Weird lens reviews: Minolta MC Rokkor 40-80mm f/2.8 'Gearbox'
As you can see, it is the minolta rokor 40 to 80 millimeter, f, 2.8, and it comes in either mc or md varieties theyre, both essentially the same its a slightly different mount. Now. This is a well known collectors lens from the 1970s, and this is the first technical full review of it. Youll be able to find on the internet today. I think back in 1975, when this thing was first marketed. There were a number of zoom lenses available in the world, but they were nothing like they are today. They were generally quite large and had low image quality and mediocre. Maximum apertures and zoom ranges the difficult delay in producing a zoom mechanism that adjusted all the lenses internal glass elements with the correct precision needed to correct for optical aberrations, which is a mechanical feature of engineering that we take for granted. Nowadays, in the days of computer, aided design, but for engineers in the 1970s, with their slide rules and safari suits, it was an incredibly difficult task. A real challenge came in adjusting the lenses internal elements using a helicoid within the lens barrel, so minoltas engineers decided to think outside the box, quite literally in this case and design a zoom lens where the optics could be adjusted using a gearbox attached to the outside. Of the lens, which leads us to exhibit a this lenss design allowed for its glass elements to be adjusted with more precision than previous designs and at the same time, it was hailed for its impressive, resulting image quality.
If you want to find out a bit more then roger from lens rentals did an amazing teardown of this thing and ill put a link to his article in the description below. Even today, this lenss good reputation carries on and it has become a true collectors item. Well, for those who have actually heard about it anyway, it can be found for about seven to eight hundred dollars on ebay, for a decent copy and, of course, youll need an appropriate adapter to get the thing onto whatever camera youre. Using lets. Take a look at the lens itself: first, its a bit smaller than you might expect from f 2.8 standard zoom, although admittedly, 40 millimeter is hardly a very wide angle to be starting from it weighs about half a kilo just over a pound and its made of A mixture of metal and plastic with a leatherette finish around the middle, which has gone hard over the past 54 years, or so. This is obviously a completely manual lens manual focus manual aperture. The aperture is controlled from the rear. There are clicks at every half an f stop, except between f, 2.8 and f4, where theres, no click at all, and the aperture mechanism has six iris blades, yielding awkward bokeh when its topped down but pretty sun stars. The zoom and focus controls can be found at the side, turn the lever in the middle to control the zoom and the focus ring surrounds it.
Turning smoothly and precisely controlling the lens from its side like this is quite an experience, its fun to try something different, but obviously itll slow. You down a lot while shooting the lens displays some pretty clear, focus breathing when youre zoomed in but its less pronounced. When you zoom out the lens has a dedicated macro mode. If you turn this little metal knob and push it into the lenses body, then that will engage at macro mode when shooting at 40 millimeter its nowhere near being a true macro mode, really its just the only way to shoot closer than about one meter. From your subject with this lens, the front filter size of the lens is 55 millimeters wide, and it comes with a thin rubber hood, my ones a little worse for wear here, as you can see. Overall, though, the lenses build quality is quite lovely, although, as i mentioned, its mechanics do take getting used to so lets. Move on and take a look at this supposedly legendary image. Quality ill be testing it adapted onto my canon, eos r5, with its 45 megapixel sensor and thereby putting the lens under the kind of challenge its original engineers. Probably never even dreamed would exist. There are no image corrections in these pictures at 40, millimeter and f. 2.8. The lens is decently, sharp in the middle with no purple. Fringing contrast here is just okay, though, over in the corners image, quality quickly and decidedly falls apart, stop down to f4 for just a little more clarity there and back in the middle theres a lot.
More contrast now stop down to f 5.6 and sharpness becomes excellent in the middle. The corners are still looking very soft, though, with very strong chromatic. Aberration stop down to f8 for a major improvement and at f 11 those corners. Look pretty sharp theres still some color fringing to be seen, but its not as bad as usual for a zoom lens from the mid 70s f. Sixteen, so its a shaky start at forty millimeter lets zoom in a bit now to sixty millimeter in the middle. We see very good sharpness and still no purple fringing, but contrast has become a little more hazy over in the corners. We see plenty of softness, although that chromatic aberration is now gone, stop down to f4 for more brightness in those corners and theres. Plenty of contrast. Back in the middle now at f, 5.6 image, quality in the middle is perfect, but the corners are still very soft, heres, f, 8 and f 11, which both see gradual improvements. Finally, lets zoom all the way into 80 millimeter again at f, 2.8 sharpness remains good, but contrast is low, leaving to a rather ghostly looking image again at f 2.8. The corner image quality is extremely soft. At f4, the corners are the same, but brighter, but image quality in the middle sees a very dramatic improvement. In contrast at f 5.6, the middle remains perfect. The corners remain very soft at f 8. The image finally begins to get a little clearer at f11 image.
Quality is as good as it gets in the corners overall for a camera lens in 2021. This would obviously be a very poor performance, but in 1975 this would have been better than average zoom lenses of that era would have been even softer and certainly would have had more purple, fringing and chromatic aberration in their image. Corners now lets move on and look at vignetting and distortion. 40. Millimeter may not be a particularly wide angle, but we are treated to heavy barrel distortion here. Nonetheless, at f 2.8. The corners are also very dark at f4 and f 5.6, though they brighten up considerably. When zooming into 80 millimeter, we are treated to some moderate, pin, cushion distortion and again heavy vignetting at f 2.8. This must have been so discouraging to work with in the film era when editing your images would have been so difficult anyway, again at f4 and f 5.6. Those corners brighten up during normal shooting the lenses. Minimum focus distance is about one meter which is terrible, but in macro mode at 40, millimeter its about 33 centimeters, which is much better – that close up image quality in macro mode is a bit softer with some purple fringing at f, 2.8. Stop down to f4 for a major improvement, in contrast and the purple fringing is gone. F. 5.6 looks very nice and sharp close up now lets see how the lens works against bright light. Well, this is a lens from 1975.
. There are as many flares to be seen here as in a san francisco clothes shop at the same time, and the flaring gets worse as you zoom in. However, i will say this: it does actually look incredibly pretty now. Lets take a look at this lenses. Bokeh generally, it is fantastically smooth and beautiful, particularly for a zoom lens of the time, with nice character. One issue is that the lens is particularly susceptible to cat tie. Bokeh shapes in its image, corners and finally related to bokeh lets. Take a look at this lenss longitudinal chromatic aberration its pretty strong at f 2.8, as you can see, however, stop down to f4 and any of that color fringing is quickly gone overall. Well, if you were hoping, this might be some kind of magic lens from the 70s, offering modern image quality with optics ahead of their time, then well forget it, although in its time it would have been quite impressive. However, it still has a lot going for it. Its photos have a real character to them, low contrast, maybe, but with lovely colors and beautiful bokeh, and some people might be quite attracted to its beautiful, albeit rather extreme flaring patterns and its certainly a curious thing to use on your camera. Its been sitting on my desk now for a while, and i always find myself absent, mindedly playing with its controls. Im, not convinced the thing is worth seven hundred dollars, but it does have the most character of almost any lens ive ever used before.
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