Thread: Minolta Rokkor Survival Guide

Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 23 1234511 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 230
  1. #1 Minolta Rokkor Survival Guide 
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Braunschweig, Germany
    Posts
    2,630
    As promised:

    Which lenses and mount are we talking about?

    Minolta was founded in 1928 as "Nichi-Doku Shashinki Shōten" (Japanese-German camera shop). After a line of rangefinder cameras modeled close to Leicas the company introduced it's first SLR camera in 1958, the SR-2 with the first Japanese bayonet mount. I'm referring to manual lenses from Minolta for this mount only, officially called SR, but most call it MC/MD these days. MC lenses (meter coupled) are the older ones, produced from 1966, but the only difference in MD mount from 1977 is a modified mechanical coupling for the aperture setting in the MD. The mount stayed compatible between all lenses until the very first autofocus camera was introduced by Minolta in 1985. Of course they continued to make some lenses for the older mount for quite a while after 1985. All lenses with this mount can be adapted to modern mirrorless cameras like µFT or NEX, but via an adapter from MD/MC to Leica-M you can mount it on RED's Leica-M mount just fine. None of these lenses expands beyond the mount, so there is no problem with this combination like there is with most Leica-M lenses wider than 50mm.

    After trying to copy Leica all the time from 1958, they learned to do it so well that in 1972, they sub-contracted with Leica and drew up a formal cooperation agreement. "Leitz desperately needed expertise in camera body electronics, and Minolta felt that they could learn from Leitz's undoubted optical expertise." (source: Wikipedia) Many of their lenses carry the name "Rokkor" (after the mountain Rokko near to their factory in Japan). In the US most were called Rokkor-X without being any different from the plain Rokkors sold elsewhere. In later years a budget line of lenses (called Celtic in the US) was introduced. Between 1979 and 1982 Minolta redesigned many lenses for lighter and more compact versions with a 49mm filter thread, using some plastics instead of metal. IMHO the older, heavier and more massive ones with a 55mm filter thread are the better built lenses. If treated well, focus and aperture are working as smooth as on the first day even after 40 years or more.

    The optical quality of some of the redesigned ones from this period can be better, though (I'll get back to this when getting to individual lenses), and it was not before 1982 that even more plastic was used and cost reduction became an important factor for most of the lenses targeted at amateur markets. Apart from some very special, earlier gems the lenses from early to mid eighties can be recommended for being the best in coating and build. Starting from mid nineties pressure from third-party manufacturers started a massive decline in overall quality and increased sample variation – until then Minolta had pretty tight QC.

    The best index to identify a Minolta lens and it's age can be found here: http://minolta.eazypix.de/lenses/index.html

    Watch out: some lenses can have significant differences in their optical design and quality (the 135mm tele for example) and are only identified by their precise weight and size. A two letter signature was only used for MC lenses and designated the number of lenses and groups in the particular lens.
    The system goes like this:
    – the first Letter is the number of groups: T=3, Q=4, P=5, H=6, S=7, O=8, N=9.
    – the second letter is the number of elements: C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, G=7, H=8, I=9, J=10, K=11, L=12
    Accordingly, the famous 58mm 1:1.2 MC Rokkor PG contains 7 elements in 5 groups.
    Although there is no official explanation, it is easy to see the greek alphabet in the first code letter designating groups, Penta, Hexa, Septa, Okta, etc.
    The second letter is probably just chosen by alphabetical order. ( source: http://minolta.rokkor.de/minoltalenses.htm )


    What makes them special?

    All classical lenses (without digital correction in camera bodies) are a complex optimization of different parameters, some of which can be contradictory. Minolta had a philosophy of not favoring only one parameter (like MTF) on the cost of another, like quality of bokeh (which was discussed among aficionados in Japan much earlier than elsewhere). Most important – in particular for us as filmmakers – is the consistency of color and contrast over the whole line of lenses Minolta was striving for by making their own glass and carefully balancing it's color with their coatings. Just like others, they improved coatings over the years and younger versions are in general less flare-prone than older ones, but they always maintained the Minolta look.

    Leica (from whom Minolta learned a lot about optics) has never achieved such a level of consistency, they tried to make every single lens as good as possible – with remarkable results. But Summicrons for still cameras with a different number of elements can have quite different color and contrast (I'm not talking about their cine lenses here). Apart from that, the Minolta look is closer to Leica than Zeiss, which are also quite consistent in color (but not always for contrast) in lines like Hasselblad and Contax, just different. That's why I have quite a few of both Rokkors and Contax Zeiss lenses, while I don't have any Leica lenses. Some call Minolta lenses "poor man's Leicas" for a reason ;-)


    Limitations

    Film emulsion is not as reflective as the OLPF of a digital camera. This simple fact can make a big difference when older still lenses are used on digital sensors, since the manufacturers didn't put as much effort into the coating of the rear surfaces as today. You may see haloing if using fast lenses on a digital camera wide open. That said, I found a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 for example much weaker in this respect than a MC Rokkor PG 50mm 1.4 from the same era. This Rokkor, BTW, is one of the sharpest 50mm lenses I've ever tested, bested only by the Zeiss C/Y 50mm 1.7 (but not the 1.4!). The effect can be very different from lens to lens, it depends very much on the curvature of the back lens. Apart from this contrast reducing effect, these lenses are just as good on digital as on film. All wides are retro-focus constructions; being designed for SLRs, they don't expose the side effects some rangefinder lenses can show in the corners due to extreme angles of the light rays.


