New Toy: Vintage Minolta Rokkor 50mm F1.2

So I was lucky enough to stumble across this little gem on the Fred Miranda photo forums…

Minolta MD Rokkor 50mm F1.2 converted to Canon EOS Mount by Jim Buchanan

A little background… these lenses were made back in Minolta’s glory days of manual focus lenses when they were competing with the best offerings from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Zeiss optics.  This particular one is capable of F1.2 which makes it great for low light and extremely shallow depth of field.  This comes at the cost of manual operation of everything – aperture is controlled on-lens and manual focus with no assist or confirmation.  The only real way to achieve focus at 1.2 is using the magnified live-view because depth of field is literally razor thin.  This small lens is a beast – heavy, all-metal, but velvety smooth operation! Even compared to all my Canon L lenses the build quality is astounding!

The natural focal length of this lens is 50mm but Ive been using it exclusively on my 50D (crop frame) which makes it more like a 80mm after the 1.6 crop sensor factor.  I personally prefer that focal length better as a portrait lens anyway. This is the first time I’ve shot with a manual focus lens since I had my Hasselblad some 8 years ago and man am I out of practice.  What makes it more challenging is that most digital SLRs do not have split focus screens like older cameras as they were all optimized for auto focus systems so its unnecessary.  Another thing… most modern auto focus lenses keep the aperture wide open until you shoot (for brighter image in viewfinder) and stop down when shot or if you use depth of field preview button.  Yeah, not with manual lenses like this (at least not when paired with modern camera bodies)… you’re stuck stopping down to focus and frame then stopping back up to shoot – yeah very unusual when you are used to modern equipment that does that for you.  However, this lens isnt meant for speed and shooting action – not why I bought it.  For most practical applications I’d be shooting at more like F2 or 2.8 for nice portrait bokeh but for the sake of showing off the dreamy signature of this lens our shots below were all at 1.2 (also no worries about stopping up/down to focus).

Our subject is a 1928 Singer sewing machine which has a lot of intricate sharp details and textures – shot in natural window light, ISO 400, handheld at 1/125 at F1.2.

And my cat…

And some commercial beauty images shot in-studio at the last Avalon Makeup Class:

Shot at F2 for soft specific focus on eyes and shallow depth of field

Shot at F16

Shot at F16, Great color rendition and clarity at hairline

Shot at F16, Edited to show Textures and Clarity

select 1 transport industry photo

Shot at 1.8 on Full frame body


About the Author:
Ryan holds a Bachelors in Marketing from Grand Canyon University, graduating on the dean's list. He has been providing professional photography services starting in 2003 and internet marketing services starting in 2007. His experience in specific industries including e-commerce gift/retail, aftermarket automotive industry, and Beauty/Cosmetology education and salon, and high-end designer fashion market provides him with unique insight for practical application of photography as it applies to modern advertising mediums and business needs.

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error: All Images © 2015 Ryan M. Walsh,