Review: Minolta MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 (MC-X)


The MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 is a well respected macro lens produced by Minolta in MC and MD mount with identical optical formula for more than 20 years. The maximum reproduction ratio is 1:2 with the lens as is (white scale on the barrel) and 1:1 with the dedicated extension tube (orange scale). The Macro Rokkor is still highly sought after today, as many photographers attest the lens excellent performance in close focus situations.

The MC 50 mm f/3.5 itself weighs about as much as the 50 mm MC Rokkor-PG f/1.4, which feels pretty balanced on the NEX. It becomes a little top-heavy with the 1:1 extension tube attached. Handling on a NEX-5T is okay, but not impressive. Despite the ultra long focus throw, focusing is a little fiddly in macro mode. In return, the lens offers that typical buttery smooth focus  common to most Minolta MC lenses. Its effective focal length of 76 mm on APS-C cameras would usually qualify this as a portrait lens, but as the name suggests, this isn’t the main field of action for the Macro Rokkor.

For further details on the lens like weight and dimensions, have a look at its entry in the Minolta SR mount lens database.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Satisfactory. Slight scratches in the coating due to cleaning. Some dust particles inside and what seems to be traces of fungus on the outer third of the front element.

Mechanics: Very good. Very smooth but not perfectly uniform focus, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Good. Visible scratches in the finishing and a missing red indicator dot for the mount alignment.

 

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

Notice: In the test charts, some regions even in the center appear less sharp than the others, depending on where the focus was aimed at. This may be caused by a slight waviness of the chart combined with shallow DOF, or it may be a defect of the lens. Please keep this issue in mind when reading the review!

The Macro shows acceptable sharpness with a slight haze at f/3.5 without any weaknesses in the corners. At f/5.6, the haze disappears and the lens shows good sharpness across the whole image with remarkably good corners. Stopping down further to f/8 or f/11 does not increase resolution and has little effect on the image overall, with the exception of a slightly crisper impression due to marginally higher contrast. Diffraction is hardly visible at f/16 but clearly softens f/22.

The lens shows no relevant CAs, even when looking at the images with 200% magnification. Outstanding for a lens which is – as far as I know –  not apochromatic by design.

Vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/3.5 and practically disappears at f/5.6. The lens shows an irrelevant amount of pincushion distortion (-0.1%). The effective T-stop at f/3.5 is T3.7 (-0.2 EV), which is good.

So, how does the legendary Macro Rokkor compare to it’s peers? Well, in terms of sharpness at medium distance to infinity, it doesn’t stand a chance against it’s cousin the MC Rokkor-PG 50 mm f/1.4 or other “regular” 50 mm primes. But this is not, what the Macro has been designed for. It has very different strong points; the main ones being a total absence of CAs as well as no perceptible distortion whatsoever. The lens also shows an extremely even performance across the entire frame and across three full f-stops (f/5.6 to f/11), which is something I haven’t seen before in a vintage piece of glass. This 50 mm is impressive, but in a very unusual, likable way.

 

Test charts

The following images are pixel-level crops from the test chart. They may appear scaled in your browser window. Click on them to view the crops in full size and cycle through them easily. For more info on the test setup, visit the details page.

 

Overview

Test chart overview

(Cropped areas marked in orange)

 

f/3.5

MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5

 

f/5.6

MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 @ f/11

 

f/16

MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 @ f/16

 

f/22

MC Macro Rokkor 50 mm f/3.5 @ f/22

 

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