    The "Big Three"

    The most sought after (and accordingly pricey) lenses are the 85mm 2.8 Varisoft, the 24mm 2.8 VFC and the 35mm 2.8 Shift CA lens. The Varisoft is a specialized portrait lens whose spherical aberration correction can be adjusted between a very sharp image with rather nervous bokeh and a very dreamy look like from a fashion magazine of the sixties (similar, but not quite the same as the expensive Nikkor DC = Defocus Control). The VFC (Variable Field Curvature) lens is a very good wide at neutral, but it's field of focus can be adjusted to be concave or convex. Obviously, the effect is not as strong on a RED as on photographic full-frame. The Shift CA has a similar VFC adjustment plus a very precise shifting mechanism and if you've ever asked yourself, how you can shoot a CU as if looking straight into a mirror without being seen: here you go! Initially it was meant for architecture to avoid too much perspective inclination of vertical lines. A mechanical masterpiece.

    Over the next few days I'm going to introduce a few other, more daily work favorites of mine.

    Until then, there is a lot of information in English here:
    http://www.rokkorfiles.com
    and here:
    http://digitalrokkor.altervista.org/minoltalens.html (scroll down for English)
    and some in German:
    http://www.artaphot.ch/sr-system-lenses
    Regards,

    Uli

    My Red is called Vertov after a Russian avantgarde filmmaker, a pioneer in modern cinematography, a true revolutionary who later suffered under Stalin's bureaucracy.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  2. #2  
    Interesting, because I was just looking at my two Rokkor 58mm F1.2's today, and they both need to have their apertures "unstuck" again. Looks like they need a bit more cleaning than just on the blades. (Which I regularly have to do.)
    I know Jim Buchanon used to do a lot of this kind of stuff in the US besides providing EF mounts. Any recommendations of who to send them to in Europe? (I'm in Paris)
    Otherwise, any guides out there for actually taking the whole aperture mechanism apart and cleaning it?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  3. #3  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Brooklyn
    Posts
    8,599
    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton Burkhart View Post
    Interesting, because I was just looking at my two Rokkor 58mm F1.2's today, and they both need to have their apertures "unstuck" again. Looks like they need a bit more cleaning than just on the blades. (Which I regularly have to do.)
    I know Jim Buchanon used to do a lot of this kind of stuff in the US besides providing EF mounts. Any recommendations of who to send them to in Europe? (I'm in Paris)
    Otherwise, any guides out there for actually taking the whole aperture mechanism apart and cleaning it?
    Clayton, Jim Buchanon is still considered the resident expert on changing Rokkor mounts. He normally changes to EF, but I've asked him about changing to other mounts, like Nikon or M42, which he feels he can do.

    Reach to him. He's on the nets.

    PS - Uli great write up. Minolta are the "poor man's Leicas!". My dad used to own a photo store, and owns a massive Rokkor set. Minolta is in the fam!
    Last edited by Nick Morrison; 01-02-2013 at 06:54 PM.
    Nick Morrison
    Founder, Director & Lead Creative
    // SMALL GIANT //
    smallgiant.tv
    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #4  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Braunschweig, Germany
    Posts
    2,630
    Well, other than most of my Russian lenses, only one of my Rokkors ( a 58mm 1.2 as well) ever needed this kind of service (I've got around thirty). If you are in Europe, I can wholeheartedly recommend Werner Bruer. He's actually living in my city, which used to be famous for it's photographic industry (Rollei and Voigtländer). This elderly guy worked most of his life for both of these companies and Zeiss too.

    Now that the industry is gone, he's running his own little business, mainly working for camera collectors all over the world, all the way to USA or Japan. He's doing repairs on all kinds of cameras. Zeiss Germany is sending all the lenses they don't service any more to this man. I have no relationship with him other than being a very satisfied customer. He is doing cleaning, other repairs and de-cklicking if you need that. I'm not sure if he's doing mount changes, but I can ask.

