I have a bit of an obsession with fast vintage lenses. Luck for me, vintage lens manufacturers had a bit of an obsession with making faster and faster lenses.
I already own and love the Minolta 85mm f/1.7 so when I learned about the 58mm f/1.2 (and its famous bokeh) I decided to pick one up.
I prefer to let the photos speak for themselves, but I did want to discuss the lens a little bit.
My copy is in excellent (mint) condition. It’s the 2nd generation (with scalloped focusing ring).
The focus ring is a bit on the stiff side but very smooth. It’s like someone bought this lens and left it in their closet for 40 years. The optics are pristine.
The lens cap is the vintage type that goes OVER the lens (not like the modern pinch type lens caps). The lens hood, however is a screw on type. This means you can’t put the lens cap on when the hood is on.
The lens hood’s interior is covered in black velvet — to cut down on reflections. This was common in the late 60’s and 70’s, and even the lenses would have velvet after the rear element to cut down on reflections. These would shed velvet dust and the practice was abandoned eventually.
The aperture ring is small and stiff with whole stop clicks. When the lens was made, the aperture ring would have been right up against the camera body and difficult to jostle out of place. But with a lens adapter, it’s very easy to change the aperture… perhaps accidentally. f/1.2 and f/2 are the tiniest bump away.
I became more aware of this later in my photo walk, so I’m not 100% sure what many of these photos were at. Now that I’m aware of this, I’ll keep it in mind going forward.
I got the Vello Minolta MD/MC to Sony E Mount adapter for the 85mm and it’s been great — very little to no play, no issues. But it is now literally stuck to the 58mm 1.2 — I have no idea how I’ll get it off. I’m going to poke around with the end of a clothespin or Q-tip to see if I can shift something around to get the adapter off. Lesson learned — don’t buy cheap adapters.
OK with those notes out of the way, here’s the photos.
This lens is sharp and contrasty, as long as there’s no light shining into the lens. The “busy” bokeh wide open is there, but mostly seems to show up when you’re near the close focus limit and have a busy background. Obviously for street, you’re not going to be focused that closely often.
The lens is prone to veiled flaring and ghosting (with interesting compass rose shaped ghosts), but I don’t mind any of that — it’s an interesting “character” lens.
Specular highlights do tend to “glow” — which again you may or may not like.
My lens is a 2nd generation (with the scalloped focusing ring), so changes in coating may make this more or less evident with other generations of this lens.
I still don’t know how I’m going to get the lens adapter off.
About the Author
@sodiumstudio on Instagram.
I own a lot of vintage lenses & plan on doing more of these.