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Minolta Rokkor 58mm f1.2 MC question

Terry Rory , Jun 24, 2003; 08:53 a.m.

I migrated from Minolta MD to Contax manual focus slrs a couple of years ago. No regrets there of course, I love the zeiss glass.

However the Minolta equipment always gave good service and great images and with that thought in mind I was pondering buying a good used X series Minolta body just for the purpose of mounting a 58mm f1.2 MC Rokkor lens. (The 55mm f1.2 Contax/Zeiss lens is always quoted as P.O.A which means 'Pay Obscene Amounts' I think!) So I am forced to look at financially sane alternatives to Leica Noctilux F1 or Ultra fast Zeiss lenses.

I already have a Planar 50mm f1.4 so plenty might argue 'why bother for such a small difference in speed?' (Is it half or 1 stop difference?)

However, as irrational as my idea might be, I want one for indoor available light portraits. (58mm focal length would be a little better than 50mm for this purpose)

Anyone out there who uses a 58mm f1.2 MC on a regular basis?

This setup would spend a lot of time with Tri-X or Ilford XP2 and the (very) occasional roll of Portra 400 UC.

It would almost always have a UV filter on it. (Just maybe a very light yellow filter for portraits sometimes.)

Is it a good lens? Is the 58mm length good for portraits? Does it have a soft character or very contrasty? How much should I pay for an E+ or Mint - example? Any pitfalls with this lens I should know about?

Thanks for your help.

Responses

Christian Deichert , Jun 24, 2003; 03:43 p.m.

I use my MC Rokkor-X PG 58mm f/1.2 all the time. It's a great lens. It works well for portraits. It's a little soft at f/1.2 but otherwise is capable of taking very sharp photos. Prices can vary anywhere from $50 (what I paid) to $300 (what a used camera store would charge). Pitfalls? You may want to focus on the later models due to the imroved lens coatings (look for the rubber focusing ring). Then again, if you're going to use a yellow filter a lot, you may want to find an older model (with a milled metal focusing ring) because the slight radioactive decay of the rare earth elements in the glass tends to yellow the glass. I wouldn't bother with a UV filter -- if you want to protect the lens, just use a lens cap and take care of your glass. Sample photos below, one soft, one not.

Softer shot.
Girl across a table in a bar in Germany. 58mm @ f/1.2, 1/60th, Ilford Delta @ 3200

Sharper shot.
Colorado River from Dead Horse Point, Utah. 58mm @ f/8, 1/15th or so, Kodak E100VS @ 100, Tiffen 812

Brian Southward , Jun 25, 2003; 04:15 a.m.

Christian's response highlights my concern about this lens. I have the MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4 lens, and find the focal length very good for "people shots" (not sure I'd call my stuff portraiture). The lens is okay at 1.4, but best at 2.0 and above. It sounds like the f/1.2 version may be the same, i.e. okay at f/1.4. UK prices currently are £50-75 for the f/1.4 and £120-150 for the f/1.2. So you are paying a premium of 2-3 times cost for that half stop extra which takes you into an area where the lens is not particularly good.

My experience of the f/1.4, which may or may not be relevant, is that it's a sharp and contrasty lens but is prone to flare, so a lens hood is definitely recommended. The larger front element of the f/1.2 probably makes it prone to flare also.

I realise this by no means answers your question but I thought it might be some help.

Scott M. Knowles , Jun 25, 2003; 08:27 a.m.

I bought my 58mm f1.2 lens with my first SRT-101 in 1969, and both are still used routinely over the course of a year. I don't use that focal length a lot, I prefer the 85mm f1.7 lens, and I agree it's soft compared to the f1.4 and slower versions, but that's also an advantage at times. It also adds a slightly brighter viewfinder and the extra 1/2 f-stop. Is it worth any extra money over a f1.4/1.7? That's a user's choice. I like mine.

Good luck.

Terry Rory , Jun 25, 2003; 08:29 a.m.

Thanks for the advice and thoughts.

I have looked around and found an E+ example for sale for £150 UK from a trusted UK dealer.

I am now looking for a good used E+ Minolta x-700 / x-500 body.

A little 'softness' in an image does'nt worry me unduly. I tend to expose Tri-X at 200 and pull the dev 1 stop to get contrast down already. I have even been known to whip out the 55mm Heliopan Softar I for use on the Planar in some landscapes! (I will not be doing that with the 58mm f1.2 though.)

I think I will just pop a dedicated B+W MRC 010 UV on the 58mm and leave it there so I dont have to clean the lens glass.

Is there a dedicated hood for a 58mm f1.2 or should I just get a bog standard rubber collapsible hood for it?

Christian Deichert , Jun 25, 2003; 06:27 p.m.

There may have been a dedicated hood, but any 55mm-thread hood designed for 50mm lenses will be fine. Since my filter ring threads started to strip, I put in a UV filter sans glass, so I don't even need a hood anymore due to the more recessed front element.

You will love the bokeh with this lens -- the 8-blade aperture is outstanding. Much better than the bokeh on the 6-bladed Minolta standards I've used (MC Rokkor-X 50/1.4, MD 50/1.2, MD 50/1.7, MC Rokkor-PF 55/1.9) or even 5-blade (MD 45/2).