    You can find him here: http://classic-fototechnik.de
    Regards,

    Uli

    My Red is called Vertov after a Russian avantgarde filmmaker, a pioneer in modern cinematography, a true revolutionary who later suffered under Stalin's bureaucracy.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #5  
    Hey thanks for that Uli. Much appreciated.
    Actually don't need a mount change or declicking. That's easy enough. But having to clean the aperture blades far too often. The whole aperture block probably needs to be taken apart and serviced...
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #6  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Braunschweig, Germany
    Posts
    2,630
    OK, let's start with the wides:

    Let me first make it clear that I don't like to comment on lenses I never tried. I'm not a fan of fisheyes so I didn't try the 16mm 2.8 fisheye, but others gave it very good reviews and even the new AF versions still use the same construction. It was also sold by Leica as an Elmarit-R lens.

    I once tried the 17mm 4.0, but I wasn't overwhelmed. It seems that this construction was a bit beyond of what could be done well at the time. Even with it's slow f4, you need to stop it down: at least one stop, rather two, to get decent corners, both in sharpness and vignetting. Plus, it has quite annoying 'moustache' distortion. I'd say it isn't worth to be hunt down (it's pretty rare).

    The first one up that is worth considering is the 21mm 2.8, it's the best of the 20/21mm range Minolta made over time. The full name of my favorite is MC W.ROKKOR NL, so it's a very complex construction with 12 lenses in 9 groups. I consider it even a tad better than it's successor, the 20mm MD Rokkor 2.8. It's one of the first constructions by Minolta with floating elements, this is a massive piece of metal and glass with a MFD of 25cm. The front lens is rotating when focussing, but not the filter thread – no problems with screw-on polarizers. It's one of the few Rokkors with a 72mm filter thread instead of 55mm. It is sharp and has pretty low vignetting or distortion even wide open. I'd say it's second only to the Zeiss Distagon 21mm 2.8, which is pretty hard to find and very expensive. You'll need some patience to find the Rokkor, but it comes much cheaper than the Zeiss.

    The 24mm 2.8 is much easier to find, you won't need the rare VFC version I mentioned above to get excellent optical quality. It was sold under the Leica brand too, but be sure to get the 9 lenses version. Stay away from the late, smaller version with a 49mm filter thread and 8 lenses, all others are simply great. Tack sharp even wide open, low distortion, you name it. I consider this lens even better than the Zeiss Contax 25mm 2.8 (by a narrow margin, this is one of the weakest lenses in the C/Y mount). BTW: the Kiron 24mm 2.0, which is getting hyped quite bit, can't compete even stopped down to 2.8 – I tried it.

    The MD W Rokkor 28mm 2.0 is another great lens, but harder to find than the 2.8. (MFD is 30cm). Stopped down to 2.8 it is in every aspect as good or better compared to the 28mm 2.8. I sold my 2.8 once I got a 2.0 in good condition. You can't say this about all other lenses, in the Zeiss Contax line for example the 28mm 2.0 is not as good as the 28mm 2.8, even if stopped down to the same value. The Contax (nicknamed Hollywood) is very good, nevertheless, but far more expensive than the Rokkor. The 28mm 2.8 is no lemon at all, and it can still be found pretty cheap. Don't buy the late 5/5 lens version, though, the earlier 7/7 construction is heavier, but better.

    Let's get to 35mm, even if we might not call this length 'wide' any more on S-35. The MC W.Rokkor-HG 1:2,8/35 has a problem with oil on the blades quite frequently. So rather go for the later MD versions this time, the optical quality is very close, the coating even better. The Shift CA Rokkor 35mm mentioned above is a very special lens, but hard to find. A true gem is the MC W.Rokkor 35 1.8, just like it's MD version. I like the bokeh of this lens better than that of the 35mm 2.8, OTOH the 2.8 is tack sharp too, just has a bit harsher bokeh. At 2.8 both lenses show about the same level of quality, so you can save money if you buy the 2.8.

    So much for today, I'll get to the smaller zooms next.
    Regards,

    Uli

    My Red is called Vertov after a Russian avantgarde filmmaker, a pioneer in modern cinematography, a true revolutionary who later suffered under Stalin's bureaucracy.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #7  
    Thanks a lot Uli. This is really helpful!
    Th:)mmes Ulfeng, Norway.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #8  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Braunschweig, Germany
    Posts
    2,630
    I tried the slim adapter and couldn't get it to infinity with the full range of flange adjustment on our Epic or Scarlets. So we went Leica-M and all is fine.
    Regards,

    Uli

    My Red is called Vertov after a Russian avantgarde filmmaker, a pioneer in modern cinematography, a true revolutionary who later suffered under Stalin's bureaucracy.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #9  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Brooklyn
    Posts
    8,599
    Loving the lens review Uli! Yeah the Rokkor 28f2 and 35 1.8 are sick lenses. Great bokeh.
    Nick Morrison
    Founder, Director & Lead Creative
    // SMALL GIANT //
    smallgiant.tv
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #10  
    HM, that was also interesting, need to re-test my setup. Probably will end up with a LEICA M mount too. Take Care.
    Th:)mmes Ulfeng, Norway.
    Reply With Quote  
     

Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts