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A short journey through my photographic way...

 1968-1976

My starting point was a Agfamatic 300 sensor I got as gift 1968 in the age of six from my uncle. 

The pictures taken with its fix focus lens Color Agnar 1:8 44mm came out horribly unsharp compared to the Pictures my father and my grandpa got out of their SLR's. My father had a Altix and later a Minolta XE-1 with two MC Rokkor 1:2.8 24mm and MC Rokkor 1:1.4 50mm lenses. He soon added the following MC Rokkor lenses 1.8 35mm, 1.7 85mm and 2.8 135mm. My grandpa had a Leica Rangefinder and a M42 Mount Contax D system I still have today.

Despite the bad picture quality the Agfa gave me some irreparable memories like this:

My dog Rex and me in the garden of my parents home 1975
Agfamatic 300 sensor, Color Agnar 1:8 44mm (scanned from print)

You can see the poor picture quality coming out of the Agfa camera. My interrest therefore very early tends to my fathers Minolta and my grandpas Contax SLR systems.

My grandpa and my father should have better watched their cameras because I'm sure I used them more than they ;-)

 

1977-1978

Father decided to solve the problem for never having a camera for himself by buying the brand new Minolta XD7 with the following lenses: MD Rokkor 1.4 50mm, MD Rokkor 3.5 28mm and MD Rokkor 4 200mm. Also in the package where close up lenses, bellows for Makro shots, a reverse ring and the two standard books for the Minolta system:

Josef Scheibel, Minolta XG-XD
and 
Dieter Gabler, Die Nah- und Makrofotographie mit dem Minolta SR-System  

I call them the "bibles" for Minolta users of these days.

The new bright viewfinder of the XD was very easy to focus, so I again took over and was the one that used the equipment most like the XE before. Also its very nice to have two bodies ;-)

A good autofocusing Leitz Pradovit 150 slide projector with a Colorplan 2.5 90mm lens showed from the beginning that the new MD Rokkor 1.4 50mm was a good lens but the older havier and more glass containing MC Rokkor PG 1.4 50mm was a class of its own. Also the MC Rokkor 2.8 24mm slightly outperforms the MD Rokkor 3.5 28mm.

No doubt that the MD Rokkor 1.4 50mm was better than all the other 50mm lenses including Altix Tessar, Contax Tessar and so on but compared to the MC? 

My three years older sister got the Altix with its good 2.8 50mm Tessar lens that only lacks a light meter. So for every picture you had to decide what aperture and shutter speed settings you want to use. The best school in photography you can go through.

 

1979

I solved the missing body problem by purchasing a cheap used Minolta SRT 101 with a MC Rokkor PF 1:2 50mm with a dent on the body top from my local dealer in Kempten. This body soon became my black and white workhorse. The above picture shows the body with a MD W.Rokkor 35mm 1:2.8 wich I later replaced by a MC W.Rokkor 1:2.8 f=35mm because of the filter thread 49mm does not fit in my lens line. Optically I found no significant differences between the MD Rokkor 35mm and the MC Rokkor 35mm.

My Minolta SRT 101 body with a very good
Minolta MD W.Rokkor 35mm 1:2.8

I worked hard in the holliday's and so could afford my first enlarger, a Kaiser 6x6. As enlarger lens I ordered a Minolta C.E. Rokkor 2.8 50mm (what else for a true Minolta fan). With its six lens construction I got wonderful sharp and contrasty enlargements from my black and white films (Agfapan 25, Agfapan 100, Ilford PAN F, Ilford FP4).

In my school we had a photo interrest group leaded by our chemistry teacher with a own darkroom and every tuesday afternoon we met together and got out shooting or developed and enlarged our films. Our chemistry teacher doesn't took the prescriptions to seriusly and not seldom came with his own mixtures.

We pupils worked more after the guidances of the manufacturers and most often got the better results. Our teacher also got results but not seldom they were surprising! Also sometimes I helped our local dealer if he had some photography tasks.  

 

1980-1999

I finished school in spring and had a long time for jobing because my study in munich begins in autumn. I got good jobs and so earned the money for my first car a red VW Polo and there was enough left to buy a Minolta XD5 body with a MD Zoom Rokkor 1:3.5 35-70mm.

