Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom Macro – review

Published by Tony on

Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom Macro lens review

  • Official classification: New-MD
  • Collector’s classification: MD III

Folks speak a lot about this lens, probably it is the most famous manual zoom ever.

Tests for this review are divided for 35mm, 50mm, 70mm groups.

Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:4.0 Zoom + X700

Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom specifications:

# in minolta.eazypix.de index 259
Name engraved on the lens MD ZOOM
f[mm] 35-70
A max [1/f] 3.5
A min[1/f] 22
Lens design [el.] 8
Lens design [gr.] 7
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 55
Lens Shade clip-in
closefocus[m/ft] 0.8/2.8
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 69×68.5
Weight[g] 365
Year 1983
Style MD III
Code No. (ROKKOR-X) or Order No. 2513-110
 Note 2-Touch w/ macro mode

More data


Floating elements YES (partial support by autofocused adapters)
Aperture blades number 7
Confidence in the test results of reviewed copies High
Reviewed lens SN: 1045434

Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom lens exterior

Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom mounted on Minolta X-700

This is a very suitable set – the camera and lens have the same design (camera – 1981, lens – 1983 released)


Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom 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

 

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

Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom TEST RESULTS on FOCUS DISTANCE = 35mm

35mm – Sharpness – short distance

Scene preview

Test results


35mm – Sharpness – long distance

Scene preview

Test results


35mm – Vignetting


35mm – Geometric distortion


35mm – Coma aberrations


35mm – Chromatic aberrations


35mm – Long-distance bokeh

Test conditions: the lens was focused on 0.8m, buildings are on “infinity”-distance


35mm – Light bubbles bokeh:

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 0.8m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)


Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom TEST RESULTS on FOCUS DISTANCE = 50mm

50mm – Sharpness – short distance

Scene preview

Test results


50mm – Sharpness – long distance

Test results


50mm – Vignetting


50mm – Geometric distortion


50mm – Coma aberrations


50mm – Chromatic aberrations


50mm – Long-distance bokeh

Test conditions: the lens was focused on 0.8m, buildings are on “infinity”-distance


50mm – Light bubbles bokeh

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 0.8m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)


Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom TEST RESULTS on FOCUS DISTANCE = 70mm

70mm – Sharpness – a short distance

Scene preview

Test results


70mm – Sharpness – long distance

Scene preview

Test results


70mm – Vignetting


70mm – Geometric distortion


70mm – Coma aberrations


70mm – Chromatic aberrations


70mm – Long-distance bokeh

Test conditions: the lens was focused on 0.8m, buildings are on “infinity”-distance


70mm – Light bubbles bokeh

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 0.8m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)


Other resources with reviews:


Minolta MD 35-70mm 1:3.5 Zoom – overall conclusion:

This lens has been reviewed and described so many times, that when I got my first copy, I already knew everything about it. But I sold it after a few days of using it. Too inconvenient in my case. That time I decided that It’s because of crop-camera and forgot about the lens for a long time. After a few years, I’ve got the full-frame camera and the idea to check this zoom again. Again, I found no changes – it’s still inconvenient for me. Let me describe my position – this zoom is an alternative for a set of just two primes – 35mm and 50mm, ok-ok – it’s my personal opinion. Both primes are small, lightweight, and cheap. In my bag, these two lenses take the same room as the one zoom.

Yes,  this MD 35-70mm F3.5 can provide the unbelievable sharpness in terms of zoom-lenses, but again – such sharpness is usual for primes. In other words, the sharpness of MD 35-70/3.5 is an advantage against other zooms, but not against primes. And I like to play with thin DOF – it’s more important for me. The only real advantage against primes is typical for zooms: a photographer doesn’t need to switch lenses. So, I have to choose between two points: fast apertures or no needing in the switching of two lenses. I prefer fast apertures. But it regarding me only.

In general:

This is an absolutely amazing zoom. “One of the Best” – true description. Fixed F3.5 at all diapason. It’s really sharp for any scenes even wide open on any focal distances. Totally sharp from F5.6 on infinity. Fast enough for portraits and can provide not bad bokeh on the long end. Aberrations are small and can be easily fixed in editors if needed. The final version of this lens has a macro-mode. So, it can be only one lens in a bag. I strongly recommend it for photographers, who are looking for a universal tool. This lens can be found on auctions quite cheap, because a lot of were produced, and can be sold quickly because it’s a popular legendary lens. So, why not to try? You do not lose anything, but if you love it, it can become your favorite lens.

