Minolta’s MD 50mm F/1.4 Might Be The Ultimate Standard Legacy Lens

Minolta’s MD 50mm F/1.4 Might Be The Ultimate Standard Legacy Lens

2448 1632 James Tocchio

Along with the runaway success of today’s mirrorless digital cameras, another segment of the photo gear market has seen a big rise. And while the products in question are neither new nor novel, they’re essential and seem almost tailor-made to the mirrorless machine. We’re talking about legacy lenses. With impressive performance and unbeatable value, legacy lenses have become a real passion for more and more in-the-know shooters.

It’s easy to see why. Cameras like Sony’s A7 and Fujifilm’s X-Series have never looked better than when fitted with a classic, manual-focus lens. These modern, mirror-less marvels provide a perfect platform for the stylish and technically masterful lenses of yesteryear. But with so many brands and models stretching back more than fifty years, which is the lens to choose? Especially in the standard 50mm focal length, the sheer quantity of available glass can be pretty overwhelming.

Today we’ll make a case for what may just be the very best standard focal length legacy lens. With an ideally balanced combination of performance, build quality, versatility, and price, this lens is the perfect complement to your new mirror-less camera or classic film SLR. It’s Minolta’s MD 50mm f/1.4, and if you’ve been looking for the best legacy fifty available today, you may have met your match.

For those unfamiliar with the Minolta name, check out some of our earlier articless on the brand’s many products. In those, we’ve delved into the history of the brand (inclduing their start as the Japanese-German camera shop), their operating ethos, and the company’s former and continued relevance. For those already familiar with Minolta or for those who just want the dirt on the lens in question, let’s get to it.

The first thing any shooter is likely to notice when grabbing hold of the MD 50/1.4 is just how excellent it feels in the hand. Minolta lenses are known for being solid, and the 50/1.4 does not disappoint. It’s a hearty lens that feels delightfully hefty. While lenses from other brands might feel loose, fragile, or squeak and rattle when squeezed, the Minolta does not. It feels tight, compact, and strong. Were the nameplate removed, one could be forgiven for thinking it a German lens (Minolta did, in fact, design and build lenses for Leica). It weighs a healthy 235g, putting it right in the middle of the pack when compared to other 50mm lenses, but it’s compact in a way that many of its contemporaries simply aren’t. Measuring only 40mm in length and 64mm in diameter, it gives Olympus’ lenses a run for their money. Filter threads are 49mm in the later models, 55mm in earlier 50/1.4s.

The lens barrel, helicoid, lens mount, and filter threads are solid metal, which feels great on the fingertips. Compromises in truly bulletproof build quality are few, though the aperture ring is one such compromise. In later models it’s made of plastic, while in earlier versions it’s aluminum. Still, the plastic ring of this MD version is strong and durable, though admittedly not as nice (or heavy) as its metal predecessor. The aperture ring clicks nicely into its detents with deliberate precision, making viewless aperture adjustments easily trackable. The focus ring spins smoothly with a perfectly weighted fluidity, with just enough resistance to enable pinpoint precise focusing with classic cameras and with new electronic viewfinders.

Close focus distance is great for a 50mm, at 1.5 ft. This allows for excellent subject isolation in up-close shooting, excellent bokeh, and makes the lens a natural at product photography. Focus touch is further aided by a diamond-patterned rubber grip that stands up well against the test of time. We’ve not encountered any MD or Rokkor lenses in which the focus ring’s rubber has degraded.

Operationally, the lens feels much better than the equivalent offering from Canon. Though that brand’s lenses perform great optically, they’re a bit too fragile for our liking. With their over-reliance on plastic, they often feel hollow and loose, with spongey focus throws and jittery aperture rings. Another contemporary, the Olympus Zuikos have shown a proclivity for longevity issues. In our dealings through our camera shop, compared with Minolta, Olympus’ lenses show higher frequency of frozen apertures and elements afflicted with fungus. Not good. Minolta’s lenses, in contrast, are nearly always as functionally perfect as the day they were made (anecdotal information, I know, but that’s the way it is).

Optically, the MD50/1.4 is second-to-none in its class. Minolta’s engineers knew what they were doing when they carried over the optical formula used in the much more expensive MD 50mm f/1.2. This seven element in six group design offers ample correction of optical aberrations, and provides exceptional resolution and contrast.

