This is one of my favorite outdoor zoom lenses. In my opinion the wide-end is adequate on APS (5D/7D, A100-A700 and newer) and 135mm fantastic. The range is superb on a full frame camera body (A850/900) of course. The unique rear focus mechanism is surprisingly fast for a lens of its age. Image quality in virtually every respect is difficult to match, although some may criticize its lack of contrast compared to modern lenses.

It is the “secret handshake” because it is not well known but those few who do know it, understand the secret. It is easily overlooked because it doesn’t stack up well on specs and given its scarcity, not many people to talk up its virtues. On camera forums people say, “Well it isn’t very fast and it isn’t very wide, so I don’t know…” It just doesn’t feel like it will be a lens that will be useful in enough situations, so people skip it.

I understand, I was once the same way and I think my Tamron 17-50/2.8 is great… but seriously – if you had to pick one lens – or even one anything to live with for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you pick something with shortcomings that you love over something that has all the right features but leaves you a little cold?

Sure, sure I am going over the top here, but I hope this serves to explain the idea of the “secret handshake.” If you fall in love with this lens it is so worth it. If you don’t if will keep its resale value forever, so really there is so little risk there. The great Minolta classics are one of the great strengths of the Minolta Sony A-mount, take advantage of that.

Minolta 35-105 vs 28-135?

With the availability of so many wonderful classic Minolta lenses, it can be hard to decide on what to get. In my case, I just got them all (almost) and that made the decision a lot easier!

But if you have to choose and are considering the Minolta 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5 or the Minolta 28-135mm f4-4.5 “the secret handshake” – how do they stack up?

Light gathering. Same. f3.5, f4, f4.5… we wont see much of a practical difference. Neither have the convenience or “neat” factor of a constant aperture either.

Focusing – advantage 28-135 (faster). In my experience, the 28-125 is faster and more accurate. The forums seem to generally agree with that assessment as well. The focus mechanism is different on each. The 35-105 has the traditional screw drive with a front focus ring. The 28-135 has a rear placed focus ring – still screw drive of course but a different design. It feels and sounds like the 28-135 is moving fewer parts of less mass. It is also a bit quieter than the 35-105 but neither will win any awards as far as that goes.

Image quality – advantage 28-135. Concerning sharpness, subjectively, they are roughly the same. However, the 28-135 has that certain something special to its images. While most old Minolta lenses have decent color, sharpness and out-of-focus areas, the 28-135 takes it all a notch above.

Build quality – same. Classic Minolta, you can’t go wrong – metal body, metal mount, smooth operation. I have read some forum posts that stated the 28-135 is more fragile, but information about this is far too anecdotal to say for sure.

Bottom line – it depends. While certainly the focal length range of the 28-135, fast focusing and beautiful image quality make the 28-135 a lens to love – it is bigger, heavier and more expensive. The 35-105 is still a great choice if the limiting focal-length range isn’t a show-stopper for you.

I didn’t mention or consider the 28-135’s macro mode since most find it more of a feature to forget than an advantage. The macro is usable but (being generous) of limited usefulness.

My opinion? 28-135mm, no question! The image quality sets it apart and fantastic range make it a real winner for outdoor shooting. Indoors f4-4.5 is somewhat limiting and combined with the 28mm (42mm on APS) wide-end makes less than ideal. Indoors I prefer the Tamron 17-50/2.8.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Minolta Maxxum 28-135mm f4-4.5
Author Rating
5