Score a Vintage Rokkor 85 for Rock Star Photography

The Rokkor 85 lenses are known for their sturdiness, lightness, and efficacy. Learn key details to consider when deciding on which affordable Rokkor 85 to purchase from eBay.

Which Rokkor 85 doubles as a standard lens?

All of the Rokkor 85-millimeter MC and MD lenses can double as standard lenses. A standard lens typically has a length that falls between wide (18 millimeters) and telephoto (200 millimeters) with 85 millimeters being the sweetest spot. Wide lenses exaggerate distances whereas telephoto lenses tend to compress. An 85-millimeter lens renders images much like the naked eyes does, preserving spatial relationships and vanishing points as you might see them with your actual eyes.

What is the minimum focus distance?

The Rokkor 85 lenses have a minimum focus distance of only one meter. This is what lends these lenses to portraiture. Manual focus is the norm, but there are autofocus hybrids in gently used and respectable condition to be found among the vast array of Rokkor 85 lenses available on eBay. Rokkor 85-millimeter lenses correspond to four different optical formulas that are more lightweight in later iterations. Early MC iterations weigh roughly 460 to 500 grams whereas later MD iterations weigh half as much, boasting fewer elements, fewer groups, and smaller filters with faster speeds. A brief rundown includes:

  • 85mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor: Six elements, five groups, classic portrait lens
  • 85mm f/1.7 MD Rokkor: A revision of the MC containing slightly different optical elements
  • 85mm f/2 MD Rokkor-X: Smaller, lighter in weight than the above with a wider aperture (sometimes called "MF")
  • 85mm f/2.8 Varisoft: MC-descendant SLR lens with wide aperture and continuous normal to soft focus
Is there a Rokkor that renders respectable bokeh?

All Rokkor 85 models are designed to render respectable bokeh, but their inherent differences in construction give rise to gradations of bokeh you should consider. Bokeh is the natural result of spherical aberrations present in every single lens. As a result, lenses that render respectable foreground bokeh always inevitably have very nuanced background bokeh and vice versa. The vintage f/1.7 MC Rokkor 85 has neutral-good bokeh in full light when photographing objects, but later iterations fare well in lower-light or diffuse light (wider apertures) when photographing live subjects (indoor/outdoor portraiture).

What mounts do you use with these lenses?

The most common mount for Rokkor 85 manufactured after a certain year is MD, or "Minolta MD." Earlier iterations match a Meter Coupling, or MC mount, or an SR mount, the standard bayonet with an automatic diaphragm. Luckily, each mount type and corresponding lens is interchangeable with new and old Minolta manual focus 35-millimeter cameras having SLR bodies. Each mount type for each iteration of Rokkor 85 is available on eBay.

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