Many fast lenses suffer severe softness in the corners when shot wide open, which really hamstrings the capabilities of the lens. Not so with Minolta’s MD. Sharpness is fantastic, even when shot wide-open. Corners suffer a bit of softness, naturally, but it’s nothing in comparison to some other fast primes we’ve shot. The Minolta performs among the best we’ve tested in this regard.

The ability of the lens to resolve sharp images at f/1.4 opens up a whole new world of low-light shooting possibilities. When light conditions allow, and when sharpness is valued, stop the lens down to f/2 or f/4 and things become outstandingly sharp across the entire frame. At f/8 we’re seeing sharpness to rival many higher spec (and higher cost) lenses.

Light falloff is visible at f/1.4, so be wary if you’re shooting film (especially slide film). For those who can’t abide vignetting, you’ll need to post-process your digital shots or your scanned film negatives. Once your shots are in the digital workflow, it’s easy to do away with unwanted fall-off. Alternately, stopping the lens down a single stop to f/2 eliminates much of the problem, while apertures of f/4 and above will eliminate it completely.

With its 49mm diameter filter threads, we’re enjoying filters and attachments that are just slightly less expensive than larger diameter offerings. Similarly beneficial to the traveling photographer, these smaller diameter filters, caps, and lens hoods provide a lighter load, and take up less room in the camera bag.

This lens fitted with a +10 close-up filter is a thing of beauty. By stowing a +10 filter in our bag we’re able to essentially carry a standard macro lens everywhere we go. See a bug? Screw on the filter and take incredible macro shots with ease. Screw off the filter and you’re right back to a standard. The MD’s high quality optics go a long way toward diminishing the negative impact a potentially less impeccably built filter may have on image quality. Good stuff.

It’s pretty remarkable to think that one can use this lens to shoot everything from portraits, to snapshots, to landscapes, to macro insect shots. It’s one of those rare bits of gear that works equally well for the photographer who loves nature, and the shooter who lives for low-light street photography. And this versatility is another reason the MD 50/1.4 is so easy to recommend.

Bokeh is phenomenal. Partly due to the close minimum focus distance, and partly due to the lens being simply exceptional, you won’t find better bokeh in a competing 50/1.4. When shot wide open, background blur is exceedingly smooth, creamy, and blended, and depth-of-field is super shallow. Bokeh curve is predictable and nicely modulated without any drastic changes through the aperture range. At its widest aperture the lens creates impossibly thin depth-of-field. While this value will change dependent on range to subject, at the minimum focus distance the DOF is razor thin. Some shooters will love this, others won’t care.

Shooting portraiture in bright light at f/4 results in perfect subject isolation and dreamy backgrounds. Even at f/8 it’s possible to get extremely organic looking bokeh behind up-close subjects. It’s not until the smallest apertures that we start to see jagged bokeh highlights in the contrasty points of an image. These appear as hexagonal blurs that, while not overly conspicuous, can be a bit distracting.

Chromatic aberration is nonexistent with the MD 50/1.4 thanks to Minolta’s exceptional optical coatings. Ghosting and flaring are incredibly rare, and one must be shooting directly at the sun to produce these unwanted affects. Even in this extreme situation, ghosts and flares are minimal. It’s pretty amazing, actually. The closest competing lens that’s as good at mitigating these kinds of aberrations is Nikon’s Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, a lens that’s perennially pricier than Minolta’s MD.

Which brings us to another big reason why the Minolta MD 50/1.4 may be the best legacy lens of standard focal length available right now. While it’s true that across the board prices for legacy lenses have been climbing, Minolta’s prices seem to be lagging behind the more recognizable names of Canon, Nikon, and Olympus. For those in-the-know, this presents an incredible opportunity to build a stunning collection of lenses for very little cost.

This is astounding since those other makers’ lenses, while excellent in their own right, are simply less of a complete package compared to the Minolta lens. Where other lenses may trump the MD 50/1.4 in certain individual categories, no single lens gets so much so right as the MD. It’s just the best all-rounder, and until more consumers catch on and drive the price up, Minolta’s MD 50/1.4 stands to be one of the best values in all of photography. At the moment, it’s almost criminally inexpensive. We might as well be stealing.

