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


The MD-II Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 with 5 lens elements in 5 groups is the successor of Minolta’s legendary MD-I 135 mm f/2.8 with 4/4 design. Although the MD-II offers seemingly more advanced optics, it is often said to perform slightly worse than the sought after MD-I.

The MD-II Tele Rokkor 135 mm f/2.8 is a comfortably light and slim lens. At about 0.36 kg it weighs close to a third less than it’s predecessor. The beveled diameter steps at the distance scale makes it easy to tell the MD-II apart from the older designs. Handling on a NEX-5T is effortless and focusing is a breeze. Thanks to the reduced weight, the combination of NEX and Rokkor is not the least bit front heavy anymore. The effective focal length of 206 mm on APS-C cameras makes it a handy, compact and versatile tele with decent performance.

Fun fact: In some comparison shots, the focal length of my MD-II seemed to be a little different from that of the MD-I.  A quick measurement showed that it is indeed 2% (= 2.7 mm) shorter.

For further details on the lens, have a look at its entry in the Minolta SR mount lens database.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Good. Two small scratches in the second third of the front element, some very fine dust particles inside and a light haze on the back-most element that turned out to be a mild fungus infection.

Mechanics: Very good. Uniform and smooth focus, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Good. Minimal scratches in the finishing and one dent in the filter thread which may indicate that the lens was dropped.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

Notice: As mentioned above, there was a very light haze on the back-most element of my copy. While cleaning the lens after taking the test shots, this turned out to be a well hidden fungus infection. The mycelium was easy to clean and left no visible marks on the glass. Some quick tests after cleaning showed no visible gain in IQ. However, the results of this lens still look a bit odd and real life images show visibly less contrast wide open than the MD-I version of the 135 mm. Bottom line: The performance of my copy may not be representative for your typical MD-II 135 mm f/2.8.

The lens is very soft in the center at f/2.8 and shows a light haze. The corners actually perform much better, here. At f/4 the haze clears and central sharpness increases a little to acceptable levels, which results in a very uniform performance across the frame. This is equally true for f/5.6, where the overall sharpness score further increases to a “good”. f/8 may be a notch better again, showing close to very good sharpness throughout the image. Diffraction becomes apparent at f/11, visibly softens f/16 and mushes f/22.

A tiny green/magenta glow is visible at f/2.8. The CAs shrink up to f/5.6 and become nearly invisible, but grow again when stopping down further. Regardless of this behavior, they stay negligible at all times. An excellent performance.

Vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/2.8 and is gone by f/4. The lens also exhibits a negligible pincushion distortion of +0.1%. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 is T3.2 (-0.4 EV), which is okay.

In conclusion, the results of my MD-II 135 mm f/2.8 are a mixed bag. While it shows a stellar performance in the fields of distortion and CA, the sharpness really is nothing to brag about up to f/8. These characteristics are in stark contrast to those of the MD-I 135 mm f/2.8, which – albeit older and heavier – is one of the sharpest teles in Minolta’s line-up. To be fair, the MD-I is also a bit more “colorful” (read: heavier CAs), but all in all seems to be the better choice in combination with digital mirrorless cameras.

 

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

 


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

  • Daniel Clark

    Hello. I am considering buying the Minolta MD Tele Rokkor-X 135mm F2,8, but how can I figure out if its a I or II version. I was able to look at the minolta lens chart and see by weight that its the heavier one, meaning its the I or II version, but I can’t tell between then which it is. How does this one compare to the one you tested, w/o the “x” designation? great reviews and thanks!

    • Benjamin Post author

      Hi Daniel, the 135 mm f/2.8 MD-II was sold with 4/4 and 5/5 configuration (lenses/groups). The MD-I always had the 4/4 config. According to the Minolta lens DB, the ones with 5/5 config have a tapered depth of field scale (#275), like the lens tested here does. In contrast, all lenses with 4/4 config have a flat depth of field scale (#276 – 278). That’s not always easy to differentiate on a picture, but besides the weight it is the only obvious difference I know of. The “Rokkor-X” is not different from the regular “Rokkor”. Minolta just sold most lenses in the US with an “-X” designation. It’s a marketing thing.