Category Archives: Gear

Vintage Minolta MD/MC mount lenses on Canon EOS EF mount?

I made a huge discovery this Christmas! The video tripod post will have to wait a bit, as I just had to get this off my chest. When I was visiting my folks, I remembered that my dad used to be into SLR photography back in the film days. He had an old Minolta camera, probably an SRT101 or a similar model, I can’t remember. My granddad also had the same camera and when he passed away 15 years ago, dad inherited all his camera gear. All that gear has just been sitting in my parents’ attic, gathering dust and while the camera body was a goner, the lenses looked just fine! There was 10 manual focus Minolta MD

and MC mount lenses just waiting for me to play with them…woohoo!! There’s lots of talk over on cinema5D about how awesome vintage lenses are, because they are cheap and sharp and designed to be focussed manually, unlike modern AF lenses. There were a fast nifty fifty (the Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 55/1.7), a tele prime (The Tokina 200/3.5) two tele zooms (The Hanimex 55-220/3.5-4.5 and the Beroflex 80-210), a wide-angle prime (The Admiral G.M.C. 28/2.5), a wide-angle zoom (The Samyang 18-28/4-4.5) and a macro zoom (The Sigma 35-70/2.8-4). All I needed was a cheap adapter ring off eBay and I’d be ready to go! Or so I thought…

After my initial giddiness, I had a closer look and noticed that some of the lenses were beyond hope…they’d been completely scratched into oblivion. I still had 7 lenses left though, that appeared free of any major scratches or other blemishes, which, for the price of $0 was still an awesome find! Upon my arrival back in Melbourne, I started doing some research into MD mount lenses and how they work with Canon’s EF mount. The result was quite sobering, as the general consensus among vintage lens enthusiasts in this regard was ‘not very well’.

The lenses usually favoured by said enthusiasts come with M42 mount, which is easily adapted with a $10 adapter ring. It turns out, however, that the Minolta mount is a slightly different story. I still don’t understand why they don’t work as well, but it’s something to do with theย  distance between the lens elements and the focal plane. Essentially, MC/MD mount lenses are too far away from the focal plane and therefore won’t focus to infinity, even with an adapter ring. This means that unless all you shoot is macro, you’re in for a bit of trouble!

Luckily, there is an alternative in the form of an optical adapter. Optical because they contain an optical element (like a lens) to make up for the difference in length…I think. Feel free to correct me here, as I’m still new to this whole thing. The reason why this type of adapter is not ideal is because it (supposedly) deteriorates the image quality, since you are effectively adding more lens elements of inferior quality to the mix. Kind of like wearing glasses under your sunglasses?

I ordered both types of adapters from eBay and they’re in transit. As soon as I’ll get them, I’ll do some test shots and will post them here.


Thoughts on the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM for video work

Sigma 30mm on a Canon 60D

The kids

Following the lens recommendations of both my HDSLR patron saints, Messrs Leitner and Bloom, I went a head and purchased a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for a few reasons:

  1. It’s fast. And I mean really fast, at least of paupers like myself who can’t afford red-ringed pieces of glass like other luminaries. At f/1.4, you can comfortably shoot indoors, often without special lighting if you bump up the ISO a bit. Great!
  2. It’s affordable. Well, compared to L glass and Zeiss primes anyway..it’s not as cheap as old MF glass off eBay, which can be had for less than $100, but I still think it delivers excellent image quality for the price tag.
  3. It’s a standard lens, at least on a crop sensor camera like the 60D. For some reason, I like the fact that you can’t zoom with this lens, as it makes you think more about composition (unless you’re so lazy that you’ll just snap it anyway and hope for the best). The field of view is similar to that of the human eye in that it more or less shows what you see. Photographers have only had this kind of lens (the 35mm film equivalent of a 50mm lens) available for decades last century and I’m planning on following in their footsteps, no matter how clumsily!

However, it’s not without its drawbacks. The biggest one for video would have to be that it is an AF lens. Drawback, you say? Yes, it is for video on cameras like the 60D, on which you have to rely on manual focus most of the time.

Manual focus lenses have a lot more leeway between focus distances (sometimes called ‘ long focus throw’ I think but don’t quote me on that!). These days, few people rely on MF and therefore only few manufacturers still build lenses without AF (a few notable exceptions are German lens makers extraordinaires Carl Zeiss and the Korean Samyang (which also sells as Opteka, Rokinon, Bower and half a dozen other names).

So what about the Sigma?

Well, it’s a great stills lens. AF is fast and, at least on my copy, accurate. However, when I try to manually focus during video I often ‘jump’ past the focus point. It takes only the smallest adjustment to (a millimetre turn sometimes) to completely render your subject OOF (out-of-focus), especially wide open (at f/1.4). At the lens’ MFD (minimum focus distance) of 40cm, this equates to a tiny depth of field of 9mm! Doesn’t give you much room to play with…

PS: I have a handy little iPhone app called the Simple DoF Calculator which does the same as any other web-based DoF calculator, except quickly and on my phone. ๐Ÿ™‚

Also, it’s an APS-C lens only. If I ever decide to move to full-frame in the very, very distant future, I won’t be able to use the Sigma on the 5DMk3.

All things considered, though, I think that this lens will remain permanently attached to my camera for a long time to come. Well, at least until I get my hands on the Tokina 11-16mm ;P

Update: I just had a play with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 today (the non-VC version) which was my alternative to the Sigma. While it’s a nice lens, I’m glad I went with the Sigma instead. It’s quieter and a full two stops faster, which in my book is worth a lot. The focusing ring had basically no resistance which was a huge change from the Sigma…strange at first but actually quite pleasant. It was also a huge contrast from the zoom ring which almost refused to budge. Nice lens and a good alternative to Canon’s super-expensive 17-55mm f/2.8 but yeah, go the Sigma instead ๐Ÿ™‚