Defects in Manual Lenses and lens buying advice

This blog is mostly about manual lenses which are usually 30 to 50 years old. And while most of them are surprisingly reliable the are a few things you should check before or after buying a lens.

This checklist is based on the experience I gained from buying  more than a hundred lenses since I discovered how much fun it is to use them on Sony’s Alpha cameras.

If you have additional info about a defect not listed or disagree with my assessment please leave a comment!

Scratches on the lenses

a large scratch on the front lens of a AI-S Nikon 4.5/300

Use a large light source like a window and place the lens between you and the light so that you can see the colorful coating of the lens.

Scratches are seldom a problem in the real world but they lower the resale value of a lens. In theory they could reduce the contrast of a lens or cause some flare but I have never seen that happen.

You can’t really do anything to restore coatings but it sometimes makes sense to fill larger scratches with black paint to avoid light scattering.

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Test: $20 Minolta MC 1.7/55 vs $1000 Zeiss 1.8/55

55erIn this comparison I want to compare two very different lenses.

The Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 55mm 1:1.7 was introduced in 1968 and it was always an affordable lens. Today it usually sells for around $20 at (affiliate link).
I like it because it has very nice bokeh, the nice focusing feel and the small size. I is not one of my sharpest manual lenses, the Canon FD 1.4/50 for example is noticeably sharper but it has very nice character, not far away from the much heavier and more expensive Minolta MC 1.2/58.

The Sony FE 1.8/55 ZA was introduced 45 years later in 2013 and it costs around $1000 or 50 times as much as the Minolta. It has received very positive reviews and is considered to be one of the best normal lenses available today.

The question I try to answer with this test is: How different are the results I can expect from the lenses? I will look at smaller images optimized for the web but also at 100% crops to judge print quality.

All images are developed from raw and I used a tripod unless I mention otherwise. Please click on them to see them in full size (1500px wide).

Scene 1: Bokeh and Sharpness in the center wide open


The same settings applied to the image taken with the Minolta 1.7/55


Continue reading Test: $20 Minolta MC 1.7/55 vs $1000 Zeiss 1.8/55

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


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


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 or (affiliate links).
Also check out my Minolta SR-mount adapter guide.

Image Samples

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

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

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