This comparison is correct only for conditions and equipment used for tests. Test results can be differ if any element is changed.

I consider this article to be the my most serious attempt to answer the question – which 50mm F1.4 lens is better – Canon New FD or Minolta MD.
There are many such comparisons on the Internet. But not one of the known for me does not satisfy me. The reasons are different: some has been made on a crop camera, some compares 58mm lens with a 50mm lens from the same distance, some compares Canon New FD with Minolta Old MC. Someone simply makes mistakes in focusing, or does not remember about the field curvature. Or performs the tests at a distance of 50 cm and in the center only.

But this is a very important comparison. The fact is that such lenses, 50/1.4 – are the main point of the product lines for all serious companies. Having of the best fast fifty in production line can be named as ‘companies honor’. Even for today. As you can see, I understand the responsibility.

Regarding to Canon FDn 50/1.4 and Minolta MD 50/1.4: both lenses are very similar. Flange focal distance is 41.9mm for Canon and 43.50mm for Minolta. Both are from the last product lines of the pre-autofocus era. Both were in production at the same time. Both have the same schemes – 7 elements in 6 groups, ‘planars’. Both even look similar. Prices on auctions are very close.. Etc. OK, let’s do the comparison

Tested lenses reviews:

FDN5014_avatar

Test description: Camera Sony A7II (24mpx, full frame) was fixed on the tripod and managed remotely with computer display as a viewfinder. Targets (buildings) were fixed by gravity power on the distances in more than 200 meters. All shots were made with apertures from fully opened and up to F16. ISO-100. Shutter Speed – depends on light (camera A-mode). SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot to exclude focus-shift.

Finally, pictures were converted from ARW-files in Capture One with default settings (some single files have a slight light correction, for better visual convenience in comparison), then cut into 300×200 px elements (100% crops), combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files.

Notes:
  • Sunlight has been changed during the session.
  • I am just a man, I do not pretend that in all cases my focus settings were absolutely accurate. But I aspired to it.
  • Bad weather is better for this test – low-light is required for wide-opened apertures to slow down shutter speed.

Scene preview:

FDN5014_e_far_preview


Test results:

FDN5014_MD5014_long_battle.jpg


Short distance – sharpness:

Test description: target is a 10×15 cm picture (printed, glossy photo paper), fixed on the wall by scotch. Distance – 1.7m. Camera Sony A7II (24mpx, full frame) was fixed on the tripod and managed remotely with computer display as a viewfinder. All groups of shots were repeated 3 times for every target position on all apertures from fully opened up to F16, ISO-100, WB – same for all shots. SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot. After all needed shots have been taken for one target position – I moved  the target to the next place. Main idea – to exclude the field curvature affect on so close distance. Of course, I can’t be absolutely accurate, but test results looks correct.

Finally, pictures were converted from ARW-files in Capture One with default settings (Some single files have a slight light correction, for better visual convenience in comparison), then cropped for 300×200 px elements, combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files.

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

rory mercury 1.jpg

Scene preview:

FDN5014_b_res_close_previewNEW

Test results:

FDN5014_MD5014_close_battle.jpg


‘What does it mean?’ – my conclusion:

At first I’ve made a reviews. You can read if interested: Canon New FD 50mm 1:1.4 and Minolta MD 50mm 1:1.4. It’s clear that aberrations of the lenses are approximately the same. In many ways they work like twins. Also, I want to clarify that both tested lenses are in excellent condition and there is no reason to think that were being damaged in any way.

The second stage was a comparison at a long distance. And at this stage the difference between the lenses became noticeable. Moreover, the amount of this difference can be called as big.

To make sure that there is no mistake, the test on short distance has been performed. And it confirmed the previous result. So, we have a winner with no doubt. You can see it on the diagrams. But I think that some explanations would be appropriate at here.

Far distance test results description:

F1.4
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is a lot better
Corner – Minolta is a tiny better

F2.0
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is a lot better
Corner – similar

F2.8
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is incredible a lot better
Corner – similar

F4.0
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is a lot better
Corner – Canon is a tiny better

F5.6 and further
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is better
Corner – Canon is better

As you can see, Minolta has a really noticeable advantage in the middle position. And for F2.8 this advantage is even huge. Also Minolta  is better in corners on up to F2.8. Canon has a little advantage in corners after F4.0.
Can it to be the result of affecting of field curvature with Canon lens? Don’t know. But if so, then it’s not a good to has a such field on infinity. Anyway, we have results of the test with excluded field curvature affect:

Portrait distance test results description:

F1.4
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is a better
Corner – Minolta is a tiny better

F2.0
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is a better
Corner – similar

F2.8
Center – similar
Middle – Minolta is a tiny better
Corner – similar

F4.0 and further
Center – similar
Middle – similar
Corner – similar

We can see the same tendency as in previous long-distance test – Minolta is better wide opened up to F4.0.

Final conclusion:

Minolta MD 50mm F1.4 is better than Canon New FD 50mm F1.4 in therms of sharpness.

FDN5014_MD5014_Battle__Avatar

One thought on “LensWars: Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4 vs. Minolta MD 50mm f/1.4

  1. I also own these lenses in mint condition. I tested them on my Sony a7 and I agree with your findings. On a 16 mp MFT sensor the Canon is better at open apertures, but the Minolta is better at f/8 across the frame.

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