Review: Minolta MC Rokkor 1:1.7 55mm on Sony a7

Minolta MC 1.7/55 Sony a7
Minolta MC 1.7/55

This week I review the Minolta MC 1.7/55 which was introduced in 1966 and it is currently my favorite normal  lens because of it’s small size,  good bokeh and sharpness at f/1.7 and great built quality. 

Sample Images

Sony a7 | Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7
Sony a7 | Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7
Sony a7 | Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/2.8
Sony a7 | Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/2.8

Sony a7 | Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7
Sony a7 | Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7

Specifications

Diameter 63 mm
Length 37 mm
Filter Diameter 52 mm
Weight 230g
Max. Magnification ~0.13
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 55 cm
Number of aperture blades 6
Elements/ Groups 6 / 5

The Minolta MC 1.7/55 at ebay.de | ebay.com | ebay.co.uk (affiliate links)

Versions

Minolta made two very similar versions of the MC 1.7/55.

  • The first version was introduced in 1966 and it has a flat focusing ring.
  •  The second version was introduced in 1970, it has a focusing ring of the hill/valley type but otherwise it is very similar to the first version. My copy is of this type.

Both versions are available with and without stop down lever.

Minolta also made quite a few other 55mm lenses with f-stops of 1.8, 1.9 and 2 about which I can’t really tell you anything.

Data according to the Minolta manual lenses list.

Compatibility

Minolta MC 1.7/55 Sony a7 You can use the lens on a wide range of old Minolta SR film-cameras like the Minolta XD-7 or X-700.

Because of the flange-focal-distance of Minolta SR lenses all adapters for DSLR cameras either contain an optical element which will reduce image quality a lot or you lose infinity focus. I wouldn’t bother to use one of those adapters.

Mirrorless cameras have a much shorter flange focal distance and  you can buy adapters for Fuji-X, Sony-E, Micro Four Thirds and Samsung NX which work very well.

I usually recommend Sony Alpha 7 cameras for the use with older manual lenses because they are the only ones with a fullframe sensor and in my experience most lenses work best on the larger sensor. But I got nice results with this lens on the Nex-5n as well.

Here are links to adapters for Minolta SR to Sony E mount cameras: Amazon.com | Amazon.de (affiliate links). I use an expensive Novoflex adapter (link to my review) but the cheaper ones usually work well enough.

Built Quality

Typically for Minolta MC lenses the lens is made to the highest standards from nothing but glass and metal with very low tolerances. All the numbers are engraved and even tough I have used the lens quite a bit it shows very little signs of wear. It doesn’t get any better than this, the $1000 FE 1.8/55 is not built as well.

Size, Weight and Handling

Minolta MC 1.7/55 on my Sony Alpha 7

The lens is small and light and so it feels very well balanced on my rather light Alpha 7, as well as on my small Nex-5n.

The focusing ring travels about 80° from 55cm to 1m and a further 45° to infinity.

The focus throw is just right for portraits and also landscape images.  

The short focusing distance of 55 cm is a bit high, most normal lenses have a short focusing distance of 45 cm but this is partially compensated by the longer focal length. 

Minolta MC 1.7/55 Sony a7
Minolta MC 1.7/55 focused at infinity

The metal made aperture  ring of the has a perfect resistance and distinctive stops.

There is no  stop between f/1.7 and f/2.8 which is a bit annoying because it is a bit hard to set an aperture between both stops.

From f/2.8 it stops down half steps to f/16. The filter thread does not rotate when the lens is focused which makes the usage of  polarizers easier but the diameter of 52mm is quite unusual for a Minolta lens, from about 1968 nearly all Minolta lenses had a standard 55m filter thread.
The lens extends by about 6mm when focused to 1.2 meters.

Lens Hood

I don’t own the original lens hood, so I can’t provide you with a picture. It’s Minolta code name was D52ND and it is 26mm deep. Search for the original hood on ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Optical Performance

Flare Resistance

Flare resistance is not a strength of this lens, the old coatings take their toll here. See my comparison of the MC 1.7/55 against the Sony FE 1.8/55 for a rather dramatic demonstration of this.Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/2.8

But this doesn’t mean that  all back-lit scenes are problematic, here is an example of a backlit scene without significant contrast loss.Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7

Distortion

Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/8
a7 | f/8 |   LR default settings, no CA correction

A very very small amount of barrel distortion, not relevant for any application.

