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Minolta MD Zoom Lenses

  1. upnorthcyclist
    Hi Group,

    Looking for a little advice here. I recently purchased an XD11. I'm an old Minolta-head, and have shot SRT-102s for what seems like forever. I have a nice kit of MC primes. I was thinking it might be nice to get a wide-to-short-telephoto MD zoom for the XD11 and would like it to be constant-aperture, so that I can use it on the fully-manual SRT.

    I know this puts me onto a short list of available Minolta lenses that fit the bill, but I'd like to hear some opinions on which lenses and perhaps which generation of these lenses that you folks on this list have had experience with and can recommend (or avoid!) before I wade into The Bay.

    I did some searching on APUG but didn't really find what I'm looking for - perhaps all I need is to be pointed towards a previous dicussion on this subject.

    Best regards,

  2. Cork

    That's a tough order. Aside from the 35-70mm lenses which for my purposes are too limited, and the 24-50mm f/4, the better wide to tele zooms are variable aperture. My favorite of that group is the 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5, and my father's 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 is nice as well. In a fixed aperture zoom the one I use most is a 50-135mm f/3.5, but that doesn't give you the wide angle end.

  3. Chaplain Jeff
    Chaplain Jeff

    Either the 35-70 "Lecia clone" or the 35-70 macro zooms are great. Owned and shot with both over the years. Would love to have either one again.

    Good luck!

    Jeff M
  4. upnorthcyclist
    Hi Cork and Jeff,

    Looks like the 35-70mm is in my future - I found some prices for the 24-50mm and it seems to be one of those collector things (must not have made a lot of them) that auction quite high. Jeff, the 35-70mm macro may fit the bill perfectly - glad to hear you like it. Cork, the variable-aperture lenses seem to be the most plentiful - perhaps I'll get over wanting constant-aperture (not use it on the SRTs) and consider the 28-85mm - that, for me, is a very desirable range.

    Thanks guys!

  5. Ralph Javins
    Ralph Javins
    Good morning, Cork and Mike;

    (And, "Hi" to Chaplain Jeff.)

    Mike, the variable aperture thing with many zoom lenses may be an inconvenience at times, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. The design of a lens of any type is actually a collection of compromises and decisions on what characteristic are we going to emphasize and what characteristic are we going to accept which will not be optimum if we do that. Yes, computers have really made the design of zoom lenses much better in the last 20 to 30 years (who would have thought that Leica would have a zoom lens?), but there are still limits in optics and physics that we cannot get around. Even with high refractive index and extra low dispersion glass and other exotic materials, the limits may be moved farther out, but that also brings higher cost; another compromise. The real benefit of computer programs is that they quickly go through all of the myriad combinations of choices and calculate the eventual end qualities of each design combination to see which one of them has the best collection of the qualities in a lens that we want.

    In the case of the constant aperture versus the variable aperture question, choosing the constant aperture will usually mean that the lens resolution will not be the same as we shift the focal length from an optimum point out toward either end of the lens. The acceptance of a variable aperture usually results in a lens with a much higher lens resolution quality over the range of the zoom lens; it will be a sharper lens over the range as compared with the constant aperture. As mentioned earlier, most of this stuff is a choice of what you want to have and what are you willing to accept that will go along with it.

    One nice thing is that these effects seem to be much more acceptable and/or controllable in a short range zoom; 2:1, 3:1. Things get a little bit wilder as we go to longer and longer zoom ranges. I am truly impressed that the Tamron people have come out with a 15:1 zoom lens of 18mm to 270mm focal length range. The Tamron guys agree with the reviewers that things get a little bit hairy out at the wide end of the range, but they do have a "do-it-all" zoom lens that can be put onto a camera body and it can stay on that body for just about everything you will normally encounter. If you are in a place where changing lenses is not a good idea (blowing sand, rain, smoke, salt spray, et cetera), those compromises in performance begin to look a little more acceptable in exchange for the ability to get the photograph under those conditions. For me, that 15:1 zoom lens falls into another slot in the categories of "special purpose lenses."

    Try your zoom lens and see what you get on paper. If you like the end result on a print you are holding in your hand, then the lens is OK.

    Enjoy; Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
  6. Ralph Javins
    Ralph Javins
    Good morning, Mike;

    I am sorry. I was concentrating on the discussion about zoom lenses, and I forgot about your comment about using them on a Minolta SR-T 102 (still my favorite in that series).

    The light meter in the SR-T 102 will work fine with a variable aperture lens. It is a Through The Lens (TTL) light metering system. Just as when you put a filter in front of the lens, when the amount of light goes down, the light meter will tell you that it has. What it will not do is change the lens aperture nor the shutter speed for you to compensate for that change in light, but it will tell you that it thinks you need to make a change, and in which direction you should go. Yes, it is still a fully manually controlled camera system. It does expect you to participate in the entire photograph taking process. You are not going to fool it nor confuse it by using a variable aperture zoom lens on it.

