Review: Minolta MD 28 mm f/2.8 (MD-III)


The MD 28 mm f/2.8 with 7 lens elements is generally considered to be one of Minolta’s best 28 mm, very close to the excellent MC W.Rokkor-SI 28 mm f/2.5 and the MD 28 mm f/2. This “plain MD” f/2.8 without Rokkor in the name was succeeded by an MD 28 mm f/2.8 with nearly identical exterior and naming but simpler optics (5/5) and slightly inferior performance. The 7/7 design tested here can be identified by serial (80xxxxx) and by the fact that there are eight tiny steps between name ring and front lens, whereas the 5/5 design (serial 70xxxxx) only has six of them. You cancompare both designs in Ad Dielemann’s 28 mm gallery.

At slightly less than 190 g, the MD 28 mm f/2.8 is a very light and compact lens. Focus is very smooth – close to what it used to be in the MC-X style lenses – and handling on a NEX-5T is effortless. The effective focal length of 43 mm on APS-C cameras makes the MD f/2.8 a handy normal lens with excellent performance.

For the MD 28 mm f/2.8 I’ve created lens correction profiles, which are available for download. For further details on the lens, have a look at its entry in the Minolta SR mount lens database.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Excellent. No scratches, no visible dust.

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

Exterior: Very good. Some very small scratches in the finishing, otherwise like new.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

The lens starts at f/2.8 with surprisingly good sharpness, no visible haze and only slightly soft corners. At f/4, corner performance catches up and overall contrast improves minimally. Peak sharpness is reached at f/5.6 with very good performance, whilst f/8 is ever so slightly softer due to diffraction. The latter is slightly more pronounced at f/11, visibly softens f/16 and blurs away every detail at f/22.

A slight red and dark cyan glow is visible at f/2.8, but mostly blurred away due to soft corners. From f/4 on, the 28 mm shows medium red/cyan CAs which grow when stopped down up to f/16. Overall, a good but not impressive performance for a wide angle lens.

Vignetting is well controlled with about 1/2 a stop at f/2.8 and practically disappears at f/4. The lens also exhibits a medium barrel distortion of -1.0%. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 is damn close to T2.9 (-0.1 EV), which is excellent.

If you’re in the market for a sharp, contrasty 28 mm and don’t mind a bit of lateral CA, I can recommend the MD 28 mm f/2.8 (7/7) without hesitation. It does not come as a surprise that the Minolta outperforms contemporary zooms like the Vivitar Series 1 28-90 mm f/2.8-3.5. The optical performance of this 28 mm is very good and it also beats direct competitors like the Kiron 28 mm f/2.0 in terms of sharpness, corner performance and especially CAs at every aperture. In exchange, the Kiron is one full f-stop faster. But I would prefer the Minolta for almost any occasion. That it’s pleasantly light and compact doesn’t hurt, either.

 

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/2.8

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8

 

f/4.0

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/11

 

f/16

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/16

 

f/22

MD 28 mm f/2.8 @ f/22

 


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4 thoughts on “Review: Minolta MD 28 mm f/2.8 (MD-III)

  • Tom

    I have had this lens for some time but only today have I used I t–on the Nex5n. I have yet to look at the images on my computer but I can say already that the lens seems to focus easily and seems to allow for sharp focusing as well.;

  • Corey

    I’m commenting here because I couldn’t find information about some lenses I was looking at, including a late 28mm f/2.8 Celtic MD (super cheap on eBay), and I thought others might want to have this info. I ended up purchasing several lenses to test. All lenses in excellent[++] condition. I tried the MD 28mm f/2.8 (MD-III, 1981 model) tested here, alongside the MC 28mm Celtic f/2.8 (1975 model) and the MD 28mm Celtic f/2.8 (MD-II, 49mm, 1978 model). All are similar 7/7 construction. I also tested the Vivitar 28mm Auto Wide Angle f/2.5 (ca. 1966; my grandfather’s old lens). Tested wide open and at f/2.8 to be comparable, as well as at f/4, f/5.6, f/8, and f/16.

    All of these lenses are solid and well built. The MD 1978 model Celtic and the 1981 “plain MD” are the lightest and most compact of the lot, virtually indistinguishable in feel to me, though there’s a tiny bit of play in the Celtic. The Vivitar is large and heavy. The 1975 MC Celtic feels the best in my hand, all beautifully machined metal.

    Quality tests: All done on the Sony a7II with a high-res chart. Grandpa’s old Vivitar is a solid lens and a great performer, but it failed compared to the Minoltas: more CA, and focus issues in the corners and significant vignetting even at f/5.6. The Minoltas are all a little warmer in tone and have virtually no CA (less than the tests show above). In all visual tests, the “plain MD” and the Celtic MD are indistinguishable. (Supposedly there’s a difference in coating between the two, and I didn’t test for lens flare.)

    The Celtic 28mm f/2.8 seems like a great bargain to me, and in almost every way seems identical to the more highly prized “plain MD” model that goes for 4x the price.

  • Vadym

    Hi, I have MD MINOLTA CELTIC 28mm f2.8 lens Serial #1059036 with 6 tiny steps between name ring and front lens. How many lenses I have?

    • Benjamin Post author

      Hi Vadim,

      I’m not sure. The Minolta Celtic lenses had a different exterior design than “regular” Minoltas and sometimes also different optics. For your 28 mm Celtic, the site of Ad Dieleman only lists one variety with the 7/7 design. It’s probably best to compare your lenses exterior to the one Ad has in his collection.

      Regards,
      Benjamin