Review: Minolta MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 (MD-I)


The MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 in the MD-I version with four lens elements (4/4) is one of the most famous Minolta tele lenses. It uses a simpler optical formula than it’s MC predecessors, but performs considerably better. The sharpness of this lens is legendary amongst Minolta fanboys (and girls).

The MD 135 mm f/2.8 – like the MD 200 mm f/4 – features an integrated lens hood and feels slightly heavier than it’s longer brother. Focus is smooth but not buttery, handling on a NEX-5T is good. 135 mm can still be hand-held easily on a NEX, as long as light is sufficient. The relatively high weight reduces camera shake when shooting hand-held and make this lens a nice 206 mm equivalent tele “to go”.

For the MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 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: Good. Very small, dotted defects in the coating. Some dust particles inside.

Mechanics: Okay. Focus smooth but stiff in the infinity region, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Satisfactory. Slight scratches in the finishing. Some matte stains on the exterior with unknown cause and a loose rubber grip.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

The lens is a little soft at f/2.8 with acceptable contrast and light haze. The haze is gone by f/4 with sharpness and contrast improving slightly, showing a uniform performance from the center up to the corners. Sharpness further improves up to f/8, reaching very good levels across the entire frame. Diffraction affects f/11 marginally, softens up the image at f/16 and blurs away all details at f/22.

Some green and magenta shadows are visible at f/2.8. Starting at f/4.0, the small CAs sharpen up. They shrink to negligible size when stopping down to f/11 and grow again at f/16 and f/22. A good to very good performance for a medium tele.

Vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/2.8 and disappears at f/4. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 is approximately T3.2 (-0.4 EV), which is okay. Further, the MD 135 mm shows a tiny amount of pincushion distortion (0.3%).

In conclusion, the MD-I version of the 135 mm Tele Rokkor shows a pretty convincing performance. While resolution and micro contrast do not quite reach the excellent levels of a 50 mm f/1.4 MC Rokkor-PG, they are very good for a medium tele. Compared to my slightly questionable copy of the MD-II 135 mm f/2.8, the MD-I is ahead one full stop in terms of sharpness. Distortion and vignetting of the lens are fortunately close to irrelevant in every day use. The only real drawback of the older 4/4 design are the small but still visible lateral CAs – a flaw the MD-II does not exhibit.

 

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 Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8

 

f/4.0

MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/11

 

f/16

MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/16

 

f/22

MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 @ f/22

 


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please solve this Captcha to prove that you're not a robot: *

5 thoughts on “Review: Minolta MD Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 (MD-I)

  • Ray Wood

    How to identify Minolta 135mm F2.8 MD-1 and MD-2 by Serious number? My copy is 0014720. Thanks a million.
    Ray Wood

    • Benjamin Post author

      Hi Ray. I don’t know much about Minolta serial numbers. I’ve seen some collections of S/Ns for highly sought after Minolta lenses like the 58 mm f/1.2, but not for the common types like this 135 mm. If you wanna know which version it is, you can always check the eazypix lens DB. The MD-I always had a 4/4 (lenses/groups) design and weighed roughly 540 g. The MD-II was produced with the same optics and weight for some time, too. There were only very minor changes to the exterior of the lens. Later, Minolta changed to a 5/5 design for the MD-II, which made the lens much lighter (~370 g). This lighter MD-II version also has a tapered depth of field scale, whilst both 4/4 versions have a flat one. The weight is probably the easiest way to differentiate between them, though.

      Summing up: It’s easy to tell if you have a 4/4 or 5/5 version of the 135 mm, but if you have the 4/4, it’s hard to tell if it’s an MD-I or an MD-II.

      Regards,
      Benjamin

  • Anthony

    I’ve also read elsewhere e.g. on artaphot.ch that this version of the lens is legendary, but from my assessment of various legacy Minolta 135s it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

    I’ve bought around 6 Minolta 135/2.8s ranging in price from £20-70, including this one. I found the newer MD-III to be better (sharper with better corners). In particular, one of my two MD-IIIs is on another level. It could be that my copy of the MD-I is substandard, I’ve no idea. But, if you carry out the same test I used below, then comparing our sample shots might help us reach a conclusion, without needing to test the lenses to side-by-side. You’d need a good copy of the Minolta 300-s though.

    To test how good it was, I combined my MD-III with a Minolta 300-s 2x teleconverter and then tested them against the 2014 Canon EF 100-400mm L II, a Nikon AIS 300/4.5 prime, and Minolta AF 100-300mm APO D. While it didn’t win, I think I demonstrated (especially with my sample shots) that this is a perfectly useable combo – especially for travel photography when size and weight are of prime concern.

    You can see my test of the MD-III with 2xTC here:
    http://www.anthonymak.org/invite/7557290659d7fb60115a47.42162069

    To identify the lens, your readers can use the following site, which is in German, but Google Translate does an good job of translating it.
    http://artaphot.ch/minolta-sr/objektive/171-minolta-135mm-f28

    • Benjamin Post author

      Hi Anthony,

      after getting my own MD-III 135 f/2.8 a couple of weeks ago, I kinda have to agree: The MD-I [4/4] version may be a bit hyped on the net. I haven’t tested the MD-III on the chart, yet. But it’s very evident in the images I shot that overall contrast and micro contrast are visibly higher. Images just look crisper than with the MD-I, at least at wider apertures. It’s similar with the MD-I and MD-III 50 mm f/1.4 and a couple other “brothers” I’ve got on the shelf.

      Concerning identifying the MD-I 135 mm f/2.8 in particular, I don’t know if artaphot.ch will be helpful as there’s no image of the MD-II in the list. And that’s the one you would want to see, as they (MD-I & MD-II) usually look very similar. Overall, the site is excellent, though.

      Regards,
      Benjamin