    Enjoy; Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
  7. Cork
    Hi, Ralph,

    I've seen your posts in several places on the Internet, and truly enjoy reading your thoughts. Optics was not a subject I spent a great deal of time studying in engineering school, so I found your comments above on lens design very interesting. I'd always thought that variable aperture was employed primarily to reduce the size of the lens. As I read your note it dawned on me that use of the variable aperture enabled the manufacturers to retain a given level of quality while reducing the size and weight of the lens.

    As I've said before, I'm not a big fan of zooms, though I do use them when I'm shooting snapshots. For instance, the zooms for my Minolta APS SLR are so small and light (and weather-proof) that I take the Vectis S-1 when I ride a long bike rally, and I enjoy the framing flexibility I get with them. Similarly with my 9xi, a zoom is fun and fast for grab shots. When I pick up the XD-11, though, I tend to take more time to work on composition and I'd rather use my fixed focal length lenses. Personal preference, of course, and I have a nice selection of MD zooms - I just don't use them as much.

    Quick question to you and Chaplain Jeff: I've never understood the love affair others have with the 35-70mm range zooms, including the lovely Minolta MD f/3.5. One sixth (roughly) of the light transmission of my 50mm without a significantly different perspective on either side. Not wide enough to give a real wide-angle view, not long enough to be a good people/portrait lens (and too slow for that anyway). I've had one in the past and tried to like it, but it just left me scratching my head . . . I'm not knocking it, just don't understand the appeal.

    Cork -- from the rolling hills of Highland Village, TX
  8. upnorthcyclist
    Hi again, Ralph and Jeff and Cork,

    Thanks for the insight on the zooms, Ralph. I have one of those versatile zooms you speak of for my DSLR, an 18-200mm. It's a great what to bring if you don't wan't to carry a bunch of stuff around lens, and most of its relatively few shortcomings can be fixed in software. It is, actually, a pretty amazing lens.

    I, too, shoot fixed lenses when using my SRTs, Cork. The automation of my new XD11 opens up some new possibilities and I use wide-angle lenses a lot, so I figured what the heck, try a wide zoom. You may very well be correct in that it's more limiting than what I'm giving it credit for.

    The only (minor, I admit) problem with using a variable-aperture zoom on an SRT is that it takes a little away from the fun/flexibilty of the lens. I had a Sigma variable-aperture macro 2-touch do-everything zoom for awhile a long time ago, and I just didn't have enough hands to zoom, focus and keep the EV correct all at once. Of course, it didn't help that it was a crappy lens - the split-image circle was blacked out most of the time...

    This has been a real interesting thread, thanks guys.

  9. Ralph Javins
    Ralph Javins
    Good morning, Mike and Cork;

    Well, Mike, I did say that the variable aperture characteristic of a zoom lens may be an inconvenience at times, but I guess you are already aware of what it requires. At this level, it is probably better to continue speaking of what the lens does and how it does it and what you will see when using the lens, than it is to start referring to page numbers in books by people such as Rudolf Kingslake. And, Mike, you are absolutely right when you speak of the need to do many things in a very short time period with such a lens. That may be one of the reasons why the automatic focusing, automatic exposure, automatic flash, automatic advancing of film (or storage on the card) is so popular in general photography now. Today even our highly advanced and capable professional level SLR and DSLR cameras have a "point-and-shoot" mode.

    Cork, my undergraduate study was in Electronics Engineering with a heavy emphasis on Physics. I have spent some time ray tracing, and I was told that I was pretty good at that task, but I think the main thing was the other training in engineering drawing which helped in producing drawings that were clear, precise, and fairly well done. It is amazing what influence a good draftsman can have. Mainly an offshoot of my exposure to the instruction and tutelage of Frank Zozorra.

    The real point of all of this (regardless of such things as the love affair or cultlike following of some lenses and cameras), still remains what we can see in the print we are holding in our hands when we have finished taking our photographs. The optical engineers at Zeiss and Leica have said that they can make their lenses even sharper than they are now, but it will require more effort and special materials, techniques, and processes to produce them, and money for you to buy them. However, they point out that the lenses today are already at the point where they are capable of putting an image on the film that will be better than what is required to produce a large print or to be projected onto a fairly large screen. At this point they are also asking if they need to do that additional work, when the lenses we have now are certainly adequate to the task. I think that is a fair question.

    In a somewhat related point, the sensitivity of a good communications radio receiver today is already capable of hearing radio signals that have a signal strength that is less than the common noise levels we experience in the radio frequency spectrum today. To rephrase that, the noise level is already wiping out the lowest level signals that the radio is designed to hear. They need to test these things in a shielded RF quiet room, so they can get down to the level of the minimum discernible signals. Do we really need to make a radio that is "more sensitive?" For our use right down here on earth, maybe not.

