…or, to give it its full designation, the Minolta MD W.Rokkor-X 24mm 1:2.8.
This is an SR mount lens. The SR mount was introduced with Minolta’s first SLR, the SR-2, in 1958. (There was an SR-1, but it was released after the SR-2). All manual focus Minolta SLRs used the SR mount, but when Minolta switched to autofocus cameras the company developed a new mount. This mount, known as the Alpha mount, is still in use on Sony’s DSLRs. The MD designation identifies this as a lens specifically designed to work with the Minolta XD camera, introduced in 1977.
The XD offered both aperture priority and shutter priority semi automatic exposure modes and required the use of XD lenses to make use of the shutter priority option. While earlier generations of SR lenses could be used on the XD in manual or aperture priority mode, they would not work properly on shutter speed mode. The W indicates that this is a wide angle lens. With a handful of exceptions all Rokkor lenses between 17mm and 35mm had the W.Rokkor designation. Those over 100mm were known as Tele Rokkors, while zooms, obviously enough, were Zoom Rokkors.
I believe Minolta was the first of the major Japanese companies to give their lenses an additional brand identity when they introduced the first ‘Rokkor’ lens in 1940. Others followed suit and gave us Nikkors, Hexanons, Fujinons and the rest. More recently, South Korean lens maker Samyang has sold lenses under its Rokinon brand, which sounds like an attempt to associate its lenses with the Rokkor name and identity.
Supposedly the name is derived from the Rokko mountain range near Osaka where the company was founded and maintained its headquarters until the merger with Konica. Minolta’s founder, Kazuo Tashima, was an admirer of German photographic equipment and the company was initially known as Nichi-Doku Shashinki Shoten (Japan-Germany Camera Company). Given this, perhaps Tashima was influenced by the practice of German companies like Zeiss and Leica who gave their lenses additional branding — the Zeiss Planar and Tessar or the Leica Elmar, for example. The Rokkor branding finally disappeared around 1980. My 50mm f1.7, for example, is simply a Minolta. Despite this, ‘Rokkor’ is still often used as a generic name for all Minolta lenses. The X appears to be largely a marketing exercise. There appears to be no difference between Rokkor and a Rokkor-X other than the X. The X designation was used in the US market.
The MD lenses were modified from time to time during the years of production and, based on the information provided in Dennis Lohmann’s very detailed database my copy is a late example of the MD series II from around 1980. Like most Minolta lenses of that era it’s well made, solid, mostly metal construction. Both the focus ring and the aperture ring are smooth and consistent with appropriate resistance. The lens elements appear clean and the aperture blades operate smoothly.
I wasn’t planning to buy this lens. It’s among the more expensive Minolta lenses ($220–250 in good condition from reputable dealers) and I only occasionally go wider than 35mm. Besides, I already had a 24mm lens for my Nikon FM2n if I needed one. However, while making my near daily check of a couple of online dealers recently this lens appeared for only $149. I assumed at that price it would be in very poor shape but it was listed as ‘Excellent’ and the reason given for the low price was some damage to the front filter ring, which you can see in the photograph. Since I don’t use filters a damaged filter ring makes no odds to me, so I ended up with a bargain.
The pictures were taken around Washington DC with the XD and 24mm combination on Kodak Ektar. Everything is nice and sharp and the colours look good to me. The only downside is that it is susceptible to flare, though I was shooting on a very bright and sunny day. I think I’ll need to pick up a push on lens hood for this one. Overall though, this is a very nice lens and it’s well worth the bargain price.