W.Rokkor MD 24mm f2.8 vs. Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 on Sony A7S II

The Minolta W.Rokkor MD 24mm f2.8 has a reputation of being one of the sharpest 24mm lenses ever made. Even Leica licensed it for their R mount, and by that giving it credence as an excellent construction.

So how does it hold up today against modern lenses and digital media?

Since I just got hold of it in a near to mint condition (for a more than reasonable price) and I also own a Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 zoom (known for it sharpness at 24mm) I thought a shootout would be a fun idea.
An almost 40 years old $200 prime agains a modern $1200 zoom. How would that end?

Doing the shootout

Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635Camera
Sony A7S II with W.Rokkor MD 24mm 2.8 (1st generation)

Dealing with it in a sort of semi-unscientific way I set up my tripod in the kitchen and took pictures of the eastern wall with both lenses at different apertures, all in raw format. I used timer release and silent shutter to remove as much vibration as possible and set the focus at the largest  aperture in the center of the image.

The raw images where converted to JPEG in Photoshop without any additional processing, sharpening  or lens correction except for a small adjustment for exposure (the same for all images).

Images

Here are all the images. You can click on them to see them in full resolution but crops are included further downing in the post for those of you who are not prepared to jump in at the deep end.

f2.8

f4

f5.6

f8

f11

f16

Crops

Here follows 100% crops from both lenses for all the apertures I’ve tested with my initial comments and reflections. Feel free to add your additional comments or thoughts in this post’s comments.

Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635CropMarks
Marked areas for the 100% crops
Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635F28
Only the Rokkor is included since the Sony Zeiss starts first a f4. Center of the Rokkor is pretty sharp even wide open but sharpness is falling quickly towards the sides and corners with a fair amount of coma.
Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635F4
At f4 the Sony Zeiss leaves the Rokkor in the dust on almost every point. The center of the Rokkor is almost as good but with a bit lower contrast, but the sharpness deteriorates quickly towards the sides and corners. My guess it’s not only the Rokkor being bad but also the Sony Zeiss being extremely good.
Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635F56
Now the Rokkor is starting to look much better at the side. Still lacking a bit contrast but not that far behind.
Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635F8
Now the Rokkor is almost as sharp as the Sony Zeiss except for the extreme corners.
Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635F11
More or less the same as f8 except that the corners is getting even better
Rokkor24vsSonyZeiss1635F16
An even sharpness in both lenses now over the whole image even though diffraction has started to show.

Conclusion

There is no doubt, in this shootout the Sony Zeiss beats the Rokkor on every point except one. It’s sharper overall and especially in the off-center and in the corners. It has better contrast, less aberrations and less vignetting. Only in the color rendering I find the Rokker more even and pleasing. The Sony Zeiss tend to be a bit uneven with a warm center and colder corners.

Does this mean that the Rokkor is a bad lens all over? Probably not. First it means that the Sony Zeiss zoom is a very good lens. Second, as long as you stop down the Rokkor to at least f4 or f5.6 you get better to excellent results. From there on it’s almost as sharp as the Sony Zeiss except for the extreme corners.
I also like the colors of the Rokkor better than the Sony Zeiss.
Aberrations and vignetting are worse on the Rokkor but within reasonable limits and if you shooting digital these are easily fixed in post.

One advantage of the Rokkor is also the size and weight compared to the Sony Zeiss. Though not as large as other modern super wide-angle zooms, it’s still a considerable bulkier and heavier lens.

For $1200 you would expect the Sony Zeiss to perform the way it did. For $200 the performance of the Rokkor stopped down to 5.6 or more leaves very little to complain about. A good budget alternativ as long you don’t need those larger apertures or use it’s weaknesses to your advantage.


Update

I did some further investigation into the unexpected low border and corner sharpness of the Rokkor at larger apertures. It seems that at least some of it is due to field curvature at the actual distance I used. Focusing at the corner makes them much more sharp than in my test but then the center becomes unsharp instead. I estimated to just under a meter in difference which is quite much on this short distance.
Normally not really a real world problem since we seldom take pictures of flat walls all the way to the corners. Still it’s always good to know your lenses.
Could be I’ve got a bad sample too.

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6 comments on “W.Rokkor MD 24mm f2.8 vs. Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 on Sony A7S II

  1. Olympus om 24mm 2.8 is the probably the best affordable lens in 24mm focal length used on the a7x. Ive tested it against my Minolta 24mm, Nikkor 24mm and Canon fd 24mm. The Olympus and FD 24mm would be good alternative too.

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  2. Not bad considering there was no computers to pre-calculate these lens designs back then( i don’t think many manufacturers had any CAD-CAM capability in 1978)

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  3. Actually, Minolta started using in-house computers for lens design in the late 60’s for lenses like the 21mm f2.8 !
    Not CAD-CAM, that’s manufacturing, but calculation of lenses and their combinations. If you think of it, the flight to the moon was made possible by computers too…

    But the Olympus 24mm is a great lens for that focal length.

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  4. […] Full list of todays Gold Box deals at Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk, Bhphoto, eBay and Amazon.com. Sony Alpha 7 Aktion: Bis zu 80 EUR Rabatt auf ausgewählte Objektive at Amazon.de Rokinon 14mm f2.8 review at Ilovehatephoto. EVF: composing vs reviewing (SonyAlphaForum). Sony α6300 – AF Performance Test $2000 class DSLR VS a6300 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Lja5dcjf4 a7sii comparison johnhicksfilm on Youtube. Firmware update for NEW FDR-AX53 handycam – HUGE improvement in AF (Sony eusupport). Simple shootout between legacy Minolta Rokkor MD 24mm f2.8 and. Sony 16-35mm on Sony Alpha 7S M2 (Scatteredlightblog). […]

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  5. There is also the (rare) Minolta 24mm VFC, which has variable field curvature (hence the name), and it can adapt to different shooting situations much better.

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