Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f/1.2 review

Using APS-C sensor sized cameras has its little quirks in comparison to using full frame. The X-Pro1 is no exception. The crop factor not only limits field of view, but it also enhances depth of field. So what can you do when you need paper thin depth of field and lots of creamy bokeh and abrupt falloff into blurry mush-town? You look for some ultrafast glass!

Of course one could buy the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1, or the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2, a Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 or maybe even a Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 (at 8000$ its a real bargain…..!!! /sarcasm)

What I stumbled upon was a great gem of a lens the Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f/1.2. It’s not as well renowned as its “bigger brother” the 58mm f/1.2, and it is often not given quite the credit that it should be given. Over at Rokkor Files Antony has made a great and very thorough comparison between the two Minolta f/1.2’s and he came to the conclusion that the 50mm, although having pleasing bokeh,  did not have the über-creamy bokeh of the 58mm. It was, however, sharper wide open.

As with all my other legacy glass I found a real good bargain on my copy of the lens. Mint condition, only 1/4 of the price that they usually sell for on e-bay. The f/1.2 sticker really makes these lenses alot more expensive than their f/1.4 sisters. They go for just around $500.

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The lens  is like all the other 1970’ish legacy lense a really solid and well-built piece of tech. It’s metal and glass. I have the version with a rubberised focus ring. The focus is smooth and the aperture ring is as well. This is of course a huge step up from eg. the russian lenses, but so is to be expected as this was a premium pro lens back in its day (the minolta glory days, that is). It is a rather havy lens, and the amount of glass contained is incredible. It has a 55mm filter thread.  For the X-Pro1 I ordered a cheap MD mount to X-mount adapter on ebay. It works really well, although there is a tiny amount of give between the adapter and the camera mount. The MD part of the adapter is nice a tight with no give at all. Mounted on the X-pro1 it is the same size as the Fujinon XF 18-55mm or the Fujinon XF 14mm. And it lokks REALLY good on the camera!! It has the perfect styling for the X-Pro1. VERY nice combination.

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So what can you expect from this lens?

Crazy sharpness like Fuji’s own 35mm?  NO!

Edge to edge sharpness and no light falloff at the edges? NO!

Ultra shallow depth of field?  YES!

Oldschool lens characteristics? HELL YES!

This lens gives your images a nice kick in the behind. First of all focussing a f/1.2 lens manually is a task on its own! The X-Pro’s focus magnification of 3x and 10x is very helpful for this. But shooting this lens wide open (as it should be! thats why you pay a premium for that f/1.2 moniker) on the streets is a very challenging task. A fun one, but challenging!

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The lens is soft wide open. No doubt about this. There is a subtle glow to it. This is partly because of the relative ease with which you misfocus a f/1.2. For portraits of women this is quite a nice feature though. At f/4 it is very sharp. f/8 is maximum resolution for this lens. There is a slight light falloff towards the edges, which I really don’t mind, since I always add vignetting in post process anyway. (landscape photographers…move right along 😀 )

The background blur is GOOD. It goes from sharp in focus to complete bokeh creamy-mosh in just under 0,5 cm at 1m shooting distance. It really is something! There are some noise in my out of focus specular highlights, but it is due to the variable ND filter that I have mounted on it. The ND filter is an absolute must when shooting this lens open in sunlight. A 3 stop ND is enough. The color rendering of the lens is nice. Colours are natural and they have nice contrast. There is not a lot of chromatic aberration, if hardly any. I do think that this lens is best suited as a black and white lens, though.

So what do you get with this lens?

You get a very affordable, very fast lens, that looks like it was designed with the X-Pro1. It has a soft look with lots of contrast, and it gives you a crazy cool shallow DOF and focus falloff. The built quality is great, and it is just a very fun lens to shoot.

Below are my usual type of sample shots. The images has been post processed in various ways, as I always do. These are a representation of the conditions under which I use this amazing 50mm lens.

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So there you have it. A really nice lens, that excels in a lot of different scenarios. It is fast, gives shallow DOF and has the lovely charming quirks of a vintage lens.

What I would recommend this lens for is mostly portrait work. On the APS-C its a 75mm FOV equivalent. The soft glowy appearance and the shallow DOF makes it ideal for the purpose. But as a street photographer you will have a blast with this lens. It is not as cheap as the helios, and you can get a 50mm f/1.4 at a 10th of the price…. but there is just something awesome about that f/1.2 number.

Thanks for reading.

jr050680

34 thoughts on “Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f/1.2 review

  1. Nice set of images you’ve shown here with the Minolta MD 50mm 1.2. I own this lens and use it on my X-Pro1 as well as a slew of other Minolta lenses. You are spot on in your remarks about the lens, truly glad to see someone else using this combination… I have written quite a bit about this and other Minolta lenses on my blog, they are simply superb lenses. If your audience is interested in learning more… ( http://blog.ikphotography.com )

    Cheers!

  2. Wow, really some nice portraits! I am amazed on how you can focus so fast for candids. I still have problems with my Takumar 50/1.4.

