Olli Thomson

Minolta 35-70 Zoom

Many years ago in the early 90s when I was photographing with a Canon EOS film camera I  bought myself a Tamron 70-200 (or possibly 70-210) zoom. This was one of the cheap f4 – f5.6 models rather than the high end f2.8 version. It was rubbish. Even to my untrained eye I could see that the images were soft, the colours were washed out and contrast was almost non-existent. I concluded that cheap zooms were junk and never bought another one until many years later in the digital era when it seemed lens designers finally worked out how to make decent affordable zooms.

As a result of this experience I assumed that zooms of that era and certainly any that were even older were not worth having. Hence all of the manual focus Nikkors and Rokkors I have bought for my Nikon and Minolta SLRs, lenses which date from the 70s and 80s, have been primes. However, having read up as much as I could find on Minolta MD lenses online it seemed clear that there were a few exceptions and the 35-70 f3.5 was one of those. So when a decent copy turned up on Used Photo Pro for $75 it was too good to pass up.

The Minolta MD Zoom 35-70mm 1:3.5, to give it its full name, is the third version of this lens in the MD mount produced by Minolta and first appeared in 1983. Minolta also made a variable aperture 35-70 zoom which was included as a kit lens with some of their cameras, but this f3.5 is a much better lens, both optically and mechanically. According to the people who know about that sort of thing the latter two versions were optically superior to the first version, which is good considering just how bad some of these early zoom lenses were.

While it’s not a big lens, it does seem quite hefty to me having been used to shooting mostly with 35mm and 50mm lenses. It’s also reassuringly solid. While these early 1980’s MD lenses are not quite up to the standards of the older MCs they are far superior in build quality to most modern lenses. I’ll post some samples from it in a later post.

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