3D printing a focus ring grip for my Minolta MC 35 mm f/1.8

Grip-less Minolta MC 35 mm f/1.8 with 3D printed grip replacementMy trusty but heavily beaten copy of the classic Minolta MC 35 mm f/1.8 came to me with a number of – mostly cosmetic – issues. Besides a bent filter thread and a number of scratches, it was also missing the rubber focus ring grip. Like most late Minolta MC and all MD lenses, this copy used to have the typical embossed grip with tightly packed little pyramids on it, too. As focusing is a bit slippery without the rubber grip, I was looking for a replacement for quite some time. I found some ideas in threads on mflenses.com and other forums, including using leather, embossed rubber doormats, cord wraps or just duct tape. Sadly, none of the gathered ideas would have restored the original look to the lens.


3D printing

I wasn’t really happy with any material I had found in hardware and art supply stores and I wanted to “do it right”. So I looked into 3D printing. There are a number of companies, which offer 3D printing “as a service” – you supply the model and select a material and the company will print it out for you. The – to my knowledge – biggest players around are currently shapeways and trinckle. To construct a model, I first measured the base thickness and pyramid length and height of the rubber grips on my other Minolta lenses. Then, I took the dimensions of the groove on the lens (d = 63.00 mm, h = 20.85 mm) and constructed a model in Solid Works. I added +0.4 mm to the inner diameter of the grip to accommodate for a thin layer of adhesive.

3D printed grip as it arrived from trinckle - detail of the inside3D printed grip as it arrived from trinckleWith the finished model, I looked for a fitting material at different 3D printing services. As they do not all offer the same choice of printable polymers, this turned out to be quite interesting. The best match for actual rubber seemed to be the sintered rubber offered by trinckle. Although not actually rubber, the material is supposed to be very flexible, soft and offer a slightly rough surface – perfect for a grip. Unfortunately, sintered rubber can only be printed with a comparatively low resolution of 0.75 mm, which is close to the thinnest features of the grip model (0.8 mm). After comparing some other options, I finally settled for sintered plastic, also offered by trinckle. The material is actually Polyamide, is flexible to some degree and offers a sufficient printing resolution (0.4 mm). Further, it can be printed in black, which was a prerequisite to get as close to the original look as possible.


>>> Download the grip model (Solid Works & exported STL file) <<<

[Remark: I own the copyright on these CAD files. You are free to download, use, modify and print them at no charge.
You may also redistribute them directly or in modified form, as long as you credit me and link to this post.
You may NOT use the files commercially in any way.]



Sanding the grip using woodworking sandpaper (120 grit)Detail of the grip after sanding, showing the white base materialThe printed result arrived after about 10 days. The material is slightly shiny, looks a bit rough, has a hard surface but can be flexed. With an inner diameter of about 63.5 mm (hard to measure precisely) and a height of 21.3 mm, the dimensions were quite close to those of the submitted model. The slight surplus in height had to be reduced, though, to make the grip fit on the lens. I used 120 grit sandpaper for woodworking, placed it on a flat surface and sanded 4 to 5 strokes with slight pressure, before turning the grip about 30°. After repeating this roughly 50 times per side, the height reached a snug fit of slightly more than 20.8 mm. As it turned out, the Polyamide used for manufacturing is actually white and was likely soaked in black dye after the sintering process. Consequently, the grip is white below the surface. Not a problem in this case since the sanded sides are covered by the lens body, but still interesting to see.

Result: MC 35 mm f/1.8 with 3D printed gripDetail of the cut in the gripAfter de-dusting the grip and cleaning the lens with Isopropyl alcohol to remove dirt and fat, I glued three small patches of thin double sided tape into the groove on the lens (sorry, no photo!). My initial plan was to stretch the grip onto the lens from above by heating it up to 85 °C in a water bath causing it to expand slightly and become easier to stretch. As it turned out, this was not enough to stretch it to the required 65 mm diameter of the lens. As I didn’t want to heat the grip up further or use excessive force, I settled on cutting it open on one side and just fitting the cut tightly on the double sided tape. As you can see in the close-up shot, this leaves a very small, hardly visible “scar” in the mounted grip, which might or might not attract a bit of dirt over time. It looks much more prominent in the photo than it does in real life, though – I always have trouble locating it, even though I know what to look for.



Overall, I’m very satisfied with the result you can see above. From more than an arms length away, the grip looks like the original. It’s also comfortable to hold, has plenty of grip for focusing and fits firmly – no wobbling in any direction. The only thing missing is the softer, rubbery feel of the original. Overall, it was probably the most complicated solution for restoring the lens, but it gave a nice result and for me, fiddling with the construction and manufacturing was a lot of fun.


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2 thoughts on “3D printing a focus ring grip for my Minolta MC 35 mm f/1.8

  • Kevin Burton

    Hi, excellent to see the trouble you went to restoring this lens. I feel a greater benefit to Minolta restorers would be the much lauded but never produced 3D parts to replace broken battery grips on the Minolta XM Motor [XK or X-1 versions as well]. These often fail and mainly because when the battery pack id rightly left without batteries, it is easy to squeeze the clips too far [when loaded with batteries, they stop you squeezing too much]. This is the most common issue with a great classic Minolta. So far no one has been brave enough to invest in the project. Good battery pack clips add at least $100 to the camera, so VERY commercial 😉 google minolt4me-kevin

  • Jeff Richardson

    I have handled four of the Minolta Rokkor 35mm f1.8 HH lenses, three of which I still own and one of which I have given away to my son-in-law, who owns a Sony camera with an MC/MD adaptor. The quality of these lenses is superb, with good contrast and sharpness, even at F1.8. The pictures they produce are superior to any Nikon 35mm from the AIS or AF-S range, even though the Nikon lenses are relatively recent and the Rokkors are forty years old.
    If your reviewer is disappointed with his 35mm f1.8 MD Rokkor, then I can fully sympathise with him. That lens looks very similar to the 85mm f2.0 MD Rokkor, for which I paid a high price, 2nd-hand, and which turned-out to be a moderate performer.
    By comparison the Rokkor 85mm f1.7 MC lens, as with the 35mm f1.8 MC, must be one of the finest lenses available for 35mm photography. Certainly, no Nikon lens can match it; though probably Canon make one that is as good, if not better. That is why a forty-year-old Rokkor 85mm f1.7 lens is still worth £250, or more, on the 2nd-hand market. Those two lenses, and the very early Rokkor 200mm f3.5 stop-down, non-MC, lens are professional lenses; and would command a new price of £1500+ today. The confidence-in-use that, they inspire, is priceless.