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Review: Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7

Minolta Rokkor MC PF 85mm F1.7 lens review (MCII).

This is another one legend by Minolta. A lot of photographers consider that it is the best portrait lens ever. And in overall unformal rating, it may stay on the second place by popularity, right after the bokeh-monster Rokkor 58mm F1.2 which I consider as mostly known Minolta lens.

One time I was lucky to get the copy in ‘like new’ condition with original lens-shade, caps and case and that occasion has driven me to find and review the full set of MC-II Minolta Rokkor lenses. Some of the articles have been published earlier but this lens was a driver to the whole idea.

After getting a new lens, I always take a few technical shots to understand its strengths and weaknesses – usually, it helps me a lot to start using the unknown lens with much less of doubt. One day I decided that my data might be interesting for someone else and this site has been made.

Minolta_Rokkor_MCC8517_051_exterior_logo.jpg

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm F1.7 parameters:

minolta.eazypix.de index 136
Name engraved on thanlens MC ROKKOR-PF
f[mm] 85
A max [1/f] 1.7
A min[1/f] 22
Lens design [el.] 6
Lens design [gr.] 5
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 55
Lens Shade screw-in
closefocus[m/ft] 1/3.5
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 73×62
Weight[g] 460
Year 1970
Style MC II
Code No. (ROKKOR-X) or Order No. 647

Floating elements NO
Aperture blades number 6
Average international price (sold items) 2019: USD 200-250
Reviewed Lens SN: 2507889


The lens was announced in 1968 and released in September of 1970 – as it is recorded in our Minolta Events Calendar.

By one of the popular collectors classification Minolta produced three main versions of 85/1.7 lens: MCII (from this review), MC-X and MDII.

But serious collectors can distinguish totally ten sub-modifications:

  1. MC II (full metal)
  2. MC Rokkor-PF with paint dot index, with preview lever
  3. MC Rokkor-PF with red bead index, with preview lever
  4. MC-Rokkor-X PF with red bead index, with preview lever
  5. MC Rokkor-PF with red bead index, without preview lever
  6. MC Rokkor with red bead index, without preview lever
  7. MC-Rokkor-X with red bead index, without preview lever
  8. MD II Rokkor
  9. MD II Rokkor-X (Orange for early lenses)
  10. MD II Rokkor-X (white for later lenses)

(Thanks for Michel Brien, Andrea Apra, Maury Jacks and Han Fiasko for this list)

Dear readers, if you don’t know collectors classification then it is nice news – you didn’t diseased. Just skip it. (Definitely, I have to write article with simple description of all these collectors codes, but to be honestly, I’m also not cool in this subjects.)

As you can see, there is only one ‘full metal’ designed version with Hills&Valleys/Curled focusing ring – MC-II style by one of the popular collector’s classification. There is no MC-I existed, and all next versions were rubberized. So, if the real steel&glass 85mm is needed, then only this one incarnation is suitable.

If we exclude differences in the materials, the remaining differences between all three  models with that ten sub-modifications are minor and mostly about labeling. Therefore, I will not go into details.

Reminder: that was a period of engineering experiments and permanent changes, and even very similar lenses can show a different IQ. As for this 85/1.7 line – a very small chance that there are noticeable differences, 1% maybe… but still it can happen. My promise is to make pair comparison in the future if I get MC-X or MD versions.

Recently, I often notice questions about the radioactivity of old lenses, and about this 85/1.7 too. Regardless of whether you believe in the danger of such lenses or not, I can say that this Minolta is not radioactive. Or, at least, no any radioactive copies were registered by collectors community. Also, this lens was released later than the period of using active elements for the optical glass preparing.


Lens exterior:

(Please, forgive me the dust, I never have the patience to clean objects for close-up photo sessions)

Accessories:

On Minolta SR-T 101 camera:


Lens code name – Aqua アクア:

Aqua (アクア) is one of the main protagonists of the KonoSuba series. Prior to life in the Fantasy World, she was a Goddess of Water who guided humans in the afterlife. She is worshiped in the Fantasy World by the Axis Order.


