Minolta 50s and the A7

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kenetik
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Minolta 50s and the A7
9 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

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Astrophotographer 10
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

I have the 50 MD 1.4 and agree its a stellar lens. Bokeh is fabulous. I have just bought the 50 1.2 and am waiting on  it. I would like a 58 1.2 but they are a bit pricey. Especially when Fuji has  sharp wide open 1.2 bokeh machine with fantastic AF in their 56 1.2 for only twice the price of a 58 1.2 in good condition.

Greg.

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kenetik
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to Astrophotographer 10, 9 months ago

Astrophotographer 10 wrote:

I have the 50 MD 1.4 and agree its a stellar lens. Bokeh is fabulous. I have just bought the 50 1.2 and am waiting on it. I would like a 58 1.2 but they are a bit pricey. Especially when Fuji has sharp wide open 1.2 bokeh machine with fantastic AF in their 56 1.2 for only twice the price of a 58 1.2 in good condition.

Greg.

My friend has the 50 1.2 and it produces results on par with the 58 I have.  While the cult status of these lenses ebbs and flows, no one can argue both the 50 and 58 were premium lenses (and the 50 isn't exactly cheap).  While the copy of the 58 I got was BGN on KEH,  it looks brand new and I don't see anything wrong with it.  I love those guys.  As for the normal cost, it is pretty high.

I think it's cool Fuji has an affordale 56 1.2.  Canon's 50 1.2 Af is $2500+.  Unfortunately I don't have a Fuji camera either.  One system is already too much to keep up with.

Look forward to seeing samples from your 50 1.2!

Ken

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PatrickB01
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

I picked up a 40mm f1.8, still waiting for it to ship on ebay. Been thinking of picking up a 35 2.8 and a 50 1.4. Also want to checkout the 35-100 f2.8 zoom.

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kenetik
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to PatrickB01, 9 months ago

I guess the 40 1.8 would be a Konica, nice lens based on output I have seen.  I don't have any AR  lenses.   I have the Mino 35 1.8 and the Mino 35 2.8 Celtic which is actualy pretty nice.   As for zooms, try the 35-70 3.5 (macro if you can get one).  Not as long as the 35-105, but the design was used by Leica for the R mount, and it's wicked sharp.

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kingkv23
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to PatrickB01, 9 months ago

Thanks for the look through the 50s!

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Jefenator
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

Thanks for sharing your impressions!

I happened on an old MC Rokkor-PG 50/1.4 last year for $15 (sorry - can't keep from bragging) and it is my favorite all-round 50mm. Stopped down to f/2, it is sharper and has better BOKEH than my Leitz Summicron-R 50mm wide open.

I concur, the 45mm and 50mm non-Rokkor are not so great, though I did find that the former can still blow the pants off my APS-C rig at certain settings. (Really not feeling the colors, though.)

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kenetik
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to Jefenator, 9 months ago

Jefenator wrote:

Thanks for sharing your impressions!

I happened on an old MC Rokkor-PG 50/1.4 last year for $15 (sorry - can't keep from bragging) and it is my favorite all-round 50mm. Stopped down to f/2, it is sharper and has better BOKEH than my Leitz Summicron-R 50mm wide open.

I concur, the 45mm and 50mm non-Rokkor are not so great, though I did find that the former can still blow the pants off my APS-C rig at certain settings. (Really not feeling the colors, though.)

This is the place to brag :).  That is great to hear it can compete with the Leitz.  All the samples I have seen make it easy to believe.  I was looking for an MC 50 1.4 until I got the 58/1.2.  I would still pick one up if I saw an affordable copy (15 bucks!)  I really like 50 on APS-C.

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Jefenator
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

Rather than seek out a specific model and probably pay too much on eBay, I usually comb the local second hand sources and go with whatever I find. To be honest, bad 50mm legacy lenses seem to be less common than good ones. 

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kenetik
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to Jefenator, 9 months ago

Jefenator wrote:

Rather than seek out a specific model and probably pay too much on eBay, I usually comb the local second hand sources and go with whatever I find. To be honest, bad 50mm legacy lenses seem to be less common than good ones.

