The Minolta MD Zoom 35-70 mm f/3.5 is the faster alternative to the low-budget 35-70 mm f/3.5-4.8 kit zoom. There are three revisions of the f/3.5 and this copy belongs to the second one. The first version features different optics and the third is the only one having a dedicated macro function.
The lens is about the weight of an MC Rokkor-PG 50 f/1.4. The focus is smooth and offers little resistance. The zoom feels a little scratchy. Handling on a NEX-5T is good and the zoom ring is a little easier to operate than on SR mount cameras, as the adapter to E mount gives more room to position your hand. Opposed to the first version of the f/3.5, this copy does not have a rubberized zoom grip, though. The 53 – 107 mm equivalent focal length comes in very handy in a number of situations.
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
Mechanics: Acceptable. Uniform focus with little resistance but some mechanical play of the focus ring towards the mount. Minimally scratchy zoom, aperture clean and fast.
Exterior: Very good. Minimal scratches in the finishing and on the mount, otherwise perfect.
Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T
35 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Sharpness at 35 mm is already close to good wide open. Stopping down to f/5.6 raises sharpness to good levels with consistent performance across the entire image. At f/8, sharpness is very good. At f/11, diffraction becomes slightly visible. It is more pronounced at f/16 and considerably softens the image at f/22.
A light red and dark cyan glow is visible at f/3.5. Starting at f/5.6, the glow transforms to clear but small red/cyan CAs which stay constant when stopping down. A good performance overall and very good for a zoom.
At 35 mm, vignetting is hardly visible at f/3.5 and gone by f/5.6. The lens also shows a strong barrel distortion of -2.4% at 35 mm. The effective T-stop at f/3.5 is T3.7 (-0.2 EV) for 35 mm and 50 mm and drops to T4.1 (-0.4 EV) at 70 mm. These are very good transmission values for a zoom.
50 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Sharpness at 50 mm f/3.5 is acceptable with minimal haze but consistent performance across the image. The haze is gone by f/5.6 and overall sharpness increases to good – close to very good in the center. Stopping down to f/8 raises sharpness minimally, still close to very good. Diffraction becomes visible at f/11, pronounced at f/16 and considerably softens the image at f/22.
CAs are invisible at f/3.5. From f/5.6 on, tiny red/cyan CAs appear which stay constant when stopping down. Certainly an excellent performance very close to modern apochromatic lenses.
At 50 mm, vignetting is about 1/3 of a stop at f/3.5 and gone by f/5.6. Further, the lens shows no visible distortion at all.
70 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 70 mm f/3.5, sharpness is acceptable and a slight haze is visible. The latter clears by f/5.6 with overall sharpness rising to good levels with consistent performance across the frame. Stopping down to f/8 gives a little more sharpness and f/11 already shows a bit of diffraction. Softness starts to be noticeable at f/16 and f/22 is blurry as always.
The lens is practically free of CAs from f/3.5 to f/max. This is mind-blowing for a vintage piece of glass.
At 70 mm, vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/3.5 and disappears by f/5.6. Further, the lens shows a very small pincushion distortion of 0.3%.
Compared to the first version of this lens, the MD-II Zoom Rokkor 35-70 mm f/3.5, the second iteration performs slightly better in terms of sharpness with all other characteristics being identical. My copy of the third version, the MD-III Zoom 35-70 mm f/3.5 Macro, is actually a little less sharp, again, than my copy of the second, although they should be identical in construction. But all three lenses are very close and show an excellent performance in pretty much every aspect. Resolution wise they outperform Sony’s SELP1650 kit lens at 35 mm and 50 mm. These Minoltas do have brilliant optics.
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.