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
0.25 (Macro Mode)
|Close Focusing Distance from the sensor||80cm
33cm (Macro Mode)
|Number of aperture blades||7|
Check current prices at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links).
Also check out my Minolta SR-mount adapter guide.
You can find some more samples in this flickr set: Minolta MD 3.5/35-70.
Minolta made three different 3.5/35-70 lenses
- 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.
- The Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1:3.5 dropped the Rokkor from the name plate and the zoom mechanism looks different.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7.
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.
At f/3.5 bokeh is a bit distracting because blur circles have a defined brighter edge.
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.
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
At 35mm there is a moderate amount of barrel distortion
At 50mm there is almost no distortion and at 70mm there is a slight amount of pincushion distortion.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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
You can find more images in this flickr set: Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 full resolution samples
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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99 thoughts on “Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1: 3.5 – Review”
Good review. Appreciate the time and effort invested.
Hi philip. The link on the full resolution pic takes us to your 50/f2 not this zoom Btw.
Good review sir, I own this lens too and use it with Sony A7, the one with macro mode. A very good lens to have.
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
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?
most likely no tripod
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.
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 🙂
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’.
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
I haven’t compared them directly. I think it is a bit sharper in the corners and CA a bit lower. Contrast in critical situations will be better with the Sony.
trying to get one, why the nikkor version should be avoided ?
price is similar.
The Nikon is a totally different lens. Could be good, could be bad; this review of the Minolta won’t tell you anything about it’s performance.
Hallo Phillip, can i use this lens with A-6000 ? and if yes i need an adapter ? and if yes what is the appropriate?
Yes you can, use thois adapter: http://amzn.to/2acDJvt (affiliate link)
But said that dont work with A7R2 🙁 , do you any adapter for R2?
it will work with the a7rII
Will work on any NEX mount camera. It’s a full frame lens so you will have a cropped field of view on an A6000, effectively making this a 52.5-105mm lens, or a 35-70mm on a full frame Sony.
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.
the field of view would be different and the image will be less sharp in the center but a tad better in the corners at 35mm
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.
I wouldn’t really know the benefit of a lens profile for landscape photography.
I have the first version MD I with the inscription Rokkor.
If you’re wondering, I have tested it on a Full Frame.
Focus on the right wall
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.
I would be very surprised if that Minolta was any better than the cheaper kit lens.
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.
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?
It is quite high an Jannik’s priority list and I would expect a review in Q1/2017. It is quite a bit better at 35mm but also heavier and a push pull zoom
Fantastic lens as well but still no review here. From my experience excellent sharpness.
Would be nice to see a comparison with the Minolta.
Rotating front can be a problem with gradient and pola-filters
Difficult to use for my sunsets and sunrises, rather pronounced flare.
If the Minolta scores better I would certainly buy it.
See a test I encountered: https://youtu.be/ukIOKspxoiI
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.
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.
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.
After using manual lenses for many years I am still often surprised how much you can get for a few Euros/Dollars
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 😉
I’ve been looking at this lens and the Minolta MD 28-85 3.5-4.5. The later would be a little more versatile. Do you have any plans on reviewing the 28-85 lens?
I have one but I am not that happy with it
I really enjoy this article and could I translate it into Chinese and post on my blog for non-commercial use?
As I see you published it already before you had my answer. I think that is rude. So my answer is no, please take it down.
OK~ deleted, thanks a lot
Sorry for that . That is really a big mistake by my carelessness.
I have been translating some other article and didn’t realize the posts has been pushed to GitHub together.
And I already delete the text original from your blog, and replace the post into only some brief introduction and the specifications.
This is really my bad.
And thanks for the good articles.
Apology accepted. You may restore the article and keep it online aslong as your blog remains a non commercial project. But please ask me next time before you even translate an article.
Thanks a lot.
Your articles about Minolta lens and Sony Alpha are very awesome.
Could I translate the “The Minolta list ” and “the manual lenses in general this beginners guide for a7 users” later?
I promise for non commercial use only.
I am a phd student and also a huge fan of manual lenses.
