VMLP 6: Exploring Manual Minolta Zooms

When I set out to do the Vintage Minolta Love Project, the idea was to try as many SLR bodies as I could afford. Thanks to eBay and people cleaning out garages, attics, and closets, I have been able to get the bodies I desired. With lenses, I took a different path. Lenses cost more than bodies, so I focused on buying only those lenses I planned to use. Then the idea hit to try and pair bodies with period-appropriate lenses, so I went back to eBay.  

As anyone knows who has searched for camera gear, it is often cheaper to buy lenses attached to bodies. So, after seeing prices for lenses such as the MC 50mm 1.4 PG, I went looking for bodies with lenses. It worked. I got the manual focus bodies with lenses for much less than most lenses cost alone. In fact, I got the 50mm 1.4 PG with a fully working body for less than 40.00! All was good until I made the mistake of looking at the Minolta SR Lens Index.  

I knew there were a lot of manual Minolta lenses, but I had never really paid attention to just how many. I am intrigued by zooms, so the list of zooms caught my eye. By this time, I had the 35-70mm f3.5 Macro, the 28-85mm 3.5-4.5, and the 70-210mm f4, so pure curiosity made me look for the other zooms.  

I quickly noticed that Minolta had made a variety of zoom lenses, many of which I had never seen or heard of before going through the Index. For example, the Auto Rokkor 80-160mm and some of the later zooms: MD Zoom Rokkor-X 75-200mm, MD Zoom 35-135mm, MC Zoom Rokkor-X 80-200mm, MD Zoom 100-300mm, MD Zoom 75-150mm, and MD Zoom 50-135mm were complete unknowns. It didn’t take long to discover why they were not common conversation topics. Most had no reviews, and the few mentions that I did manage to find were not useful.   

Naturally, I wanted to learn more about these lenses and, if possible, try shooting with them. However, at the time, locating them was not a priority, just an amusing idea. Well, that changed when I managed to test the MD 75-150mm. I had read a single review that praised it. But other than that review, nada. After ruining the first shots taken with it, it sat unused for months. One day I decided to test it on my Olympus e-300. I was blown away!!! After that, I decided to see how many other gems might be languishing on eBay, unsung and unloved.  

Most of the zooms were not readily available on eBay (I only buy from US sellers). As one might expect, once I realized they were hard to come by, I searched even more diligently. As a rule, things that are difficult to obtain tend to cost more. However, this proved to be only partially true. The MD 24-50mm was expensive but available. The cheapest I could find was more than 200.00—that was too much just to satisfy my curiosity. I crossed it off the list. However, over a period of six months or so, one of the zooms on my list would pop up, and surprisingly, when it did, no one bid. Obscurity was my ally!

I got many of these lenses so cheap that I felt guilty. The least expensive one was on sale for $10.25. None cost more than $25.00, and one was free—the seller threw it in just to get rid of it. All except the 100-200mm are in excellent cosmetic condition, and all have good glass—some look as if they were never used.  

These relatively obscure lenses will be the subjects of future Lens Love posts. I’ve recently found one review each for the 35-105mm, 35-135mm,  and the 50-135mm, but the rest still have none that I could find.   Here is the cast of characters: 

MD Zoom 35-105mm
MD Zoom 35-135mm
MD Zoom 50-135mm 
MD Zoom Rokkor-X 75-200mm
MC Zoom Rokkor-X 80-200mm
Zoom Rokkor 100-200mm (preset)
MD Zoom 100-300mm

I plan to shoot them first using the Olympus e-300, then test with film using an XD-11, XG-M, and an X-700. If I find even one decent lens out of the bunch, it will be worth it. If not, they cost very little compared to the fun I had chasing them down and getting such great prices. Also, they allow me to experience more of Minolta’s history.

Now all I need is for someone to sell me a 24-35mm or 24-50mm for 35.00. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but you would be surprised at what can be found attached to a twenty-five dollar Minolta XG-7.

4 Comments

  1. Once hooked on Minolta MC/MD lenses, it is hard to get of. I have felt in love with the MD Zoom 75-150mm f4, a perfect companion with my MD Zoom 35-70mm f3.5 Macro. They are both very good zooms. I also have the MD Zoom Rokkor -x 75-200mm f4.5 and the MD Zoom 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 Macro, but they mostly stands in my collection cabinet.

    1. Author

      Hi Tor,
      The 75-150mm along with the 28-85mm have become my favorites so far. They produce amazing images. My goal is to try them all and keep a copy of the best. The fact they can be used with mirrorless makes them even more appealing.

      How is the 75-200? And also, love your photos!

  2. Jerome, I am also a Minolta lover. I also look for paired lenses instead of just bodies. Just two weeks ago I came across a Maxxum 7000 with a Minolta 28-135 lens. Just $50.00. Inside of that same week I found another 7000 with the same zoom. I just love when someone has grandads camera from the 60s on, and don’t really know what they have. I try to get a body with multiple lenses. I keep the bodies I don’t have in my collection and sell the bodies for reasonable prices. I do the same with manual cameras as well. Like you I enjoy the chase. Thank you for the blog. Ed

    1. Author

      Hi Ed, glad you like the blog. It’s always good to meet another Minolta fan. Yes, the thrill of the chase never goes away. My best deal was a lot a with Maxxum 7, 7000, and five 1985 Maxxum lens and a bag for 135.00. I kept them all.

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