Minolta MD 20mm 1:2.8 vs Canon FD 20mm 1:2.8 – comparison review

I have owned the Canon FD 2.8/20 for about a year now and I am mostly happy with it’s performance. Now I got the chance to test it against the smaller and lighter Minolta MD 20mm 1:2.8. So, how do they compare?


MinoltaCanon

 

Specifications

 Canon FD 2.8/20Minolta MD 2.8/20
Length62mm44mm
Diameter78mm 65mm
Weight305g240g
Filter Thread72mm55mm
Aperture Blades66
Short focusing distance25cm25cm

The Minolta MD 2.8/20 at  at ebay.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)
The Canon FD 2.8/20 at ebay.de | ebay.com (affiliate links)

Size, Weight and HandlingMinoltaMD20mmf2p8

The Minolta is pretty similar in size and weight to your usual 1.4/50mm lens. The Canon is noticeable bigger and heavier, most notable is the wider diameter.

Both lenses are well balanced on my Alpha 7, the Minolta lens a little better.CanonFD20mmf2p8

The Canon FD 2.8/20 has a much longer focus throw (about 160°) than the Minolta MD 2.8/20 (about 80°) and I the focusing is a bit smoother with it.

The aperture  ring of the Canon  is a bit hard to turn and I prefer the Minolta here. Both stop down in half steps to f/22.

Both lenses are mostly built from metal and feels solid but there are manual lenses which feel a bit nicer.

 

 Performance

Flare Resistance

Both lenses flare easily but I find the Minolta’s flares a bit less obnoxious and it has nicer sun stars.
I don’t own a lens hood for either lens so I can’t tell you if it would improve the performance.

Minolta MD 2.8/20 flare test
bad performance from the Minolta

 

Canon FD 2.8/20 flare test
and worse from the Canon

Distortion

haven’t checked yet

Vignetting

At f/2.8 both vignette a lot and you will notice it in almost any shot. By f/8.0 the Canon’s vignetting won’t be noticeably. The Minolta though shows noticeable vignetting even at f/11. This is the first lens were I ever noticed vignetting at f/8 ot even f/11 in my actual pictures.

 Bokeh

I think the Minolta’s bokeh is lousy and the Canons bokeh only bad.

Winter Evening
Minolta MD 2.8/20: very nervous bokeh at f/2.8

Untitled

The Canon is a little better but not by much

Sharpness

Minolta MD 20mm 1:2.8 infinity test series (link)
Canon FD 20mm 1:2.8 infinity test series (link)

At infinity both lenses are sharp in the center from f/2.8 with lots of coma and low contrast in the corners. But while the Minolta is really sharp only in the very center the sharp area of the Canon is much larger.

By f/5.6 the Canon shows very good sharpness across 95% of the frame with a very notable drop in the far corners.
The Minolta shows an unusual behavior: While the corners are about as good as those of the Canon the midzones are much less sharp.

At f/11 the Canon is sharp across the frame, only the last few pixels are soft. It also shows a bit of field curvature but in my experience that works in my favour more often than not.
The Minolta though has still very weak midzones while the corners are possibly even a bit bitter than those of the Canon.

Lets have a closer look at those midzones. For this image I focused on a tree about 40m away from the camera. The center and corners are pretty much indistinguishable so I don’t show them  but you can click on the image to see them in full resolution.Minolta MD 2.8/20 @f/8

For the Canon image click here.

midzone
100% crops, same distance from center

 

The tree in the distance is quite sharp when we look at the Canon but soft when we look at the Minolta. A detail less than 2m away from the camera shows only a little advantage for the FD 2.8/20. So field curvature plays a role in the Minolta’s bad performance.

Other

Canon FD 2.8/20 @f/8
notice the blue blob in the center

From time to time I have noticed a hotspot in images with my Canon FD 2.8/20, it was only in a very few images mostly at sunset but it can be a bit annoying.

 

Conclusion

To be honest: I was quite disappointed by the Minolta. My first impression was quite positive, it is small and light and even the corners were good. But the really bad performance in the midzones makes it hard to recommend.