My Minolta XD5 here with a Minolta MD Macro 50mm 1:3.5.
Another top performing lens in the Minolta line, 
especially for shots in near distances. 
This lens is corrected to have zero distortion.

 

The Zoom lens included in the XD5 Kit.
This lens set was also sold as Leitz Vario Elmar 1:3.5 35-70mm

This XD5 was my most used camera ever. I'm sure i did more than 15.000-20.000 expursures with it till now and it never showed any malfunction. The zoom lens was a Testwinner of the legendary Praxis Test from Walter E. Schön in the Color Foto Magazine these days, but the first shots convinced me that I'd better stay by the primes. Not to say its a bad lens, in sharpness and especially in contrast it beats all my 2.8 50mm Tessar's but I had the dream to get one of the good old MC Rokkor 1.4 50mm. Until this comes true I used the MC Rokkor-PF 1:2 f=50mm an outstanding lens too, wich also was noticeably sharper than the zoom.

Some times later I read the next Praxis Test from Walter E. Schön. He compared 100mm Makro lenses and the winner was the new Minolta MD Makro Rokkor 1:4 100mm. This lens outperforms Canon, Nikon... and even the Leica lens. I looked at the test pictures in 40x enlargements many times and it was clear that this lens was a "must have" to me.

My loved Minolta MD Macro Rokkor 100mm 1:4
showing havy usage through the last 25 years,
but optical it delivers a picture quality like new,
a real jewel in the Minolta manual focus lens line!

Briefly after it I shot the first photos with this lens and it fulfills all predictions. Razor sharp from edge to edge contrasty and a Macro too. I immediately loved this lens! Many of my favorite shots I took with this lens. Everyone who owns a Minolta manual focus body should have it! Here a shot taken with this lens of my son Thomas and our dog Lissy to show the sharpness of the lens the dog line is enlarged to 100% crop of a 4000dpi Nikon Coolscan V ED scan. 

Whole frame of: Thomas and Lissy at the Donau bank 2000
Minolta XD5; MD Macro Rokkor 100mm 1:4; 1/500 f8; Fujicolor 100

 

100% crop of the 4000dpi scan 
5680x3790 corresponding to more than 21 MPixel
 of the above image showing the incredible sharpness of this fantastic lens. 
Wheras the dog line lies in front of the focal plane, 
the T-Shirt structures at the left are fully resolved at 4000dpi.
Whatching the details at a 100x Microscope 
what I always use to do for lens comparisons
shows even more details of the fiber structure the used
Nikon Coolscan V ED scanner is not able to resolve!

My study at Technical University Munich lead me to the photo interrest group for students in olympic centre in munich.

They had a very good equiped color darkroom with a Leitz Focomat enlarger and also a photo studio with a studio flash system. I learned a lot regarding photography and also my equipment grows further ;-)

A visit to America brougth me the chance to get my dream "normal" lens. I found it second hand in a photo shop in Houston Texas. A lens like new and yes it optically performs like my fathers old MC Rokkor PG 1:1.4 50mm. I am sure till today one of the best 1.4 50mm lenses in the world!

My loved normal lens: Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 1:1.4 f=50mm

I couldn't resist the autofocus hipe and so I added a Minolta 7000 AF body with a Minolta AF 50mm 1:1.7 and a Minolta AF zoom 70-210mm 1:4 to my collection. The plastic feeling of this generation displeased me from the beginning. So this camera could never replace my old loved manual focus Minolta stuff.

My Minolta 7000 with the new generation Minolta AF 50mm 1:1.17

Also the picture quality of the Minolta AF 1.7 50mm doesn't reach the old MC 1.4 or 2. Therefore in 2002 if I remember correctly I replaced the original Minolta AF 1.7 50mm with the newest release that got very good test results these days. This one showed slight improvements over the first Minolta AF 1.7 50mm but also was no competitor for the 30 years old MC 1.4. 

The little decreased optical quality of the new Minolta lenses let me doubt and so for comparisons sake I took the opportunity for a seldom used Canon AE-1 SLR with a in the Canon lens line as top performer well known Canon new FD 50mm 1:1.8 lens. In the Canon forums there are many discussions whether the 1.4 or the 1.8 is the sharper lens and many concluded that the 1.8 concerning sharpness has the advantage.

