Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 Review

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The Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 is one of the smallest and cheapest Minolta lenses and most importantly it is also an excellent lens for landscape photography.

Specifications

Diameter 64 mm
Length 36 mm
Filter Thread 49 mm
Weight 150g
Max. Magnification 0.15
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 45cm
Number of aperture blades 6
Elements/ Groups 6/5
Price (June 2015): $10-30 in good condition.
Check current prices at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links).

Image Samples

 

the last beer
Sony Alpha 7 | Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 | f/2
Spring
Sony Alpha 7 | Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 | f/2
SonnigerMorgen
Sony Alpha 7 | Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 | f/8

You can find some more samples in this flickr set: Minolta MD 50mm 1:2.

Versions

Minolta made three different 2/50’s

  1. The Minolta MC Rokkor 50mm 1:2 was introduced in 1973
  2. The Minolta MD Rokkor 50mm 1:2  was introduced in 1977. As it’s predecessor it has a 55mm filter thready and weights 230g.
  3. The Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 was introduced in 1981, it has a 49mm filter thread and only weights 150g.

This review is about the 3rd version which is lighter and I think it has a new optical design.

For more technical details visit the Minolta SR lens index.

Build quality and handling

Minolta_MD_50mm_f2
By today’s standards the built quality is very good but compared to the best manual lenses it isn’t that good. It feels a little plasticky.

The barrel and the mount are made from metal and anything else is made from plastics or glass.

Focusing Ring

The focusing ring travels around 90 degrees from 45cm  to 1m and a further 40 degrees to infinity.

The focusing ring isn’t the smoothest, resistance is a bit higher than I prefer it but it is still good.

Aperture

The aperture ring has full stops from f/2.0 to f/2.8 and f/16 to f/22 and half stops from f/2.8 to f/16.

The aperture ring is made from plastics and clicks quite nicely.

The lens has 6 straight aperture blades .

Hood

The front element is about 1cm recessed from the front of the lens so it is well protected from the sun and scratching. I think this is really handy because I can throw it in my camera bag without a lens cap or hood and don’t have to worry about it.

I don’t own the original hood but I have one similar to this (affiliate link) which works very well.

Size and Weight

It is the smallest SLR lens I own and even if you include the adapter few M-mount lenses are smaller. And people pay lots of money because these are so small.

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Optical performance

These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7.

Flare Resistance

About average performance: You can’t shoot directly into the sun because you get ugly flares but with not that powerful light sources there is only a small drop in contrast and little flare.

Bokeh

Bokeh is neither a strength nor a weakness of this lens. My Minolta MC 1.2/58 has nicer bokeh. But the Minolta’s bokeh seldom distracting.

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f/2 | some outlining
Eilean Donan Castle
f/2
lake district
f/2

 

Chromatic Aberrations

Lateral chromatic aberrations are very well controlled and more or less not visible!

Axial chromatic aberrations (“bokeh fringing”)  can be visible at faster apertures.

Distortion

I don’t see any. Most other 50mm lenses have a moderate amount of barrel distortion but the Minolta MD 2/50 does not. This really surprised me.

Minolta MD 2/50 | f/8 | Distortion test
Minolta MD 2/50 | f/8 | Distortion test

Sharpness

Minolta_MD_50mmf2

f/2: Sharpness in the center is very good and the midframe area is sharp as well. Even the far corners have good resolution but contrast is very low.

f/2.8: The center and midframe region improves to excellent levels, contrast in the corners improves as well but it is still a bit low.

f/4-8: Excellent center and midframe region with very good corners.

f/11: Diffraction reduces image quality to very good levels

This is similar performance to most other 50s in the center but the corners sharpen up faster than with any other 50mm lens I have used.

 Alternatives

  • Minolta MC 1.2/58: many times as expensive and three times as heavy but it has very nice bokeh and a better portrait lens. It is also a very good lens for landscapes but it has more CA and you need to stop down to f/8 for very sharp  corners.
  • Canon nFD 1.4/50The Canon’s strengths is its faster aperture and the superior performance at f/1.4 (compared to other 1.4/50 lenses). It is also cheap and small. The Minolta 2/50 is a better landscape lens because the corners are sharper at wider apertures.
  • Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 C/Y: This lens is also optimised for landscape photography and I see a little more micro contrast. But it is one of the most expensive classic 50mm lenses.

Conclusion

The Minolta MD 2/50 is my favorite hiking lens: It is small and very light weight and it is also one of my sharpest lenses. The corners improve faster than I am used to from other 50mm lenses, by f/2.8 they are very usable.  Most other normal lenses need to be stopped down to f/5.6 to reach a similar performance. By f/8 the lens is very very sharp across the frame.

For portraits I prefer other 50mm lenses which have nicer bokeh but the bokeh is not so bad that it would really ruin a portrait.

So all in all a very good performer which is small, light and affordable. I wouldn’t recommend it as your only 50mm lens but it’s great as a small landscape lens. At current prices below $30 it offers great value.

If you consider buying one please use one of my affiliate links and support my work: Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links).

Images Samples in full resolution

Minolta MD 2/50 | f/2.8
Sony a7 | f/2.8 | note the sharpness in the lower right corner!
Minolta MD 2/50 | f/8
Sony a7 | f/8
Minolta MD 2/50 | f/8
Sony a7 | f/8

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Sony a7 | f/2

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Sony a7 | f/2

You can find more images in this flickr set: Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 full resolution samples

 Further Reading

For more Minolta lenses check out my Minolta list.

To learn about manual lenses in general this beginners guide for a7 users might be helpful.

 

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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.

37 thoughts on “Minolta MD 50mm 1:2 Review”

  1. Affordable, seems to be the main reason for this old Minolta standard lens! There are so many other comparable lenses available, which are on the same quality level, so this lens seems to be not very special! Just my 2 Cents!