The Canon isn’t perfect either and it is one of the bigger 20mm lenses of it’s era but all in all it is a very solid performer and I can recommend it.

The Minolta MD 2.8/20 at  ebay.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)
The Canon FD 2.8/20 at ebay.de | ebay.com (affiliate links)

Alternatives

I have no personal experience with other 20mm lenses but from what I have read online these lenses have a good reputation:

  • Olympus Zuiko 3.5/21  it is very small and users report good across the frame sharpness at the expense of a little less sharp center.
  • Voigtländer 3.5/20 It is another very small lens with good performance at f/8 and because it is a modern lens it seems to be very flare resistant. I plan to test one in the future but it is a bit more expensive  than the FD.
  • Zeiss 2.8/21 a legend of a lens with excellent across the frame sharpness from f/2.8. It is large heavy and expensive though.
  • Sony FE 4/16-35 unlike the FE 4/24-70 it is a very good performer and it will be sharper than the FD with better flare resistance and OSS. But it is also very expensive and rather large.

Sample Images Minolta MD 20mm 1:2.8

Minolta MD 2.8/20

Minolta MD 2.8/20

Minolta MD 2.8/20

A few more can be found in this set.

Sample Images Canon FD 20mm 1:2.8

Canon_FD_20mmf2p8_f11
f/11

 

Canon FD 2.8/20 @f/11
f/11

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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.

29 thoughts on “Minolta MD 20mm 1:2.8 vs Canon FD 20mm 1:2.8 – comparison review”

  1. Phillip, you are my idol. My A7ii is arriving in the mail tomorrow! (I decided to spend the extra cash to get the image stabilization.)

    I’ve been debating on whether or not I’ll need a 20mm lens in additon to the Minolta MD 28mm 2.8 I already purchased. I’ve been studying up on all the Minolta and Canon FD options with spreadsheets and everything, so this article was perfectly timed. Sounds like the Canon is the way to go if I decide I need something wider. Thanks!!

    1. There is the “lens compensation app” that can add exif to picture directly within the camera …. BUT it is not free, slow down the camera, and might certainly eat battery (which is already too short) … so I think the best is to keep track, and later, after exporting pictures on a computer adding exif. The LR plugin lenstagger is very handy for that.

  2. Thanks for the effort again, Phillip.
    I have seen some other of your comparisons. Mostly comparisons about Minolta, Canon.
    Du you have planned to expand it with other brands in the future ?
    Currently, I prefer low weighted rangefinder lenses.
    Would be great to see some comparisons of those tiny lenses as well.

    Regards

    Heiko Bertram

    1. Hi Bertram,
      my plan is to specialize in manual lenses and to build some kind of database which covers the most important manual lenses.
      I got into manual lenses because of Minolta leses and I know that system the best so I started the Minolta list and people offered me to borrow their lenses, the MD 2.8/20 is one of them. I also own a few Canon FD lenses and I will review them as well.
      When I am finished with that I will certainly have a look at other lenses but this will take some more time.

      About rangefinder lenses: Many of them perform quite bad because of the sensor stack and they are usually expensive so they aren’t my first priority, but if someone offered to borrow me a lens why not?

  3. Hi Philip…
    Dein Blog hat mich auf die A7 aufmerksam werden lassen.
    Hab seit einer Woche die A7 M2. Bin total begeistert. Werde demnächst in alte adaptierte Schätze investieren.
    Mal sehen was dabei rauskommt. das “entschleunigte” fotografieren kenne ich ja schon von der Fuji X-E1 und X-T1.
    Aber ich wollte einfach mal in FF investieren.
    Vielen Dank für deinen Blog…
    Hilft mir ungemein!
    Gruß Matthias

  4. Es könnte sein, dass das 20mm schlechter ist als das ältere Rokkor 21mm 2,8. Einige Hinweise auf artaphot.ch legen das nahe, und ohne jetzt direkt vergleichen zu können, finde ich mein 21mm besser. Es ist aber auch groß und schwer.