Vignetting

There is some vignetting at f/1.7 which is reduced a lot by f/2.8 and gone by f/4. This is much better than most f/1.4 or f/1.2 lenses which have a lot more vignetting at their fastest aperture.

Chromatic Aberations

Lateral CA are very very well corrected and barely visible.

LoCA  are visible in critical situation but not too obtrusive.

DSC09281

Bokeh

Bokeh (the quality, not the quantity of the out of focus areas) is a subjective and complex thing but I think the Minolta MC 1.7/55 performs very well here.

There is a somewhat defined edge around oof highlight blur discs, especially at longer distances but so far i haven’t seen a classic normal lens were that isn’t the case and I would rank the 1.7/55 among the best normal lenses like the Minolta MC 1.2/58 in this regard.

Minolta MC Rokkor 55mm 1:1.7 bokeh
f/1.7 close subject – click for full resolution
DSC09270-2
f/1.7

Minolta MC Rokkor 55mm 1:1.7
f/1.7 medium distance subject with busy background – click for full resolution
Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7
f/1.7 further away subject with less busy background – click for full resolution

Sharpness

Sharpness Test Infinity click for full resolution

f/1.7: The center shows good sharpness and there is only a little falloff towards the mid frame are. The corners are soft with lots of coma. I don’t hesitate to use this aperture for portraits. 

f/2.8: The center improves quite a bit to very good levels as does the midframe area which improves to good levels, the corners remain soft.

f/4: The lens is very sharp across most of the frame.

f/5.6: Now even the corners are very good and only the far  corner is still soft.

f/8: Sharpness extends a little more, towards the far corners but there are still a few pixels which are a bit soft.

f/11: Very good across the whole frame with a small loss in the center.

A solid  performance, f/1.7 is good enough for portraits with less spherical aberration than Minoltas f/1.4 or f/1.2 lenses have at their fastest aperture but the f/1.7 has less resolution.
Stopped down to f/8 the last few pixels in the corners aren’t very sharp, on most other normal lenses they are but this hardly matters as 99% of the image are very very sharp.  

Compared to other lenses

  • The Minolta MC 1.2/58 is much more expensive, much bigger and more than twice as heavy. At f/1.2 is has a lot more spherical aberration (lower contrast) than the 55 at f/1.7 which reduces the sharpness impression but it actually has a higher resolution. At f/2 and f/2.8 it is a bit sharper, by f/8 the difference is small. I think the 1.7/55 is a good low price alternative to it, you get 95% of the performance for 105 of the price.
    sample images | 478g | about $350 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link)
  • The Minolta MD 2/50 is even smaller, lighter and sharper,  but it hasn’t as nice bokeh and feels much cheaper. Together they are a great kit, the 2/50 is great for landscapes and the 1.7/55 for portraits.
     sample images | 150g | about $15 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link
  • The Sony FE 1.8/55 costs about 30 times as much and it is sharp to the corners from f/1.8 with very smooth bokeh. Bokeh is also exceptionally smooth. Built quality is not as good as that of 1.7/55 and the manual focusing experience is certainly inferior.
    direct comparisonsample images | 281g | about $700 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link
  • The Canon nFD 1.4/50 is sharper and faster but I don’t like the bokeh as much and built quality is inferior as well.
     sample images | 235g | about $50 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link)

Conclusion

good

  • built quality
  • bokeh
  • size and weight
  • price
  • low CA and Distortion
average

  • vignetting
  • you need to stop down to f/8 for sharp corners
not good

  • flare resistance
  • a little less sharp than it’s peers

I don’t like to use Minolta’s other normal lenses below f/2 because they have quite low contrast and a little nervous bokeh at f/1.2 or f/1.4. My Canon FD 1.4/50 is sharp enough at f/1.4 but it has quite busy bokeh. I don’t hesitate to use the 1.7/55 at f/1.7 so effectively it is my best lens for isolating a subject from it’s surroundings.  

Combine that with a small size, beautiful built quality and a low price and you know why it is my favorite normal lens at the moment.

There are of course some limitations, the lens is a little less sharp than than other normal lenses at f/2 and f/2.8. Stopped down to f/8 it is very sharp, like any other normal lens I know but with a little softness in the far corners. Flare resistance is not a strength of it as well.

All in all the Minolta MC 1.7/55 is what I would call a very good compromise. It does not excel at anything but it also lacks the limitations of many other lenses and it is small and affordable.