I seem to be getting a lot of ghosting with the K&F MD adapter at 40 to 60mm is really bad 70mm is a bit better and 35mm no issue. Lens hud has no affect, have been using step down filter rings as a lens hud and they work really well but not the most practical as have to add and remove them depending on the focal length. Do you know if a black matt paint could be applied to the adapter to reduse reflection. I see in your review for the Novaflex you have coated a cheap adapter with something, can you recommend anything. Thanks
I think this article will help you: tuning adapters against reflections
hi mr phillip
this minolta 35-70 macro fuction only works at 70mm or it can be used all the way from 35 to 70mm?
i have canon fd 35-105 f3.5 macro. the macro only works at 35mm.
great article btw
Only works at 70mm
I once had a Pentax K35-105 F 3.5 macro, the macro of which works at all focal length.
But the Pentax K35-105 is made of metal and thus is very heavy, about more than 800g maybe.
So I give it to a friend and just bought a Minolta 35-70 macro, which is much lighter but the macro is limited at only 70mm.
So can you reccomend this lens? I have Sony a7rII. And have possibility to try it tomorrow.
How to recognize is the lens is original or copy? or maybe some tips what search for (some defects or maybe some versions are bad?)
I think most of your questions are answered in the review.
For defects: link
Soap bubble bokeh for cheap!
at f/3.5 certainly 😉
I bought on Ebay two used lens, one version 2 the other ver 3.
The mk 2 seems to be a little sharper.
I don’t know if it is due to sample variations, I like to hear from other users.
Tested on Sony A7.
I really appreciate your reviews.
Best regards, Sala
“Very bad” article gave me the urge to buy one!
Thanks for all your articles!
Sorry to bring up this old thread, but how would this lens compare to a C/Y 35-70 f/3.4? Significantly less cost, but is the Contax vastly superior sharpness?
It has a little higher contrast an better corners at 35mm but apart from that the difference doesn’t seem to be that big.
Just Picked up a Pentax 35-105, F3.5 (often referred to as a stack of primes)to compare to this lens and the Pentax seems to be a good bit better at 35 and the same at 70….. Anyone else ever done this compare?
Thanks for your evaluations on the Minolta lenses. I own several and I rely on your expertise.
Thank you for these reviews and the one on the hundred millimeter MD as well you’re reviews or what’s swaying me to pick up a nice little set I’m getting from a couple here in New York I’m getting the samyang 35 to 70 3.5 / 4.5 the 100 mm MD 2.5 the 50 mm 1.7 which I already have and I’m getting some Bellows and extension tubes and then X700 camera if all goes well $200
dear phillip,i would like to ask what do you think about the Minolta AF 35-70 /4 (1985-ish) in comparison with the MD 35-70. I have the AF version and i’m thinking of getting an adaptor for my A7, do you know any decent adaptors AF to nex (but only for MF ).
LA-EA3. I haven’t tested it personally but it has a good reputation.
did anyone test the nikkor 35-70 f3.5 AIs on A7? i found only very few reviews in the net, and mostly ken rockwell does praise this lens quite high. it’s most prominent characteristic is low distortion and good resolution. i haven’t seen yet a review on full frame A7. it also hase aclose focus setting, so a comparision with the minolta would be very interesting.
Hi Phillip, long time reader of your website. I just got my Minolta MD 35-70mm macro zoom and it’s everything you said and more! What a beautiful lens for the price. Performs well on my A7iii and A6000. Love it so much I’m tempting to get the 70-150 as well.
I recently purchased this lens. It is in near mint condition. I am going to enjoy this lens. I have it mounted on a Sony NEX-6. Also,does anyone where I can get a copy on the original user manual/instructions? I want to learn the full capabilities of this lens. Thanks much. Ed
Thanks for this article, I have just got the 35-70 MD Macro F3.5 and looking forward to using it , but i need an adapter for my Canon EOS D60. , can you advise on this please.
There is no way to mount it on a DSLR with adapter and still focus at longer distances, sorry :(.
Thank you, so is there any use for it at all ??
when i bought it i just thought that my M42 would work on it, but realise that can’t be done.
Not on a Canon DSLR. If you are interested in manual lenses a Sony a7-series would open many possibilities.
I think this lens only has 6 blades not 7.
The sunstar makes me sure that I am right and they are wrong.
In comparison with “modern ” lenses I think a plasticky feeling is not the problem here.
Thanks for the review, i could like to use this MINOLTA MD ZOOM 35-70MM 1: 3.5 on my canon camera which is EF mount. could you suggest a adapter for this lens ?
