Review: Minolta MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 (MD-II)


The MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 is a fast wide angle from the late seventies and the successor of Minolta’s first fast thirty-five, the MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8. The MD has the same optical formula with 8 lens elements in 6 groups, but features a modernized design.

Much as the 35 mm f/2.8, the f/1.8 is compact and relatively light – much shorter and lighter than the tank-like MC f/1.8. The two beveled diameter steps at the distance scale and atop the focusing ring give it a distinct appearance. Handling on a NEX-5T is very nice – the lens is just the right size for the compact camera body. Combined with an effective focal length of 53 mm on APS-C, this makes the MD 35 mm f/1.8 a very desirable, fast and sharp normal lens equivalent.

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. One tiny scratch on the back element, some dust particles inside. Fungus settled on a central lens element and had to be cleaned but left no marks.

Mechanics: Very good. Uniform and smooth focus with low to medium resistance, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Very good. Only marginal signs of use.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

The lens is slightly soft at f/1.8 with no apparent haze and acceptable contrast but rather soft corners and strong astigmatism (horizontal lines are rendered less sharp than vertical ones). At f/2.8 central sharpness improves to acceptable levels while the corners stay soft. The image improves massively at f/4, where the center reaches good to very good sharpness and the corners now look okay. f/5.6 and f/8 come out very similar with very good, maybe even excellent central sharpness and a pretty consistent performance across the frame. Diffraction becomes apparent at f/11, visibly softens f/16 and blurs away all detail at f/22.

A dark red and cyan glow is visible at f/1.8  which sharpens up at f/5.6 and results in very small CAs. The aberrations grow minimally when stopping down past f/11. An excellent performance for a fast wide angle lens.

Vignetting is close to one stop at f/1.8, reduced to a quarter stop at f/2.8 and gone by f/4. The lens exhibits a small barrel distortion of -0.6%. And last but not least, the T-stop at f/1.8 is T2.0 (-0.4 EV) which is okay for a fast wide angle.

In conclusion, the MD 35 mm f/1.8 is a very special little lens. While the corners are a little soft up to f/5.6 due to field curvature, the overall performance and especially the small CAs favor this lens over most other 35 mm Minoltas. But there is one exception: The MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm f/1.8 shows even higher resolution, sharpness and better corner performance. While the MC is much heavier and larger than the MD, it’s main drawback certainly are the more prominent CAs. At this point, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to make a small compromise in some aspects of image quality in return for a massive gain in compactness. And I can only encourage you to try it out and give the MD f/1.8 a chance. The lens deserves it.

 

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/1.8

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

f/2.8

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8

 

f/4.0

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/11

 

f/16

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/16

 

f/22

MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/22


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2 thoughts on “Review: Minolta MD W.Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 (MD-II)

  • Antoine

    Other internet sites (Rokkor files) find the MD better than the MC. Are the differences limited enough to be more sample related than intrinsic to the design?

    • Benjamin Post author

      The Rokkor Files didn’t test the MC 35 mm f/1.8, they only tested the MD. They report that there seems to be a dispute on the net about which of the lenses is superior.

      To my eye, the MD shows slightly less central resolution up to about f/4. That is in line with my findings in the comparison of the MC-X and MD-I 50 mm f/1.4. It looks to me as if Minolta opted to reduce CAs, increase contrast and traded in a bit of resolution with the newer designs. That the MD 35 f/1.8 also shows much softer corners than the MC could be related to stronger field curvature and may not be perceptable in most real life images. Overall I would say that there is some evidence that those differences are indeed attributable to the design and not to sample variation. But as I didn’t test more than one copy of each lens, I’m not certain.

      Regards,
      Benjamin