Review: Minolta MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 (MD-I)


The MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 with 55 mm filter thread is the direct successor of the MC Rokkor-PG 50 mm f/1.4. It uses a new optical formula, is smaller and has very different image characteristics. It is generally considered the third best Minolta standard lens after the 50 mm f/1.4 and 58 f/1.2 MC Rokkor-PG.

The lens is pleasantly light, focus is smooth but not buttery and handling on a NEX-5T is excellent. Optical qualities wide open and the effective focal length of 76 mm on APS-C cameras make this a flattering portrait lens.

For the MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 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: Very good. Only the slightest scratches in the coating due to cleaning. A handful of lonely dust particles inside.

Mechanics: Good. Uniform but slightly sticky focus, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Good. Slight scratches in the finishing here and there.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

Update (14.03.2015): Test shots repeated with a little more love put into focusing at f/1.4 and f/2. The lens now performs slightly better wide open.

The lens is slightly hazy and soft at f/1.4 with acceptable contrast. The haze still affects the corners at f/2, but contrast in the center is improved. Sharpness and corner performance increase radically at f/2.8 with the haze disappearing. The center reaches good sharpness, now. The latter increases to very good at f/4 and excellent from f/5.6 to f/8 with consistent performance across the whole image. Diffraction starts at f/11 and softens up the image at f/16.

A slight red and very dark cyan glow is visible at f/1.4 and f/2 in haze-affected areas. f/2.8 shows some very small color fringes. Starting at f/4, the lens is practically free of CAs, which are hardly visible even at 200% magnification. An outstanding performance for an achromatic lens.

Vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/1.4, improves nicely at f/2 and is gone by f/2.8. The lens also exhibits a slight barrel distortion of -0.7%. The effective T-stop at f/1.4 is approximately T1.6 (-0.4 EV), which is okay.

In a contest with the MC Rokkor-PG 50 mm f/1.4 there is no clear winner. The MD shows slightly more haze in the corners up to f/2 but higher contrast in the center. The MC features a slightly higher sharpness at these apertures. From f/2.8 on, both lenses are very, very close in terms of resolution & sharpness and probably indistinguishable at f/4 to f/16. But the MD has the advantage of showing less CAs. In conclusion, the MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 is an excellent allround performer, whilst the MC Rokkor-PG is your specialist for wide-open apertures. If you’re looking for more dreamy, “retro”-like shots, have a look at the MC Rokkor-PF 58 mm f/1.4.

 

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/1.4

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

 

f/2.0

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/2.0

 

f/2.8

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/2.8

 

f/4.0

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/11

 

f/16

MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 @ f/16

 


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4 thoughts on “Review: Minolta MD Rokkor 50 mm f/1.4 (MD-I)

  • Blz

    What you are seeing in the corners wide open is not a hazy image or haze, but vignetting. This is caused by the image circle of the lens not being uniformly illuminated out to the edges of the image fornat when the lens is wide open.

    • Benjamin Post author

      I think we are talking about two different things here: Vignetting is the darkening of the image in the corners. It’s most pronounced wide open and disapperas when stopping down. You are correct in the sense that this is caused by non-uniform illumination.

      The “haze” I’m referreing to shows as the bleeding of lighter into darker areas of the image, best seen on the resolution digits in the corner crop: The digits are much less black than, for example, the center of the slanted square. I think that this haze is caused by spherical aberrations, which become less pronounced when stopping down. There might also be some longitudinal CA involved, which is responsible for the very slight dark red to purple glow on contrasty egdes, best seen in the center crop (look at 200%). The LoCas further lower the micro contrast.

      Regards,
      Benjamin

  • BitWolf

    “It is generally considered the third best Minolta standard lens after the ’50 mm f/1.4′ and 58 f/1.2 MC Rokkor-PG.”
    When you were talking about the 50mm 1.4 what version you had on mind? Newest MD from 1983? I want to buy 50mm 1.4 but I have no idea which version would be the sharpest and bokeh…ish one. I already have 28mm F2.8 MD-III and 35-70 F3.5 MD-III thanks to your reviews.

    • Benjamin Post author

      When writing this review, I had the pictured lens (MD-I 50 mm f/1.4 with 55 mm filter thread) in mind. Atfer getting a hold of the MD-III or “plain MD”, I would now recommend the latter. The MD-III offers higher perceived sharpness due to higher (micro-)contrast, probably because Minolta improved the coatings. Bokeh-wise, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between all the MD 50 1.4 variants.

      Regards,
      Benjamin