35mm Shoot-out
Four Minolta 35mm Lenses Compared
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Light Falloff
The images below show the performance of the lenses wide open, with commentary about performance at other apertures.

35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X

35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X @ f/1.8
The 35mm f/1.8 MD Rokkor-X records some light falloff (as shown above) when wide open, but the image remins useable and the falloff is considered to be acceptable. At f/2.8 a very minor level of light falloff is noticeable on close scrutiny, but would be unnoticed in general photography. At f/4 the lightfalloff is gone completely. This is considered to be an excellent result for a fast lens.

35mm f/2.8 MD W.Rokkor

35mm f/2.8 MD W.Rokkor @ f/2.8
The 35mm f/2.8 MD Rokkor performs excellently, as demonstrated above, with a moderate level of light falloff at f/2.8, which is predominantly gone at f/4 and completely gone at f/5.6. This is another great result for the inexpensive 35mm f/2.8 lens.

35mm f/2.8 Shift CA Rokkor

35mm f/2.8 Shift CA Rokkor @ f/2.8
As one would expect given it's image circle is considerably larger than the 35mm frame, the shift lens records negligible light falloff at f/2.8, and no falloff at f/4.

28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom

28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom @ f/3.5
The 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD performs excellently, with negligible light falloff wide open as can be seen above, and in the image to the right. I must admit that I have been very impressed by the performance of this lens at 35mm.
Lens Distortion

Lens distortion can be defined as an aberration of a lens or lens system whereby a square object is imaged with either concave (pincusion distortion) or convex (barrel distortion) lines. What this means in every-day language is that straight lines that are at the edges of the frame appear curved in lenses with higher levels of distortion.

To test this issue, an image has been taken with a straight line at the bottom of the frame, and then in photoshop a perfectly straight horizontal line has been over-laid on top of the image. The variance from the straight line shows the level of distortion of the lens.

35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X
The 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X performs well in terms of distortion, with only a minor variaton from the perfect straight line.
35mm f/2.8 MD W.Rokkor
The f/2.8 lens performs almost as well as the f/1.8, with only very minor barrel distortion.
35mm f/2.8 Shift CA Rokkor
The Shift CA records moderately more distortion than the other two primes, but it is still very minor and effectively unnoticeable in real world applications.
28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom
I expected the 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom to perform significantly worse than the prime lenses in this distortion test, and while it did record a higher level of distortion the performance of the lens was quite reasonable.

When starting this lens test I certainly had certain expectations with respect to the results. First of all, I expected my 35mm f/1.8 W.Rokkor-X to outperform the much cheaper 35mm f/2.8 W.Rokkor. Secondly, I expected the zoom to live up to my previous experience and lag significantly behind the other three lenses in terms of sharpness.

However, after conducting the tests I have found that both of these preconceptions were incorrect. In fact, in my opinion the two stars of this review are the two lenses I expected to perform worst.

Firstly, the 35mm f/2.8 W.Rokkor has proven itself to be a stellar performer, recording outstanding sharpness, with minimal distortion and good light falloff characteristics. Given that this lens often sells on ebay for under $60, these results demonstrate that this lens represents fantastic value for a photographer seeking professional results on a budget.

Secondly, the 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom performed head and shoulders above my expectations, and delivered outstanding sharpness and light falloff characteristics. While I do not hesitate to admit that I am a fan of prime lenses, the results of this test have certainly told me that I need to be prepared to consider zooms. Given the convenience of this focal length range, if the 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom performs similarly at other focal lengths I will without question be making it a regular inclusion in my bag.


28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 MD Zoom, 28mm setting, 2 seconds at f/8. Film: Fuji Superia Reala


One aspect of the performance of these lenses that was not tested was their resistance to flare, and the contrast of the lenses. I expect that with it's more complex optical formula that the 28-85mm will suffer more from these issues than the primes, however through the use of an appropriate hood, this issue can be managed.

I was a little disappointed in the performance of the 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X, as based upon my previous history with this lens I expected it to outperform all-comers. Certainly, I had always found its performance to be outstanding, even with up to 20x30 inch enlargements. It is worth noting, however, that the tests conducted here are fairly rigorous, and if the crops shown in the resolution testing were printed at the same size as they appear on screen, the resulting image would be almost 10 feet wide by 6 feet high. Certainly, the performance of the f/1.8 lens is more than enough for even the largest enlargements regularly made from 35mm negatives, and with the extra speed provided by the f/1.8 maximum aperture, it remains a lens that I would highly recommend to anyone with a Minolta manual focus system.

The 35mm f/2.8 Shift CA Rokkor was a truly amazing lens to use. The shift feature of the lens makes it a natural for architectural and landscape photography, and the excellent performance of the lens at all apertures means that the user can be extremely confident that the images it produces are of professional quality , and capable of significant enlargement. I will naturally be conducting an extensive review on this lens in due course.

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