DXOMark is famous for lab tests they run on camera sensors and lenses, and while the data can help consumers make more informed decisions, some of their rankings can be a little strange. After digging through their database, we found that some rather old (almost vintage) lenses still rank highly on their charts. This, of course, is a testament to the lens (in this case the Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8), but it also raises questions about newer glass too, and why there have only been marginal improvements over the last 15 years. Join us after the break as we look at this a little more.
Back when the Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8 hit the market in 2004 it retailed for $400. In 2019 that would be $545 (after inflation) which isn’t bad when you look at lenses like the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD, which costs $899.99, or the Sony 28-75mm f2.8 SAM, which costs $898. The Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8 looks to be a Sony A mount bargain, especially as it can be picked up for under $300 now.
We took a look at the scores that the Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8 achieved on the Sony Alpha 99 II. The Alpha 99 II is, of course, a huge Megapixel DSLR that rivals the most recent powerful Mirrorless and DSLR cameras. This cheap, vintage lens scored an impressive 23 points overall, which puts it on the top 10 list for lenses in this category. In terms of sharpness this vintage lens scored a 15, distortion came in at 0.3, vignetting at -1.6, light transmission scored a 3.0, and chromatic aberration is very well controlled and scored an 8.
As you can see, the top lens in this list is the brand new Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM: a lens that is 15 years newer, $2500 more expensive, and is only 10 points better than the Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8 in DXOMark’s lab tests. The Sony 28-70mm f3.55.6 OSS, which was tested on the A7R II, scored 28 points overall and, apart from sharpness, the Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8 outperformed this newer Sony lens in just about every other department. Is this testament to the staying power of the lens from Konica Minolta, or is it that not as much care is being given to some newer lenses?
Yes, these are not direct comparisons due to the different platforms, mounts, and cameras used, but still, it is interesting that newer technology, new design methodologies, and new manufacturing techniques have not produced lenses that are that much better according to these lab tests. Of course, real-world tests and side by side image comparisons would likely show more.
So what’s the takeaway from this? Have a dig around inside the database at DXOMark and take a look at the lenses of yesteryear. It can be surprising to see so many vintage lenses that perform really well, even by today’s high standards. Don’t be afraid to give some of these older lenses a chance; they really will surprise you, especially for the prices they go for now. The Konica Minolta 28-75mm f2.8, for example, is just $269: a bargain for any Sony A Mount users. Remember, these old lenses can be adapted to just about any Mirrorless platform now as well. Branch out a little, and take a look at the vintage lens market. You’ll be surprised at how many gems are out there.