Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 – MC II – review

Published by Tony on

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 vintage manual lens review (Minolta MC Tele Rokkor-PF 1:1.7 f=85mm)

  • Official classification: MC
  • Collector’s classification: MC II, Hills &Valleys, Knurled

Let’s look at another one legendary lens produced by Minolta. A lot of photographers consider that this is the best portrait lens ever. And in overall unformal rating, it may stay in second place by popularity, right after the bokeh-monster Rokkor 58mm F1.2 which I consider as mostly known Minolta lens.

One time I was lucky to get the copy in ‘like new’ condition with original lens-shade, caps, and case and that occasion has driven me to find and review the full set of MC-II line Minolta Rokkor lenses. Some of the articles have been published earlier but this lens was a pusher to the full idea. (UPD: it is done! – the site contains articles about the whole line of MC II lens)

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 + Minolta SRT 101

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 specifications:

minolta.eazypix.de index 136
Name engraved on thanlens MC ROKKOR-PF
f[mm] 85
A max [1/f] 1.7
A min[1/f] 22
Lens design [el.] 6
Lens design [gr.] 5
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 55
Lens Shade screw-in
closefocus[m/ft] 1/3.5
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 73×62
Weight[g] 460
Year 1970
Style MC II
Code No. (ROKKOR-X) or Order No. 647

More data

Floating elements NO
Aperture blades number 6
Confidence in the test results of reviewed copies High
Reviewed Lens SN: 2507889

The lens was announced in 1968 and released in September of 1970 – as it is recorded in our Minolta Events Calendar.

By one of the popular collectors’ classification, Minolta produced three main versions of 85/1.7 lens: MC II (from this review), MC-X, and MD II.

But serious collectors can distinguish totally ten sub-modifications:

  1. MC II (full metal)
  2. MC Rokkor-PF with paint dot index, with preview lever
  3. MC Rokkor-PF with red bead index, with preview lever
  4. MC-Rokkor-X PF with red bead index, with preview lever
  5. MC Rokkor-PF with red bead index, without preview lever
  6. MC Rokkor with red bead index, without preview lever
  7. MC-Rokkor-X with red bead index, without preview lever
  8. MD II Rokkor
  9. MD II Rokkor-X (Orange for early lenses)
  10. MD II Rokkor-X (white for later lenses)

(Thanks for Michel Brien, Andrea Apra, Maury Jacks and Han Fiasko for this list)

Dear readers, if you don’t know collectors classification then it is nice news – you didn’t diseased. Just skip it. (Definitely, I have to write article with simple description of all these collectors codes, but to be honestly, I’m also not cool in this subjects.)

As you can see, there is only one ‘full metal’ designed version with Hills&Valleys/Curled focusing ring – MC-II style by one of the popular collector’s classification. There is no MC-I existed, and all next versions were rubberized. So, if the real steel&glass 85mm is needed, then only this one incarnation is suitable.

If we exclude differences in the materials, the remaining differences between all three models with that ten sub-modifications are minor and mostly about labeling. Therefore, I will not go into details.

Reminder: that was a period of engineering experiments and permanent changes, and even very similar lenses can show a different IQ. As for this 85/1.7 line – a very small chance that there are noticeable differences, 1% maybe… but still it can happen. My promise is to make pair comparison in the future if I get MC-X or MD versions.

Recently, I often notice questions about the radioactivity of old lenses, and about this 85/1.7 too. Regardless of whether you believe in the danger of such lenses or not, I can say that this Minolta is not radioactive. Or, at least, no radioactive copies were registered by the collector’s community. Also, this lens was released later than the period of using active elements for the optical glass preparation.

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 lens exterior

Accessories

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 mounted on Minolta SR-T 101 camera

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 sharpness

Сlose-distance resolution test, minimal distance

Testing methods description

  • Target: 10-15 cm picture, printed on glossy photo paper
  • Distance: 1.7m
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF.
  • The test was repeated for every F-stop on every focus position with manual focus adjustment for each shot. That is to avoid the effect of field curvature.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

Scene preview

Test results

Long-distance resolution test

Testing methods description

  • Target: cityscape
  • Distance: > 200 meters to center focus point
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF. The focus point is on the center only.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Test results

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 aberrations

Vignetting

Geometric distortion

Coma aberrations

Chromatic aberrations

Long-distance bokeh

Test#1

Test conditions: the lens was focused on 1m, buildings are on “infinity”-distance

Test#2

Test conditions: lens was focused on 2m

MCC8517__k_mid_2m_bokeh_farNEW.png

Light bubbles bokeh

Test #1

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 1m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)

MCC8517__m_dots_far_1min_1_0m_NEW.png

Test #2

Test conditions: lens was focused on 2m

MCC8517__m_dots_far_2mid_2_5m_NEW.png

Other resources with reviews

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 85mm 1:1.7 final conclusion

I don’t like to write conclusions about famous lenses – it’s too hard to make something new or a specific and not to repeat the other people’s mentions, but it’s impossible because sometimes people really say a truth.

Cons

Chromatic aberrations are presented even if one-stop closed – on F2.8. The little lack of sharpness on wide-opened F1.7 is noticeable. At F2.8 center is fine, but middle and corner positions are not so good as it can be expected. Anyway, it looks for me that the level of detail on F1.7-F2.8 is good enough for most amateur photographer’s tasks. On the other hand, I’ve seen better 85mm fast lenses, from the resolution point of view of course. And one more note: the lens becomes totally sharp over the frame on F5.6.

The lens is heavyweight. Almost half kilos – not a little.

So, enough about the disadvantages, let’s go to pleasant things:

Pros

Ideal geometry, little coma, appropriate vignetting. All of these traits are nice, but the main is… You know, as it often happens, the big amount of aberrations can give for a lens more interesting bokeh. And here is really such a case. All common and popular panegyric epithets can be applied to this bokeh. It changes depending on focusing distance, background distance, and aperture. It can work as ‘Gauss’, can be ‘swirly’, can shows ‘3D-pop’, ‘Oily’, ‘Cat’s eyes’, etc. Even without training, the result will be excellent in hands of any photographer who can operate with manual focus, but if you spend time studying all the features of this lens, you will not be left without masterpieces.

Add here standard ‘pros’ which are suitable for any H&V/Knurled Rokkors – it feels like a rock in hands and can be easy CLA-ed by owner with minimum special tools and skills.

I recommend this goddess without any doubts for anyone.

This lens took part in battles

AvatarLensWars_MCC8517_vs_MD8520.png


2 Comments

Howie Dewing · 2021-05-14 at 20:56

Yet another amazing lens I dreamed about as a teenager 45 years ago. I was lucky to have recently purchased an older near mint MC Rokkor-PF with red bead and stop-down lever. The red bead was missing from my copy, so a dab of red paint filled the spot. It looks fantastic on my XE, and is quite right at home on my Sony a7 II. It has the slightest hazing on one of the inner elements, but when you want that dreamy soft focus look in lower lighting, it’s perfect. Stopped down it sharpens up well enough to not even bother with an autofocus equivalent. The original metal shade even works on 50mm lenses with the same thread diameter, no vignetting! The hazing will affect front-lighted shots with a lot of veiling, but I try to avoid those situations whenever possible with any lens. I think just one more fast lens, the 35mm f/1.8 will fill up my manual focus lens shelf without too much stacking up on each other. Thanks again for your tireless work and dedication to these performance tests. No doubt you’ve helped countless photographers wanting to go retro with their lens and camera selections.

    Tony · 2021-05-16 at 16:42

    Thank you for so kind words )) I won’t stop – got a couple of interesting lenses for tests ))

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