I agree about EBay etc.  With even thrift stores auctioning old glass online now, I usually look for yardsales, craigslist etc.  The 50mm was a pretty tried and true focal length.  It had to look good, as it came with every camera the makers sold for years.

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Astrophotographer 10
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

I'll be sure to post some examples.

There was an ad for the 58 1.4 on ebay where the seller was saying this was the legendary bokeh lens. I thought that was the 58 1.2 How do you find the 58 1.4? Does it compare with the 58 1.2?

Greg.

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KwhyChang
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

That was very interesting and informative, thanks.

I have an old X-7 with the plain old 50/1.7 49mm filter.

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Dave

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captura
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

Nice post!

Smaller and lighter than the MD 50/1.7 is the MD 50/2.0. That is a completely different lens and is remarkable for being 100% sharp and usable right from the wide open aperture. Quality of sharpness, color and bokeh are about the same as the 50/1.7 and it's small size make it my everyday favorite. Has good coatings so little lens flare.

I also have the 55mm MC Rokkor 1.9 which is as you say, very very sharp and I've used it on my Panasonic G1 as well as my 5R, especially for portrait work. It is very easy to get a clean focus.

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forpetessake
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wasn't impressed
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

I've had a dozen of different old ~50mm lenses, including several Minoltas. They are cheap and widely available, so it doesn't take much to build a big collection. Some samples are here . I got rid of most of them, still have Minolta 50/1.7 and 45/2 -- they are too cheap to bother selling them, and keeping Canon FD 50/1.4 for sentimental value, and it's probably the best of any other old 50mm lens. Still, the Sony 50/1.8 was noticeably better than any of those. Here is a comparison with Rokkor 50/1.4

I also tried some of them on A7 and thought they were better on FF, still too soft wide open, bad corners, too severe halation and CA -- they were actually worse on FF than SEL 50/1.8 on a NEX.

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forpetessake
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to kenetik, 9 months ago

kenetik wrote:

I guess the 40 1.8 would be a Konica, nice lens based on output I have seen. I don't have any AR lenses. I have the Mino 35 1.8 and the Mino 35 2.8 Celtic which is actualy pretty nice. As for zooms, try the 35-70 3.5 (macro if you can get one). Not as long as the 35-105, but the design was used by Leica for the R mount, and it's wicked sharp.

I had the Rokkor 35-70/3.5. It's not a bad lens. Needs to be stopped down to at least f/5.6, it's soft wide open. It also suffers from OOF CA and flare. Modern lenses are quite a bit better, but it's fun to play with the old glass.

Minolta Rokkor-X 35-70/3.5

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kenetik
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Re: Minolta 50s and the A7
In reply to captura, 9 months ago

captura wrote:

Nice post!

Smaller and lighter than the MD 50/1.7 is the MD 50/2.0. That is a completely different lens and is remarkable for being 100% sharp and usable right from the wide open aperture. Quality of sharpness, color and bokeh are about the same as the 50/1.7 and it's small size make it my everyday favorite. Has good coatings so little lens flare.

I also have the 55mm MC Rokkor 1.9 which is as you say, very very sharp and I've used it on my Panasonic G1 as well as my 5R, especially for portrait work. It is very easy to get a clean focus.

I've never used the 2.0, but it looks pretty compact.  The 1.9 takes really nice shots, and is really light and compact. Agree about the sharpness.

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joe6pack
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Re: wasn't impressed
In reply to forpetessake, 9 months ago

forpetessake wrote:

I also tried some of them on A7 and thought they were better on FF, still too soft wide open, bad corners, too severe halation and CA -- they were actually worse on FF than SEL 50/1.8 on a NEX.

But your test used 2 different bills. So I have to conclude that you tested them at 2 different time and environment and may be even different location. I'm quite happy for the money I saved buying MF lens instead of paying Sony, though.

