Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

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Tim Crammond Senior Member • Posts: 1,011
Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4
1

I'm curious whether there's any difference optically between the old W.Rokkor XD 20mm f2.8 lenses and the original AF Minolta 20mm's. It's obvious the MF versions are attracting substantially higher prices, and I just wondered if this was due to any sensible reason.

I'm thinking of grabbing one for use with my a7III. My thinking at the moment is that if I can get one at the right price I may go for the SR lens. The LA EA4 adapter doesn't seem that much of an encumbrance when it has a big tele on it, but for me the more petite the lens, the more incrementally annoying the LA EA4 becomes. A dumb SR-NEX adapter is less of a nuisance, and with a 20mm prime AF isn't likely to be that huge a consideration.

That being said, if they're optically identical, I'm certainly not going to pay a premium for an older MF lens when the AF version is still a very solid lens.

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Volker G Regular Member • Posts: 299
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

Tim Crammond wrote:

That being said, if they're optically identical, I'm certainly not going to pay a premium for an older MF lens when the AF version is still a very solid lens.

The two lenses are definitely not identical, even though both have 10 elements in 9 groups. The older, MD, version has a more compact design with a smaller front lens while the newer, AF, version has a prominent front lens. I've got no clue regarding differences in optical performance but I guess that the AF has less vignetting (bigger front lens...) and most likely a generally improved sharpness throughout the frame.

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walter g1 Senior Member • Posts: 1,013
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

Also the MD version has six aperture blades versus the AF version with seven blades.

OP Tim Crammond Senior Member • Posts: 1,011
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

Volker G wrote:

Tim Crammond wrote:

That being said, if they're optically identical, I'm certainly not going to pay a premium for an older MF lens when the AF version is still a very solid lens.

The two lenses are definitely not identical, even though both have 10 elements in 9 groups. The older, MD, version has a more compact design with a smaller front lens while the newer, AF, version has a prominent front lens.

Strangely, though that was my first thought at as well, for some reason I thought I'd researched that and found they both had the same diameter filter thread. They don't, of course.

I've got no clue regarding differences in optical performance but I guess that the AF has less vignetting (bigger front lens...) and most likely a generally improved sharpness throughout the frame.

Which brings me back to why are the old SR MF models bringing substantially higher prices?

It wouldn't be the only time this has happened. The old Rokkor 35-70mm seems always to be in demand, whereas you can hardly give away the Minolta AF version. The Rokkor was slightly faster (f3.5 vs f4) but I gather the optics were significantly different, and were reputedly used by Leica.

There doesn't seem to be any particular reason attached to why the 20mm Rokkor is generally so much pricier than the AF version, though. At least that I've found.

(incidentally there's nothing wrong with the f4 Minolta 35-70, other than it being a bit of a meh FL on APS-C)

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neilt3
neilt3 Senior Member • Posts: 1,904
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

Tim Crammond wrote:.

Which brings me back to why are the old SR MF models bringing substantially higher prices?

With the rise in popularity of mirror less , everyone's gone crazy for manual focus lenses .

The price goes up due to supply and demand .

If your in the market for wider angle lenses , such as 20mm , the technology improved later on , so the AF lenses should give better results .

I've got the Minolta AF 20mm that I had for years used on both film and digital and I'm happy with it .

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E Dinkla Senior Member • Posts: 2,221
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

neilt3 wrote:

Tim Crammond wrote:.

Which brings me back to why are the old SR MF models bringing substantially higher prices?

With the rise in popularity of mirror less , everyone's gone crazy for manual focus lenses .

The price goes up due to supply and demand .

If your in the market for wider angle lenses , such as 20mm , the technology improved later on , so the AF lenses should give better results .

I've got the Minolta AF 20mm that I had for years used on both film and digital and I'm happy with it .

Well, there was never before a combined range/viewfinder that was as good as the EVF is for manual focus lenses, including features like magnification and peaking.  Improving on what was possible with medium format SLR viewfinders that still lacked in luminosity compared to EVFs. Add sensor IS to the EVF and it becomes even better. Autofocus lenses were partly introduced because the SLR viewfinders were not ideal, that next to speeding up focusing for sports etc. Rangefinder cameras had other flaws in their viewfinders but coped better with available light. The ergonomy of image stabilised  EVFs for the eye plus lens control by hand is hard to replace with AF lenses if focus point and depth within a composition is your first goal.

That said, I personally dislike the aesthetics of early AF lens exteriors most of all.  Luigi Colani who designed the Canon T90, the last of the non AF Canon SLRs, probably set that 80's trend.  I have some AF primes when the MF versions of that focal length already had a secondhand price/performance ratio that overcame my objections written above. I focus them manually.

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QuietOC
QuietOC Veteran Member • Posts: 4,523
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

The MD 24mm F2.8 goes for twice or more than the AF version. It is that way with a few lenses. Some MDs are completely ignored like the 35-105 and 70-210.

I tried three copies of the AF 20mm. They varied in quality. The best didn't compare well with the mirrorless Samyang 18mm or Tamron 20mm. Some of that may be because it was designed for film and not digital. But Sony is still selling this lens. Even the original gets Lens Compensation support in A7/A9 bodies.

The Tamron 20mm F2.8 OSD is available new for about the same price as these old lenses used.

Minolta also had three 21mm primes. The older two were non retrofocal primes with elements sticking into the mirror box. Those are probably even worse with Sony's thick glass stack, but they are very compact.

I like the Sigma 20mm F1.8 EX for indoor usage.

