Celebrity Photography Lens – Minolta MD 135/2

Published by Tony on

Lens from a famous owner

One of the copies of the Minolta MD 135/2 lens that took part in testing on this site turned out to be the former property of photographer Harry Benson.
I found out about this quite by accident, and decided to collect all the details in one article.


The main source is the topic on eoshd.com forum. Here is the quotes and screenshots.

The number one post (full quote, copy-paste, no changes):

Calum MacPhail

Hey people,

I’m wondering if anyone has either owned this lens, come across one in the wild or has seen other posts about it. The only post anyone ever seems to link to is this: http://www.rokkorfiles.com/135mm.htm

image1 (5).JPG

To give you guys the story of this lens: I was gifted it from a family friend, photographer Harry Benson (if you haven’t come across his work, do yourself a favour and check him out, hes a living legend in the industry). It was given to me along with a number of other lenses and a number of X700 bodies with motor drives. Unfortunatley it was first gifted to an uncle who took poor care of the lenses and as such, almost all the glass in the box has lens fungus. By a stroke of luck however, this lens was in the best condition of them all. I managed to get the lens UV treated and the little fungus that the lens has collected was killed off.

Other than mounting it to my NX1, as a primarily CANON user (boo hiss these days I know, but both my C100 and before that my 7D worked their arses off for me), I haven’t found myself using this lens much, mainly due to the focal length. Its much more attractive now in the days of mirrorless and the lenses mount is no longer an issue. I’ve began to have a bit of a clear out recently and that got me searching for information on the lens and how much would be a fair asking price for it.

Anyway, Im beginning to ramble, my limited use of this lens so far has proven it to be a lovely, solid piece of glass. My primary issue as I originally stated, is that it seems to be somewhat of a rarity and thats casting doubt in my mind as to what would be a fair asking price.

TLDR: Anyone got this lens, seen it for sale before or have any idea what its worth?

Hopefully we can bring a little bit of light to this issue and help anyone else out that may be also on a quest for truth. Feel free to fire any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to answer them.

EDIT: Just came across this after posting: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Minolta-MD-135mm-F2-Lens-w-Caps-/321214971480?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item4ac9e77e58&clk_rvr_id=1136997507589&rmvSB=true $1000 seems to be an approximate value for a lens in excellent condition.

Additional post (full quote, copy-paste, no changes):

It’s really difficult to tell the capability of the lens from the Rokkor files site I think, it seems to be a pretty old article and its not the best choice of test shots.

Speaking of not the best test shots…

Heres too very quick and dirty shots out of my NX1, one photo, one video frame. Straight out of the camera (video still was fired into premiere for titling)

Shot at ISO 200 at F2 and with the camera set to -9 sharpness.

I tried mainly to focus on the smaller “eye” (or is that his projector like R2-D2?) and the lines around it.

Like I said, its a very quick and dirty test, done on a small Pixi tripod that wasn’t quite up to the weight of the camera and lens, so take into account that these are rough results, wide open and with some minor shake. I think the lens makes a pretty good account of itself wide open.

I’m heading out just now, so I cant do anymore tests tonight, but if anyones got any suggestions of what they’d like to see out of the Lens, just fire up here and I’ll do my best :)/

Here is the screenshot of the whole conversation:

Is it a joke?!

It seems real story. I know it is every collector’s duty to check any sources, but as far as this story is concerned, it appears to be absolutely true and I see no reason not to trust the source. So yes, you are now looking at pictures that were taken with one of Harry Benson’s lenses – Minolta MD 135/2, SN 1003051.

I purchased this lens on Feb 9, 2017 on eBay for a reasonable price for that times, the item was shipped from Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The lens has a large number of micro scratches on the body. It looks like it has been actively used. But whether this was the result of the activity of a photographer or a preschool child is difficult to determine. I think this is still the result of using the lens for professional purposes.

What about mentioned by Calum MacPhail mold (or fungus), exactly, there are traces between the elements of front group but nothing serious. It was easy task to clean it and left no signs. It seems to me that helicoid need to be re-lubricated, but it works enough good so no need to hurry with.

One another issue (and probably reason, why some spectators skipped this lot on eBay) – the lens has a scratch on the back element. The scratch is really thin and almost invisible, but it is a scratch. You can see it on the photo, right on the center of the lens. On the second photo – the affect:


I took these pictures immediately after purchase. The “dash” on the light bubble is a trace of a scratch. The dot is a trace of mold. Now, as you understand, there is no trace of mold, but the trace of the scratch probably remains.
I want to note that this is my favorite lens. I shoot with it a lot, but I’ve never had to clean up a line mark. The only time I had to turn on dust removal in pictures was for bokeh tests, so that this defect would not distract the viewer.

The same result can be seen on the photo by Calum MacPhail at these places (look at the R2D2 photo above in 100% size):

By the way, this scratch is another reason why I am 200% sure that this lens is the copy from the description on eoshd.com, so, “highly likely” once belonged to Harry Benson.

What about photos?

Of course, the question arises – could this particular copy of the lens transmit photons reflected from… I don’t know… Elizabeth II or Andy Warhol? Officially, sales of N-MD 135mm F2 lens started in Oct 1981. I’m not very good at the history of photography, and have never read the books of this wonderful photographer and, it seems, a very lucky man, but a simple search shows that, for example, in 1983 there was a photo shoot of Ronald Reagan with his wife Nancy Reagan at their ranch. The photographer was Harry Benson. Here is one of the photos:

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan are photographed in 1983 at Rancho del Cielo in California. (Photo by Harry Benson/Contour by Getty Images)

This is very similar to results of 135/2.0 prime lenses. Moreover, I am sure enough that I see a rendering from this Minolta model (you can compare with a few demo-photos from here). But, of course, only the photographer himself, or his assistants probably, can confirm this with 100% confidence. Also a few additional points:

  • These are hiking photos. There is a very high probability that this is 35mm film because of mobility factor.
  • What kind of lens for 35mm film should be in order to place a person on a horse in the frame and enough heavily blur the background? A 135mm lens with F2 is suitable at least (among other long and fast lenses of course, but anyway)
  • An information of Calum MacPhail (on the top of this article) indicates that, among other things, “X700 bodies with motor drives” were gifted too. Looks like a good equipment for horseback riding photography in the days before autofocus era

So, my conclusion: with a high enough probability, the photo above has a chance to been taken with this particular copy. In a pinch, the lens could be used for other photographs from this session. Well, or just be in the photographer’s bag at this ranch. Or on Harry’s shelf in Scotland. It’s still very cool. As collectors say – a good catch.

The review of this lens available here – Minolta MD 135mm 1:2.0 – all tests were performed with SN 1003051


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