Sharpness – close distance:

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-200, 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)

aqua_konosuba_28_2print.png

Scene preview:

MCC8517__b_res_close_previewNEW.jpg

Test results:

MCC8517__c_res_close.jpg


Sharpness – long distance:

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 have been taken with apertures from fully opened up to F16. ISO-50. Shutter Speed – depends on light (camera A-mode), WB – fixed and the same for all shots. SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot to exclude focus-shift affect.

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 were cropped for 300×200 px elements, combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files.

Scene preview:

MCC8517__e_far_preview.jpg

Test results:

MCC8517__e_res_far.jpg


Vignetting:

(frames scaled – 300×200)

MCC8517__f_vignettingNEW.png


Geometric distortion:

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MCC8517_geometry_78.jpg


Coma aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MCC8517__h_coma_aberr_.jpg


Chromatic aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MCC8517__i_chrome_aberrNEW_.png


Long distance bokeh:

Test#1:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1m, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

Such scenes can’t be meet often, so this is a demonstration of extreme conditions. In most cases of real-life photography, the blur level will be less, see the next Test#2.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MCC8517__k_min_1m_bokeh_farNEW.png

Test#2:

Test conditions: lens was focused on 2m – ‘portrait distance’, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MCC8517__k_mid_2m_bokeh_farNEW.png


Light dots long distance bokeh:

Test #1

Test conditions: lens was focused on to minimal distance 1m, lights were fixed in more than 200m.

Such scenes can’t be meet often, so this is demonstration of extreme conditions. In most cases of real-life photography the blur level will be less – see Test #2.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MCC8517__m_dots_far_1min_1_0m_NEW.png

Test #2

Test conditions: lens was focused on 2m – ‘portrait distance’, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MCC8517__m_dots_far_2mid_2_5m_NEW.png


Other resources with reviews:


My overall conclusion about the Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85MM F1.7:

MCC8517__Avatar.png

I hate to write conclusions about famous lenses – it’s too hard to write something new or specific and not to repeat the other people’s mentions, but it’s impossible because sometimes people really say a truth.

Chromatic aberrations are presented even if one stop closed – on F2.8. The little lack of sharpness on wide-opened F1.7 is noticeable. At F2.8 center is fine, but middle and corner positions are not so good as it can be expected. Anyway it looks for me that the level of details on F1.7-F2.8 is good enough for most amateur photographers tasks. From the other hand I’ve seen a better 85mm fast lenses, from the resolution point of view of course. And one more note: the lens becomes totally sharp over the frame on F5.6.

The lens is heavyweight. Almost half kilos – not a little.

So, enough about the disadvantages, let’s go to pleasant things:

Ideal geometry, little coma, appropriate vignetting. All of these traits are nice, but the main is… You know, as it often happens, the big amount of aberrations can give for a lens more interesting bokeh. And here is really such case. All common and popular panegyric epithets can be applied to this bokeh. It changes depending on focusing distance, background distance, and aperture. It can work as ‘Gauss’, can be ‘swirly’, can shows ‘3D-pop’, ‘Oily’, ‘Cat’s eyes’, etc. Even without training, the result will be excellent in hands of any photographer who can operate with manual focus, but if you spend time studying all the features of this lens, you will not be left without masterpieces.

Add here standard ‘pros’ which are suitable for any H&V/Knurled Rokkors – it feels like a rock in hands and can be easy CLA-ed by owner with minimum special tools and skills.

Personal note: at random, this lens got an Aqua on the avatar – she’s funny goddess character from the one of the most ridiculous series at last years I saw. This linking happenstance changed my attitude to the brutal full metal black painted lens – I smile every time when taking it into hands and don’t think about sharpness or aberrations during the photo sessions – even pictures seems brighter than usual.

I recommend this goddess without any doubts for anyone.


This lens took part in battles:

MCC8517_vs_MD8520_Battle__Avatar.png

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