Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm f2.8 Lens Review

Minolta Rokkor MC 35mm f2.8 Lens Review

The most common and affordable focal lengths in prime lenses are 35mm and 50mm. However, just like I owned a 55mm for years before ever getting a 50mm, it’s taken me a long time to get round to having a 35mm.

The first vintage lens I ever bought was a 38mm, and I have shot a lot with a 28mm too, but this Minolta Rokkor 35mm f2.8 is my first at this usually common length.

It brings the build quality you’d expect from the legendary name, but what about the results it gives? Find out if it’s worth heading to eBay or KEH Camera to pick one up for yourself in this comprehensive review.

Find your MINOLTA MC W.ROKKOR-HG 35MM F2.8 today

History of the Minolta Rokkor MC 35mm f2.8

Like those of many other camera companies, Minolta lenses were given a different or extra name to the bodies they were used on.

Think Konica Hexanon or Pentax Super Takumar.

For Minolta, this was Rokkor, which was used from 1940 to 1980 (and briefly between 1996 and 1998). It was inspired by the Rokko mountain that could be seen from the company’s factory in Mukogawa near Osaka, Japan.

The first Minolta 35mm f2.8 lens was the W.Rokkor-HG, which dates from 1958.

However, this was a low-production model that was quickly superseded the following year by the Auto W.Rokkor-HG. A compact version of this was also later released, in 1965.

In 1966, Minolta updated its 35mm f2.8 lens to the MC W.Rokkor-HG, which ran in its original form until 1973 when it too was upgraded to a new design, although the name remained the same.

This is the version that I have and that you can get for yourself from eBay here.

A smaller and lighter version of this lens, known as the MC W.Rokkor, appeared in 1975.

In 1977, as Minolta changed from its MC lenses to MD, the 35mm f2.8 again changed to the MD W.Rokkor, with a lighter version being introduced a year later.

Note that this rundown of Minolta Rokkor 35mm f2.8 lenses doesn’t include f1.8 versions, the Shift lens from 1976, or anything from after 1980 when the Rokkor name was dropped.

How old is my Minolta Rokkor 35mm f2.8?

If you have a Rokkor 35mm f2.8 and want to know how old it is but find the information above confusing, the table below will help.

It includes information parsed from that previous paragraph alongside some extra details.

You can check the name, filter diameter, and maximum aperture of yours to narrow down when it was made.

I know that mine, being an MC W.Rokkor-HG with a metal focus ring and unpainted aperture ring, was made sometime between 1966 to 1973.

NameFilter DiameterMax ApertureWhat ChangedMade From
W.Rokkor-HG55mmf221958
Auto W.Rokkor-HG55mmf22Became ‘Auto’1959
Auto W.Rokkor-HG52mmf16Diameter and aperture1965
MC W.Rokkor-HG52mmf16Became ‘MC’1966
MC W.Rokkor-HG55mmf16Rubber focus ring1973
MC W.Rokkor55mmf16No longer ‘HG’1975
MD W.Rokkor55mmf22Became ‘MD’1977
MD W.Rokkor49mmf2249mm diameter1978

What do the letters mean on my Minolta Rokkor?

You may be wondering what the letters mean on the different versions of these Minolta 35mm lenses – and on all other Rokkor lenses too, for that matter.

The W in W.Rokkor means wide-angle. So far so simple.

MC means meter coupled, from the metering system found on the cameras they shipped with.

MD means minimum diaphragm, which is again from the newer metering system found on the later Minolta cameras.

If you’re buying a vintage Rokkor to use on a digital camera today, both of these are immaterial.

The letters seen after Rokkor pre-1975 – mostly HG in the case of the 35mm lenses – relate to their optical formula, with the first letter denoting the number of lens groups and the second the number of lens elements.

The first letter is seemingly taken from Greek and / or Latin numerical prefixes (tri, quatro, penta, hexa, septi, octo, novem) while the second is the basic, modern-day Roman alphabetical equivalent.

TQPHSON
3456789101112
CDEFGHIJKL

From this we can see the 35mm Minolta lenses with the HG suffix had 7 lens elements (G) in 6 lens groups (H).

Some further examples, for clarity: a 28mm Rokkor SG had 7 lens elements in 7 lens groups while a 50mm Rokkor PG had 7 lens elements in 5 lens groups.

Finally, you may find you have an X on your lens; Rokkor-X HG, or simply just Rokkor X.

All this X means is the lens was produced for the American market. The lens itself is the same, with or without this extra marking.

So with the full name of my version being Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm f2.8, I can tell it’s from an earlier meter coupled camera, is a wide-angle lens, has 7 lens elements in 6 lens groups, and was not made for the American market.

