April 22, 2021

Alphatracks

Sony and Minolta SLR Weblog

Apple pickin’ with the Sony Alpha A350

Close up of an apple with soft background

F/9 at 28mm and extremely shallow depth of field? Only from the mind of Minolta

Nov. 25, 2008 A couple weeks ago my wife suggested we go apple picking. It has been a while since I last picked apples and as the last of the fall colors were still decorating the trees, I agreed immediately.

We chose the Apple Hill Orchard in Morganton, NC, about a hour and half drive.

Naturally I brought along a camera; the Sony Alpha A350 equipped with my trusty Minolta 28-85mm f3.5-4.5 zoom. Because this was an apple picking excursion, I didn’t want haul along a lot of extra equipment, and I wasn’t interested in changing lenses while traipsing around the groves. So I went with the 28-85mm because I expected it would provide sufficient versatility for the day’s shooting.

The aperture was a little slow for shooting inside the Apple Hill general store, but with a little care I got some excellent shots. Outside in the actual orchard, the 28-85 proved to be an excellent choice. On the A350’s APSC size sensor, the focal length is the equivalent to a 42 to 127.5mm zoom. I would have liked a little wider angle of view inside the cider mill, but otherwise the lens was perfect for my purposes.

The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoyed using the macro mode of the 28-85mm. For reasons I don’t fully understand, Minolta designed the 28-85mm lens so that the macro mode can only be engaged at the 28mm focal length. This is directly opposite of most macro zoom lenses, which either provide their macro effect at the maximum telephoto focal length or else offer macro throughout the entire zoom range of the lens.

I have heard some photographers harshly criticize the lens because of its wide-angle only macro design.

It is a somewhat odd configuration, but I found it was great for creating the effect of very shallow depth of field. I could shift into the macro setting, focus on an apple or other subject and watch everything outside of my main subject turn soft and dreamy. I was shooting at f/9, which would normally cause nearly everything to be in focus with a 28mm focal length. Shooting in macro however, gave me a razor sharp subject against a soft background.

So maybe Minolta knew what they were doing when they created the 28-85 with a wide-angle macro. I guarantee you I will be shooting with this setting much more often in the future.

You can view the image gallery at Alphatracks visits the Apple Hill Orchard.

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