Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 – review

Published by Tony on

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 – vintage manual lens test and review

  • Official classification: New-MD
  • Collector’s classification: MD III

This is an outstanding portrait lens with an unexpected IQ for so small dimensions. So yes, it is sharp even wide-open.

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 + X700

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 (MD III, New-MD) specifications

minolta.eazypix.de index 140
Name engraved on the lens MD
f[mm] 85
A max [1/f] 2
A min[1/f] 22
Lens design [el.] 6
Lens design [gr.] 5
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 49
Lens Shade clip-in
closefocus[m/ft] 0.85/3
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 64×53.5
Weight[g] 285
Year 1981
Style MD III
Code No. (ROKKOR-X) or Order No. 685-810

More data:

Floating elements NO (full support by autofocused adapters)
Aperture blades number 6
Confidence in the test results of reviewed copies 100%
Reviewed lens SN: 8001103

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 exterior

Mounted on Minolta X-700

This is a very suitable set – the camera and lens have the same design (1981 released)

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 lens shade:

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 sharpness

Сlose-distance resolution test, minimal distance

Testing methods description

  • Target: 10-15 cm picture, printed on glossy photo paper
  • Distance:10% longer than minimal focus distance marked on the lens
  • 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

Scene preview

Test results (selected version, easy to compare – 4 positions)

Test results (full version – all 9 positions)

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

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 aberrations


Geometric distortion

Coma aberrations

Chromatic aberrations

Short-distance bokeh

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 0.85m, plants are in 2m distance from the camera

Long-distance bokeh

Test conditions: the lens was focused on half distance on the scale (1.5m), buildings are on “infinity”-distance

Light bubbles bokeh

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance + 10% of scale (about 1m), diodes were fixed in 2m distance

Other resources with reviews of this lens:

Minolta MD 85mm 1:2.0 (or Minolta MD 85mm F/2.0, New-MD, MD III design) – overall conclusion

You know this is the legendary lens: sharp even wide-opened, has great bokeh, nice fire resistance, almost absent aberrations. Legendary Antony Hands called it the best Minolta lens ever. This is probably an ideal second number for a photographer’s bag after normal lenses (35-50mm). No doubt that this lens can easily compete with top-level 85mm lenses in the world, including modern releases. It is so small that it can be confused with a fifty. Definitely it is another one Minolta gem.


David Jenkins · 2019-02-06 at 19:09

This is great, your website has a wealth of information! Do you plan on doing a review of the classical 85mm 1.7? I’d be interested in how these two compare in this test.

    Tony · 2019-02-06 at 20:07

    Thank you, I’m glad to hear it. About Rokkor 85mm f:1.7 – it’s in the the list already, and one nice copy is available, I hope to finish review and comparison with MD III in next a few months , at the end of spring or so

Heinz · 2022-11-14 at 22:59

Dear Sir,

you also made a comparison of Minolta MD 85 f/2 and Zeiss 85 f/2.8. Here you compare long focus distance only. Giving your single lens analysis, the Minolta seems to be sharper on long distance, whereas the Zeiss seems to show some advantage with shorter distance.

I also compared this lenses (one each only, so reffering to the lenses on hand).

My finding is, the MD is defentily better on long distances from app. 5m on. But the Zeiss seems to be better up to 3m distance.

Moreover the Zeiss seems to perfom better with backlite.

Both lenses are wounderful for its use: Minolta the better universal, the Zeiss for Portrait.

Open for discussion…

Heinz · 2022-11-14 at 23:33

Dear Sir,

please let me leave an additional comment on some other lens tested, where i am unable leaveing a notice: Zeiss 45 2.8 pancake/Minolta MD 45 2.0.

You made a comparison to the MD 45 2.0, where the Zeiss showed very inferior, where the Zeiss shows inconsistance results from center/middle/corner. You as well mentioned the “tricky” results of the Zeiss from f/5.6.on. You mentioned that you did not refocus.

My comparison shows the MD at 2.0 setting superior to the Zeiss at 2.8 despite the very corner, both at long and short distance. At 4.0 I confirm your findings.

But at 5.6 it is absolutly neccessary for the Zeiss to refocus, since this lens shows a very pronounced focus-shift. The Zeiss really shines from f/5.6 on, when focused accordingly to the appertures! Mine is absolutely better in sharpness compared to the MD from f/5.6 on at all positions, when correctly focused!

Neverthelsess, the Zeiss doesn´t like backlight at all, the MD is more tolerant.

Not to be missunderstood: Comparing both lenses leaves me to see the MD more universal as beeing usfeful from f/2 on. The Zeiss in contrary asks for f/5.6 up, theresfore is the ideal go-around street shooting lens!

I use both with pleasure!


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