Compatibility for digital and film shooting is a non-issue. For shooters using Minolta film cameras, the MD 50/1.4 will work with quite literally every SLR the company made between the years 1958 through 1998. That’s pretty amazing, and offers a world of choice for us analog shooters. For photographers using today’s crop of mirror-less cameras and DSLR machines there are countless inexpensive adapters available. Make sure the adapter you buy allows infinity-focus and enjoy worry-free shooting with any Minolta SR mount lens (these include all lenses marked MC, MD, Rokkor, Celtic, and 3rd party lenses).

Are you convinced yet? You should be.

If you’re a mirror-less shooter who has yet to invest in legacy lenses, or a Minolta film shooter who’s looking for the perfect standard lens, now’s the time to buy. And there’s no better place to start than Minolta’s MD 50/1.4. It offers an unparalleled blend of quality, performance, and price. A lens that’s more robust than Canon’s, more reliable than Olympus’, and less expensive than Nikon’s, the Minolta MD 50mm f/1.4 may just be the best legacy 50mm out there.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • An even cheaper alternative, not only without sacrificing image quality but actually even improving it, would be the Minolta MC or MD 55/1.7.

    I have both versions, and while the MC performs better toward infinity, the MD is sharper at close-range. The MC was my father’s and I’ve used it to learn to photograph since I was a kid (finally) allowed to use his reflex (an SRT-101), but for the MD I paid around 5€…

    And there are at least a few other Minolta lenses that I can vouch about (I use them on a Sony A7r, that usually shows when a lens is not good enough pretty fast):

    – 50/1.2
    – 35/1.8
    (these two have the loveliest bokeh, but are a tad pricer)

    – 200/4 (quite good from wide open, but at f/8 and f/11 is really really sharp, even if low contrast)

    BTW, great blog! I never miss one of your posts 🙂

  • hi, great site. I do think you totally forget the Konica 50mm 1.7. Great great lens on my Sony a7…

    Thanks, Joris

  • I do agree that in terms of quality. I have numerous standard lenses across different brands and I have a criteria in my head now when just looking for a right lens. I like my 50’s to be less than 250 grams on my A7 and I don’t want the barrel too long. its a difference of 2mm to 8mm but they count to me, I also prefer rubber focus ring over metal focus ring. I particularly like ones that have some plastic in them like a Contax planar 50mm 1.7, Minolta Rokkors and Plain MDs, Canon nFDs, Olympus Zuikos, Nikon E lenses. I would say that the Minolta’s are the best mechanically among those plastic hybrids. . I particularly like the MD because it has a wider grip than rokkors and better lens coating.

    • Interesting that you’d mention the Nikon E series. That’s a lens range that I think is quite excellent, but that doesn’t seem to get much respect.

  • Good article! Exactly what I was searching for during the last few days.. I’m currently searching for a fast 50ish mm manual and the Minolta was one of my favorites. Do you know what’s the difference between MD 50 1.4, Rokkor PG 50 1.4 and Rokkor PF 50 1.4? The latter seems to be the most expensive of the three, but by a small margin. How do these compare to Canon FD 50 1.4 S.S.C for example? So far I’ve tried only a Rolleinar 50 /1.4 and I was pretty impressed by its sharpness and bokeh, so if I could find something similar, I’d be quite happy.

    • Hey bud. Thanks for the kind words. The Rokkor PF that you reference is, I believe, a 58mm 1.4 or a 50mm 1.7. I don’t recall ever seeing a 50mm 1.4 PF, though I could be wrong.

      The letters following the Rokkor name on certain Minolta lenses denotes the number of elements and groupings in the lens’ construction.

      To your question, the difference in optical quality between the MD 50 1.4 and the Rokkor PG 50 1.4 will likely be insignificant. I’ve read in many places online that the MD version (the version here reviewed) is very slightly inferior to the older versions. I’ve not found this to be the case. In fact, Minolta’s own reference material from the period states that the MD version produces identical image quality to the older versions. Do we believe that? I do, personally, having used all versions extensively.

      In practical application the only difference is in build material, size, weight, and build quality. The later MD version reviewed here is smaller and lighter than the previous version. It uses more plastic, including on the aperture ring. Some people hate that and consider it a mark of low quality compared to the metal ring of the previous version.

      Personally, I find the more compact lens to be nicer, since I value compactness. Additionally I’ve found no drop in build quality with this lens. For me, it feels better than the older versions in use. And in practical use, it makes incredible images at under $100. I can’t think of a value proposition better than this late model MD 50 1.4.

