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Review: Minolta MD Zoom 50-135mm 1:3.5

Minolta New-MD Zoom 50-135mm F/3.5 (New-MD, NMD, MDIII) lens review.

The very special zoom because of unusual behavior. But with an absolutely clear purpose – this is an tool for portraiture.

Reviews of zoom lenses are long, because each of them contains, as it were, several reviews of prime lenses in one. Tests for this review are divided for: 50mm, 80mm, 135mm groups.

MDZ50135_exterior_331_logo

Minolta MD Zoom 50-135mm F3.5 parameters:

# in minolta.eazypix.de index 268
Name engraved on lens MD ZOOM
f[mm] 50-135
A max [1/f] 3.5
A min[1/f] 32
Lens design [el.] 12
Lens design [gr.] 10
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 55
Lens Shade clip-in
closefocus[m/ft] 1.5/5
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 68.5×118
Weight[g] 480
Year 1981
Style MD III
Code No. (ROKKOR-X) or Order No. 677-810
Notes

Floating elements YES
Aperture blades number 6
Average international price (sold items) 2019: USD 50-75
Reviewed Lens SN: 8010506

This lens has been produced in two incarnations – the latest New-MD version and the previous one which is labeled as ROKKOR. Or Minolta MD-II and MD-III styles by the popular collector’s classification. There are no optical and mechanical differences, just little changes in the exterior. My heart is always on the side of New-MD lenses, so I’ve got the latest MD-III modification.


Lens exterior:

On camera Minolta X-700:


Lens code name – Rio Futaba 双葉 理央 :

Rio Futaba (双葉 理央, Futaba Rio) is one of the main characters of the Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai series, who is a second-year student at Minegahara High School. She had been in the same class as Sakuta and Yuuma during their first year and is the sole member of the Science Club.


Test methods descriptions:

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)

Rio Futaba 12 2print.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-100. 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.


TEST RESULTS on FOCUS DISTANCE = 50mm

50mm – Sharpness – short distance

50mm – Scene preview:

MDZ50135_50mm_b_res_close_previewNEW.jpg

50mm – Test results:

MDZ50135_50mm_c_res_close.jpg


50mm – Sharpness – long distance

50mm – Scene preview:

MDZ50135_50mm_e_far_preview.jpg

50mm – Test results:

MDZ50135_50mm_e_res_far.jpg


50mm – Vignetting:

(frames scaled – 300×200)

MDZ50135_50mm_f_vignettingNEW.png


50mm – Geometric distortion:

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MD50135_50mm_geom_61.jpg


50mm – Coma aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MDZ50135_50mm_h_coma_aberr_.png


50mm – Chromatic aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MDZ50135_50mm_i_chrome_aberrNEW_.png


50mm – Long distance bokeh:

Test#1:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1.5m, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_50mm_k_bokeh_far_min_1_5m__NEW.png


50mm – Light dots long distance bokeh:

Test #1

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1.2m, lights were fixed in more than 200m.

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.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_50mm_m_dots_far_min_NEW.png


TEST RESULTS on FOCUS DISTANCE = 80mm

80mm – Sharpness – short distance

80mm – Scene preview:

MDZ50135_80mm_b_res_close_previewNEW.jpg

80mm – Test results:

MDZ50135_80mm_c_res_close.jpg


80mm – Sharpness – long distance

80mm – Scene preview:

MDZ50135_80mm_e_far_preview.jpg

80mm – Test results:

MDZ50135_80mm_e_res_far.jpg


80mm – Vignetting:

(frames scaled – 300×200)

MDZ50135_80mm_f_vignettingNEW.png


80mm – Geometric distortion:

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MD50135_80mm_geom_.jpg


80mm – Coma aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MDZ50135_80mm_h_coma_aberr_.png


80mm – Chromatic aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MDZ50135_80mm_i_chrome_aberrNEW_.png


80mm – Long distance bokeh:

Test#1:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1.5m, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_80mm_k_bokeh_far_min1_5m_NEW.png


80mm – Light dots long distance bokeh:

Test #1

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1.2m, lights were fixed in more than 200m.

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.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_80mm_m_dots_far_min_NEW.png


TEST RESULTS on FOCUS DISTANCE = 135mm

135mm – Sharpness – short distance

135mm – Scene preview:

MDZ50135_135mm_b_res_close_previewNEW.jpg

135mm – Test results (selected version, easy to compare – 4 positions):

MDZ50135_135mm_c_res_close.jpg


135mm – Sharpness – long distance

135mm – Scene preview:

MDZ50135_135mm_e_far_preview.jpg

135mm – Test results:

MDZ50135_135mm_e_res_far.jpg


135mm – Vignetting:

(frames scaled – 300×200)

MDZ50135_135mm_f_vignettingNEW.png


135mm – Geometric distortion:

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MD50135_135mm_geom_.jpg


135mm – Coma aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MDZ50135_135mm_h_coma_aberr_.png


135mm – Chromatic aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

MDZ50135_135mm_i_chrome_aberrNEW_.png


135mm – Long distance bokeh:

Test#1:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1.5m, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_135mm_k_bokeh_far_min_1_5m_NEW.png

Test#2:

Test conditions: lens was focused on 3m (half of the scale), houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_135mm_m_dots_far_mid_3_0m_NEW.png


135mm – Light dots long distance bokeh:

Test #1

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1.2m, lights were fixed in more than 200m.

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.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

MDZ50135_135mm_m_dots_far_min_NEW.png


Other resources with reviews:


My overall conclusion about Minolta MD Zoom 50-135mm F3.5:

MDZ50135__Avatar.png

This zoom covers all the most popular portrait focal lengths. It’s convenient. I just don’t like some lack of sharpness, but note: sharpness falls in the corners strongly, but the middle looks good or, better to say – it’s enough, because in portraiture photography objects usually are located in the middle or center. But as a reviewer, I have to say that the sharpness of the lens (my tested copy) is not as good as one would expect. In other words – the lens is mostly for photographers, not for pixel peepers.

Aberrations: the lens hasn’t noticeable vignetting, chromatic or coma. Of course, aberrations are presented and this zoom isn’t ideal but everything is inside of ‘standard borders’ for Minolta, it means – much better than average level. The geometric distortion is also can be called as noticeable or better to say – very noticeable, but again – nothing special, most of the zooms have an issue with geometry. And it is very strange because, you know, the most interesting bokeh is provided by lenses with big aberrations… And here are the question – what about the bokeh of that zoom?

My first expression after I saw the result of the test was like: ‘The portrait zoom with swirly bokeh? Interesting…’

‘Swirly’ is the most contradictory type of bokeh. On the one hand – it is very striking and motley. It looks strange at least and pulls the attention of spectators from the main object. On the other hand – in some rare cases this feature can underline the main object. The examples of famous lenses with swirly bokeh are Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 75mm F/1.5 and Helios 40-2 85mm F/1.5. The tested Minolta 50-135 F/3.5, of course, is not so cool but can show something like.

As a result, yes, this lens shows a small lack of sharpness and uneven sharpness distribution over the frame. But I can easily imagine a photographer who will love this lens because of the nice rendering in the complex with the specifically portrait focal distances diapason. The swirly effect is not as pronounced as that of Zeisses or Helioses etc, but is still present.

I can’t say something like “strongly recommend as a main portraiture tool for photographers”, but at least it’s worth a try – because of convenient focal distances, good IQ in right zones of a frame, and unusual rendering. In addition, this is quite a cheap lens. An experiment is needed, suddenly you will like it – definitely, the lens stays in the top half among others portrait-zooms.


 

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