    For a guy who grew up in a time period that is regarded by many as one of the best time periods for the United States, and to have worked at putting a man on the moon, and seeing all of the benefits we have gained in so many different ways directly from that program and from offshoots related to it, including what we have available to us today in the way of photographic equipment that can consistently do a better job than we can with a "normal photographic scene," I am impressed. Fortunately, there are those scenes that are not "normal" where we still excel at making a truly fascinating photographic image.

    Having said all that, I can also state that I still like using my Minolta SR-1b, and my Kiev 88, and my SINAR F1. There is still a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment in producing a print of a photograph that you have made. This is not found in something that was done for you by a remarkably small computer inside the black box with a lens you were holding in your hands and pointing at the scene that interested you.


    Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
  10. Ralph Javins
    Ralph Javins
    Good morning, Mike;

    In your last message, you mentioned that the split-image used to aid in focusing the lens was "blacked out most of the time." That type focusing aid does work best at one specific focal length. It is intended to work like a "coincidence rangefinder" in a rangefinder camera where you align the two images to bring them together when the lens is in focus. When you go to a focal length away from that optimum point, yes, either the top or bottom, or both, will "black out" and not be very useful for focusing. Most often the manufacturer will intend the split-image system to work best with a "normal" lens on the camera. This is something in the camera viewfinder focusing screen, and not in the lens itself. Most of the instruction books will talk about the split-image center and how it is intended to work.

    Usually the focusing viewfinder screen will have a plain ground glass ring around the center spot which is intended for use in focusing when the split-image system does not work with a focal length different from the "normal" lens. If you have a lot of lenses, just a plain ground glass center may be a better choice for an aid in focusing with a range of lenses.

    Enjoy; Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
  11. xo-whiplock
    I just received a Minolta MD 28-85mm 3.5-4.5 Zoom (2touch) from an ebay auction... Well, to the point of the post above, I mounted the lens to my X-700 and the blacked out split screen focusing dot... Well, then I remembered the cross filter I put on to protect the front element while checking it out, I removed it to see if that was what was causing the problem. The split screen worked fine after that. I can only guess that the filter was blocking/redirecting the light away from center just enough to cause the darkening. It is possible that if you get a dark focus dot, it may indicate lack of center sharpness, wherefore primes are designed with center sharpness in mind for their focal length and zoom may have gaps in their ability to render sharp center focus at various focal lengths. However, I would think that a telephoto lens would be sharp for its set tele length and not cause the black dot, but this may have more to do with the lens being centrally sharp then focal length, and perhaps how much the lens is stopped down to limit center light... don't know.


    Just started using film again...
  12. xo-whiplock
    Well, I got my md 28-85mm macro zoom yesterday and had to fix it (real all about it in another post here). Paid $75 for what was advertised as EX, but turned out to be BGN really. Now that the wobbly focus is fixed (loose guide pins), it's a keeper. Lens glass is good with only a little bit of tinny marks that I don't think will affect picture quality. I'm not that picky right now, just want a zoom for when I don't want or can't take my primes with me. Good enough lens for general snap shots using just one lens. I'm interested in the 35-70mm (non-macro) now that I read it's well respected, and possibly better image quality. I have yet to finish a roll of film yet in either of my two cameras. I find I don't take a lot of pictures like I do with my DSLR. I tend to be more picky on what I shoot and how I shoot it using film. I'm going to force myself out tomorrow and finish off both rolls, one B&W, and the other Color. If any good pics happen by chance, I'll post them for comments and suggestions to help me improve.

    Thanks everyone

  13. upnorthcyclist
    Hi again, Craig

    I bought the very early 35-70 (both focus and zoom rings are rubber) and it is a very nice, sharp lens (surprising for an early zoom) and is constant-aperture, so it is easier to use on the non-auto SRT. It is built like a tank!

    At some point, though, I found a bargain on a 35mm MD Rokkor 2.8 prime, and I am now using this lens more than the zoom. It is very light and compact and has that extra stop. I like the 35mm focal length as a general shooter and found that I was shooting the zoom at its wide end mostly anyway.

    just a thought, as you now have that zoom range covered with your resurrected 28-85mm.

  14. Jayd
    I have used variable aperture zooms mostly Tamron for many years now on both SRT series and X700 Minolta cameras and have not experienced a serious draw back given the limitations of such lenses performance has been surprisingly good with the latest one a 28 to 200 adaptall 2 being remarkable wonderful for quick shooting on vacation and situations where need a lot for flexibility. Nothing beats the best of the native primes, but I think these zooms do beat some of the old not so good primes, if given the time and situation I to would rather set up with all fast primes nothing slower than 3.5.
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