      Hope this has helped! Let me know if I can do anything else for you.

      • Thanks a lot, James!
        Indeed, the PF model was 58mm, not 50. That makes it a bit longer for my needs on an APSC, so I’ll probably have to choose between MD and PG. Plastic aperture ring doesn’t bother me at all. I’m looking at very well preserved examples, so I can live with the plastics.
        Do you have any observations on Canon FD 50/1.4? It’s the other lens I’m also considering along with the Minoltas. As I don’t have adapters for them, I’ll need to buy an adapter before I’m able to test them, so ‘ll have to decide on the mount 🙂

        I liked your sample shots – the bokeh in particular. I’ve seen other reviews where the sharpness was tested and they all looked good to me.
        I know that Canon FD also has great sharpness (maybe even better than Minolta), but I’ve read that its bokeh is harsher. Is the Minolta the better all-rounder in your opinion?

        How easy is to manual focus with Minolta? I’ll be using focus peeking anyway, but I know some lens are harder to nail the focus even with the help of focusing aids.

        That’s pretty much all I wanted to ask on this lens. I like the Minoltas by what I’ve read and learned so far, so a little comparison with the Canon FD will be enough for me.


      • They were the Rokkor PG. But yours isn’t.

        The 49mm filter 50mm 1:1.4 was produced in the MD (II) and MD (III) phases. Check out the focus-confirmation knob on the back of the lens. Yours is the late late model. Kind of surprised that Minolta wasn’t putting a 7-bladed diaphragm in this lens yet.

        I have a late late 50mm 1:1.7 that I use for the same reason: compactness. But much better bokeh than a 45mm 1:2.

  • What about the newer AF series? How do they compare with the MD? Obviously the 1.4 but also the 1.7 in value? Another question is there a difference in quality between the 55 mm filter size vs. the 49? In either the MD or AF should I be looking for.the larger 55mm size? It would be easier as I already have the filters. Thank you Great article

    • Hey Ed. I’ve used the AF 50 1.4 and 1.7 and they’re fantastic lenses. As with most manufacturers, optical coatings were continually updated as techniques changed and improved. Is there a difference in naked image quality between the MDs, Rokkors, and AFs? Very unlikely. Very few people would find a difference even shooting on today’s digital sensors, and I am confident that no one would see a difference on film.

      Some people claim a difference in build quality between the older Rokkors and the newer MDs. This is more subjective, but I don’t buy it. The newer MDs have a plastic aperture ring, sure, but functionally there’s little difference. In fact, I find the compactness of the later MDs give the lenses a greater perceived heft, and they just feel tighter to me.

      The AF lenses are certainly less impressive feeling, especially the 50s. But there are some AF wide angle lenses that are super dense and feel just as solid as the older ones.

      Personally I would buy what works best with your system. If you have a collection of all 55mm filter lenses and you enjoy the look and feel of those, go for it! Otherwise, perhaps price and availability will be better parameters?

      I hope this helps!

      • Well, Sony has certainly benefited from the manual Minolta 50mm 1.4/7 legacy. The Sony 50mm 1.4 (auto-focusing and A-mount) is a super lens and carries on the tradition of lovely colors and great low light reach. I have not used the Minolta AF versions of the 50mm but I have read that people seem to prefer Minolta’s manual focusing ring on the AF (kind of an ironic statement I suppose). You can find some great deals on Minolta AF 50mm 1.4 and 1.7 that I recommend jumping on if you are looking for this type of glass. Especially the 1.7 considering the price — there is really no excuse not to have one in your arsenal. Sometimes, it’s nice to have something a little more modern and automatic when working with newer cameras. Keep in mind Sony A-mount and — you’ll need an adapter for the A7x,

  • Hello! I’m very nearly sold on this, no thanks to your post, though I’m still dithering… A few questions, if you don’t mind:
    What is this magical +10 filter that you spoke of, and do you have any links to it?
    Have you had the chance to use the older MD-Rokkor version of this lens? If you have, which of the two would you recommend?
    Thank you!

    • Hey! I’ve used the Rokkor versions of this lens extensively. I prefer this one because it is smaller, lighter, and newer. It offers the same image quality as the earlier lenses, and it’s compactness tips the scales for me.

      The +10 filter is just a high magnification screw on filter, just like a UV filter. They work great, though image quality is reduced a little bit. Still, for the low price they ask it’s better than carrying a dedicated macro if you’re traveling light.