    Von meiner jüngsten Neuerwerbung, einem Olympus 21mm f3,5 in neuwertigem Zustand, wird es aber abgehängt. Und das Oly ist klein und leicht.

  5. Phillip – Thank you very much for conducting this test!
    I have the FD20/2.8 and was expecting the Minolta to trump it (I know how much you use and rate the Minolta lenses), however I have been pleasantly surprised.

    Not in the same FL, however I will mention the Rollei (Zeiss) 25/2.8 Distagon that I have used with great pleasure on my Canon DLSR and now the Sony A7R. Rollei lenses are still quite cheap and I scored a bargain on that occasion. Of course the rangefinder Zeiss ZM 25/2.8 on the A7R really performs poorly, however not so the SLR Rollei lens.

    With regards from Australia

    1. Hello David!
      At least from my personal experience, Minoltas were my first ever legacy lenses so I started collecting them until I got a Canon FD 24mm F2.8 for what was supposed to be a temporary replacement lens for my Sony SEL35 that I sold due to $$ issues at the time.
      Well, that lens floored me so much (center resolution, contrast and rendering) that I started getting more FD lenses and comparing them to my Minoltas…long story short, I have ZERO Minolta/Rokkor lenses left after all my tests. 🙂

  6. Thanks for this post!

    I have had this MD 20mm 2.8. The results I obtained were exactly as what you describe: there were a soft donut in the pictures!

  7. Thanks for your review. This confirms my and others findings on this lens and the sharpness fall off in the mid zones. I bought the 21mm 2.8 Rokkor which is a heavy beast but has improved performance and bokeh. I haven’t done a sharpness test v the 20mm. I would love to see your thoughts on this lens. Nick

  8. This review came just in time.
    I am looking for a 20mm lens, and now I know it will not be the Minolta because of its performance, and it will not be the Canon due to its size.
    I am thinking of getting a Nikon AF-D 20/2.8.
    It is affordable, small and light, and will not be problematic on my A7II.
    I know it is not a MF lens, but I still hope the focus ring will be acceptable.
    I’ll be glad to hear your opinion.

    1. three things to consider: 1) AFAIK the manual AI-S Version is optically the same as the AF-D Version
      2) it is only a little smaller than the Canon FD lens
      3) from the reivews I have read th Canon will have betetr corner performance

  9. Schoener Test, Danke. I am happy that I missed the Rokkor in an auction and bought then the Canon which easier to find. I am happy with this lens.
    I mounted the FE 16/35 on my A7 . It is hudge indeed !

  10. Habe ich nicht ganz so erwartet, nun bleibt es beim Canon FD 2.8 20 mm. Die Aufnahme vom Brunnen mit Marktplatz (Canon FD 2.8 20mm) ist aus Bielefeld – gut getroffen! Gruß JP

  11. I just scored a FD 20mm for less than $50 so while I am more thank likely going to sell it to keep saving for the FD 300mm 2.8, I will test it against my Samyang 14mm and the Phoenix 19-35mm for fun. 😀

      1. Yeah I dont get that lucky so often so its good when I score one even though my previous experience with the FD 24mm and 17mm were not very good corners/edges but that was on APS-C with turbo adapter so that likely influenced the results too. So far it seems, when it comes to wider lenses, newer lens outperform older ones in many case at least from the ones I have tried.

  12. I am intrigued by the MD’s performance here, as the only MTF graph I’ve seen for it is for the AF version that’s supposed to be the same design, and that seems to show exactly the opposite to your result, with a mid zone peak, not trough, and very poor extreme corners! CA also looks bad, especially in mid zone. (I think that’s what the F/8 result shows, but interpreting MTFs isn’t a strong point.)
    http://www.photodo.com/lens/Minolta-AF-20mm-f28-712/images
    Anyway, I’m trying to get one to verify. Of course it might have had a major rework for the AF version, even if the basic design is still 12:9

    1. You already found out that the AF version is a redesugn with a much wider (72mm) filter thread. I think the copy I tested might have had issues with the floating elements, they can be adjusted and might have been out of spec on this copy, causing the massive midzone drop.

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