————
You can buy the Minolta MC 1.7/55 at ebay.de | ebay.com | ebay.co.uk  (affiliate links). For tips on how to get a good copy read my article Lens defects and buying advice.

The right adapter to use this lens on a Alpha 7 series camera can be found on Amazon.com | Amazon.de (affiliate links).

Thanks for showing your support buy using one of the above links 🙂
————

Sample Images Minolta MC 1.7/55

All Images are processed in Lightroom from Raw. You can see the full resolution by clicking on the image and then selecting download

Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/1.7
Sony a7 | f/1.7 | good sharpness in the center
DSC03537
Sony a7 | f/1.7
Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/8
Sony a7 | f/8
Minolta MC 1.7/55 | f/8
Sony a7 | f/8 | note the drop in sharpness in the far corner

You can find more full resolution images in this flickr set: Minolta MC 1.7/55 full resolution sample images

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

38 thoughts on “Review: Minolta MC Rokkor 1:1.7 55mm on Sony a7”

  1. I’ve got a minolta 50 1.7. I’ve bit been able to find any info online about it, only the 55 1.7. Do you know why this would be? I can barely prove it exists!

  2. Hello. I greatly appreciate your objectivity, as that can make wise choices. Regarding this “55”, I completely agree with all your comments. With regard to the lack of the half-stop between f1,7 and f2,8, it is possible to correct with a simple removal of the f-stop ring, which is very easy to perform. You can easily engrave a small groove between f1,7 and f2,8. We gain a little more contrast and sharpness, without affecting the quality of bokeh. We can make this change to other lenses of MC / MD series, which are later than this “55”.

    I would like to point out that Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 50mm f1,7 is still a little better performer, than this very good MC Rokkor-PF 55mm f1,7. Its overall quality is very high, but the quality of the bokeh is really superbe. In contrast, I’m a little disappointed with the 50mm f1,7 MD (MD III). This lens is not bad, but both PF are much better.

    I think, that a lot of Minolta lenses are simply underestimated, while many others are simply overestimated. In short, I do not trust to popular belief. I test, then I make my own opinion.

    In the 100 mm focal length, my secret weapon on the NEX 5n and 7 is the small and very compact Minolta AUTO TELE ROKKOR-QE 100mm f3,5 (AR II). Underestimated by ignorance, therefore very cheap, this lens does wonders right from the wide open.

    1. Thanks for the tip, took me 15 minutes to add the additional stop!

      I will keep my eyes open for the 3.5/100 they are indeed very affordable (but not very common) and I could use a very small tele lens.

      1. Yes, this trick can take about 15 minutes. This idea came to mind by observing the behavior of the diaphragm between open wide and f2.8.
        I found that this variation is very huge, and sometimes useless. In short, I wanted to improve the rendering of the image, without any time to get at f2,8.

        Concerning Rokkor QE-100mm, calorimetric rendering is a bit cold, but it is easily adjusted in the camera or in post-processing. Its behavior is similar to Minolta MC Rokkor 200mm f4. Great wide open, and f5.6 is already perfect. The resolution is very high, but I do not know how this lens will behave on the full frame sensor. Construction is worthy of a Leica.

        1. Minoltista or Phillip – I would also like to hear more about the mod to the aperture ring!
          Minoltista – Do you know if your AUTO TELE ROKKOR-QE 100mm f3,5 is optically the same as the MC TELE ROKKOR-QE 100mm f3,5? (Difference in the “auto” vs “MC”)? The MC is approximately 70 grams lighter and a bit shorter. I believe it would be one of the most compact 100mm lenses available. Thanks!

          1. Jordan, filter thread on AR II is 55mm, while MC is 52mm, but theoretically there should not be a difference between AR II and MC, because the optical design is the same. In practice, I do not know, because I have only the second version (1962).

      2. Could Philip or Minoltista post a quick “how to” guide on adding a stop between f1.7 and 2.8? I think the bokeh also improves slightly stopped down (specular highlights have less defined rings) and I often shoot at f2, but it would be great to have the stop. And I am hesitant to take apart my lens without knowing what do do!
        Great insights Philip, I think the 55/1.7 and 50/2 are the strongest and most underrated of Minolta’s nifty fifties, for the reasons you outline.

          1. Perfect, great guide, thanks much minoltista! Without it, I would have started with the wrong screws and wouldn’t have thought to set it at f16 … Will try to get to it this weekend.