    2 questions:
    1)where did you find the lens at a 1/4 price? A local flea market?
    2)what is the strap you’re using on the X-Pro1 ?

  3. Nice pics and report as always. well now since i got my rokkor 55mm f/1.7, i eagerly wait to shoot with it but the adapter is still not here yet. Maybe Friday 🙂 would be perfect for the weekend. Sometimes i think the bokeh looks a bit … busy to me?
    Cheerio Bruno

    1. Hi Bruno.

      The Bokeh is indeed busy. The highlights have markings from scratches and irregularities from my ND filter… I have since then bought a new one, which helps 🙂

      The 55mm f/1.7 is such a fantastic lens. I simply LOVE mine! The bokeh from that is VERY smooth. You wont be disappointed.

      /jonas

  4. That first picture! Amazing!!!

    I am considering buying this lens for my Canon 5d Mark III. Do you think it would suit it well? The price will be €165. Good or not? It’s in excellent condition…

    I own a Fuji x100s. To bad it can’t switch lenses…

  5. Great images, I’m glad you’ve brought this great classic lens back to life. I’ve owned this lens since 1978 when it was released and have enjoyed it in full frame as it should be used and still use it now and then with Ektar 100 and 7000dpi scans. It’s performance is very similar to my 50mm f1.2 ais Nikkor. I highly recommend the 85mm f1.7 MC Rokkor-x, it’s another gem.
    Keep up the nice work and enjoy your lens.

  6. To answer the question of if this lens would fit a Nikon DSLR:
    NO. The register of a Minolta SR body is not as deep as a Nikon, even if an adapter was possible the lens would never focus at infinity unless additional optics were added. This would ruin the performance of the lens. (I’ve tried this with a Canon DSLR). IMO Nikon’s 50mm f1.2 AIS (MF) is every bit as good as the Minolta lens. Use your Minolta lenses with a high quality film and use a high end negative scanner, that is the way to enjoy the full frame properties of Minolta Rokkors.

  7. Great post! I’m enjoying a Minolta Rokkor-X MD 50 1.4 right now. The depth and bokeh on the 1.2 is just wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

      1. Hi,
        I’m glad to hear someone still using film besides myself. My favorite films are Kodak TMY2 , Kodak Portra 400 (new), and Fuji Velvia.
        Mirrorless cameras like the Sony are bringing all of the great Minolta lenses back to life and in full frame. I’m tempted to buy one.
        regards,
        Rick

  8. superb!
    I had a MD 50 1.4 for a period, till I discovered the 1.2 version. Both are great quality lens that I enjoyed using.
    I feel 1.4 and 1.2 are equally fantastic! Only difference for me, 1.2 is softer.
    And honestly, my xgm stopped working, I am searching for a digital body for the lens. And that brought me here.

    I really enjoy this post & the images you have took. Thank you!

    1. Hi,
      A friend of mine bought a Sony a7r mirrorless camera and loves it. You can use just about every manufactures lenses in full frame the way they were intended to be used. The results I’m seeing from the old MF Minolta lenses look fantastic. I still use my 50mm f1.2 Minolta with film now an then, it would be a crime using it on a small format.

  9. I love this lens. i bought it because of your review. never regret it. there 2 version available, i bought 2 of them. but i sold the old version. because the newer is better in term of lens condition at the time. indeed a very unique character.

  10. does this lens fit a Minolta XG1? I’m still confused as to the sizing of lenses and what lens can go with my camera. I am a beginner so If someone could help me out that’d be awesome

  11. I love the pictures, I was given a pretty complete Minolta system and have started looking for opinions for my next lenses. I really like the look of the old glass, you just can’t duplicate the look with modern lenses. My favorite so far has been a MC Rokkor-X 58mm f1.4 on a X-E1. It’s the 1st version, metal focus ring, and it’s a beast. The bokeh is really pleasing, I can’t imagine how good the f1.2 version would look so i’m now searching for one to find out. My copy isn’t very sharp wide open but pleasing none the less, that completely changes @f2. The only thing I might change after finding the f1.2, I might try de-clicking this one, it could be a fun video lens.

    1. Hi,
      Glad to hear that your using and enjoying Minolta lenses, but your wasting them in a 23.6x 15.6mm format! Get yourself a full frame Sony. The beauty of many of the Minolta lenses was how well they performed all the way to the corners. Almost any lens you put on that body is going to look good. The 21mm f2.8 is an exceptional lens but with your sensor you’d waste the whole purpose of that lens. APS-c is fine if your into portraits and telephoto work but wasted in the wide angle world.
      Film has really improved other than slight grain issues Kodak Portra 400, Ektar 100, and TMY2 keep right up with my 24mp full frame DSLR and my Minolta lenses are being used as they were intended to be used, on a Minolta SLR body. Your missing out and just don’t know it.

  12. I have this camera and I want to learn how to use it? But first, can you help me find the right film for it? I don’t even know if it works. I have no idea how to use it.

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