Vintage 50mm to 60mm lens were extremely popular during 35mm film era. They are among the ranges that you are most likely to find a hidden gem at a steal price. These normal lens have standard field-of-views and large aperture, while still manage to stay compact with very simple optical formulas. On a modern APS-C sensor, these lens have field-of-views equivalent to short-telephoto lens ~85mm, and are gaining more and more popularity as adapted lens on mirrorless cameras such as Fujifilm and Sony.
How good are these lens? Do they still fulfill the needs and expectations of modern photographers despite their 50 years’ age? In this review, we will have a look at one of Minolta’s very popular normal lens MC 58mm F1.4 (MCII).
- 1966 – 1973
- Starting Serial 5623848
- 6 elements in 5 groups.
- 2nd generation MC Rokkor (multi-coated)
- Weight 290 grams
- 41 x 63 mm (L x D)
- Minimum focus distance is 0.6m (2ft).
- 55 mm filter diameter
- Knurled metal focusing barrel
Minolta made five very similar versions of 58mm F1.4 from which this one (MC-II) is believed to be the best. To distinguish from its predecessor (MCI):
- Starting Serial 5064519
- Weight 278 grams
- 41 x 64 mm (L x D)
There are three versions of early Auto Rokkor-PF 58 mm 1.4 – 1961 – 1966. These Auto Rokkors are reported to be mediocre lens, while the later MC versions are outstanding.
Just like most other MF lens from 70s, this lens is a dream to operate. Full metal construction with buttery smooth focus ring. Takumars are often cited as the standard of excellence in smoothness, and this Minolta is just as good. As a comparison, most modern lens have an expected life-span of 10 years. For its price tag of 50$, I’m wondering if it’s the best quality stress-release tube in the market.
I’ve done a few sharpness test so far both at minimum focus distance and infinity with my Fujifilm x-pro2.
Minimum Focus Test
Both sharpness and contrast are suffering a bit when the lens is wide open @f1.4, but it is usable for portrait purpose. Stopping down to f/2 boosts both sharpness and contrast significantly, and at f/2.8 image is very sharp even at the edges.
Far Focus Test
As expected, this lens does not perform well at all wide open for landscapes. The image is hazy and lacks contrast. However, resolution is there and could be improved significantly in post-processing. From F2.8-F5.6, the lens has little left to be desired. Lateral CA is very well controlled even at large aperture.
Compared to its bigger brother the legendary 58mm f1.2 (appx. 5 times the price), F1.4 is not as famous for its bokeh. But, I do really like its typical Minolta rendering and bokeh. It is buttery smooth, and I find myself really like the bubble pop effect of those bokeh ball @F1.4. The ball is still fairly round @F2, and starts to show hexagonal shape from F2.8 due to its 6 aperture blades.
Bokeh is subjective, I use F2 most often, as it is a sweet spot both in sharpness and OOF area.
Very well built Minolta gem, and a pleasant to use. For the price tag, it is a lot of lens.
This lens is widely available on Ebay because it was one of the kit lens of Minolta SR-T 101 in the 1970s.
It is a bit prone to flare. However, CA is very well controlled, and distortion is unnoticeable. The quality of bokeh and micro-contrast beats a lot of moderm camera lens, although you may need to step down 1-2 stops for optimal result. All in all, it is a very solid portrait lens on APS-C sensor, and a bokehlicious machine from 70s !!