The Minolta MD Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

On this last trip to the field, I had a few moments to look for a lens I’ve long held an interest in: the Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5.  Very little information about this lens can be found on the web so I set out to discover this for myself.  My curiosity with this lens stems from the consistently superb performance of the MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5 and the possibility of this 50-135mm lens being on par with it.  If it proves to be as good as I hope, these two lenses would make for the perfect walk around set.

I found on eBay a great copy of the lens from Japan for less than $80.  I couldn’t find anyone selling the lens with the matching hood so I had to order one separately from a seller in Germany.  Surprisingly, both the lens and hood arrived to my house on the same day!

*The images of the lens I shot with the Olympus OM F.Zuiko 85mm f/2.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM F.Zuiko Auto-T 85mm f/2

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM F.Zuiko Auto-T 85mm f/2

While it’s definitely not their prettiest lens (see Minolta Chiyoko Super Rokkor), it is a clean design and operating it is very simple: Grab the waffle grip and push/pull it to change the focal length and rotate it to adjust focus.  All metal construction and velvet smooth operation, it is the typical high quality I’ve grown accustomed to from Minolta’s SR-mount lenses.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM F.Zuiko Auto-T 85mm f/2

 

This lens has a 6-bladed aperture with a range from f/3.5 – f/22.  Minimum focus distance (MFD) is marked for ~ 5 ft but I can only achieve that at 135mm focal length. When the lens is set to 50mm it’s closer to 6ft.  I do wish the MFD was closer to 2-3 ft as it would allow for decent close-ups.

Shot at the widest focal length of 50mm, that was as close as I could get to this bundle of weed-like fluffy things.  I wanted to share this rather plain image for two reasons:  to show the MFD and second and to illustrate a very odd rendering of the out-of-focus area at 50mm with the aperture wide open at f/3.5.  That bokeh, especially at 100% view of the original file, looks almost like a daub painting.  The spherical look of the background is not an effect of the lens rather it is how the trees grow over this trail at the back of our property.  I do see where this strange look could be used to good effect in the right scene but I’m not so sure I would want that in a walkabout lens, especially at a heavily used 50mm focal length.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

At the same 50mm focal length with the aperture stopped down to f/8 it renders things perfectly normal.  I’ll add too that it’s darn sharp at f/8 and for that matter it’s just as sharp at f/5.6.  There is, however, a noticeable loss of contrast and sharpness when this lens is set to its widest aperture of f/3.5.  That isn’t to say it’s bad, just not excellent and certainly nowhere near what I’ve grown accustomed to with the MD Minolta 35-70mm with its wide-open, razor sharpness.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

This shot I set the lens to 135mm, f/5.6, with the focus set as close as I could get to those big water drops on this banana leaf.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

For this shot I used a focal length of around 90mm with the aperture set wide-open.  I did have to bring back some contrast in Photoshop which recovered well what was lost due to shooting into a bright sky at f/3.5.  Does it have the typical Minolta color?  Yep, it has it.  That is one area this lens does not struggle.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

135mm focal length at f/5.6.  The background rendered beautifully, and foreground sharpness is excellent…

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

135mm, f/5.6, minimum focus distance.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

135mm, f/3.5, minimum focus distance.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

80mm, f/5.6

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

75mm, f/3.5

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

100mm, f/8.  This lens does produce a nice cinematic flare.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

135mm, f/3.5.  A few days ago we put to use some of the bamboo we cut down a few months ago, making bows and arrows for the kids.  It took some practice to figure out how to split and shape the bamboo to get good string tension that wouldn’t cause splitting but with a little trial and error we did manage to get it working.  Taper, taper, taper is all I can say about that.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

50mm, f/16

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

50mm, f/11

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

~90mm, f/8.  With the aperture stopped down a bit, I got a nice star shape where the sun peaked through the bamboo leaves.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

 

All things considered, I would give this 50-135mm lens a grade of 80 out of 100.

Weaknesses:

  • It’s not very good at f/3.5 when the RAW file is viewed at 100%.
  • Focus shifts when zooming and it can be difficult to maintain the same focal length while adjusting focus so you wind up chasing one or the other which adds at least a full second to the time it takes to get things nailed down before hitting the shutter release.
  • Very different look to the out-of-focus background at 50mm, f/3.5 – could be good in some cases but most of the time I would call it a distraction.

Strengths:

  • Lightweight
  • Well built
  • Internal movement – the lens doesn’t change length and that means it won’t be sucking in a bunch of dust
  • Very inexpensive for a decent constant aperture zoom lens
  • Excellent Minolta color
  • Sharp as a tack at all focal lengths when clicked down to f/5.6
  • Minimal distortion at all focal lengths
  • Corner sharpness is great from f/5.6 and on
  • Really nice look from 80mm – 135mm

 

So, is this a companion to the excellent MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5 lens?  In a pinch I would say yes but, practically speaking, I don’t think this one will make it to the travel bag.  What is gained by this lens in terms of reach beyond the 35-70mm range, I would rather have my much smaller, lighter, cheaper and better-in-every-way Minolta MD 135mm f/3.5 (~$25-$40).  The image below shows the size comparison.  This isn’t make you think that the 50-135mm is a big lens, rather it is to illustrate just how small and pocketable is the MD 135mm lens.

iPhone 7+

 

I don’t know how different I am from anyone else in this but I tend to use the extreme ends of a zoom lens more than the middle bits.  That being the case, I don’t think I’d use the 50-135mm lens at 50mm if I have my 35-70mm with me.  That leaves me swapping lenses only when I need the long end of the 50-135mm zoom.  In that case, I’d rather have my tiny MD 135mm f/3.5 for that reach than this 50-135mm zoom.  If you’re more into zooms than fixed lenses, I would say the 50-135mm is certainly worthy of consideration where a tighter budget is concerned.

I’ll leave you with this:  I won’t “not recommend” this lens but I don’t strongly recommend it either.  How’s that for objectivity?   🙂

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7 thoughts on “The Minolta MD Rokkor 50-135mm f/3.5

  1. Tom,
    I discovered your blog recently and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every post. I wanted to let you know, that you have cost me several hundred dollars over the last few days, but it is all good! I had an old Minolta 50mm, f1.7 in the drawer and always loved it, it is on my A7II now, loved it, and your blog so much I’ve bought all of the following, and for less than one Sony lens!

    MD 35-70mm f 3.5
    MD 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 MF
    MD 75-200mm f 4.5
    MD 50mm f1.4
    MC Rokkor-X 50mm f1.7
    MC Rokkor PF 58mm f1.4
    MD 135mm f3.5

    Can’t wait till they get here, and thanks for sharing the wonderful world of old Minolta glass with me!

    Charles

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  2. Hi Charles,
    I’m very glad to hear that you’ve found OutFor30. Sorry about costing you money.. ok maybe not. It’s amazing how many good lenses can be had for so little money. To tempt you even further, it would be well-worth looking into the old Olympus OM Zuiko lenses as well. I’ve reviewed a number of them here on OutFor30 and some of those reviews can also be seen on Petapixel.com, DigitalRev.com and few other photography websites. If you ever have any questions regarding lenses and how they integrate with our excellent mirrorless cameras, feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to assist. Until then, I know you’ll enjoy those Minoltas you’ve got coming in the mail!

    All the best,

    Tom Leonard

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  3. Hi Wes,

    Hi Wes,
    Good to hear from you my friend. I’m glad you liked the new post. To answer your question, the property is 5.51 acres which is heavily wooded. The house is set hidden away about 1/3 of the way into the front of the property. No more than half an acre around the house is cleared for yard which is nice since (as you well know) grass grows in Florida in feet per hour. The land is quiet with a decent population of grey squirrels, monkey squirrels, coons, coyotes, tortoises, and a lot of birds. I’ve tried doing some bird photography but – as usual – wildlife photography and I don’t jive. If I’m just out walking the land empty-handed, I’m like Snow White with birds landing on me while they spit and whistle happy tunes in my face. On the other hand, if I have my camera with me there is not a sign of life for 20 miles; a barren wasteland. If I had to make a living off of capturing wildlife images, I’d be penniless.

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  4. I too ‘discovered’ your blog, and I love it.. I have a small collection of older Minolta glass. So far 24mm & 28mm-f2.8, 50mm PF f1.7, 55mm PF f1.7 & f1.9, 135mm PF f2.8, 135mm QD f3.5, and finally a 28-85mm f3.5-4.5. That I snap on an A7. I am rarely found without a camera at hand. My faves so far..55mm f1.9, 24mm f2.8 and the QD 135mm f3.5. I find that I cannot go ‘Out For 30’, I live in the country and have 1200 acres that I have permission for, and it just begs for hours of walking. I have learned to ‘get down’ and see what’s going on, sitting still and quiet, never any birds though. Snowshoe time is coming. On the hunt for the 58mm f1.4 and 100m f2.5….Thanks for your time putting this all together for us.

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  5. Hi Randy,

    Welcome to OutFor30! Super glad you’ve found this blog and found its content to be enjoyable/useful. It sounds like you’re off to a good start with those Minolta lenses you have. Hopefully you’re able to get your hands on that 58mm f/1.4. It’s world’s cheaper than the f/1.2 variant and from f/2.8 and on it’s just as good. I find the 58mm focal length to be just right for walkabouts. It’s wide enough for medium distance landscape images and tight enough for closer compositions. For waist-up portraits, you’ll find it very pleasing even at f/1.4. If you have ever have lens or camera questions, I’m happy to do my best to assist. Sometimes it might take me a day or two to reply due to travel and work but I always will, as soon as I’m able.

    All the best to you,

    Tom Leonard

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