Minolta 50s and the A7

Started Mar 30, 2014 | Discussions thread
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 5,477
No point in calling a "winner"

forpetessake wrote:

I'm not sure I can declare a winner here, but in my memory the Canon FD and Nikon lenses were noticeably better than the lenses from the third tier manufacturers like Minolta, Konica, Olympus (with the exception of some Olympus Pen-F, which were very good).

No winner can be declared unless you specify judging guidelines.

Your recollection about general superiority of Canon and Nikon lenses doesn't match my memory, nor test results. Minolta in particular was one of the very few who made their own glass, and you might recall that they also made lenses with/for Leica -- which means they were actually what I gather you'd call a "first tier" lens manufacturer (assuming you view Canon and Nikon as "second tier").

I don't think such "tier" classifications are meaningful beyond influencing the price tag. In general, different manufacturers differed more in terms of their priorities for various metrics than in terms of overall IQ or build quality: different companies optimized for different attributes. For example, Minolta favored color matching and bokeh wide open, whereas Canon favored high microcontrast and stopped-down performance.

Most of FD lenses I tried when stopped down sowed great resolution and contrast. Wide open though they showed worse halation, flare, and CA than the modern glass.

Like I've said many times, Canon in particular didn't really optimize most of their fast lenses to be used wide open -- which makes sense in that fast apertures were largely about having a brighter focus screen while composing. The high microcontrast does help MTF50 resolution and focus, but resolution of many of their peers is actually higher at lower contrast levels (usually below MTF30). Canon seems to have avoided contrast-reducing veiling flare, but often traded it for more annoying bright patterns over portions of the frame. For example, my FDn 35mm f/2 is an excellent lens, but the poster child for problematic flare patterns.

Across all brands, old lenses often have undercorrected SA (it's not halation, and it's often deliberate to improve bokeh) and CA is often worse due to lack of cheap aspherics. Barely-visible defects due to age, such as haze and radioactive yellowing, also can impair IQ in ways somewhat similar to SA. There also are issues due to the different spectral sensitivity and high reflectance of sensor vs. film. The problems with modern glass tend to be rooted in poor alignment (due to autofocus constraints and cost-reducing manufacturing practices), surface imperfections in cheap aspherics, and use of way more elements (coatings may be better, but they have to be a lot better to work as well with more surfaces).

In summary, no lens, modern or old, cheap or expensive, beats all other lenses in every metric. Even lenses sold by Vivitar and Spiratone can be great by some metrics. It comes down to personal preference and matching lens characteristics to the shooting circumstances.

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