And please, stop to tell that this lens was designed by Leica. This lens was designed and produced by Minolta. Even if the copy is labeled by Leica.



8 Comments

Helmut Faugel · 2019-07-18 at 00:16

One small correction: this very nice lens has seven aperture blades.

    Tony · 2019-07-18 at 12:40

    Thank you, it was my bad, fixed

      Mohammad varzideh · 2021-08-08 at 17:44

      Hello Tony.
      There is a broblem with this lens and other lenses in this type . It has heptagon bokeh on short focal length wide open that is obvious on your test . I don’t know the origin of this lens’s designation (minolta or leica or etc ) but nikon 35-70mm f3.5 AI has the same specs and problem on 35mm wide open . its a really good general purpose lens but i just give it a little space on my shelf . Like you i prefer primes .
      Good luck .

Chuck Fong · 2021-08-12 at 20:49

I just recently bought an X body Minolta which has a version of this lens, but it is missing the front ring which has the name and other information. How does one know if this a version 1 or 2? Thanks for your reply..

    Tony · 2021-08-12 at 23:09

    Hi Chuck, you are on the IIIrd version review page (“macro” mode is presented). This is the IInd version review: https://lens.ws/minolta-md-35-70mm-f3-5-zoom-nm-md3 (no mentions of macro on the lens)/
    If the engraving Minolta MD of your lens is on the side of the lens barrel (not on the front ring) and has Rokkor word – then you had got the 1st version (for today this site doesn’t contain a review of the 1st).

Lorna Morris Hamblin · 2022-05-28 at 17:00

Nice review. I do a lot of travel photography and this lens has become my favorite lens for travel, mounted on the Sony 7Rii. I get where you’re coming from with primes, but my copy of this lens is certainly sharp enough. It makes lovely big prints that are incredibly sharp. I hate changing lenses in the field because my camera sensor is a dust magnet. The thing you missed in the review is the amazing Minolta color. That is a big part of the legend and its absolutely true. It is not perfect– the bokeh and chromatic abberation leave a lot to be desired, but its a trade off. If you can recommend a vintage prime wide-angle Minolta lens with amazing color and sharpness, I would go shopping!

Lorna Hamblin · 2022-05-28 at 17:06

Nice review Tony. I adore this lens for traveling. I get what you’re saying about primes but I hate to change lenses because my camera sensor (Sony a7Rii) is a dust magnet. The thing about this lens that is legendary is the color it renders. And for a zoom it is remarkably sharp, very close to prime sharp. I make prints and they come out just fabulous, with a unique look, almost like paintings (people actually say that). You have inspired me to test this lens myself against some of my vintage primes to see how they compare. If you can recommend a vintage wide-angle Minolta prime lens, I’d be very interested.

    Tony · 2022-05-28 at 18:34

    Thanks for your interest in my tests Lorna. I checked your Instagram, and since I’m a much less talented photographer than you, let me just list the sharpest wide-angle Minolta lenses that have good protection from side and front light – this has a positive effect on color. The choice is actually not very big (for Full Frame cameras).
    Firstly – rare and expensive 17mm 1:4 (MD-II, MD-III), I think so wide angles are very special tools and photographer should know what to do with it..
    My personal choice – 20mm 1:2.8 (MD-II, MD-III) – not too rare and a bit less expensive. The best ultra-wide angle for amateur photographers I thing. Just don’t believe in reviews from fans of Canon’s 🙂
    Very popular – 24mm 1:2.8 (MD-II, MD-III) – and well known lens. If modern prices of previous 20mm lenses looks unacceptable, I know – last a few years many sellers increased their prices, than this lens looks like the best choice for a reasonable price for today. Or, at least, the cance to catch it for good price is still available.
    One another good option – 28mm 1:2.0 (MD-II, MD-III) – I love it a lot, must have lens for 28mm lovers
    What about 35mm lenses – Minolta developed 1.8 and 2.8 versions (MD-II, MD-III). For street/landscapes I recommend 2.8 as a best keeper of frame corners on opened aperture. But both lenses are the same on F4 or so…
    So, after all of these… I think that I can recommend 24/2.8 (MD-II, MD-III) as the optimal option for start. But optimal in general does not mean best for you. Each lens from the list above must be considered. I would say more – you can take any of this list and it will definitely not disappoint you.

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