Can a lens from the 1970’s produce decent results on a modern high resolution camera? In short: Yes. Caveats? Manual focus and manual camera settings (on a Canon R Mirrorless). Skip past the following text if you only want to see the results! Post updated, the lens broke!
So, I’m in a Bangkok second hand/thrift store and I spot a vintage Canon 50mm f1.8 FD lens. The assistant wants 1000 baht, which is pretty much the going price on eBay back in England. They weren’t willing to budge on price, so I left it for another time. A few weeks later, I spot a 50mm f1.4 lens in the same store. This time I only have 500 baht on me, so I can’t go any higher. The assistant asks for 750 baht (must have been a sale), but concedes to 500 baht (about £12.50 at time of writing) when I explain in my broken Thai that I don’t have any more money. I take it without even checking the compatibility, it was a steal!
On further inspection at home, I can see there is a bit of mould inside the lens. But looking at some YouTube videos, the old Minolta lenses don’t look to complicated to take apart. A cheap micro screwdriver and a cleaning cloth and I have it disassembled and cleaned. Unfortunately… in my haste and lack of good cleaning tools, I scratched an internal glass element.
Next step was attaching it to the Canon EOS R mirrorless we have. I found that Newyi manufacture an adapter ring that converts an MC/MD mount to a RF mount. Another 580 baht well spent.
Attaching it to the Canon EOS R was a good choice as it has a great focus peaking feature. In the view finder or on the screen, a red tint appears on high contrast areas to indicate the current focus point. Without that, it would be very difficult to so what you have sharp.
In this video, you can see the damage in the bokeh on the right side of the ‘bubbles’. Changing the aperture setting one click to f/2 removes it completely, but introduce the shape of the iris petals.
Some other useful reviews of the Minolta MC Rokkor-PG 50mm f1.4 by Ken Rockwell & Phillip Preeve
Update – 23rd September 2019
I noticed that I couldn’t focus on infinity anymore. After twisting the focus ring back and forth rapidly to try and free the lens up it became more than free, it dropped off! This maybe something you can test for before you pick your lens up from the shop. It shouldn’t be too much hassle to put it back together, but it still stopped me shooting with it for the rest of the day.
Posted by: Ian Brown
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