Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1: 3.5 – Review

MD3570

The Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 is an very affordable, light weight zoom with a very good performance in a limited but handy focal range

Specifications

Diameter 69 mm
Length 68.5 mm
Filter Thread 55mm
Weight 365g
Max. Magnification 0.1
0.25 (Macro Mode)
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 80cm
33cm (Macro Mode)
Number of aperture blades 7
Elements/ Groups 8/7
Price (June 2015): $80-120 in good condition.
Check current prices at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links).

Image Samples

winterfarben3
Sony a7 | 70mm |f/5.6
magical forest
Sony a7 | 35mm |f/11
the pond
Sony a7 | 50mm |f/8

You can find some more samples in this flickr set: Minolta MD 3.5/35-70.

Versions

The 1:4 Macro switch can only be found on the last version
The 1:4 Macro switch can only be found on the third version

Minolta made three different 3.5/35-70 lenses

  1. The Minolta MD Zoom Rokkor 35-70mm 1:3.5 was introduced in 1978. Leica used the same optics for their Vario-Elmar-R 35-70mm f/3.5. Short focusing distance is 1m.
  2. The Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1:3.5  dropped the Rokkor from the name plate and the zoom mechanism looks different.
  3. The Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1:3.5 was introduced in 1983, it has a short focusing distance of 80cm and a 1:4 macro mode.

I have never used the first and second version but Stephan from artaphot.ch  found that the first version was clearly inferior to the second version and I would assume that the second and third version are the same optically.

Since there is only a small price difference between the second and third version I would recommend to buy the third version because of the handy 1:4 Macro mode. Stay away from the first “Rokkor” version.

Build quality and handling

Minolta_3570mm
The Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 on my Sony Alpha 7

By today’s standards the built quality is very good but compared to the best manual lenses it isn’t that good. The Minolta 3.5/35-70 feels a little plasticky.

The barrel and the mount are made from metal and anything else is made from plastics or glass. The zoom ring and the aperture ring feel a little cheap.

The lens is not a push-pull zoom but it has a dedicated zoom-ring.

Focusing Ring

The focusing ring travels around 10 degrees from 80cm  to 1m and a further 90 degrees to infinity.

The focusing ring is quite smooth, resistance is just right.

Aperture

The aperture ring has full stops from f/3.5 to f/5.6 and f/16 to f/22 and half stops from f/5.6 to f/16.

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

The lens has 7 straight aperture blades.

Hood

Minolta_3570mm-3

The original hood is rather small and protects the front element without adding too much size. It is made from plastic, feels solid enough and attaches firmly to the lens.

Size and Weight

The 3.5/35-70 is a medium sized lens. It is well balanced when used on the Sony a7, adding a L-bracked improves the balance further.

The lens is a little (5mm) wider than a typical 1.4/50 lens and 25mm longer. At 365g it is also about 100g heavier.

Filters

The filter thread is made from metal and the front element does turn when the lens is focused.

The Macro Mode

The lens has a very long short focusing distance of 80cm, most 35mm primes are at 30cm and most 50mm lenses at 45cm so they offer a much higher magnification.

But the lens also has a macro mode. You activate a switch and turn the zoom ring behind the 70mm marking and the image is magnified. So at shorter distances you can focus with the zoom ring.

Optical performance

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

Flare Resistance

Flare resistance is better than I expected from a 1980’s zoom lens.
There is some contrast loss when a bright light source is in the image but the images remain usable with minor processing, I have seen much worse.
Ghosting is very well controlled.

Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 35mm | f/8
The sun just out of the frame would have caused much more veiling with other lenses
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 35mm | f/11
35mm | f/11 | no ghosting

Bokeh

At  f/3.5 bokeh is a bit distracting because blur circles have a defined brighter edge.

Bokeh35
f/3.5
Bokeh56
f/5.6

At f/5.6 the blur circles have a much less defined edge but they are now take the shape of the aperture with it’s seven not rounded blades.

I prefer to stop down to f/5.6 because I find the bokeh at f/3.5 too distracting. For images with nicely blurred backgrounds there are fo course nicer lenses.

Chromatic Aberrations

Lateral chromatic aberrations are moderately well controlled at 35mm, well ontrolled at 50mm and more or less not visible at 70mm.

