Minolta SLR lenses

 

 

 

Content

 

 

The art of seeing

How to photograph 

How a camera works

Choosing lenses

Tools for Photography 

 Minolta manual SLR 

 Minolta lenses

 Early Rokkor series

 MC Rokkor series

 MC Rokkor-X series 

 MD Rokkor series

 Minolta MD series

 My Wide Angle lenses

 My Normal Lenses

 My Tele Lenses

 My Zoom Lenses

 My Celtic Lenses

 

 

Minolta has been making their own optical glass in their Itami works since 1941, one of the few camera manufacturers with that capability. Since the start, Minolta has produced excellent lenses for their SLR cameras. Some of them are outstanding, rivaling the best ever made. A long standing partner of Minolta has been Leica, formerly Leitz. Some of the lenses made by Minolta has been produced and sold under the Leica brand name.

When Minolta introduced their first SLR camera, the SR-2 in 1958, Minolta started out with four lenses.
These lenses where the 35mm wide angle, a 55mm normal lens, a 100mm short tele lens and a 135mm tele lens.
They where soon followed by a fift, a 200mm tele lens.

Minolta named their lenses Rokkor, as many other companies also choose a different name for their lenses. The SR bayonet mount is unique in being virtually unaltered since introduction.
By adding lugs for aperture information and meter coupling, the mount has been been able to accommodate all types of automatic exposure methods. Most other camera makers have been forced to remake their mount to facilitate more modern features.

From the humble beginning, the Minolta SLR lens line up has grown to include all kinds of lenses from fisheye to super tele lenses, as well as some specialized lenses like lenses made for architechural photography and microscopy.

The first generation of lenses where the Auto Rokkor and Rokkor lenses. The Auto Rokkors had automatic apertures that returned to fully open after the exposure had been made. Something very novel at the time. Rokkor lenses had manually operated diaphragms, but was priced lower.


From left Rokkor-TC 135mm/4, Rokkor-TC 100mm/4 and Rokkor-QE 35mm/4.

Although cheaper to buy, the workmanship of the Rokkor line was excellent. The 100mm 1:4 Tele Rokkor has an aperture of no less than 13 blades and makes almost a perfect circular aperture opening at all aperture settings.
The Rokkor line was kept as a entry level line after the Auto Rokkor line was replaced. Offered in 35mm, 100mm, 135mm and 200mm. Technically all the longer tele lenses belonged to the Rokkor line, as did the macro lenses, but the price of these specialized lenses was not economy level. Most specialized lenses from other makers at the time lacked automatic diaphragms too.

The Auto Rokkor lenses with automatic aperture was first introduced with the normal lens in Auto Rokkor-PF 55mm 1:1.8, wide angle Auto Wide Rokkor-HG 35mm 1:2.8 and tele lens Auto Tele Rokkor-QE 100mm 1:3.5.
The letter codes assigned after the Rokkor name is a code to display the optical design, how many lenses there are in the lens and how they are arranged. The first letter tells how many groups of glass elements there are, the second tells how many lens elements there are, see more information
here.


Auto Rokkor-HG 35mm/2.8, Auto Rokkor-PF 55mm/1.8 and Auto Rokkor-QE 100mm/3.5.

Minoltas success in the SLR market was a combination of introducing a modern and competent camera paired with good quality lenses at reasonable prices.

Light metering at this time was done with a separate light meter and information was transferred to the camera. With the introduction of the revolutionary Minolta SR-7 in 1962 that had a built in metering system, Minolta's cameras was preparing for the next logical step.
In 1966 the Minolta SR-T101 with built in metering system that measured through the lens at full aperture together with the MC Rokkor line of lenses marked a huge leap forward in technology.


From left to right; MC W.Rokkor-SG 28mm/3.5, MC Rokkor-55mm/1.7, MC Tele Rokkor-QD 135mm/3.5, MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm/2.8 and MC Tele Rokkor-QE 100mm/3.5. 

The MC Rokkor lenses has an information tab on the aperture ring which transfers information to the camera which aperture is set, this enables measuring the correct exposure when the lens remains at full aperture until the moment of exposure. This is the MC or Meter Coupled lens tab.
The MC Rokkor line is in appearance quite similar to the previous Auto Rokkor lenses of later date, but easily identifiable by its aluminum colored aperture ring.

Todays fully automatic cameras perhaps makes it difficult to understand something that we take for granted today; the ability to measure light and still keep the aperture fully open and hence the view finder bright enough to focus easily. This was revolutionary when introduced and Minolta was leading the way.
Many other camera manufactorers like Canon and Nikon didn't reach this level of refinement until years later.

The MC Rokkor lenses was modified during its production run in cosmetic appearance, but most of their lens designs remained unchanged except a few of the lenses.

Late in 1972 Minolta presented a new appearance of their lenses together with the new top of the line camera Minolta XK (XM in Europe and X-1 in Japan).


From left to right MC W.Rokkor-SG 28mm/3.5, MC Rokkor-PF 50mm/1.7, MC Tele Rokkor-QD 135mm/3.5, MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm/2.8 and MC Rokkor-PF 100mm/2.5. 

The aluminum aperture ring was painted black and had white numerals to be more visible in the view finder with cameras that used periscope to display set aperture.
Most visible was the change from a milled metal focusing ring to a rubber focusing grip.
In the American continent the new MC Rokkor line was called MC Rokkor-X, although this was only engraved on the lenses sold in the American market. The exact same lenses was sold in other markets but they lacked the -X designation.
In 1975 several of the MC Rokkor lenses was modified and had an entirely different optical lens design. The easiest way to recognize a late generation MC Rokkor-X is that they lack the optical design designation with the two letter codes.

In 1977 it was time for another Minolta first; the advent of multiple modes of automatic exposure. With the launch of XD-11 (XD-7 in Europe and XD in Japan) the debate whether shutter prefered or aperture prefered AE mode was ended by allowing for both AE methods in the camera.
To be able to use shutter priority Minolta brought out the MD Rokkor lenses with balanced aperture mechanism and a signaling tab to inform the camera when minimum aperture was set.


From left MD Tele Rokkor 135mm/3.5, MD Rokkor 35mm/2.8 and XD-11 with MD Rokkor 50mm/1.4 which was one of the redesigned lenses. 

Most of the lens designs was carried over from the previous MC Rokkor lenses, with some new designs.
These lenses are well built optically and mechanically and with this series Minolta started modernising their design with modern materials like plastic to save weight and production cost.
The MD Rokkor line, often called MD Rokkor-X for obvious reasons was also later on modified starting in 1979. This time easily recognized by their changed cosmetic appearance by having a tapered look, wider at the lens mount and a switch to 49 mm filter thread.

In 1981 the last major modification of Minolta's manual SLR lenses was released. The Minolta MD line. Probably in keeping with the features of the X-700 with programmed AE mode. The new camera was supposed to be simple to use and to make sure the photographer always had the lens set at minimum aperture there was a lock on the lens that you could engage when set at minimum aperture.


From left Minolta MD 50mm/1.4, Minolta MD 135mm/3.5 and Minolta MD 50mm/1.7. 

The MD line was the last of the manual Minolta lenses. In the 1984 brochure of the Minolta lenses I count 53 different lenses from Fisheye to specialized lenses.
In 1985 Minolta changed the world of photography altogether by releasing the first auto focus SLR camera, the Maxxum 7000. This changed the business and all other camera makers chased the leader Minolta once again. Minolta choose to leave the SR mount for the auto focus camera to the non compatable AF mount.
Today there are only the used market for those in search for manual cameras and lenses as new production has ended.

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Copyright 2004, Henrik W. Robeck, 5 May 2005