Hi and thanks for visiting the Rokkor Files, my website dedicated to cameras and photography. This page tells the story of my passion for photography, and how the Rokkor Files came into being.
The Minolta X-700 was the first camera I ever owned. Previously I had always used my parents’ Olympus “Trip 35” camera, but in January 1985 I was travelling to Europe for a vacation, and it was decided that it was time to get me a new camera. My father and I went to one of the big camera stores in the centre of the city in Melbourne and purchased a new X-700, together with a 280PX flash, and a “Sun” brand 35-200mm zoom lens. I was thrilled with my camera and took loads of shots on my holiday, and after returning home I was very happy with the results. I pored over my manual learning all I could about the camera, and I drooled over my copy of “A Guide to the Minolta SLR System of Creative Photography” which had pictures and demonstration shots of all of the real Minolta lenses that were out of my price range.
Image Copyright Minolta 1981
Inexplicably, throughout university and afterwards my interest in photography waned, and the camera stayed at my parents’ house and was very rarely used. I had a very sound understanding of the mechanics of photography (how aperture affected depth of field etc) and occasionally I would pull it out and play with it, but I took very few photos at all for almost 10 years. Later I went to use it again with the flash and found that the flash would fire but the mirror would hang open, destroying shots and embarrassing me in front of friends. I put it away, figuring that it was broken and needed repair.
I didn’t use the camera again for many years, until I was about to travel interstate for a long holiday, and wanted a camera to take with me. I went to purchase a new autofocus body, only to find out that to my horror they had plastic lens mounts! None of the cameras in my price range had depth of field preview, and the cameras were all very plasticky. I decided to get my X-700 repaired, and left it with a local repair shop. The delay however meant that I needed to buy a new camera, so I selected an Olympus IS-200 SLR, a great camera with advanced features boasting a sharp 28-110 built in zoom lens. The look of the plastic lens mounts had turned me off so much I just could not face getting any of the interchangeable lens SLRs that were in my price range.
I used the Olympus IS-200 on my vacation and fell in love with photography again. Upon my return I got my X-700 back and started taking photos like crazy. My reintroduction to photography had enlightened me to the fact that my 35-200mm zoom lens was probably not the best lens in terms of quality, and some further digging revealed that I should start looking for genuine Minolta prime lenses.
This was the start of my sickness, becoming an enthusiasm bordering on obsession with Minolta cameras and photography in general. It ultimately led to a new career, as a professional photographer with a Melbourne studio, and subsequently a studio of my own.
The first lenses I purchased were the 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X, the 50mm F/1.2 MD Rokkor-X (purchased together with my black XD11), a 135mm f/3.5 MD Tele Rokkor, and the 200mm f/4 MD Tele Rokkor-X. These were all purchased at good prices and arrived within a week or two of each other, so I bundled them together with my original Sun 35-200mm lens to do some comparison photos. I wanted to see if these lenses I was spending money on would really make a difference.
I visited one of the beautiful gardens that surround Melbourne and found a nice spot to start experimenting. Once I got my shots back I was astounded! The difference between the lenses was plainly visible even on a 6 x 4 print!! The Minolta lenses were so much sharper, but the difference in contrast was unbelievable. I immediately sold the 35-200mm zoom on ebay and there started my passion for Minolta prime lenses.
Unfortunately, the negatives for those shots are long gone, but I have scanned a couple of the comparison photos to demonstrate the difference between the lenses. As you can imagine a cheap desktop scanner is not my preferred method of displaying resolution samples, and these scans should not be considered as accurate reflections of the performance of the Minolta lenses. To see that, please visit the individual lens review page for each of the lenses. However, these scans do graphically demonstrate the difference between what you can expect from a cheap zoom lens and a Minolta prime. Please note, conditions were identical, with both lenses set to f/8.
The original shot, taken with the Minolta 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X The crops below are from the very centre of the image.
Shot at 35mm this scan from the centre of the image shows immediately the difference between the two lenses. If this crop was scanned from the negative the difference would be even more noticeable.
'Sun' 35-200mm @35mm
|The prime lens shows greater sharpness but much higher contrast. After this day I never took a photo with the Sun zoom again.
Minolta 35mm f/1.8 W.Rokkor-X
These crops are taken at a 50mm focal length. I have not included the full image because it was very similar to the 35mm shot above.
At 50mm the performance of the zoom seemed just as bad. When I think that I spent years with only this lens it makes me laugh - I had no idea what I was missing out on.
The 'Sun' zoom at 50mm
The 50mm prime naturally performs much better, and this result is based upon the output from a cheap flatbed scanner! When you see the results that this lens can achieve (refer the relevant review page) scanned on a film scanner you will really appreciate the capacity of these primes.
The Minolta 50mm f/1.2 Rokkor-X
If you take anything away from the above, it should be that if you don't have any prime lenses, you may be doing yourself a disservice. A 50mm f/1.7 lens which costs under US$20 on ebay will give you results that can be enlarged to 16 x 24 inches and still retain absolute sharpness. It will outperform many zooms on a 6 x 4 print. Best of all, because it will probably let in about 6 times more light (assuming your zoom lens is an f/4), you will find it easier to focus in low light, and in normal photography the image will just 'snap' into focus.
Anyway, getting back to my background, I purchased well, and started buying items in Australia from classified advertisments and selling them online to make money. I also found auctions which contained one item I wanted, together with many other items. In these circumstances I broke up the bulk lots and sold the balance of the items, normally ending up with the item I wanted for free. These transactions funded further acquisitions, until I reached the point where I had a substantial collection of Minolta gear (including some very rare items) funded to a large extent from profits made from camera trading. Along the way I made some great friends and learned an enormous amount about photography, and the wonderful products made by Minolta.
When I started getting interested in Minolta cameras and lenses I searched the net looking for places to get more information. Many of the places I did find have been listed in the links area of this site, and I encourage you to visit them at some stage if this subject is of interest to you. However, despite all of my travels I did not really find any sites that gave a real personal insight into the lenses, and showed what they could do.
decided that I would create a site that does just that, and would be of
interest to Minolta manual focus users and enthusiasts. The Rokkor Files
was created, and gradually became one of the most popular sites on the
web for Minolta manual focus enthusiasts. The site continued to grow,
and in the period from 2003-2005 was regularly updated with new reviews,
information and other things of interest.
In August 2004 after much consideration I entered the auto-focus world with the purchase of a used Canon EOS 3 film body. I found the camera to be a worthy successor to my Minolta gear, and it was shortly followed by an EOS 1v, the most advanced Canon film body available. After using these cameras for several months and becoming familiar with them and the user interface, in December 2004 I took the step and purchased a Canon EOS 1D Mark II, a professional digital camera.
Unfortunately, new professional quality cameras and lenses are very expensive and in order to build up my Canon professional kit I was forced to sell much of my Minolta manual focus equipment. The sacrifice was, however, worth it as I am now a professional wedding photographer with my own studio situated in Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia. In my professional work I have now progressed to an entirely digital workflow, using the Canon 1Ds Mark III.
This switch resulted in me using film less and less, and with a new business and a new relationship I found that I had little time to commit to updating the Rokkor Files. As a result the site is now updated only infrequently.
I hope you enjoy your time at the Rokkor Files.