The Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 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 first one. The second and third version feature different optics, with the third being 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 nice and smooth, as is the zoom. 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. 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
Optics: Very good. Very light scratches in the coating from cleaning. Some isolated dust particles.
Mechanics: Good. Uniform and smooth focus, zoom with solid and even resistance. Aperture clean and fast.
Exterior: Good. Some scratches in the finishing and other light signs of use.
Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T
35 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Sharpness at 35 mm f/3.5 is acceptable with slightly soft corners. f/5.6 raises sharpness to good levels with consistent performance across the entire image. Stopping down to f/8 increases sharpness a little more, close to very good. At f/11, diffraction is hardly visible. Softness becomes apparent 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. Further, the lens shows a medium barrel distortion of -1.6%. The effective T-stop at f/3.5 is T3.7 (-0.2 EV) for all focal lengths, which represents an excellent transmission value for a zoom. That f-stop and T-stop are identical may be attributable to a measurement error, or to the fact that the mechanical aperture is actually slightly larger than the claimed f/3.5.
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 sharpness climbs to good levels with impressive corner performance. Stopping down to f/8 or f/11 raises sharpness minimally, nearly reaching very good. Diffraction becomes visible 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 an absolutely negligible barrel distortion of -0.1%.
70 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 70 mm f/3.5, the image is soft with slight haze. 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 does not give visibly more resolution and f/11 only shows a tiny 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 second version of this lens, the MD-III Zoom 35-70 mm f/3.5, the first iteration performs slightly worse 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. 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.