Using vintage Minolta lenses on digital cameras

Like with any off-brand vintage lens, using an old Minolta Rokkor on your digital camera will mean having no electronic communication between lens and camera.

This means having to use some sort of manual exposure mode and manual focus. Do not let this worry you. For the former, I shoot in aperture priority mode and suggest you do too, especially if you do street photography too.

I’ve written about why that is in this piece here, but the general idea is as follows: fully manual is too fiddly, slow, and easy to get wrong when you’re out and about. That leaves aperture priority and shutter priority, of which I much prefer aperture. You can learn more in that article.

As for manual focus, most new or new-ish digital cameras have some sort of manual focus aid. The Sony mirrorless I use has focus peaking, which I think is fantastic.

Other manufacturers have their own versions and other focus assists too, which work in different ways. In fact, you can learn all about which mirrorless camera to buy for your vintage lenses in this guide.

The point here though is shooting in aperture priority and with manual focus is not something to be intimidated by. For me, they’re both big parts of what makes shooting vintage lenses so fun and satisfying.

The adapter needed for your Minolta Rokkor 35mm f2.8

To use Minolta Rokkor lenses on your digital camera, you’ll probably need an adapter.

What adapter that is depends on your camera but it will start with MD. Don’t worry about whether your Rokkor lens is MC or MD, by the way.

The company thoughtfully used the same mount – commonly spoken of as the Minolta MD mount but actually called the SR mount – throughout all of its cameras, so one MD adapter is all you need for any and all Minolta Rokkor lenses you may have.

Because I use a Sony mirrorless camera, I need an MD-NEX adapter. If you have an Olympus or other m43 camera, you’ll need an MD-m43 adapter, while Fujifilm X-mounts need an MD-FX.

You can take those links straight to their respective Amazon listings. If you need an MD adapter for a different type of camera and know the mount code, they’ll be sure to have those on Amazon too.

Build and image quality of the Minolta 35mm

I feel like I say this on every vintage lens review I write but the build quality of the MC Rokkor 35mm is reassuringly solid.

If a lens is to last for over 50 years like mine has, it does need to be put together well, and that does appear to be the case when you pick up this block of metal and glass.

However, there is one common issue that crops up with the inner workings of Minolta MC Rokkor lenses. Unfortunately, the aperture blades are prone to becoming oily, which can slow down their responsiveness to open and close.

This is true of mine, although I didn’t even notice it happening until I read about it while researching for this review and checked.

It’s never gotten in the way of me actually using the lens, although I am changing the aperture manually and not very much or very often. Only really between f8 and f11.

Even if the blades lag a little, they do have time to get to where they need to be before I shoot. And if they don’t, then it’s only really one stop difference anyway, which isn’t going to make or break my shot.

This becomes more of a problem though if you’re using this lens on its original film camera with auto-aperture, when they may move as you take the shot. Any delay caused by oily blades could well ruin your results.

As for the shots I manage to get from Rokkor on my digital camera – they’re generally great. As far as the image quality the lens gives me, I mean.

I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve found myself mainly shooting my street photography with it at f11. Most other lenses I’m at f8. It just seems to be a sweet spot for sharpness with this Minolta 35mm and helps me get more of my attempted shots actually in focus.

As with every vintage lens review I do, there are no zoomed-in flower-at-every-aperture test shots here. Just real world photographs I’ve taken with it – mainly for the #leesixtyfive project.

longhua pagoda shanghai

Street photography with the Minolta Rokkor 35mm

Having shot street photography with vintage lenses from 28mm up to 55mm, I think I’ve settled on my favourite length being somewhere in the middle.

Until now that’s been the F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8, but this Minolta 35mm is very similar.

It does mean having to get closer to your subjects than when using a 50mm or 55mm, but that’s not really a problem for me. Most people in China don’t care if you include them in your photographs.

The plus side of shooting street photography with a wider lens is being able to add more background to your shots.

I’ve been enjoying composing the whole shot recently, rather than focusing solely on the people in the middle of it.


Should you buy a Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm f2.8?

I’ve never had a problem recommending any of the vintage lenses I’ve reviewed before, but there is something holding me back from telling you to just go get yourself a Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm f2.8.

That thing is the aforementioned oily blades, which appear to be a potential issue on many vintage Minolta lenses and not just the 35mm.

I do wonder if buying a newer MD version of the lens will help you avoid this issue, but even then the only way to be sure is to check the actual lens for yourself.

I’ve seen eBay listings for used Minolta lenses that reduce the price when the blades are oily, which is refreshingly honest and nice to see. And if you do end up with one that suffers from this problem, you can get them cleaned up anyway.

Whether this issue is enough to put you off buying a Minolta Rokkor is up to you, but as there are plenty of other 35mm vintage lenses out there to choose from, I can see how you might want to leave the Rokkors alone.

