5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Minolta M-Rokkor 90mm 1:4 – By Rollin Banderob

November 30, 2017

I don’t remember what brought the Minolta M-Rokkor 90mm f/4 lens to my attention, however I do know according to a Sept., 2014 email I paid $219 to an ebay seller in Japan for it. Though the lens was a little beat up, for the price I thought worth the chance, and I have been very happy with it. This was a few months after I bought my first Sony mirrorless bodies and liked the idea of rangefinder lenses to use with them to keep my kit small. I shot manual focus for 15 years, including sports, so actually looked forward to a true MF lens, and have really enjoyed the smooth focus of this lens. And, more importantly to me, the inconspicuous size of the very small front element eyeing the subject, especially for a telephoto.

The lens is from the Minolta/Leica CL/CLE era of the early-mid 70’s, I’ll leave the difference between my Minolta CLE version, CL version, and the made by Leitz versions to the experts, but if you shoot Leica M-mount bodies and are interested in this lens check with those in the know to see which ones mesh with your rangefinder cam. There is also differing opinions on if the Japanese one has better coatings, or if the German one is sharper in the middle, while the Minolta version is sharper across the whole frame. I have done a bit of testing against modern lenses, and my copy has held up very well for sharpness, and most importantly to me it just works.

Originally, these had a rubber lens hood, but I bought Heliopan’s 40.5mm diameter metal “long” hood which works great, and the lens cap still clips on the front. Reportedly the Leica version takes Series 5.5 filters, so this hood will not work with them. Have not played with it enough in the sun to say how flare resistant it is, or how much fun the flare is to create with either. Sometimes the poor thing ends up in the front pocket of my camera bag, rather than a proper lens compartment, as it just so easy to slip into a small space and weighs less than 9 oz., or about 250g.

Best man’s speech at a wedding in a dark barn where I was a guest. This was during a vacation trip out of the country so really appreciated the small size and weight of the lens. Sony α6300: 1/90 f/4 ISO 6400 RAW/LR Big crop

Portrait session for friends. Sony α7S: RAW/LR

My son and his Grandmother at an event. Sony α7R II: 1/160 guessing f/4 ISO 1600 RAW/LR Some cropping

My wife making a point during her sermon. Full electronic shutter on small camera and this little telephoto (less than 3.5″ long with hood) allows me to sit in the back of the church and not be distracting. Sony α6300: 1/320 guessing f/4 ISO 800 RAW/LR Some cropping

Palmer College of Chiropractic’s graduation – instead of throwing their mortar boards the tradition is the graduating doctors toss their student business cards. Sony α7R II: 1/80 f/4 ISO 5000 RAW/LR Big crop

Thank you to Hamish for this 5 Frames series and all he does with 35mmc.

You can find me on Instagram @RoHuPhotog and RoHu Photography on Facebook.

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  • Reply
    JF Bonnin
    November 30, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    I am the (happy) owner of a M-Rokkor f;4 / 90 mm, mounted on a Leica M4P and a Sony Alpha 7.
    I am ususally not convinced about telephoto lenses, but this one is light, practical, with excellent results.
    A dozen years ago, I sold without a single regret a f:2.8 / 90 mm Leitz lens : it was good, but the M-Rokkor is just as good.
    A dozen years ago, I also sold my Minolta CLE with its 40 mm lens : an infinite mistake, and I am convinced that, when I die, Lucifer will send me to a barbecue for this criminal mistak of mine..
    Thanks for your great website.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Those 90s for the CL and CLE were the perfect short tele lenses: discreet, compact, and not intimidating to a viewer. I recall Erwin Puts has a long discussion about the focus compatibility with M bodies somewhere on his web page. I had a 90 f/2.8 TeleElmarit for many years. Of course, I should never have sold it…..

  • Reply
    Why I Chose the Leica M10 over the Sony a9 - by Rollin Banderob - 35mmc
    May 26, 2018 at 7:54 am

    […] but I feel the smaller lens opening facing the subject is less intimidating and less noticeable, which I have written about before on 35mmc. I also wanted a smaller kit and less weight; well, one out of two is not bad. These little brass […]

  • Reply
    Graham Line
    November 9, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    The “grandmother” and “graduation” photos are marvelous and really show off the character of this lens. Found an unused “used” one in its box for cheap several years ago; have used it on an M2, M4-P, and CLE. Will have to try it out on the A6000. Thank you for the posting.

    • Reply
      November 9, 2018 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks! Since writing this article I have used it on an M10 and continue to like it for small travel lens. Used it this week for corporate headshots and did great too.

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