Minolta MD Rokkor 50mmf2 on my Fujifilm X-T2 – Bubbles and softness
Last year I bought the Minolta MD Rokkor on a flea market for 5 Danish kroner. That is less than 1 Dollar / 1 Euro. ONE DOLLAR !!!! The filter ring was slightly bulked, but otherwise it looked to be in great condition. Then I forgot all about it. Recently a lot of postings on the Danish X-photographer Facebook group with photographs by vintage lenses made me curious. So I ordered an MD – FX Adapter from K&F Concept on Amazon for 20 Euro. That increased the value of my lens by a factor 20 !!!
This Friday, I ordered my family out in the garden and put the lens to a test. You can jump directly to the test pictures here, if you don’t mind the technical stuff.
101 in putting a non-XF lens on your X-T2
Mounting the lens
The adapter from K&F Koncept(c) feels very solid. The metal (brass?) fittings and the plastic does not feel cheap, and both ends have nice red markings for the lens and lens mount, so putting the lens in the adapter, and the adapter in place in the X-T2 body was done in a bliss. No fumbling, and in place, the whole combination feels very solid and tight.
Settings on my X-T2
The hardest part is to get the X-T2 to shoot with a non-XF lens. When the camera detects, that no XF is attached, it will not release the shutter. So you have to enable the camera to shoot without an XF-lens. The options is hidden in a very unusual place in the Setup menu under ‘Buttons and Dials’… Huh??? The option is called ‘Shoot without lens’. It took me fifteen minutes to find it – ARGH!!! But I could hardly blame the lens for that irrational location in the X-T2 menu system…
I found focusing with this lens hard. On my Fuji lenses, I use focus peaking in Auto Focus-Manual mode. But on this lens, the focus peaking does not always kick in, when the subject is in (or rather the part of the subject, you want to have in) focus. I think, the way the lens blurs and has a tendency to flare the highlight may confuse the ‘focus peaking algorithm’. And I think the lack of sharpness compared to Fuji lenses also may be a factor.
For me, focus peaking with blue highlight in combination with the viewfinder set up to Dual Display is the best way to focus with this lens. In that way, you get the visual feedback of the focus peaking or – when the focus peaking fails – you can verify the focus area visually, while turning the focus ring slowly. As for XF lenses, you don’t have to do focus-and-recompose, but can use the joystick to find the part of the frame, you want to manual focus on.
The Minolta MD Rokkor 50mmF2 lens
You can read about its history on this site and this site. This version was made from 1977 to 1981. So it might be up to 50 years old. The lens does not have a reputation for being very sharp in the widest end, but should be stepped down for optimal results when it comes to sharpness. But Fujifilm delivers tack sharp lenses, so why bother too much about that?
The Minolta lens is not exactly a “Vintage lens”. The Minolta MD Rokkor 50mmf2 is not an expensive lens on eBay either. It goes for 50$ to 100$ depending on the condition of the lens.
I cleaned my Iens with B+W lens cleaner solution and a soft tissue. Then I removed the last dust particles and tracks of the solvent with a lens pen. After cleaning both front and rear lenses it was time to inspect the lens. My copy has no visible dust in the inside of the lens. And the front lens was not scratched. The focus ring was smooth and I could feel no signs of sand when I rotated the focus ring. So all in all the lens seems to be in good condition.
One of the good things about this lens is, that aperture and focusing is purely manual and on the lens, so it is possible to shoot with other apertures that f2 (other lenses has a mechanic lever to set the aperture). The focus ring goes from 0.5m to infinity in 180 degrees, but 90 degrees of the focus ring are from 0.5m to 1 meter. So small adjustments has a huge impact on the focus distance to people or subjects farther away than 1 meter. For a full frame camera, shooting closer than 1 meter is probably normal, but on an APS-C sensor this lens is an 80mm equivalent lens, so normally you will be more than one meter away.
There are 5 diaphrams in the lens. Not high quality, but for shooting wide open, this should have little impact on the image compared to lenses with 7 or 9.
The reason for taking my family out and in to the garden was to test sharpness and the bokeh. The sky is visible through some of my bushes and trees, so I was interested in the lens characteristics. I was very happy to see, that the lens behaves nicely and creates ‘bubbles’ from the highlights. The sharpness was ok, though not Fujinon quality. More on that later. I shot in both sun and in the shadow, and overall I was happy with the result. I did not manage to nail every image tack sharp. I will have to practice some more. But it was fun !
Analysis of the lens
This analysis is in no way scientific, but I looked at some of the details on my images and made some notes.
f=2 generates blurry bokeh
My first test shots was to test the bokeh characteristics for various apertures. There is a huge difference in the bokeh from f=16 to f=2 ! And the test shots showed, that on apertures below f4, the bokeh had a tendency to create bubbles. Not bad for a one dollar lens :-)
The lens is sharp, when I am able to nails focus at f=2. The sharpness is not as good as the Fujinon XF56mmf1.2, but not bad either. To me, it lacks ‘micro contrast’ for wide apertures.
As the image above shows, the lens has a tendency to create a kind of ‘flare’ around highlights both in focus and especially in areas just out of focus. Especially in high contrast areas, this lens almost explodes with small starbursts. I looked at this image:
When I zoomed in to 100% on the image, I was surprised to see the behaviour. Even in the ‘in-focus’ areas, the lens has a tendency to produce sparkles in the highlights:
in the “just-out-of-focus” areas, Things started to become interesting; the lens generates bubble-like highlights.
Here the focus fall off is shown from sharp to out of focus, and how the highlights generates bubbles and almost som kind of flare. Next time I will try to step down a few f-stops to see if the lens still will have the same behavior.
Bubbles in background bokeh
The lens is able to produce nice bubbles in the background. The bubbles are not as distinct and sharp as modern lenses, but I find the bubbles pleasing and soft. The background is blurred very much at f2, and looking at the image, there are a lot of ‘ color noise’ in the blurred background. Not a bad thing, but it is interesting to see, that the background is squeezed out by the lens, so it produces a messed up background and not a smooth, buttery background. But the background isn’t nervous either like the XF50-140mm lens. Just color noisy :-)
There are a huge number of different manual lenses, that can be used with Fujifilm X-T2, provided you are able to find an adapter for them. The Minolta MD Rokkor 50mmf2 lens is an interesting lens. Not an expensive lens, but it is capable of producing interesting images with nice bokeh. The softness of the lens at f2 reminds me of the 23mmf2 lens on the Fujifilm x100F. And as a first ‘manual’ lens, 21 dollars are not a huge budget for gaining some knowledge on shooting with manual lenses.
- Both aperture and focus rings are on the lens
- Able to generate bubbles in the background bokeh
- Attractive price:performance ratio
- Hard to nail focus because the Fujifilm X-T2 often fails in focus peaking
- Focus ring has a 90 degree (narrow) distance from 1m to infinity, making it hard to fine adjust focus on an APS-C camera.
- Highlights produces ‘sparkles’ even within the DOF-area
- Little micro contrast in the image at f=2.
Neither Pro nor Con:
- Soft, dreamy in ‘just-out-of-focus’ areas for f=2
- Color noisy background bokeh