A New, Old Lens – Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

Hi folks,

Today I want to share with you a recent, excellent lens find: my new-to-me Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8.  I got this lens on eBay while I was working in Egypt.  Because it was an auction from the US, I wound up having to set set my alarm to wake up at 3am local time in order to place my bids.  It was well worth it since I won the auction, scoring this rare gem.

Built in 1979, this all-metal lens represented the best of what Minolta’s engineers had to offer.  The lens is small, lightweight (relatively speaking), extremely well-built, and features an 8-bladed aperture and at least one of its lens elements is made from LD (low dispersive) glass.  The lens I bought turned out to be in remarkable condition.  The front and rear elements are in flawless condition!

 

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In addition to this f/2.8 version of the 200mm telephoto, I also have in my collection the f/3.5 and the stellar f/4.  Some have argued the superiority of the slower f/4 version but that has not been my experience.  This copy of the f/2.8 beats the other two in every way.

(left to right) f/4 | f/2.8 | f/3.5
(left to right) f/4 | f/2.8 | f/3.5

Below are a few examples of what this great lens is capable of producing.  I came across this Banana Spider who had spun its web up about 15 feet off the ground, between the branches of one of the trees in my yard.  This was shot wide open at f/2.8.  Im very pleased with the sharpness, color and non-distracting out of focus areas.  Nothing quite like the perfect rendering of impossibly thin strands of spider silk to show off what a lens is capable of resolving from a distance

Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

The flowers of this Crepe Myrtle were shot at the lens’s minimum focus distance of about 5.5 feet.  Subtle chromatic aberrations occur at the highlight edges of the out of focus areas but nothing that couldn’t easily be corrected in Adobe RAW.  This image was shot at f/4 and in the bottom right hand corner you can see the fact that the aperture blades are not rounded.  With the exception of only a few, none of the old lenses in my collection have rounded aperture blades.  Seeing that polygon shape in an image has never bothered me.  Guess that is a to-taste thing.

Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

The tobacco fields around the house offer opportunities for some neat shots.  Several times per growing season, the farmers will cut the flowers from the top of the tobacco plant.  Sometimes you’ll see one that either got missed or one of the plants experiences a rapid regrowth that stands above its freshly shorn brethren.  Either way, it made for a neat shot.  Here I wanted to see how the lens handled flare.  In this shot, I put the setting sun just out of frame.  The lens hood was extended to block out the intruding side light.   The mid-frame loss of contrast is visible but I welcome that look in this kind of shot.  It makes the image feel as hot and hazy as this summer has actually been.

Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

I must look like a lunatic to my neighbors, always looking up into my trees but I always seem to find something interesting up there.  In this case, I spotted a fully-grown Cicada that was clinging to a leaf.  This was shot at f/2.8 due to the low light out under the trees.

Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

 

Another shot of a tobacco field.  The low sun created this spectacular backlighting for seeing the complex internal structure of these big leaves.  You can see that the leaves have already started their transition from rich green to golden yellow.  Once the leaves are fully yellowed, the harvest begins.  For those of us living around these plants, their harvest means fall is just a few weeks away and cooler weather is on its way.  This was shot at f/11 and it really shows off how sharp it gets when stopped down.  In the full-size RAW image, you can make out every detail in these thick, fibrous leaves.

Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

Shot at f/8

Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
Sony A7RII w/ Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

 

I hope you enjoyed the photos and learned a little something about the joy of old lenses.  Have a relaxing, wonderful weekend!

 

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12 thoughts on “A New, Old Lens – Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8

  1. Hi Jim,

    Good question. I rarely use either these days. All of the photos in this post were shot without a tripod. Before the Sony A7R MkII, with its sensor-based image stabilization, I had the original A7R and that camera had nothing to reduce shaking. With that camera I used a tripod as often as I could due to the camera’s unforgiving power to resolve details as well as shakey hands. The stabilization feature of the A7R MkII was the biggest selling feature to me. I travel so much and rarely have the space to include my tripod or monopole. Having the ability now to reduce shake and/or increase ISO and shutter speed without noticeably sacrificing image quality is such a benefit. The fact, too, that the stabilization is sensor based gives all my old lenses a new lease on life.

    Cheers,

    Tom

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  2. Thanks for sharing your photos and your comments that go with them.
    Minolta 200mm F/ 2.8, as you said, takes very nice photos. I own a Minolta 200mm, f4 but I see why you say f/2.8 is better especially in the situations when you want to take photos like cicada and insects in the tree hiding. You gave me a new idea to photograph.

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  3. Hi Jon,
    That f/2.8 version took me all year to find. I’m glad it turned out to be worthwhile. I had my doubts about it being as good as the f/4. I’m please to hear that you’ve found some inspiration on Outfor30. Your comments and questions make keeping up with this website worthwhile.

    Tom

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  4. The are often some decent find in the USA ebay for lenses. But you don’t need to stay up late to bid, just use auctionstealer or another auto bid site. I think I might have this lens myself in the now 30+ vintage lenses I have 🙂

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  5. Thank you, David. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article on this great, old lens. There is such a vast offering of exceptional glass that is perfect for use on mirrorless cameras if we’re willing to look back in time for them.

    Cheers,

    Tom Leonard

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