      Just search Amazon for a +10 close up filter of the appropriate diameter. I think this lens uses 49mm, but double check that.

      Hope this helps!

  • Daniel Stevenson August 20, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I own the Minolta lens you discuss and it is indeed a terrific lens. You will certainly not be disappointed if you buy one.

    However, I would still select the SMC Pentax M 50 1.4. The Pentax lens is 63mm in diameter and only 37mm long so it is a bit smaller than the Minolta lens. I believe the weight is identical, around 235 grams. The lens IQ is amazing, it has a very, very devoted following and is considered one of the finest fast 50s made. Build quality is equally as robust with nothing coming apart over the years.

  • Great article James and I agree Minolta made some great lenses in fact I use three of them my favorite being the 135mm f 2.8. I have four versions of these 50mm f1.4 Legacy lenses the Minolta MC Rokkor X, the Nikon non AI, Canon FD and the Super Takumar. Unfortunately my Minolta is the worst wide open compared to the others so soft it’s unusable in my opinion, stopping down to makes a considerable difference but defeats the purpose of having an f1.4, maybe I have a bad copy.

  • Thanks! It seems like it’s coating becomes significantly better!
    How does it compare to 58mm f1.2 which is legendary?
    If the cost is not our concern, of course. 🙂

  • hi, Is there a difference between the Minolta MD 1.4 and the Rokkor 1.4? By the way I love your blog.

    • James – Founder/Editor March 4, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      The MD is the latest version with the most advanced coatings. They are most likely the same as the MD Rokkors, possibly a bit better than the early MC Rokkors. Essentially the only appreciable difference is build material, size and weight. The MD will be lighter and smaller than any MC or MD Rokkor version, but some people prefer the older versions for their metal aperture rings. Hope this helps.

  • Would you recommend the Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f.4?

    • James – Founder/Editor March 13, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Sorry, I haven’t used this particular lens. I did use a Rikenon 50 F/1.7 (I believe) and it was fantastic. But we know that things can change from one formula to the other. I’ll try to find one to test.

  • Cork Van Den Handel May 16, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Congrats on an excellent article. I love the late MD 50 f/1/4, but also have several earlier Rokkor versions (as well as the superb A-mount autofocus version). I think the early Rokkor MD and predecessor MC versions offer creative photographers interesting alternatives with an overall softer image outside the center, making them intriguing tools for portraits and other central-zone subject photos.

    Minolta was unique in many ways, and one of which is that their 50mm f/1.4’s were always better than their kindred f/1.7’s, at least in my experience. Because of the greater complexity introduced by the higher speed and larger lenses, the f/1.4’s of most firms were generally inferior to their f/1.7’s.

    Finally, though I know the thrust of this fine website is manual focus classics, I would be remiss if I did not point out that your comment “For shooters using Minolta film cameras, the MD 50/1.4 will work with quite literally every SLR the company made between the years 1958 through 1998” is correct only for the manual focus SR/MC/MD mount cameras made by Minolta and others through that time period. These fine lenses will not work on Minolta’s autofocus A-mount SLRs.

  • Great review I’m almost sold! I do wonder though, would the effects still be as dreamy on a mirrorless camera like the lumix gx7 or would it lose its ‘magic’? would you recommend using an AF lens for such a camera?

    • I’ve used this lens on a crop sensor Fuji and the full frame Sony a7 and its performance is gorgeous on each. Great lens, no matter which camera it’s mounted onto.

  • I have a version with a leather coating on it, it came with a Minolta XE-5 but it didn’t focus on a A7rii with MD to Ef and then EF to E mount adapter.

  • Great article. Now please delete it from the internet immediately, before everyone realizes how great Minolta lenses are and drives the price up.

  • As I use this regularly I feel obligated to comment. I use it on a Minolta X-700, and ocassionally adapted on a Fuji X-T20 or M43 body. This review is spot on. I have dozen of old manual focus film lenses from various companies, and this is by far one of my faves. The build quality is great, and it looks excellent on the camera. The performance though is what really separates this lens from the pack. Like the post says, you can actually rely on this lens wide open at f1.4. Most old fast lenses are a soft and loaded with CA wide open. Not this lens. It’s great at the center wide open, and there is little to no CA when on digital bodies. I have a few leica lenses that I can rely on for sharpness, but the close focus distance of this lens makes it so much more usable. It really is that one lens you can rely on to do almost anything. If you don’t have one, and are considering it, pull the trigger asap. You will be impressed. Thanks for the great article on a great lens,

  • Hey James, I have learned so much from your reviews. Thank-you for sharing your knowledge and opinions. Could you please let me know what wrist strap you are using on your A7 in the photo of your review of this Minolta 50? I really like that strap and have been looking for something similar, Any ideas where I might find this? Thanks!