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ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 7,531
AF lens ergonomics
1

E Dinkla wrote:

Well, there was never before a combined range/viewfinder that was as good as the EVF is for manual focus lenses, including features like magnification and peaking.

Absolutely right. In fact, much as it's sometimes a nice option to have, I really hate how autofocus usually seems to be fighting against my photographic wishes. Manual focus with peaking and magnified view just help me do what I want.

That said, I personally dislike the aesthetics of early AF lens exteriors most of all. Luigi Colani who designed the Canon T90, the last of the non AF Canon SLRs, probably set that 80's trend.

Agreed. To sum it up, I think lenses suddenly became housings for electronics and drive systems, and they look like cylindrical cases wrapped around the lens... which is what they are. Although I like having a focus/DoF scale, I also dislike having it placed behind a little plastic window; those windows always seem to be the first thing to show damage.

I have some AF primes when the MF versions of that focal length already had a secondhand price/performance ratio that overcame my objections written above. I focus them manually.

For ultrawides, newer is almost always optically better. Same for large ratio zooms.

The line I try not to cross is to focus-by-wire lenses. I have just a few, and I deeply hate them for manual focus. I particularly hate focus-by-wire for which rotational positions don't have fixed distance correspondences, but are different every time the camera boots and/or have the same angular movement change focus distance more if done faster (acceleration-based scaling of motion). In fact, this is one of the reasons I've generally preferred 3rd-party AF lenses in Minolta AF over Canon EF... although cost has usually been a stronger reason.

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Tons o Glass 0 Class
Tons o Glass 0 Class Contributing Member • Posts: 758
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

You'd think someone would've compared them directly by now, but I haven't found any links to provide on that front. Maybe it'll be up to you to show the rest of us how they do?

The optical diagrams side by side certainly look very similar, but there are of course differences to point out (some have already been mentioned).

The AF 20/2.8 could be revised to lessen vignetting, but it may also be revised for how it focuses - it only moves the rear half of the optics to focus, so as far as the camera and lens system combined is concerned, it's focused internally. The The MD Rokkor 20/2.8 also employs floating elements, but the front half of the lens rotates (will only be an issue with polarizers) which implies that it moves at a different rate than the rear portion of the optics.

I think Photoshop has a profile for the Minolta/Sony AF if you'd like to correct distortion - is one readily available for the Rokkor?

With both designs being very wide lenses having floating elements, getting the register distance right will be more important than it is for unit-focusing lenses.

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OP Tim Crammond Senior Member • Posts: 1,011
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4
1

Tons o Glass 0 Class wrote:

You'd think someone would've compared them directly by now, but I haven't found any links to provide on that front. Maybe it'll be up to you to show the rest of us how they do?

Ha! Ha!

Ken Rockwell actually reviews both. Likes the AF and raves about the Rokkor - but doesn't make any actual comparison. Besides which his reviews and assertions so often contradict each other that I wonder why anybody takes him seriously.

For instance, this is him on the Minolta 20mm AF f2.8

"I bought this Minolta 20mm f/2.8 for my Sony a99... Today I use it with my Sony LA-EA4 adapter on my Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras."

and in his LA EA4 review

This little gizmo lets our mirrorless cameras replace SLRs...

and then here he is on the LA EA5

"This adapter is for old people with a bunch of old lenses of which they they won't let go rather than get with the program and buy all new dedicated E-mount versions."

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SimonOL Senior Member • Posts: 1,956
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4
1

Tim Crammond wrote:

Which brings me back to why are the old SR MF models bringing substantially higher prices?

It wouldn't be the only time this has happened. The old Rokkor 35-70mm seems always to be in demand, whereas you can hardly give away the Minolta AF version. The Rokkor was slightly faster (f3.5 vs f4) but I gather the optics were significantly different, and were reputedly used by Leica.

There doesn't seem to be any particular reason attached to why the 20mm Rokkor is generally so much pricier than the AF version, though. At least that I've found.

(incidentally there's nothing wrong with the f4 Minolta 35-70, other than it being a bit of a meh FL on APS-C)

Higher prices for the Rokkor probably have little to do with IQ and more to do with:

- the manual focus lens is easier to adapt - no electronic adapter required ($$$ if you don't already have one).

- the Rokkor can be adapted easily to mirrorless cameras other than Sonys.

- the Rokkor has no internal electronics so easier to repair/maintain.

- perception of better build quality of older lenses - more metal, less plastic.

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verybiglebowski
verybiglebowski Veteran Member • Posts: 4,378
Re: Minolta SR 20mm vs AF 20mm w LA EA4

SimonOL wrote:

Tim Crammond wrote:

Which brings me back to why are the old SR MF models bringing substantially higher prices?

It wouldn't be the only time this has happened. The old Rokkor 35-70mm seems always to be in demand, whereas you can hardly give away the Minolta AF version. The Rokkor was slightly faster (f3.5 vs f4) but I gather the optics were significantly different, and were reputedly used by Leica.

There doesn't seem to be any particular reason attached to why the 20mm Rokkor is generally so much pricier than the AF version, though. At least that I've found.

(incidentally there's nothing wrong with the f4 Minolta 35-70, other than it being a bit of a meh FL on APS-C)

Higher prices for the Rokkor probably have little to do with IQ and more to do with:

- the manual focus lens is easier to adapt - no electronic adapter required ($$$ if you don't already have one).

- the Rokkor can be adapted easily to mirrorless cameras

I would add also collectible aspect of the higher price.

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