My Canon AE-1 with its "new" FD 50mm 1:1.8

My tests showed clear that this lens wide open stays clear behind all Minolta lenses, closed down to 5.6 or 8 it reaches nearly the quality of my MD Rokkor 1:1.4 50mm. But its in no way a competitor against the best lenses in the Minolta line.

In my opinion the following "normal" lenses in the Minolta line are the absolute top performers:

MC Rokkor PG 1:1.4 50mm (last MC Generation)
MD Rokkor 1:1.7 50mm 55mm Filter thread (first MD Generation)
MC Rokkor PF 1:2 50mm (last MC Generation)

Also the handling of the Canon camera is more badly compared to a Minolta XD or XE. And so I decided to stay with my old Minolta stuff for the next years. Why should I change the system if I had to pay in concern of picture quality? 

The next lens I missed most was the 24mm I often used in my youth. A 35mm in no way is a replacement for a top 24mm lens. I knew that the Minolta lens from my father was excellent optically and so I acquired a optical identical MD W.Rokkor 24mm 1:2.8 which also gives me excellent results. 

 

2000

The digital hipe also reaches me and in the year 2000 the new outcoming 3.3 Megapixel Sony sensor had the potential to deliver good prints in the standard size 10x15cm. Also the upcoming web convinced me that the time has come to jump into the digital age. My tests showed very quick that these cameras could not replace the analog Minolta SLR's concerning picture quality.

From the family of nearly identical built cameras I choosed a Casio QV 3000EX for my digital entry.  

My first digital camera: Casio QV 3000EX

It has the same sensor and lens as the high rated Canon Powershot G1 but the price was much cheaper. Also it had a Infra Red connection useful for downloading Pictures wireless to the Notebook.

Some types of pictures came out great digital, especially Makros, others showed great problems that arrived with the digital generation. Here a sample of a good Makro taken with my Casio:

Leaf; Casio QV3000EX; Canon lens 1:2.0-2.5 7-21mm

Here is a example of a bad casio shot in comparison to a shot taken with my manual focus Minolta:

Casio QV3000EX; built in Flash; Canon Lens 1:2.0-2.5 7-21mm compared to

Minolta XD5; Metz CT32; Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 1.4 50mm; 1/100 f5.6; Fuji superia 100

Wheras macros profit from the increased depth of field due to the small sensor size, under bad light conditions there is no competition. The digicams with its built in flashes are in no way a competitor in cases of low light conditions. The autofocus of digicams gets increased problems and the built in flash remembers me more at a piece of toy. The XD5 picture in contrast has been printed by me up to 26x39cm and still is tag sharp. No contest!

 

2001-2003

 

The last years brought us the break through of digital photography and many people sell their old equipment for unbelievable cheap prices. A good opportunity for us freaks to complete our lens lines.

So I got a second like new MC Rokkor-PF 1:2 50mm (yes one of the top performers) for only 1,-- Euro. I only had to clean the mechanics inside the lens because aperture blades closed to slowly. A simple task! And I  have another wonderful normal lens now.

I further completed my lens line with a like new Minolta MD Zoom 75-200mm 1:4.5 and I also got a like new MD Macro 50mm 1:3.5 and a MD W.Rokkor 35mm 1:1.8 49mm Filter Thread.

The 1.8 35mm in my comparisons slightly outresolves my 2.8 35mm especially in center sharpness, contrast and flare resistance, and also especially on XE and SRT bodies is easier to focus, so it became "my" 35mm now.

I compared the new Macro hard against my old MC Macro Rokkor 1:3.5 50mm and could not find any visible differences. So the MC goes as gift for a good friend and the MD remains in my bag.

I also compared the MD Zoom 75-200mm 1:4.5 against the MC Rokkor-PF 1:2.8 135mm prime lens and found that the picture quality in the center was undisdinguishable and at the corners with a very little advantage for the prime. IMHO this zoom at 5.6 and 8 is capable of replacing this prime concerning sharpness. But my MC 135mm prime wide open enables creamy pictures like this or that, and so its impossible for me to sell it! 