    • Hey pal. Thanks for the kind words. The strap is made by a company called Artisan Origin. Last I knew they were selling on Etsy. Let me know if you can’t find them there. Thanks again.

      • Thanks for the info on Artisan Origin! I have a follow up question…that particular strap on your A7 appears to be a wrist strap (not neck strap) as it is only attached on one of the strap mounts. Do you happen to know if Artisan Origin used to make a wrist strap that only attaches to one side and maybe they no longer make it? I browsed their Etsy shop and could not find a one-sided wrist strap. Thanks!

  • Great article James. You have me thinking about adding a Rokkor. I have a Minolta Maxxum 50mm AF f1.4 I love and is very sharp. In comparison how would you rate the Minolta MC Rokkor PG 50mm F1.4? Would you say it is sharper/better bokeh? Looking for another lens to put on my Sony a6000.

    • The Maxxum and Rokkor lenses do have very similar renditions. If you already have a Maxxum 50/1.4 and are happy with it, I don’t see much need for a Rokkor or MD 50/1.4, unless you really want a metal lens with smooth manual focus. The AF manual focus isn’t very nice.

  • I’ve found this md 50/1.4 lenses with Samsung brand on it. It looked identical with the difference only on Samsung lettering replace Minolta and Korea replace Japan. Do you ever recognize this?

  • Great review, and I agree with everything you say. I’m originally from India. In the early 1980s (before I was born), my grandfather went to Japan for work and brought back a Minolta SLR and a 50mm f1.7 lens for my dad. My dad handed down the kit to me, and I’ve used them extensively over the last 20 years. In 2011, when I was working in Tokyo, I even had them serviced by Konica Minolta.

    Last year I got a Minolta X-700 for free (long story) and thought I’d gift it to my dad (he didn’t have a film camera since he gave me his Minolta). I wanted to buy him a lens to go with it, and found a 50mm f1.4 on eBay for £55. When I gave it to my dad, he told me an interesting story which I never knew.

    When my grandfather was going to Japan, my dad had originally asked him if he could bring back a f1.4. (I have no idea why he asked for this lens specifically. Hardly anyone he knew in India at the time owned a camera, and such information was hard to come by.) In Osaka, my grandfather visited some camera shops and realised he could not afford the f1.4, which is how we ended up with the f1.7.

    Anyway, the 50mm f1.7 is also a cracking lens, and even more (as you put it) criminally inexpensive. My “other camera” is a Leica M3 with a 50mm Summicron, and this might sound crazy but if you look at the results, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference.

  • James, excellent write up. I was lucky enough to find the MD 1.4/50 at a thrift store and walked out with it for $25. This lens with my black XD11 has been an exquisite combination both aesthetically and optically.

    Even considering the value proposition, IMO this lens is one of my top 5 optically at any price and I’m saying that as the owner of the Minolta, Olympus, Canon and Zeiss Planar 1.4/50’s. The fact that it is relatively cheap makes it all the more sweet.

    • Rob, excellent find. Congratulations! I agree with you as well. The unassuming Minolta 50mm F/1.4 is right there in my top three standard lenses, along with the Contax G Mount 45mm F/2 Planar and the Leica Summicron 50/2 in M or R mounts. It’s worth noting that the former costs five times the amount and the latter more than ten times the amount that the Minolta costs. Food for frugal thought.

  • Minolta made a lot of 50mm lenses with varying formulas. The one you have shown is uncommon–although I don’t want to use the word “rare”, because it’s not a collector’s item due to the quantity produced. Internally, it’s the same recipe of the 50mm 1:1.4 AF that came after. All of the 50mm lenses Minolta made throughout the last 60s and 70s are of a different recipe. In fact, this one came about after a mid-stream change in the MD line-up. I suspect a lot of the late MD lenses were practice for the AF lenses that followed. Auto-focus was going to forever make lenses into hilariously clownish-oversize coffee cans, so the parts had to be much smaller (and frail) to fit. Also: Late MD lenses had problems with helical grease breaking down. And people tried to fix it by packing it with ever more grease, with made the problem even worse. Hope you didn’t have to deal with that.

