The Minolta MD 24-35 mm f/3.5 is smaller and less expensive alternative to the often praised MD Zoom 24-50 mm f/4. It’s missing some focal length on the long end, but is half a stop faster in return. Combined with a common 50 mm kit lens of the time, it was a nice alternative to the longer brother.
The MD 24-35 mm is a compact and relatively light weight lens. The focus is smooth and offers a nice, low resistance. Focus throw is rather short with approximately 90°, but that’s totally fine for a wide angle lens. The zoom ring on my copy is very stubborn, though – it’s hard to turn, without a camera grip to build up the necessary torque. And from time to time, I found myself turning both, the focus and the zoom ring when wanting to zoom, as they are very close together on the short body. Besides this little problem, handling on a NEX-5T is good. The 36 – 53 mm equivalent focal length on APS-C is very useful in everyday use, as it covers the reportage and normal range.
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: Good. No scratches, but discolored patches in the coating of the front element that are only visible when looked at with a flashlight at certain angles. Some isolated dust particles inside.
Mechanics: Fair. Uniform and smooth focus with nice resistance. Very stiff and stubborn zoom. Aperture clean and fast.
Exterior: Very good. Minimal scratches in the finishing on the edges, some grime here and there.
Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T
Notice: Some astigmatism (horizontal lines are rendered sharper than vertical ones) is visible in the test shots at all focal lengths. This could either be inherent to the lens design, or point to a slight decentering of the lens.
24 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Central sharpness at 24 mm is very good already wide open, but the corners are soft and show a light haze. The latter clears when stopping down to f/5.6, resulting in acceptable corners and excellent sharpness in the center. At f/8, there’s the slightest amount of diffraction visible in the center, which reduces its sharpness score to very good. The corners have finally reached a good rating, too. Going to f/11 makes diffraction more evident, f/16 slightly softens the image and as always, f/22 blurs away all detail. Field curvature is significant at this focal length.
A dark red and cyan glow is visible at f/3.5 and 5.6. The glows transforms into sharp but small CAs at f/8, which grow a tiny bit when stopping down. A solid performance for a wide angle zoom.
At 24 mm, vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/3.5 and gone by f/5.6. The lens shows a strong barrel distortion of -1.8% and the effective T-stop at f/3.5 is T3.2 (+0.2 EV), which is probably caused by a slightly mis-calibrated aperture. As this is a constant aperture zoom, the aperture is partly closed at 24 mm f/3.5 and opens up when zooming in to 35 mm. If it is not closed far enough at 24 mm, the actual f-stop is smaller than it should be, resulting in an equally smaller T-stop (higher light transmission).
35 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Sharpness at 35 mm f/3.5 is good with minimal haze overall and only slightly softer corners. The haze is gone by f/5.6 and overall sharpness increases to very good in the center and good towards the corners. Stopping down to f/8 does not change anything in the center, but actually slightly deteriorates corner performance. The corners are sharper again at f/11, where diffraction becomes visible in the center. I’ve looked into this and it’s not a mix-up or misfocused image – my copy really shows weaker corners at f/8, but I have no idea why. At f/16, diffraction hits harder and it considerably softens the image at f/22. Field curvature is non-existent at this focal length.
The lens shows very small red and cyan CAs at 35 mm, which suddenly grow at f/8 but stay small overall. This is, again, a very solid performance for a wide angle zoom.
At 35 mm, vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/3.5 and gone by f/5.6. Further, the lens shows a medium barrel distortion of -0.7% and the effective T-stop at f/3.5 is T3.7 (-0.2 EV), which is pretty good.
In conclusion, the MD 24-35 mm f/3.5 is a solidly performing wide angle lens. It’s central sharpness is extremely good when compared to any Minolta zoom and even most of the primes. It’s main weakness is the corner performance at the wide end, where you need to stop down to f/8 to get a satisfactory performance. And remember: That’s on an APS-C camera. This is something to keep in mind when using the lens on full frame, as the corners certainly won’t improve. I would very much like to compare this lens to the MD 24-50 mm f/4, but couldn’t get my hands on one, yet.
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.
Field curvature at f/3.5
Field curvature at f/3.5