    1. I disagree.
      Size and corner sharpness at larger apertues set this lens apart from most other normal lenses. Distortion and CA are also better controlled than with most other normal lenses.

      I own about a dozen normal lenses and when a light camera bag matters this is the lens I choose.

  2. Great review!
    Any idea how this lens compares to his +/- equally affordable siblings: The Minolta MD 1.7/50mm and the Minolta MD 2/45mm?

  3. Phillip, what do you think about this minolta and c/y Zeiss Planar 1.7/50 if you have a chance to test this cheaper (than 1.4/50) zeiss?

      1. Perhaps you are thinking of the Contax G 45mm f/2? It’s got excellent contrast and sharpness wide open. Probably the best to be had without getting an Otus 55mm f/1.4 or Leica APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0.

        I haven’t used the Minolta MD 50mm f/2, so I can’t compare it directly, but I’d disagree with you on the C/Y Contax Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7. Definitely not the lens I’d pick if wide open sharpness and contrast was my priority. My Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 SSC and Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 (Ai?) both are better wide open. It is better wide open than the C/Y Contax 50/1.4, at least comparing my two copies.

        Even so, I really like the C/Y Contax 50/1.7. At f/2.8 and smaller, it’s quite sharp and contrasty, lots of pop. It can be had for as low as $150, which isn’t bad. It’s best quality is the bokeh/transition. For some reason, it allows a nice separation from background at distances that I wouldn’t expect. It has a shallower depth of field than my other 50s given the same distance and aperture. I’m not sure how this works, but I’ve verified it by comparing it with a few other 50s a while back.

        1. I actually own the Contax 2/45 but it is abit defective. Certainly not my favourite lens when bokeh is concerned but it is a very sharp lens, no doubt about that.

          I don’t own the C/Y 1.7/50 but I think Zeiss’ MTF graph supports that it is quite good at f/1.7 but the G 2/45 or a FE 1.8/55 is certainly better.

    1. there are two versions of it and the older one with the flat focusing ring seems to be weaker than the newer one with the knurled focusing ring. I think both are a little weaker than Minolta’s other 1.4 lenses but they have nice bokeh. The second version seems to bet noticeably better.

  4. Hi,

    Can Anybody help ? 🙂

    Do I need an adapter to make this fit my Sony A7? If so, which adapter should I choose?

    Thanks 🙂

  5. I did a test on my own comparing it to several of my 50s, comparing wide open, f/2 and f/2.8 and f/4 corner sharpness specifically in mind. Did a Test at 8 feet and infinity.

    on my lens turbo ii and a6000. This lens is significantly better at f/2 and marginnally better at f/4 than:

    MD 50mm 1.4
    MD 50mm 1.7
    MD 45mm 2
    Mc rokkor-pg 50mm 1.4
    MD rokkor 50mm 1.7 (55mm filter)
    MC rokkor 55mm 1.9
    MC rokkor 55mm 1.7
    Super Takumar 50mm 1.4 (8-elements)
    SMC Takumar 55mm 1.8
    EBC Fujinon 50mm 1.4
    Helios 44M 58mm 2
    Chinon MC 55mm 1.4

  6. One of my best 50mm at f2 across the frame. In the center I have some better lens at f2 but this Minolta seems not to have a lot of field curvature and not much spherical aberration.

  7. Agree with you Phil, it’s a fabulous lens and is astoundingly sharp wide open. The big give away at f/2 is vignetting but otherwise its performance at f/2 is on a par with some other 50mm lenses at f/4. As they say on ebay, recommend A+++ 🙂

  8. Love these articles and the accompanying sample shots. Just wanted to point out that since June 2015, the price of these has gone from an average of $30 to an average of $300(!!!). Who would have thought that these vintage lenses would get such a new and expensive lease on life. 😉

      1. Hey Phillip,

        Just curious if you have handled the MD 50 f1.2, do you find it sharper than the f2 ?

        I really appreciate these reviews.

        Thanks

  9. Thanks for the great reviews and insights. Largely because of this review and your summary review of manual lenses under $100, I “gambled” a whole $12 USD on ebay, and won big time on a very good copy that I received a few days ago. Very sharp, small, fun-to-use lens that will never be far from my A7.

    Keep up the brilliant work!

  10. Hi Phillip,
    Thanks a lot for all your articles, and introducing us to these wonderful legacy lenses.
    I recently got an A7II, and i’ve been trying it out with a number of Minolta MD lenses i got from eBay.
    Quick question, is there a way to set the shutter speed when using a manual/legacy lens?
    I have tried every mode, M,S,P…, but the Shutter speed seems to be fixed. I’m not able to change it with the dials. It only changes when I set the ISO manually. Even so, I cannot set it manually.

      1. I’m able to change it only with the kit lens, however, with the manual legacy lenses, it only changes based on lighting. The dial doesn’t change it.

  11. Hi Phillip,
    Thanks a lot for your articles, have you tried the Minolta Auto-Rokkor 55f2 PF ?
    I got one as heritage on a Minolta SR-1s from a friend. I will tried it on a A7II.

    Thanks

  12. I read your review and bought the lens for my sony a7, for only 20 euros and it is anostonishing. I thougt about buying the 990 euro sony fe 55 f1.8 a beautifull sharp lens.
    But it was wel worth trying this lens for this price on my sony camera and i am not disappointed. Thanks for your review and tips

    Paul, The Netherlands

  13. HI Phillip I own a minolta x700 with the MD 50mm 1:2 lens. Am I crazy to sell it for $50 on craigslist? I am a filmmaker and have not used this cam for ages, dont know if the lens can be used on a DSLR cam? Can you advise? thanks so much!

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