    I have an example of this lens. I like that the last MD lenses were so light, though I dare say I’m not a huge fan of its bokeh. Or that of the 50mm 1:1.2–which is pretty much the same lens. It’s not bad. Nifty softness wide open, compared to the eye-stabbingly bad illuminated tick bites that pass for rendition of out-of-focus image quality with modern lenses. But I like it even softer when open. I don’t mind a clinical lens, but I have wide-angles and near-macros for that type of work. The 50s were tremendously popular, if for this reason: they could be made to be a compact, soft portrait lens that could fit in a shirt pocket. I love how Minolta never lost sight of the art of photography. I also like that their lenses didn’t turning a soup can of loose parts when they wore…unlike some other brands I could name. (Yes, I repair old cameras and lenses. No, the stuff you hear on the Internet is generally baloney.)

    And yes, Minolta stuff is cheaper on the used market. Mostly because it was more popular, and was purchased in ridiculous qualities. It’s *everywhere*. Minolta was the target of bitter, bitter resentment because that, and now Sony has a target on its back too.

  • Excellent article which is still receiving replies 5 years on. I just bought the MD 50/1.4 off the back of your review/ recommendation.
    It’s a great lens with a lot of character and I’m getting great images with it. Your review has certainly pushed the price up, I got mine last week on ebay at a buy it now price of £65 in excellent condition but they are fetching more than that if you can find one.

  • How does MD 50/1.4 compare to Contax Zeiss 50/1.4 for IQ and flare resistance? Is the T* much better?

  • I just recently hit the jackpot with the Minolta 50mm f/1.4. At a flea market there was one stall that had a handful of crappy 3rd party zoom lenses, then there was a single short, compact prime lens with a lens cap on. Upon removing the lens cap, I saw it was a Minolta 50mm f/1.4, the older version with 55mm diameter front element and filter threads. The lens itself is pristine, with smooth focusing, and no blemishes to the glass or body. The asking price was only $15 USD. Needless to say, I came home with that lens. Ironically, those crappy 3rd party zoom lenses were priced significantly higher, no doubt because they were much larger lenses, but I found the diamond-in-the-rough. Mounted on my Fuji X-H1 the lens gives a lovely short-portrait equivalent of 75mm, with creamy bokeh and sharp subjects. It’s so lovely to use, in fact, that I went on Ebay and bought a Minolta X-570 to mount it on as well. Love this lens, and I don’t even wish that I had found one of the newer, slightly more compact versions with 49mm front element.

  • Recent got one of these lenses off eBay and maybe paid too much for it because seems to be pretty dusty inside but gives a nice softness to the shots. I shoot it with my Sony a6000. I also have the f/1.7 that I got used for years ago when I shot film, and it seems tack sharp, but I really never used it since I preferred the almost pancake 45mm f/2.

  • These Minoltas are indeed great lenses, but an even better option IMO is the Asahi Pentax SMC Takumar, either the 50/1.4 or 55/1.8, which are bar none the best-built Japanese lenses of this era. Both models do contain thorium in an element, so they often exhibit a yellow cast, but this can be cleared up by leaving it on a sunny windowsill. People go gaga for the earlier 8-element Super version f/1.4, but the later multicoated versions are just as good once cleared and have much better flare resistance.

    Rendering and color are somewhat different – the Minolta lenses tend to pop cyans and oranges, while the Asahis emphasize reds and greens. The Asahis have an overall smoother look and tend to render skin better and have better bokeh to my eye than the Minoltas. Sharpness is similar between both brands.

    If you are a DSLR shooter, the screw mount on the Takumars is one of the most adaptable available, but if you are into a more contrasty and even sharper lens, the Pentax-M and A series K mount Asahi lenses are also nice options.

    • I have both the Minolta MC Rokkor X 50mm f1.4 and the SMC Takumar screw mount and the my Minolta beats it in terms of sharpness and Bokeh in my opinion and experience. Don’t get me wrong I love both of them and use them as often as I can but if I had to choose it would be Minolta all the way. You can check my photo stream on my flickr account https://www.flickr.com/photos/cheeks69/ under the album vintage lenses and see some of the photos.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

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