Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor – review

Published by Tony on

Chiyoko Rokkor 1:3.5 f=3.5cm lens review (Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor)

Mount – M39 or Leica screw mount (flange focal distance – 28.8 mm)

Here is an review of the lens, which is a legend not only of the company, but in general of the entire photographic industry. This is one of the vast number of examples from the beginning of the Japanese Economic Miracle. No matter what results it shows in tests, its value is historical: it is the world’s first mass-produced multi-coated lens.

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor specifications

Name engraved on lens Chiyoko ROKKOR
f[mm] 35
A max [1/f] 3.5
A min[1/f] 22
Lens design [el.] 4
Lens design [gr.] 3
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 34
Lens Shade
closefocus[m/ft] 1.0/3.3
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 47/23
Weight[g] 159gr
Year 05.1956
Style Chiyoko

More data

Floating elements NO
Aperture blades number 8
Confidence in the test results of reviewed copies Good
Reviewed Lens SN: 1100546

Historical note

The lens first appeared in May 1956, except for the prototypes of course. Was built by Tessar formula – 4 elements in 3 groups, very popular scheme at that time.

It has two versions – with 8 and with 6 aperture blades. The first version had serial numbers like 11xxxxx, the second version – 12xxxxx. According to calculations by Andrea Aprà (greetings and huge thanks to Andrea! This article contains a lot of his data), the number of released lenses for the first version is 1700 pieces, for the second – 4000 pieces. The amount is quite approximate, but the rarity of this lens for today looks like a good confirmation of the small number of existing copies.

Meanwhile, distance rings were marked in two ways: feet (ft) or meters (m). So, as result we have totally four combinations of this 35mm Chiyoko: 11xxxxx(ft), 11xxxxx(m), 12xxxxx(ft), 11xxxxx(m).

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, this is indeed the world’s first lens with an achromatic multilayer coating – just a two layers but it was a real revolution. To my surprise, the Wikipedia has brief but good compiled information on the history of achromatic coatings in relation to the Minolta company. So let me just quote the desired text without modification:

Minolta (as Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō) produced the world’s first multicoated consumer photographic lens in 1956 for their ‘Minolta 35 Model II’ rangefinder camera – the Rokkor 3.5cm f/3.5 – with their patented Achromatic Coating. New lenses for the 1958 Minolta 35 Model IIB, also used the Achromatic coating, including the Super Rokkor 5cm f/1.8 and 3.5cm f/1.8. All other lens surfaces of the 5cm f/1.8 were single-coated with at least the front-group being multicoated. Although the 3.5cm f/3.5 lens did not sell well due to the slow aperture, a more modern, multicoated Super Rokkor 3.5cm f/1.8 was later produced for the 35 IIB shortly before the system was discontinued, and therefore the lens is extremely rare today.

A prototype mutlicoated 5cm f/1.4 lens was also produced for the discontinued Minolta Sky M-mount rangefinder during its development, though it is not known if the coating was more advanced than that applied to prior lenses. By 1958, single-layer anti-reflection coatings were commonplace on photographic lenses around the world but it was not until 1966 with the introduction of MC (‘Meter-Coupled’) lenses that all Minolta focal lengths were updated to be fully multicoated, where every optical surface was coated at least twice, with the exposed front surface coating being relatively more scratch-resistant. Prior to this, full multicoating was mainly only applied to the standard 55\58mm AR (‘Auto-Rokkor’) series SLR lenses, between 1958 and 1965. These lenses would be collectively referenced by Minolta as the ‘green Rokkor lens’ in a 1962 16mm company film promotion titled This is Minolta, because of the predominant green reflection of the front-surface coating which was distinctive to the coatings of other companies. Their Achromatic Coating initially consisted of a two-layer thickness-varying vapour deposit of Magnesium-Fluoride but no ‘hard’ coating, meaning many examples of the lens today show scarred surfaces due to improper cleaning.

After 1958 when Minolta ended development of interchangeable-lens rangefinder products and focused on interchangeable SLR cameras and lenses, their Achromatic coating was continually updated throughout production with major coating advances being seen in 1966 (MC), 1973 (MC-X), and finally through 1977 to 1984 (MD-I, II, III). Hard-coatings were initially used in the immediate SR SLR series lenses. MC corresponds to the application of achromatic layers on all lens surfaces with new ‘ingredients’ (‘Double Achromatic’), while MC-X introduced even more layers of new ‘ingredients’ (‘Super Achromatic Coating’) similar to Pentax’s SMC, achieving an empirical improvement of about 1 stop with regards to flare and contrast control of dominating light sources.

Beginning with the MD series lenses, additional layers were introduced as standard, although it is clear that for all lenses in any series, improvements in coatings were gradually introduced into production lenses as they were developed. One of the primary marketing claims of Minolta’s Achromatic coating was that colour consistency was achieved across all lenses, deprecating the requirement for colour correction filters (common in the 1920s to 1930s) when shooting under constant lighting conditions with different lenses, although the claim has not been substantiated and any colour-consistency difference over competing brands is not clear. It is also not clear if Minolta intended the process name as a reference to achromatic (‘neutral’) colour (white, grey and black) – or achromatism (a lack of red/blue chromatic aberration).

