Review: Minolta MD Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 (MD-III)


The Minolta MD Zoom 70-210 mm f/4 is the successor of the well known 75-200 mm f/4.5 and Minolta’s last tele zoom in this range developed for the SR mount. It is also the most common on the used market today.

The lens is sizable but relatively light for a tele zoom, weighing in at about 0.6 kg. The mechanics are good, but not excellent: The focus has a medium resistance and is slightly scratchy while the zoom is smooth and so easy to move that it tends to creep when in the upright position. Handling on a NEX-5T is okay, but not terribly good. But because you tend to support the camera by the “one touch” zoom ring and it has very little resistance, locking focus and holding the focal length requires some practice. Slight handling challenges aside, 107 – 320 mm equivalent is a useful range of tele focal lengths and the MD Zoom is one of the lighter vintage 70-210 mm lenses, too.

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. Some ultra fine dust particles inside and a handful of ultra fine marks in the outer regions of the front element.

Mechanics: Good. Uniform, slightly scratchy focus with medium resistance. Acceptably smooth zoom with very low breakaway force. Aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Good. Some scratches in the finishing and other small signs of use.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

70 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Sharpness at 70 mm f/4 is acceptable with a very consistent performance across the frame. From f/5.6 to f/11, the lens shows good sharpness across the frame and leaves very little to be desired. The sweet spot is f/8, where central sharpness comes close to very good levels. Diffraction starts at f/11, but is only really perceptible from f/16 onwards. Softness increases when going to f/22 and f/32 is relevant just for the spec sheet.

CAs do exist, but are are hard to detect even at 200% magnification. An excellent performance and certainly outstanding for a zoom lens.

Vignetting is about 1/3 of a stop at f/4 and disappears immediately when stopping down. The effective T-stop at f/4 is approximately T4.1 (-0.1 EV), which is very good even for a prime and excellent for a zoom. At 70 mm, the lens shows a small amount of barrel distortion (-0.4%).

 

135 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Results at 135 mm are comparable to those at 70 mm: f/4 is acceptably sharp already with a consistent performance across the frame. From f/5.6 to f/11, the lens shows good sharpness across the frame. f/8 is not visibly better then the neighboring apertures anymore. Diffraction becomes visible at f/16. Softness increases when going to f/22 and f/32 is pretty much useless, again.

A light red/cyan glow is visible at f/4 and f/5.6. The glow transforms into sharp but very small CAs at f/8, which do not grow any further when stopping down. Still a very good performance.

Vignetting is about 1/3 of a stop at f/4 and disappears immediately when stopping down. The effective T-stop at f/4 is approximately T4.1 (-0.1 EV). The lens further shows a very small amount of barrel distortion (-0.3%).

 

210 mm (-> jump to test charts)

210 mm is a little different from the other focal lengths: f/4 is acceptably sharp in the center, but the corners are slightly soft, now. This is, however, mostly caused by a misalignment of the camera in relation to the chart. Central sharpness increases to good at f/5.6 and further to a score close to very good at f/8. The corners seem to lack behind, but actually show a good performance from f/5.6 onwards when looking into the other regions of the chart not depicted below. Diffraction very slightly softens f/11 and becomes more evident at f/16. f/22 is very soft and f/32 is pretty much useless, again.

A light glow somewhere between red/cyan and magenta/green is visible at f/4 and f/5.6. The glow transforms into sharp, medium-sized CAs at f/8, which luckily do not grow any further when stopping down. An acceptable performance, but certainly less impressive than at 70 or 135 mm.

Vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/4, is hardly visible at f/5.6 and gone at f/8. The effective T-stop at f/4 is approximately T4.6 (-0.4 EV), which is still good for a zoom. The lens further shows a medium amount of pincushion distortion (0.6%).

 

In conclusion, the MD Zoom 70-210 mm offers a very consistent performance at all focal lengths. Sharpness is not mind-blowing but still good to very good with a very consistent performance across the whole frame. Compared to it’s probably biggest contenders, the Vivitar Series 1 70-210 mm lenses, it holds up excellently and presents itself as the most versatile lens. Yes, the Komine made Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 is faster and sharper  in the center at large apertures, but it also has severe problems with violet/purple glow. And yes, the Tokina made Vivitar 70-210 mm f/3.5 is very, very close to or even better than the Minolta in most aspects. But the MD Zoom still shows less CAs at 70 and 135 mm, leading to less worries in post processing. It’s only real weakness are the mechanics, where – in my opinion – the Vivitar contenders feel superior. Especially the Tokina version of the Vivitar Series 1 presents itself with perfectly smooth action all around and is still my favorite 70-210 mm on the shelf.

 

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)

 

 

70 mm

 

f/4.0

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/11

 

f/16

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/16

 

f/22MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/22

 

f/32

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 70 mm f/32

 


 

 

135 mm

Please note that all f-stops listed below for 135 mm equal the f-numbers printed on the lenses aperture ring. The actual f-stops at this focal length are half a stop lower.

 

f/4.0

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/11

 

f/16

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/16

 

f/22

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/22

 

f/32

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 135 mm f/32

 


 

 

210 mm

Please note that all f-stops listed below for 210 mm equal the f-numbers printed on the lenses aperture ring. The actual f-stops at this focal length are one stop lower.

 

f/4.0

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/11

 

f/16

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/16

 

f/22

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/22

 

f/32

MDIII Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 @ 210 mm f/32

 


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2 thoughts on “Review: Minolta MD Zoom 70-210 mm f/4.0 (MD-III)

    • Benjamin Post author

      I’d say not bad: The corners are visibly softer in the MD 70-210 f/4 and central sharpness is not quite on par with the MD 200 f/4 up to f/8. CAs are pretty similar. The 70-210 is not stellar, but it’s a very solid performer.

      Regards,
      Benjamin