Minolta 50s and the A7

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kenetik
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Minolta 50s and the A7
6 months ago

I started collecting Minolta mf lenses last year.  First for the NEX-6 and now for the A7 (this is one of the reasons the A7 was a no-brainer for me).   After AF, where a decent lens costs a lot, let's say $500-1000 for a decent prosumer lens, the world of mf seemed like bargain town, and I accumulated lenses very quickly.  I was testing all the ~50mms Minos I have on the A7, and thought I would post some shots of what they look like on the camera and a my impression of each one.  Enjoy...

58mm MC Rokkor PF 1.4 -  This is a very affordable lens and was a Mino kit lens for a long time (I got mine dirt cheap with a body from someone on Craigslist, they run $50-100 on ebay).  58mm is a  good focal length for both APS-C (87mm is closer to the magic 85mm FoV than the 75 equivalent of a 50mm) and FF, it is pretty sharp and the images captured with it exhibit classic Mino colors and lovely bokeh.  The only downside is the weight of the lens, it is all metal and a bit heavy.  It is a great option for a 1.4 50ish lens.  It is an older lens, so watch out for haze, fungus, stuck aperture blades and all of the other factors that can affect older glass.

50mm MD Rokkor-X  1.4 - The 50/1.4 is a dream to use on the NEX and the A7.  It is hard to take a bad picture with this lens.  It focuses easily, even at 1.4, excels in low light and is a Bokeh machine.  This guy is a classic (and a bargain, ~$50-75 online).  I've read the MC version is sharper, but I love the MD version above and have taken a lot of pics I love with it.   When I think about the fact I paid ~$500 for the Sony AF 1.4 three or four years ago, this is pretty amazing.  Giving up autofocus for the heck of it is one thing (I have fun with manual focus).  Giving it up because you get pictures that are just as good (IMO) for 1/10th the price... that I love!

58mm MC Rokkor-X  1.2 - I have used the F1.2 more than the others because it guzzles light, is sharp as a tack and allows me to play with the razor thin focal plane.   Once again, the older MC version seems to be more highly regarded by some.  I don't have that but I love this one.  You will invest some $ in this lens (I paid about $350 for a BGN copy on KEH) but for a 1.2 lens sans Speed Booster etc, IMO it's worth it.  I didn't mean to accumulate so many 50mm lenses, over half of these came with camera gear I was buying to get another lens.  If I was just going to keep one, this would be it.

55mm MC Rokkor 1.9 - This one was the kit lens for the SRT bodies and was only made for only about 2 years in the early 1970s.   It's slower than the rest we have seen, although really is anything lower than F2 slow?  This lens is a contradiction. While it was said to be more cheaply made than the kit lenses that preceded it, and is supposed to not have the premium coatings, it also has a small cult following for it's sharpness.  I can attest to the fact it is very sharp (I don't shoot black and white targets or do scientific tests, that is a subjective opinion)  and premium coatings or not, I haven't noticed any more flare or CA than any of the other 50s.   I had this one on the camera for a while just for the novelty, and I like it a lot.  They can be found for very cheap prices, but there aren't that many of them.

The 55 1.8 Auto Rokkor is the oldest Mino 50 I have.  It is decently sharp wide open, although it will give you a lot of magenta fringing.  I love the character of this lens, it takes beautiful pictures and uses the same tried and true PF optical formula of most of the rest.  I used this lens a lot for B/W portraits and candids, as it lends itself to that.   I love the way it looks on a modern camera.  It is also all metal and a bit weighty.

50mm Rokkor-X MD 1.7 (55mm filter size) - The 50mm 1.7 (55) (later models had 49mm)  also provides a superior experience on a digital camera.  These are very sharp and again give you the Mino colors and lovely bokeh.  Focusing is a breeze.  I have the 50 1.7 in Minolta AF and I find the two lenses have very different character, but both are a joy to use for portraits.    Everybody has a 50mm, and let's face it, there are lots of really good options.  But if you want a great example of the Minolta experience and don't want to spend a lot, for $30 you can pick up one of these in excellent condition.

50mm MD 1.7 - This one isn't a Rokkor, just the plain old MD variant with 49mm filter.  This is the smallest (besides 45mm pancake) and lightest of the  50 lenses, and the least obtrusive and intimidating.  Minolta switched everything to the smaller filter size for just this reason (to make lenses smaller and lighter).  This was the first mf Minolta lens I got, shortly after I got my first adapter, so I used it as much or more than any of these others, and I wills till put it on my camera when I want a small and light lens I can count on.  While the 45mm pancake (shown next) is smaller and lighter, it is soft in comparison and not as good in low light.

Rokkor MD 45mm 2.0 Pancake - The 45mm pancake is an almost 50mm lens that I wish I could love more.  While it has character and is fine stopped down, it is too soft and not the best optical formula Minolta ever came up with.   It's bordering on the size of a rangefinder lens, so again, wish I could llove it.

The fabulous 50s....

So that's it.  There are more 50mm mf Mino lenses I don't have, such as the 50 f2, the 50 3.5 macro, the 50mm macro bellows and variants on all of the above.  But as I mentioned, I didn't consciously try to collect 50mm, it is just the most common focal range out there.  I still think Minolta lenses are a bargain and lenses like the 50 1.4s and the 1.2s are as good as anything out there.   As you can probably see, I love Minolta glass and the legacy Sony inherited (and has continued to build) when they purchased Minolta's camera division.

Hope you enjoyed.

Ken

Sony Alpha 7 Sony Alpha NEX-6
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