The Minolta community highly prayed the performance of the four lens construction Rokkor 2.8 135mm. In well recognized tests it beats even the Carl Zeiss 2.8 135mm of the Contax RTS line. Not to mention that the Canon, Nikon and Olympus were beaten once again. So I got a example from ebay and yes it ouperforms my six lens construction MC Rokkor 2.8 135mm concerning sharpness and contrast, but I think the old MC six lens design shows the better bokeh, but I still have to do a direct comparison to be sure. The four lens Rokkor 2.8 135mm for sure is absolute usable wide open. Even wide open there is no vigneting visible, a known problem of many other 135ers for example the Minolta AF 2.8 135mm. 

Also this Minolta zoom lens outperforms my Tokina RMC 1:4 80-200mm (which also is a good lens, I used it for 20 years, but it is not at the same level as the Minolta zoom) especially at the long end in my tests and for color slide shooting it also fits better in the Minolta lens line!

Now I think I have a nice Minolta manual focus lens collection.


My dream camera...

The falling prices for analog cameras made a dream come true to me. I got a 1974 Hasselblad 500C/M a real dream camera with one of the legendary Carl Zeiss Planar 1:2.8 80mm lenses from a Munich photo dealer that used it as his studio camera for years. The 1974 planar lens
has the fine T* coatings although it is not marked with it what a direct comparison with a new CF Planar 2.8/80mm convinced me.

My Hasselblad 500C/M with Carl Zeiss Planar 1:2.8 80mm in my hand.

From the first film roll on it was clear that this camera with its optics plays in a leage of its own! Sharpness, detail resolution, contrast, bokeh and the overall picture composition are simply fantastic.

Isar bridge - in use
May 2004
Hasselblad 500C/M; Carl Zeiss Planar 2.8 80mm; 1/250 f8; Fuji velvia 50
You may not trust me - but with the 100xMicroscope
you can see each steel cable vein from the bridges railling!

When I showed my slides to a photo friend he also felt in the Hassy-fever and so, thanks to ebay, we have quick carried together a nice used Hasselblad system.

If you want to know more about our Hasselblad system: 

Klick here for my Hasselblad 6x6 SLR system page

For the enlarger we spent a Rodenstock Rodagon 1:4 80mm to have a equivalent lens for our black and white enlargements.

 

2004

 

The unbelievable comes true. My father also wants to go digital. We together decided to choose a Olympus 5060 one of the best 5 MPixel digicams concerning lens quality. The quality comes more and more close to the 35mm SLR's.

I also decided to upgrade my digital camera and choosed a 8 Megapixel Olympus C-8080WZ mostly because of its high rated lens and its good build quality. The Olympus 8080 lens in nearly all tests outperforms the competitors from Nikon, Minolta, Canon and Sony. I also prefer the wide angle range over additional tele range. I tested the Olympus against a Canon 300D (digital rebel) with its 18-55mm Kit lens and under good light conditions the Olympus was the *clear* winner concerning sharpness and resolution. 

Both Olympus lenses (5060 and 8080) astonished me with their good resolution even wide open! Only the high distortion at the low zoom range of the 5060 lens is terrible but also simple correctable with pano-tools in the post processing. 

But the old 35mm SLR's with its 30 years old top lenses in conjunction with fine grain film and a good 4000dpi scanner still deliver better picture quality than any 5 or 6 MPixel digicam (prosumer or DSLR). 

I think you need a sensor with a minimum of 12-16 MPixel and also top lenses to beat the best analog 35mm SLR pictures concerning sharpness and detail resolution. But you have to work extremly (havy tripod, 100% exact focusing) carefully with a analog 35mm SLR to get out the best results. With my Olympus C-8080WZ i get nearly comparable result in a very fast and comfortable way!

For medium format I'm shure you have to cross the 64MPixel barrier to realy beat a Hasselblad loaded with Fujichrom velvia 50.

A Olympus C-8080WZ, which at the 50 ASA delivers the same quality as a CANON 20D or a Canon 350D with a L glass zoom mounted, but it is still in no way capable of competing against my Hasselblad shots.

I tested this with the above Isar bride motiv again and again but not a single Digital Camera (even not a EOS 1DS with a EF 17-40mm L lens and a EF 1.4 50mm prime) showed my any "steel cable vein" till today!