Terry Rory , Jun 26, 2003; 05:50 a.m.

Oh joy! I hadnt even stopped to investigate what size filter thread this lens had. (I just assumed it would be big.) My existing 28mm, 50mm and 135mm Contax lenses ALL take 55mm filters which I have aplenty. Thanks for telling me this Christian, I have saved at least the cost of a B+W MRC UV 010 55mm which can either be saved or added to the used Minolta body/58mm lens budget. (Plus I already have a light yellow 55mm as well.)

And I can use my Contax G12 (or G11 I forget which is my standard and which is wide!) lens hood which of course is 55mm thread.

Thanks.

Frank Mueller , Jun 27, 2003; 05:03 a.m.

I am using both, a Minolta MD 50mm 1.4 and a Minolta MC 58mm 1.2 on a regular basis. The difference is speed is pretty insignificant, but of course a f1.2 lens has more prestige value, and it's kinda cool owning one - especially if it is as good, yet relatively inexpensive as the MC 58mm 1.2.

I find the difference in focal length between a 58mm and 50mm to be more noticable than I expected. For indoor people shots 58mm is often just a notch too long for my taste, but for that purpose I am using a 35mm or 28mm more often than the 50mm anyhow. However, for indoor portrait shots, especially if you are in a relatively small room, or you are just shooting across a table, 58mm is pretty darn perfect.

Keep in mind that in addition to the MC 58mm 1.2, Minolta also made a MD 50mm 1.2. The latter lens is newer with presumably better coatings, is a little more uncommon, and usually comes at a slightly higher price. However, it has never reached the cult status of its MC predesessor.

The MC lens is not soft, to the contrary, it is a very sharp lens, but it has all the nice qualities Leitz users tend to rave on about. Although it is overused, the term great bokeh certainly comes to mind. It is hard to describe. Get one and see for yourself.

With respect to pitfalls, the very first version of this lens can have radioctive impurities in the glass elements, which can lead to yellowing of the glass over time. All lenses with this problem have the old-style milled metal focusing ring, but not all lenses with the milled metal focusing ring exhibit the problem. Lenses with the newer rubber waffle grip focusing ring are safe. There were recently quite a few of these lenses on eBay, which pushed the price to under $200, even for pretty decent looking examples, which would have fetched $250-$300 as little as a year ago.

Regarding the body, also have a look at the SRT, XE and XD series cameras. While the X-700 or X-570 are capable bodies, they lack flare, for lack of a better term, and don't match the MC 58mm as nicely as for example a XE-7 or XE-1 would.

BTW - I currently have 3 MC 58mm 1.2 lenses, and I am looking to sell two of them. One is a beater - milled metal focusing ring, some brassing, slight glass yellowing, some dust in the lens, maybe even some slight traces of fungus. However, I can not distinguish photos taken with this lens from the ones taken with the two better examples. I would be asking US$100 plus shipping for this one. The other one is the newer version with rubber waffle focusing grip, and is easily in mint - condition. No significant cosmetics problems, optics and mechanics pristine. I would be asking US$250 plus shipping for this one. Please feel free to email me if you are interested. I'll actually be overseas from later today until 12 July, but I'll be checking my email once every couple of days or so.

Terry Rory , Jun 27, 2003; 01:43 p.m.

Thanks for the offer but I think I have found a good one for £150 uK (inc 6 month warranty) from a dealer I got some of my Contax stuff from

Max Zappa , Jun 28, 2003; 05:18 a.m.

Lets face it I dont know of a bad ROKKOR lens. I have 4 standard lenses, my favourites are is the 50mm f1.4 MC ROKKOR and the 50mm f1.7 MC ROKKOR which is just one hell of a quality bit of glass. I have no f1.2 lenses but do have the following :

50mm f1.4 MC ROKKOR - PG, 50mm f1.7 MC ROKKOR - PF, 55mm f1.7 MC ROKKOR - PF, 58mm f1.4 MC ROKKOR - PF

The other lenses are class acts too. As for the focal length, well if I really wanted a portrait lens I would be looking for the 100mm f2.5, which is a rare beast indeed. They occasionally come up on ebay, and my understanding is that it is one of the finest ROKKOR lenses of all time. In my opinion focal length ranges of 50mm to 70mm are really a little short for portraiture, in order to fill the frame, which I personally like to do, its necessary to get quite close to the subject. This tends to distort the subjects face, which is not so flattering, and the subject can be intimidated by the closeness of the camera. 70mm to say 135mm is probably the ideal focal length range, I have a 135mm f2.8, which is a superb lens.

Two 100mm f2.5 lenses are available on the US ebay auction site as I type this reply. If I could get hold of one of these in the UK I would.

Checkout the following website for a comparison on the performance of normal lenses (50mm - 58mm) from MINOLTA and its major rivals. The minoltas are up there amongst the best of them, in some cases outperforming LEICA, NIKON,CANON, PENTAX and more. (link)

Good luck and dont forget that ROKKORS truly ROCK

Max Zappa

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