BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Choosing the Right Camera Flashes

Photography Question 
Tamara Bradley

What 50mm Lens for my Minolta Maxxum 5?

I own a Maxxum 5 and am looking to purchase a 50mm lens - mostly for weddings/portraiture. I am looking at the Minolta 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.7 lenses. My question is:
* Which is better and/or what is the difference between the two? It appears that all of the specs are the same except for size/weight.

I am also looking at flashes. Any recommendations? I have looked at the Minolta models (3600 and 5600 models mostly) and some Vivitar models.

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2/11/2004 12:05:52 PM

Wing Wong
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2004
  Hi Tamara,
Off the bat, one is brighter(f/1.4). I'm also hazzarding to guess that that one is also the bigger one.

The benefit of brighter optics is that you will be able to take shots even when the situation has darkened, ie. inside the church, at night, indoor shots, etc.

The benefit of the lighter one is that you will be able to heft the setup around longer without arm strain. (sorry if this is stuff you know already, just writing stuff down as it comes off the ol'noodle.)

I'm looking at flashes myself and I would have to go with the 5600 models. More adjustment for the flash head for bounces(getting indirect light from the ceiling/walls/etc). The 5600 is also a remotely programmable flashhead. Ie, you link it with your camera and can trigger it remotely with IR from your camera. Very useful.

For wedding photography, I would be looking at a setup that has a good bounce head and maybe a diffuser cover/sock/hood for the flash head to soften the light for a more natural look.
As for the lens, I think it is a matter of how much weight you are willing to put up with and how steady your hand is in darker situations.
You might want to consider a second lens in the 100-150 range for some mid-distance portrait shots and group shots.

Good luck with your wedding photos and portraits! Would love to see some resulting shots! I'm looking at the 3600/5600 myself. However, I'm using the Minolta A!, so I don't have a choice with the lens.

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2/11/2004 1:53:00 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  The price difference between f/1.4 and f/1.7 or f/1.8 50mm lenses is due to
(a) the extra 1/2 to 2/3 stop larger maximum aperture, and the larger glass and extra correction that goes with it.
(b) generally better build quality for professional use.

Up to you whether to spend more for the extra speed and build quality of the f/1.4, or be satisfied with the nearly disposable economy of the f/1.7.

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2/11/2004 2:48:16 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  P.S. forgot one other thing.

I don't know about the Minolta line, but in Canon, the f/1.4 50 has more aperture blades (8) for rounder, softer, more pleasing out-of-focus highlights (good "bokeh"). The f/1.8 is good and sharp, but the pentagon shaped out of focus highlights from the 5 blade/straight edged aperture isn't as pleasing.

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2/11/2004 2:57:10 PM

Adam J. Lucas   Tamara,

I own the 50mm f1.7 Dynax/Maxxum lens and it is extremely sharp. Now the reason you might want to 'upgrade' to the f1.4 version is if you want a lens that is even sharper! The f1.4 is a G lens which means both optically and in construction it is superior to the f1.7. But seriously, how sharp can you get, the 50mm f1.7 lens is extremely affordable on the second-hand market, personally I would go for this one as it is a top performer, the f1.7 aperture is massively wide, and wide enough for low-light work, it also gives a nice bright viewfinder image for critical and fast focusing (the Maxxum 5 has a good bright viewfinder anyway).
Also, when shooting at f1.4 with the G lens, your depth-of-field will be SO shallow that you will have to work very hard to keep your subject's eyes sharp in the photographs. It will however teach you the importance of choosing your focus point wisely.
As for the flash, the main difference is that the 5600 HS(D) flash has a SWIVEL head as well as a bounce head, whereas the 3600HS(D) only has a bounce head (contrary to the comments of other answers here). The other difference of course is the power of the two flashes, the guide no. being incorporated into the model no. i.e 5600 (GN 56) and 3600 (GN 36). THe 5600 also has a few additional features which may or may not be useful to you. The guide no. of 56 would be better for weddings considering the distance between you and your subjects, even only for fill-in flash. All of the mentioned Minolta products are top notch, and you'd be proud to own any of them.
I hope this helps, good luck!

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2/14/2004 6:59:42 AM

Tamara Bradley   Thank you everyone for your input and suggestions!! Perhaps for now I will go with the f/1.7 and consider upgrading in the future should it be necessary, and go with the 5600 flash for added versatility.

Thanks a bunch!

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2/14/2004 9:14:18 AM

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