  3. Phillip – you probably already noticed this, but today’s lightroom CC update included lens profiles for a number of legacy minolta lenses! Interested to hear your take on your collection…

  4. Hi
    after seeing your review ,last week i got one in mint condition,i don’t have any adapter for my canon so i modified the mount to EF mount successfully to focus up to infinitive also.
    already i converted some minolta lenses before like 100mm f4 ,vivitar varie focus 35-85 2.8,45mm f2,50mm 1.7 like that .So i will try my copy soon and post some pictures

  5. Hallo Phillip,
    super Test, danke.
    Ich habe auch ein Minolta MC 1.7/55 an der A7.
    Ist eins meiner Lieblings 50er (55).
    Immer wenn ich mir Bilder anschaue die mit dem 55 Rokkor
    gemacht wurden bin ich immer wieder begeistert wie gut das Ding ist.
    Wunderschönes Bokeh. Abgeblendet auch für Landschaften Klasse.
    Aus diesen Gründen habe ich mir auch den Vorgänger, das Auto Rokkor 55/1,8
    besorgt.
    Das Teil ist in der Verarbeitung noch mal wesentlich besser als das mc 55/1,7.
    Ca 330 Grad Fokusweg.
    Schärfer in der Bildmitte bei F 1.8.
    Farbe, Kontrast Bokeh kann ich noch nicht abschließend beurteilen da das Wetter
    im Augenblick nicht ganz so toll ist für schöne Fotos.
    Aber es besteht die Möglichkeit, dass mir das alte Auto Rokkor noch besser
    als mein geliebtes Mc 55 gefällt.

    Grüße Jörg

  6. Phillip, It is really exciting to see you reviewed this lens, and I just bought one from Ebay for my A7, But I could’t use the MF after I attached it with a cheap adapter, the system couldn’t recognize the lens, Does this normal for these Minolta vintage lenses?

    Thanks,
    Qi

  7. I just got one of these with a camera from eBay. Fungus on the lens. It was only $30 so I will throw it away and not be so cheap next time. So annoying after reading this review before it arrived.

  8. Hey Phillip, my name is Emily and I am interested in purchasing a manual lens for my sony a6000 for the purpose of portraits, candids, and other close up, detailed photography. I’ve been reading through your reviews, but was wondering if you had any specific suggestions for my camera/desired type of photography.

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate your help and all the great information you provide on your blog!

    Sincerely,

    Emily

  9. I got this 55/1.7 lens, then I got a Fotodiox adapter from Amazon, but I found I cannot change aperture by the ring on lens unless I push the lever stick on the back of lens. Is my adapter not correct or is there a special way to change aperture?

  10. This was the review I was looking for – I find these reviews immensely informative, but I haven’t had any overlap between the lenses you’ve reviewed and the lenses I have until I found this one. Now I that I have a point of reference between your observations and my own, I can put some of my other lenses in context of your reviews when I’m trying to decide whether I should upgrade a given lens.

    Before my new A7II, I’ve been collecting (and receiving as presents from well-intentioned friends) manual lenses for years that I’ve been able to use on my old AE-1 or with my IR NEX-3, but they were only a novelty on my Sony A700 without focus aids and with infinity focus issues. Now things are entirely different and I’m trying to fill out a complimentary prime set. I’m starting with:

    Canon FD 135mm f/2.5 S.C.
    Canon FD 35mm f/2 S.S.C. concave (thorium!)
    Canon FD 50mm f/1.8
    Minolta MC Rokkor 55mm f/1.7 (really rough shape but optically fine)
    Pentax Takumar SMC 55mm f/1.8 (also thoriated I believe)
    Minolta MC Macro Rokkor QF 50mm f/3.5

    The canon 35mm is my favorite, an old shopkeeper who was a former Navy photographer sold his copy to me, so the kit starts there.

    I haven’t picked out a favorite among the 50/55 set yet to carry. I love the tiny size and bulid quality of the Takumar 55/1.8, but I suspect it’s outclassed by the Minolta 55/1.7. The bokeh on the Takumar is a little less smooth. I haven’t been able to shoot the exact same scene yet, but I think the Minolta 55/1.7 is sharper in the corners at f/2.8.

    Some day I’ll find something wider than 35mm and something around 90mm, and your reviews will be my primary source to help decide!

  11. Another excellent review.
    I just ordered a PF 55 1.7, and MC Rokkor-X 50mm 1.7. Will be interesting to compare them to the FE55 1.8. It’s amazing how well some of these legacy lenses stack up to modern variants.
    You’re reviews are addictive…

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