The Minolta 50mm AF f/1.7, a Love Story

 

Through the lens

 

Let me be clear, in my entire kit of six lenses and a Maxxum Htsi-Plus body, the 50mm is the only lens I ever paid for. The 50mm sits at the front of the group comprised of 28-80mm AF f/3.5-5.6, 28mm AF f/2.8, 35-70mm AF f/4, 135mm AF f/2.8, and a 70-210mm AF f/4. A very special thanks goes out to my dad for the middle three lenses and to Gevon Servo for the 70-210mm. The 50mm cost me $139 at B&H, and it is quite possibly the best $139 I ever spent.

By the time I purchased this wonderful lens, I was already several months into my career as a film shooter. One late spring evening I happened upon two of my grandfather’s old cameras, a Pentax K1000 and an Olympus OM-77 AF. I took the Olympus for a spin, and learned how to navigate it until my MTA bus driver passed his Minolta Maxxum Htsi-Plus onto me. Having moved to digital, he had no use for it, and figured I could get more out of it. He had no idea how right he was.

The purchase of the 50mm was on impulse and at the heavy urging of Chris Gampat. I was hesitant to spend that much on anything at the time. Though I didn’t have an incredible amount of photographic knowledge, I soon learned that lenses usually hold way more worth than any body ever will. For a brief period of time, my thinking was that I’d try the lens out for a bit, and then return it so that I could heal my ailing bank account.

 

Tower

 

After a week in Cape Cod, I never looked back.

 

Uprising

 

What I love about the 50mm is the intimacy it requires. It brings me closer to my subject. It necessitates a deeper understanding of what’s being photographed. The shot above was taken at a JFK memorial in Cape Cod. I was almost standing in the fountain to get that image. It was taken wide open at f/1.7 on a roll of Kodak Gold 400, and it wasn’t cropped.

With six elements in five groups and seven aperture blades, this lens is solid. It’s a favorite among Sony shooters as it is relatively cheap in the used circuit and roughly on par with the current Sony 50mm f/1.8 SAM DT, which is still a beauty. I brought my kit with me on a trip to Istanbul back in March of this year. I abandoned the Htsi-Plus in favor of my sister’s Sony A230. On the Sony Alpha A230DSLR, the 50mm became a 75mm.

I went to Istanbul with a group of Greek Orthodox college kids from across the US to do restoration work on desecrated Greek Orthodox graves in two cemeteries. There were some rare photographic opportunities during my time there, such as the one below.

 

these old bones

 

The 50mm brought me closer to a skull than I ever thought possible. Composition and an understanding of your subject is key, and I had to swallow any inhibitions I had about being that close to a bag of bones. It’s weird to think that someone is in that bag. I had to discard those thoughts because the 50mm forced me to break barriers. I never could have gotten the same photo with any other lens. The above image isn’t cropped.

Above all, the 50mm is an excellent lens for practice. It helps to cultivate a photographic style. It removes the frills of having to deal with zoom lenses that change aperture. There’s no need to worry about anything fish-eyed or wide-angled. It’s a simple lens that can yield some amazing photos.

 

All around the world

 

 

Gevon

 

 

Peace

 

This is a lens I’m going to keep for as long as it lasts. The more I use it, the more I grow. This is a love story still being written. I don’t think there’s an end in sight. Focus to infinity.

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