Axial chromatic aberrations (“bokeh fringing”)  can be visible at f/3.5

Distortion

At 35mm there is a moderate amount of barrel distortion

Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 35mm | Dsitortion test

At 50mm there is almost no distortion and at 70mm there is a slight amount of pincushion distortion.

Sharpness

35mm

Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 35mm infinity test
click for full resolution

f/3.5: The center and midframe region show very good sharpness and a little reduced contrast, the corners are soft with some coma.

f/5.6: Contrast and sharpness are high across most of the frame now.
While the far corners remains soft right next to it sharpness is quite good actually.

f/8: Some improvement in the corners.

f/11: The center is a little less sharp, only the very last few pixels of the corners are unsharp.

50mm

Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 50mm test
click for full resolution

f/3.5:The lens is sharp across the frame with only a little corner softening. Contrast is a bit lower.

f/5.6: Center and midframe region are very sharp, the corners are sharp. Contrast is good.

f/8: The lens is sharp as a prime across the frame.

f/11: The corners improve a tiny bit, the center is a little bit softer.

70mm

Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 70mm sharpness test
click for full resolution

f/3.5:A little weaker than at 50mm: Contrast is lower and sharpness is okay.

f/5.6: Center and midframe region are very sharp, the corners are sharp. Contrast is good.

f/8: The lens is sharp as a prime across the frame.

f/11: The corners improve a tiny bit, the center is a little bit softer.

 Alternatives

  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 3,4/35 – 70 mm: A highly regarded lens among landscape photographers.  I think it is a bit better stopped down at 35mm and at f/3.4 in general  but it is a push-pull zoom and it is a little heavier at 475g. Here is the MTF graph.
  • LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 1:4/35-70 mm: Even more expensive and heavy than the Zeiss it also enjoys a very good reputation. The MTF-graph hints at severe astigmatism in the corners at 35mm, pretty similar to the Minolta. Built quality will be top notch.
  • The Sony FE 4/24-70 ZA OSS is better at f/4 than the Minolta at f/3.5 with much more contrast so the Sony is a much nice lens for reportage work. Stopped down to f/8 though the Minolta is the sharper lens so for landscapes the Minolta is the better lens.

Conclusion

The Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 is a versatile lens, because it performs so well it can replace 2 or 3 primes and make your bag much lighter. The 1:4 macro mode adds to it’s usability as well. You will sacrifice some the ability to blur backgrounds though.

In the 40-70mm range this lens can compete with very good primes and it beat my $1000 Sony 4/24-70 in the corners.
At 35mm 98% of the image is very sharp but the far corners deteriorate noticeably.

Distortion is noticeable at 35mm but well controlled at 50 and 70mm, CA and Vignetting are present but not too much so.

You need to be aware that at f/3.5 contrast isn’t very high and bokeh a bit rough.It is a good choice when you need a light lens and some flexibility. I like to use it for city walks and short trips into nature.

All in all this is a very good lens which outperforms many much more expensive modern zoom lenses.

If you consider buying one please use one of my affiliate links and support my work: Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links). Thanks!

Images Samples in full resolution

 

Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 40mm | f/8
40mm | f/8
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 35mm | f/8
35mm | f/8
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 70mm | f/5.6
70mm | f/5.6
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 35mm | f/3.5
35mm | f/3.5
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 50mm | f/8
50mm | f/8
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 | 70mm | f/5.6
70mm | f/5.6

You can find more images in this flickr set: Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 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.

42 thoughts on “Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1: 3.5 – Review”

  1. Thank you for a comprehensive review. I have just picked up a second type lens in mint condition and shall look forward to using it.Your examples are excellent/Paul

  2. Hi Phillip

    I was just reading another forum discussing this lens in 2014 and saw many of your beautiful flowers taken in macro mode with NEX 6.
    Did you use a tripod when taking those macro shots with the NEX?

  3. Do you have any experience with or recommendations for Canon FD zooms in this focal length range, or thereabouts? I don’t see much info online.

    Happy holidays, and thank you for an informative and enjoyable blog.

    1. No, I don’t have any experience with FD zooms in that focal range. Apparently they often suffer from disintegrated bearings so I was a little hesitant to buy one.

