A delicious combination - the Olympus E-300 with the Minolta 58mm f/1.2 MC Rokkor-PG

The Olympus E-System uses a chip that is 18mm x 13.5mm, providing a field of view that is approximately half that of a traditional film body. This means that your 50mm lens effectively becomes a 100mm. The positive side of this is that you get improved telephoto reach, however this does come at the expense of wide angle coverage. The widest Minolta manual focus rectilinear lens is the 17mm f/4, which on the E-300 would become a not-so wide 34mm. Additionally, the 17mm is hard to find and can be expensive.

While this may be an issue if you were only using Minolta manual focus lenses, don't forget that Olympus also manufacture an inexpensive wide angle zoom that can be used if needed, providing coverage down to 28mm equivalent. The E-300 is available new on ebay with the standard 14-45mm lens for under US$400.

With the adaptor in place there is no linkage between the camera and the Minolta lens, and in fact the camera has no idea a lens is even attached. This means that the user must utilise stop down metering, and naturally manual focus.

When shooting at apertures other than wide open the user must accordingly focus at full aperture (for the brightest viewfinder), and then stop down to the preferred aperture using the lens aperture ring. This can naturally make the viewfinder dark at the moment prior to exposure if using an aperture of f/5.6 or smaller, but it is not a real imposition in practice.

With no lens to camera communication there is no way you can use shutter priority or program mode on the camera. Aperture Priority works quite well and manual is naturally always available. Unfortunately, in line with most modern cameras the E-300 uses a two-control system to adjust shutter speed in manual mode, with the user holding down a button and then adjusting the control wheel. While not as simple as the Minolta cameras we are used to, it is easy to become accustomed to with use. In aperture priority a similar system is used to activate the +/- EV adjustment.

Butterfly captured with the E-300 and the Minolta 100mm f/4 Macro for an effective 200mm focal length

I have not found stop down metering or stopping down before shooting a problem at all. If I am shooting landscapes I take my time and compose with the lens wide open before stopping down, if shooting action I usually use zone focusing and a wider aperture. The kit lens available for the E-300 (14-45mm) is f/5.6 at the 45mm end and as a result any Minolta prime of a similar length will allow for a brighter viewfinder and better depth of field control.

The focusing screen is not optimised for manual focusing and focusing in low light can be difficult. I have found that bracketing focus can help. In good light and particularly with faster lenses (f/2.8 and below) obtaining accurate focus is relatively simple.

The E-300 with the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 MD Tele-Rokkor - equivalent of a 400mm f/2.8!
Metering with this camera in matrix, centerweighted or spot seems to work quite well although the camera does tend to underexpose trying not to lose those all important highlights. The underexposure also happens quite often on the kit lens and as a result I believe that the problem is due to the camera and not the lenses. As I shoot RAW with this camera I can often save any images that have been underexposed or if I notice this happen while shooting I will use manual mode or adjust my exposure compensation.

In hindsight I should have paid the few extra dollars and bought an E-500 which is reported by several review sites to have a more reliable light reading system, in addition to many other improvements. The E-500 also has a more traditional SLR style shape.

I have used an extensive range on Minolta manual focus lenses on the E-300, and based upon my experiences I believe that any of Minolta lenses (excluding those requiring mirror lock-up) will work with this camera. My favourite lens is the MC 50mm f1.4 always known for its sharp center, the camera feels well balanced and easy to use with this lens. My second favourite is the MD 100mm f4 macro, now a 200mm macro equivalent making it even easier to stalk butterflies.

Olympus E-300 with Minolta 50mm f/1.4 MC Rokkor-PF

Thanks go to Robert for his great review, photographs and time spent assisting me in getting this page available for publication. Robert has recently established a stock website called Imagetank, and if you are interested you can download for free from the site a wallpaper sized image of the E-300 surrounded by his collection of Minolta lenses. To do so simply click on the image below.

The Four Thirds system looks like an inexpensive way for Minolta manual focus users to experience the immediacy and convenience of digital capture. Additionally, recent development make it seem that the Four Thirds system will be with us for some time.

Panasonic have joined Olympus in the market with the introduction of a new Four Thirds camera body called the DMC-L1 which was launched with a Leica 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 lens featuring image stabilisation. Additionally Sigma have started production of lenses for the Four Thirds system. This will make the choice of lenses incredible as there will be Olympus, Leica, Sigma and via the CameraQuest adaptors a whole range of old manual focus lenses available. Even Zeiss lenses will be possible with the introduction of Zeiss’s new range of Nikon F mount lenses.

Who knows, perhaps the way of the future for Minolta manual focus users is digital?

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