The short answer: No.
The longer answer: There are adapters from SR-mount to EF with an optical element which act as a 1.2, 1.4 or 1.5 teleconverter. In my experience they degrade the image quality a lot and I would advise against them. There are also adapters without an optical element which work as a spacer so the lens can only be used as a macro lens and won’t focus at longer distances any longer.
Thank you for this review!
I’d like to know if I can use this on a Fujifilm X-T3? Also, what features can I expect to lose? Will I be able to use my dials i.e iso and shutter and do you think I will still be able to live preview exposures through the view finder?
Thanks again Phillip!
I haven’t used a Fuji camera in my life 🙂
You will certainly have a narrower field of view (50-100mm eqivalent).
How would you compare the Contax Zeiss zooms to the Minolta zooms, is the IQ and rendering much better with the zeiss? I have the Minolta 35-70mm and 70-150mm but I’m also thinking of getting Contax Zeiss 35-70 and 80-200mm as well, do you think it is worth it?
I would say a little better so that it only matters for a few scenarios
I am a newbie and i mainly take street and abandon building photography with Minolta X300, do you recommend this for this?
I have 2 options, 1 is this, and another is
MINOLTA MD ZOOM 28-70mm F3.5-4.8 have you ever used this?
I have no experience with it. The question is what is important to you? If you shoot film I would assume that image quality isn’t that important? For buildings I would certainly prefer a 28mm lens over 35mm. So even if the 35-70 would be better (as I said: it might be, it might not) the mire versatile 28-70 could be the better option. Or you could get a 2.8/28 and 1.7/55 which are probably more fun to shoot.
Bonjour Merci pour la tenue de ce blog. Je viens de réaliser quelques essais de prise de vues avec ce 35-70 dernière version (avec macro) monté sur un Alpha 7 RII pour les promenades, quelle claque … un petit zoom vraiment performant contraste et définition pour le paysage dés 5,6 idéal à 8 / 11 pour toutes les focales. Tandem idéal pour les sorties rando face au poids du RIV avec un 24 70 2,8. Bonne continuation. Philippe
First; I like your reviews! Second; I have many Minolta md glass. The md 35-70 3.5 is a great performer (I have two of them). I also have the first version without macro and I don’t see any difference between version 1 and 3. Bij both I’m impressed of the i.q. The version 1 feels even more solid and the focusring is very smooth!
If one of your readers accidently bought the first version, they don’t have to be disapointed and focussing nearby works very good with a small extension ring.
Groningen (the Netherlands)
I just bought a Minolta MD 35-70mm f3.5 Macro lens from the UK with the switch colored in white and the MACRO word in white letters, instead of the usual green color. I can’t find any info on this. Have you?
You know, coming across this review again- I would be interested to see this compared to the Tamron Adaptall-2 35-70mm f3.5 (17A), because it’s about the same size, similar number of blades, focuses as close or quite abit closer with no seperate macro mode (0.9m @ 35mm, 0.5m @ 40mm, 0.3m @ 50mm, 0.25m @ 70mm) –
but most importantly, can often be found a great deal cheaper (<$20).
Bonus points for being slightly smaller and less plastic.
I know alot of vintage third-party zooms aren't even worth thinking about, so finding informative examples is important. Methinks this ticks enough boxes to be worth considering…
Edit: it actually has more blades (8), which is nicer..
I am reducing my lens collection from 180 vintage lenses down to 20 (due to my move to Asia). After one year of testing, comparing and thinking this Minolta zoom made it into the pool of the 20 lenses which I am keeping.
This review is just what I need. Thank you for making this.
I just picked up a mint MD 35-70mm 3.5 macro on the strength of your review and others. But I’m not sure how to engage the macro. There is a little blue button but not sure what to do with it. There also seems to be another black button, more rectangular, that I don’t know what to do with. Can you tell me how to engage the macro and what that other button is for? Is there an online users manual for this lens? Thanks!
hi philip, I am currently considering this minolta zoom 35-70 with sony fe 28-70 f3.5-5.6 kit lens tp be used with my a7ii, can I know which one should i choose? AF is not a must so should I go with the minolta? thanks
If you can afford the Sony 28-60mm get that one instead.