If you need more details than start to research from the sources mentioned in the wiki:

  1.  Out Line [sic] of Minolta Cameras (Marketing Brochure) (in Japanese). Japan: Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko (Minolta). 1958. p. 5. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  2. ^ A Guide to the Minolta SLR System of Creative Photography (PDF). Minolta Camera Co. Ltd. 1981. p. 4. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  3. ^ McGloin, Joe (1995). “Minolta History”. Subclub. Retrieved May 8, 2018. By 1958, the Japanese camera industry was exploding with energy. In this year, Minolta pioneered the first Achromatic Coating — two layers of magnesium fluoride deposited in different thicknesses to radically reduce glare and flare. In reality it was the world’s first multi-coating.
  4. ^ Hands, Antony. “A Brief History of Minolta Lenses”. Rokkorfiles. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Kilpatrick, David (2000-02-23). “Minolta’s ‘weak lenses’ – facts, not bias! The real truth!”. Boonedocks. Minolta Mailing List. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  6. ^ Kilpatrick, David. “Photo showed late 50mm f1.4, 58mm f1.2, not early 58mm f1.4”. DPReview. Retrieved May 8, 2018.

Please don’t accuse me of copy-pasting the wiki. But this quote and list of sources is really worth your attention regarding this Chiyoko.

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor exterior

By the way, this is that legendary green tint:


To my regret I was not be able to catch an original viewfinder for this lens (I spotted one but price was abnormal), so let me use a pictures made by Andrea Aprà, also with his information (adopted to the article):

The 35mm finder is a rare and very expensive item (for today). Even rarer is to find it in the original packaging.
Due to the fact that the 35 mm f/3.5 was sold without a finder and the photographer who wanted to see well what he was framing, necessarily had to buy it separately, it made this finder rarer than those for the tele that were sold with the enclosed finder. Not everyone needed it and only a few bought it. (For me it looks a bit like the case with lens shades for some 50mm MD III lenses, which are much rarer than lens shades for 28mm lenses which was included into sets.)

As with all lenses for the Minolta 35 there are two versions of this finder: with meters and with feet, obviously to be combined with the 35mm f/3.5 in meters or feet.

Additionally, there were differences in the parallax correction mechanism – in the construction of shoes. They have probably made some changes over time, we don’t know which one comes first and which one comes after.
So ultimately there are 4 different finders even if the main difference remains between meters and feet there is also a minor difference in the shoe mechanics.

About the difference with those for tele, we have to consider that:
– 85mm arrives in 1948
– 110mm arrives in 1948
– 135mm arrives in 1949

while the 35mm f/3.5 arrives in 1956 and therefore has a different and perhaps more modern style from the previous ones that have kept the original style until the end.


Some elements of the set

The box and the back cap (It is not my set, somewhere from internet):

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor mounted on camera Minolta-35 Model E

Quite authentic set – the camera and lens could be purchased at the same time

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor sharpness

Сlose-distance resolution test, minimal distance

Testing methods description

  • Target: 10-15 cm picture, printed on glossy photo paper
  • Distance: 1.7m
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF.
  • The test was repeated for every F-stop on every focus position with manual focus adjustment for each shot. That is to avoid the effect of field curvature.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

Scene preview

Test results

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor - resolution on close distance

Long-distance resolution test

Testing methods description

  • Target: cityscape
  • Distance: > 200 meters to center focus point
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF. The focus point is on the center only.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Test results

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor - resolution on far distance

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor aberrations


Geometric distortion

Coma aberrations

Chromatic aberrations

Long-distance bokeh

Test #1

Test conditions: the lens was focused on minimal distance on the scale (1m), buildings are on “infinity”-distance.

Light bubbles bokeh – long distance

Test #1

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 1m, lights are on the “infinity”

Chiyoko 35mm 1:3.5 Rokkor – final conclusion

The human population of the whole world should be divided into two categories – those who are more of a photographer than a collector, and vice versa – those who are more of a collector than a photographer (Yes, there are people in the world who are neither collectors nor photographers, but they are still too young, and mostly spend their time in kindergartens.)

Let me to start with some bad news for photographers. The lens shows rather mediocre results in tests. Sharpness in the corners absences at any aperture. Vignetting is very noticeable. Big enough geometric aberrations – “barrel” type. As for bokeh, with such a focal length and aperture, it does not make much sense. In general, nothing interesting. The photographer is unlikely to be interested in this lens – because only coma is acceptable among all tests.

Although, such results make the lens a little unusual. Seriously, lenses without positive qualities are a rarity. Try to find a lens with a vignetting at f8 – it is not an easy task. (I had to write at least something positive about this lens, right?)

In fact, everything looks so pessimistic only in comparison with more modern lenses. This Chiyoko is a typical representative of the rangefinder technology of that era. There are several more tests on the site with early Minolta’s Super Rokkors and Canon’s Serenars – all of them show rather low results for today. Anyway, this lens is quite usable and can be interesting for art-experiments.

But if we talk about collectors… This is a bomb, of course.

Today it is very difficult to catch it for a reasonable price. Even for unreasonable prices I have seen them literally two or three times in the last few years. The reasons are clear: it is interesting for everyone who collects photographic equipment of any company, not just Minolta. Add here the fact that not a lot were produced.

So, this is the lens that has mostly historical and collectible values. I cannot recommend it for purchase to everyone simply because those who are interested in such optics know whether they need it or not even without my recommendations. On the other hand, if you are not a collector, but just accidentally stumbled upon a copy and its price does not look “surprising” for you – grab it, then you can brag to your friends at parties with a rare museum piece.


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