From my personal experience shooting this on a digital camera in aperture mode, having a slight lag on the blades opening or closing up hasn’t affected the output I get, and it’s output that I’ve been very happy with so far.

If you’re looking to buy the lens on its original film body though, you’ll need to be more careful with the oily blades issue.

You can easily find the MC version of the lens on from eBay here or at KEH Camera, the adapter on Amazon here, and even a shiny new Sony mirrorless camera on Amazon too if you need one.

So, to buy or not to buy?

All I can really say is… I’m very happy with mine. 🙂

Find Your MINOLTA MC W.ROKKOR-HG 35MM F2.8 Today

If you enjoyed this post or found it useful and want to learn more, dig into some more lens reviews and helpful guides below: 

  1. Buying a mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses
  2. How to use vintage lenses on digital cameras
  3. Check out all the other vintage lens reviews
  4. See all photo essays shot with this Minolta Rokkor 35mm f2.8

And if you think others will enjoy this Minolta Rokkor 35mm f2.8 review too, help them find it by sharing or pinning.  😀

15 thoughts on “Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HG 35mm f2.8 Lens Review”

  1. Other than oily diaphragm issue, I found the image shot from wide open (f2.8) of this particular lens has pretty low contrast. Under the bright light, the image is pretty washout due to almost next to zero coating on the front element. The boarder is quite soft. But when you stop down (f4 and smaller), the image is quite sharp, color is pleasant and CA/distortion is well controlled.

    Reply
    • Cheers for commenting CJ. I don’t shoot wide open or anything below f8 really so always found good results with this lens. But good to have some input from someone who has done that and can speak about it. It could help someone reading this and I appreciate you taking the time. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Greetings!
    Need advice on this minolta.

    The MD-FX focal reducer for Minolta MC|MD lenses clamps the “jump” of the diaphragm, as a result of which the diaphragm cannot be changed when using the gear and is always wide open. How to avoid this? How to make the aperture changeable?

    Reply
    • Hey mate. I have no idea, unfortunately. Maybe someone else will see this and be able to help. I hope you find your answer from somewhere. 🙂

      Reply
    • Just a cheap unbranded one, Bill. I bought the lens and adapter in China and that’s what the shop had when I asked for one. 😀

      Reply
  3. Hello! I juts got the MC version of that lens and I thought it would mount on my childhood Minolta 500 si super but it seems that it is a different mount. I am getting confused?

    Reply
    • Hey Arno. I’ve just had a Google and yeah, they are different. Seems your camera is the AF mount that Minolta brought in later. It seems to be the same as the Sony A mount.

      I think the adapter you’d need could be MD – MA, although whether the focal distance is correct I don’t know. 🙂

      Reply
      • Hello Lee!
        Thanks a lot! I could not figure it out as they looked so similar. I am going to have to go hunt for another lens. I’d rather not get an adapter for one lens and will start hunting for a correct 35 mm …

        Reply
    • Thanks for the tip Randall, that’s a great point about auto-aperture. I’ve been changing aperture manually on a digital camera so it has plenty of time to open or close even if there’s a lag. I’ve added what you said into the article. Thanks for helping to make it better for future readers. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi, I purchased a Minolta X300 to add to my collection of Minolta film cameras together with a 80-200 mm zoom lens. The seller also included a MC 35 mm f 2.8 for free as it had oily blades and wouldn’t stop down at all. There are several posts on you tube covering disassembly of the various models of the 35 mm. It is a relatively easy job to strip them down to a stage where the blades can be carefully cleaned with cotton buds and alcohol. taking the focus and diaphragm assemblies apart isn’t necessary and is best avoided. However 30 mins with a spanning wrench and cleaning fluid and I now have a snappy lens with no dust.

    Reply
    • That’s great to read, Mike. Mine still works despite sticking a bit but it’s good to know it’s not too tricky to get it cleaned up before I ever sell it on. Thanks for sharing your experience and nice work getting one for free too. 😀

      Reply
  5. Thanks for the review!
    Having to choose between the Minolta and the Vivitar AUTO 35mm 2.8, which one would you go with?
    I too do street photography.

    Thanks!
    Andrew

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading the review, Andrew. 🙂

      I can’t really answer your question though as I have no experience with the Vivitar. All I can say is I’ve been very happy with the Minolta. Especially the results it gives. The only thing that might put you off the Minolta would be the oily blades issue, but I think mine has that and it’s not affected my shooting with it.

      In short, can’t comment on the Vivitar, would definitely recommend the Minolta.

      BTW if you have some vintage lens street photography you wanna share, have a look at the guest post page and see about submitting a piece here. 😀

      Reply

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