Review: Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 (MC-X)


The MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 was Minoltas first “ultra fast” medium wide angle lens. It was later succeeded by the MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8, which performs a little worse but is much lighter and more compact.

The W.Rokkor-HH features a rock solid build and is about a third heavier than the 50 mm f/1.4 MC Rokkor-PG. Focus is buttery smooth and handling on a NEX-5T is good. It is a little soft wide open, but make no mistake – at smaller apertures, this lens surpasses the MC Rokkor-PG 50 mm f/1.4 in sharpness! The effective focal length of 54 mm on APS-C cameras makes the MC f/1.8 a slightly overweight but very fast normal lens for everyday carry.

For the MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 I’ve created lens correction profiles, which are available for download. 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: Okay. Some cleaning marks on the front element. Fine dust and a slight haze in the lens. No fungus, though.

Mechanics: Very good. Focus uniform and very smooth, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Beaten and bruised. Many scratches, a dent in the filter thread and a missing rubber focus ring grip.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

At f/1.8, sharpness in the center is acceptable – which is very good compared to other fast lenses – but it really lacks corner performance. Overall, a slight haze is present and reduces contrast. At f/2.8, sharpness visibly improves due to the disappearing haze with corner performance still lacking. From f/4, the corners finally catch up and center sharpness further improves while stopping down to f/5.6, reaching excellent levels. At this aperture, the MC Rokkor-HH even surpasses my copy of the MC Rokkor-PG 50 mm f/1.4. Diffraction starts very lightly at f/11 and softens up the image at f/16.

A slight red and dark cyan glow is visible at f/1.8, but mostly blurred away by the haze. At f/2.8, it starts to stand out a little more. From f/4 on, the lens shows light red/cyan CAs which stay constant until f/8 and then grow a tiny bit if stopped down further. A good performance for an achromatic lens, especially considering the fast maximum aperture.

Vignetting is heavy with about 1 stop at f/1.8, but gone by f/2.8. The effective T-stop at f/1.8 is approximately T2.0 (-0.4 EV), which is okay. Further, the lens exhibits only a slight barrel distortion of -0.6%.

In conclusion, the MC W.Rokkor-HH is one of the best 35 mm lenses you can get in SR mount. It’s not perfect, though. Especially the weight of more than 400 g is quite a lot to balance on the NEX. If you like it lighter and more compact, the MD-II W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 is probably the better choice – but it’s also harder to come by. Other alternatives are the slower MC W.Rokkor-HG 35 mm f/2.8 and MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/2.8. Performance wise, the MC f/2.8 can’t compete with the f/1.8. The MD on the other hand comes quite close in most aspects despite the sharpness wide open and is very light and compact. The slower 35 mm lenses are, of course, way less expensive, too. So in the end, it comes down to one simple question: Are you willing to pay more and carry more to have the better lens at your side? This was an easy choice for me, since I got my bruised copy of the f/1.8 for a bargain price and actually quite like the heft of it.

 

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/1.8

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

 

f/2.8

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8

 

f/4.0

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/11

 

f/16

MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/16

 

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