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kuuan
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your photos sure isn't impressing :)
In reply to forpetessake, 9 months ago

forpetessake wrote:

I've had a dozen of different old ~50mm lenses, including several Minoltas. They are cheap and widely available, so it doesn't take much to build a big collection. Some samples are here . I got rid of most of them, still have Minolta 50/1.7 and 45/2 -- they are too cheap to bother selling them, and keeping Canon FD 50/1.4 for sentimental value, and it's probably the best of any other old 50mm lens. Still, the Sony 50/1.8 was noticeably better than any of those. Here is a comparison with Rokkor 50/1.4

I also tried some of them on A7 and thought they were better on FF, still too soft wide open, bad corners, too severe halation and CA -- they were actually worse on FF than SEL 50/1.8 on a NEX.

because I don't have the Sony I can't and won't argue if the Sony is better than legacy 50mm lenses, but one thing I can say for certain: your sample shown taken with the Rokkor is not representative of a legacy 50mm at all!

It either had been taken with a faulty lens or simply had been very badly taken. None of my 40+ legacy normal lenses would look that bad @f2. Unfortunately I don't have the Rokkor-X 1.4/50, which I also have, with my right now, but e.g. a 50% crop of a fast and dirty take I just did with a S-M-C Takumar 1.4/50 @f2 on NEX5N:

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photos mostly taken with manual lenses on Ricoh GXR M, Sony NEX5N, Pentax K-x and *istDs: http://flickr.com/photos/kuuan/

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kenetik
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Re: wasn't impressed
In reply to forpetessake, 9 months ago

forpetessake wrote:

I've had a dozen of different old ~50mm lenses, including several Minoltas. They are cheap and widely available, so it doesn't take much to build a big collection. Some samples are here . I got rid of most of them, still have Minolta 50/1.7 and 45/2 -- they are too cheap to bother selling them, and keeping Canon FD 50/1.4 for sentimental value, and it's probably the best of any other old 50mm lens. Still, the Sony 50/1.8 was noticeably better than any of those. Here is a comparison with Rokkor 50/1.4

I also tried some of them on A7 and thought they were better on FF, still too soft wide open, bad corners, too severe halation and CA -- they were actually worse on FF than SEL 50/1.8 on a NEX

Pre-digital lenses have their downsides in a digital age, but I like the way these lenses render, and I love being able to experiment with stuff like a 1.2 focal plane. .  I  understand you don't like legacy 50mm lenses, but what is your FF alternative?  The Zeiss 55 at $1000?  That one got super high marks for sharpness at DXO.   I am glad Sony is making such high quality glass for FE,  but honestly for $1000 it better be good.

If sharpness and lack of CA are the only measures of a lens, we should all be saving for the best zeiss has to offer, and when I take a portrait of my girlfriend and it renders every blemish and flaw on her face I can apply the Nik skin softening filter liberally to keep from being thrown out.

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kenetik
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Re: your photos sure isn't impressing :)
In reply to kuuan, 9 months ago

kuuan wrote:

forpetessake wrote:

I've had a dozen of different old ~50mm lenses, including several Minoltas. They are cheap and widely available, so it doesn't take much to build a big collection. Some samples are here . I got rid of most of them, still have Minolta 50/1.7 and 45/2 -- they are too cheap to bother selling them, and keeping Canon FD 50/1.4 for sentimental value, and it's probably the best of any other old 50mm lens. Still, the Sony 50/1.8 was noticeably better than any of those. Here is a comparison with Rokkor 50/1.4

I also tried some of them on A7 and thought they were better on FF, still too soft wide open, bad corners, too severe halation and CA -- they were actually worse on FF than SEL 50/1.8 on a NEX.

because I don't have the Sony I can't and won't argue if the Sony is better than legacy 50mm lenses, but one thing I can say for certain: your sample shown taken with the Rokkor is not representative of a legacy 50mm at all!

It either had been taken with a faulty lens or simply had been very badly taken. None of my 40+ legacy normal lenses would look that bad @f2. Unfortunately I don't have the Rokkor-X 1.4/50, which I also have, with my right now, but e.g. a 50% crop of a fast and dirty take I just did with a S-M-C Takumar 1.4/50 @f2 on NEX5N:

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photos mostly taken with manual lenses on Ricoh GXR M, Sony NEX5N, Pentax K-x and *istDs: http://flickr.com/photos/kuuan/

Yeah, in the $20 test, the focus looks off on the second bill.  I like yours better anyway, Franklin beats Hamilton anyday :).  Seriously, legacy glass represent!

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