      Happy holdiays to you as well 🙂

  4. Tested the first and last version of this lens and can confirm that the last has (much) better sharpness towards the corners. In the center it is hard to tell the difference. The MD III version also has more neutral colors.

    For build quality however, the MD I version is superior. It is completely metal made (except for the glass) and the focusing and zooming are very smooth. So if you don’t like the plasticky feel of the later versions you’ll be surprised by the feel of the ‘original’.

  5. Hi, how do this lens compare with full frame kit lens Sony 28-70mm, f/3.5-5.6 OSS in terms of Sharpness, CA, Contrast etc? Thank you. Sam

  6. Hallo Phillip, can i use this lens with A-6000 ? and if yes i need an adapter ? and if yes what is the appropriate?

  7. Thanks for your review of the Minolta 35-70 3.5 lens. I just won two lenses on eBay one being the 35-70 and the other is a 50 1.7 for less than 60.00. I didn’t see see Rokker in the pics so hopefully is ok. I loaned out my 50 1.4 to my nephew to play with for video on his canon 70d for video. I noticed on my OMD EM1 the the 50 1.4 seemed a little soft at 1.4 but haven’t used it much. I wonder what the different sensor size on M43 compared to Sony a7 would be as far as some of your tests like in corners.

  8. Thanks for your Great optical insight for the A7 Series of cameras. I own this lens and use for Pro work as a Landscape shooter. Do you have a link or thoughts about a Lens profile in Photoshop for the Minolta gem.

  9. Hello,

    Any ideas of MINOLTA MD ZOOM 24-35MM 1: 3.5?
    How it is compared with this lens? I’d like to use it on a Sony A6000.
    Thanks!

      1. Thank you for the answer.My ideea is to test and to learn to use a few manual cheap and good old lenses on my Sony A6000 camera before to switch to a A7II(and keep the manual lenses) in the future. For this I really apreciate your work, this is my favorite blog at the moment.
        This day I own the A6000 with only these lenses:
        -Sigma 19mm f/2.8 dn art – commons landscapes not very wide
        -Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS – portrait
        -Minolta 70-210 f4 beercan – recently bought with a simple AF-E mount adapter
        Now I try to found a good lens < 70mm. Maybe the Minolta 35-70 F3.5 it's a good choice or two primes for a normal focal range.

  10. Hi Phillip,

    As mentioned in the alternatives section, do you think you’ll ever review the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 3,4/35 – 70 mm or is the minolta cheaper and nearly as good?

  11. Phillip, I found this lens with my father’s old Minolta X-700 and I’m excited to use it with my new Alpha 7 II, but I’m also interested in picking up the 80-200mm “Beer Can” Minolta. Could you tell me the best adapter to use with both of these lens? Since they are both Minolta MDs, would a simple A-mount to FE mount work? Or am I going to be forced to drop big money on the LA‑EA4? After seeing your shots with the same lens on the A7, I’m very excited to try this out.

    1. The Minolta X-700 has the older fully manual SR-mount, not A-mount.
      The Minolta 4/70-210 was initially released in SR-mount (called MD then) and later in A-mount. When people refer to the beercan they usually mean the AF-version which has AF written on the front.
      A good enough adapter for SR-mount is this one: http://amzn.to/2jHIn6r If you want the very best adapter check out the Novoflex: http://amzn.to/2jhIxF2
      For A-mount the LA-EA4 is the way to go.

  12. Thanks for helping me find my new favourite lens. I have 12 MF lenses, mainly concentrating on the best value ones like Carl Zeiss Jena DDRs. This 35-70 is a little softer out towards the edges at 35mm, but still better than my Flektogons. At 70mm – f/8 nothing else I own touches it. All for a tidy £49 off ebay.
    My top 3 lenses are now Sigma Super Wide II 24mm, this Minolta, and the CZJ 135mm 3.5 Sonnar. All 3 cost under £100 in total.

  13. LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 1:4/35-70 mm:

    The MTF-graph link isn’t working 🙂
    I have the LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 1:4.5/35-70 mm and I’m not sure if its exactly the same quality than the Minolta 1. Gen. It seems to be a little bit better in my eyes… but might depend on the copy you have 😉

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