Rokkor 35-70/3.5 macro review

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by dixeyk, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. kevistopheles

    kevistopheles TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
    <strong>A ZOOM LENS...REALLY?</strong>
    I have never been a fan of zoom lenses...ever so I can't even begin to understand what brought me to purchase a Rokkor 35-70/3.5 macro. Maybe it was because it was supposed to have been one of the Minolta designs that made it's way to Leitz and was sold as a Leica R lens (along with the 16/2.8, 24/2.8, 70-210/4 macro and 75-200/4.5), maybe it was the fact that I found one in very nice shape for under $50 and the collector part of e could not resist or maybe it was because I had been so impressed with my Rokkor primes I had to see what the big deal about was about a zoom lens that folks said was almost at prime quality sharpness between 35-50.

    <strong>THE PARTICULARS</strong>
    The MD Rokkor 35-70/3.5 macro is not small, in fact, it's a a fairly large lens weighing in at 365 grams with an unusual way of working.T he front element is large without much recess and I think the lens will benefit from a hood. The OEM hood is shallow and attaches like a pinch lens cap to the inside of the 55mm front ring of the lens, and if we ever get sunny weather here again I'll be sure to give it test run. To get to 35 you need to extend the lens and to zoom to 70 you retract it. It's a bit counter intuitive but if you can manage to tie your shoes or eat with a fork you should be able to get used to it fairly quickly. The build quality is very good, The MD Rokkor lenses do not feel quite as robust as the earlier MC Rokkors (my MC 24/2.8 SI is built like a tank at 410 grams). The 35-70/3.5 has is metal construction with a huge knobby rubber grip on the focus ring. The 35-70/3.5's were produced between 1978 and 1983 (meaning they are not as easy to find as some lenses) with the earliest versions being labeled Rokkor-X and the later versions simply labeled MD. All of the contsant aperture versions use 8 elements in 7 groups with the macro versions being the last version produced (in 1983). There is a variable aperture 35-70/3.5-4.5 model (produced in in 1984) with 7 elements ins 7 groups but it does not share the same sterling reputation for IQ.

    One of the things that I look for in lenses is their ability to close focus. The MFD of the 35-70/3.5 is around 32 inches. The macro version has two settings that allow for 1:7 and 1:4 close ups. It's more of a close up mode than a true macro but it makes the lens very useful in a variety of situations. The "macro" mode is accessed by pushing a small blue button on the side of the lens body that allows the focus ring to rotate into the macro settings. at 1:7 the MFD is a bit longer than a foot and at 1:4 it is around 6 inches.

    <a title="Oh Canada! by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Oh Canada!" src="[/img]"531" width="800" /></a>

    I have paired with a NEX 5n. The lenses large size provides a comfortable hand hold and it seemed to balance well on the camera body. I took the lens out not expecting much. The constant aperture is nice but I was concerned that the*minimum*aperture of f3.5 would prove to be an issue. As it turns out I was wrong. On the NEX the lens peaks wel meaning that focus peaking is clear and wel defined. The 35-70 zoom range translates to 52-105 EFL on the NEX. *Being a fan of normal and short telephoto lenses from my film days the zoom range was comfortable (although the reverse action of the zoom take some getting used to).

    Image wise the lens is capable of producing sharp images with excellent detail and does a surprisingly nice job blurring backgrounds when shot wide open. The contrast seems to be a bit less than that of my Rokkor primes (not too much of a surprise given Minoltas lens design*philosophy) but color is consistent between all of my Rokkor lenses. In cat that is one of the things that has really won me over to the Rokkors in general. They have a very pleasing gorgeous way of rendering color (rich and warm without being*over saturated* and it's consistent lens to lens.

    <a title="Shallows by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Shallows" src="[/img]"531" width="800" /></a>

    <a title="The Herald of the Ice Queen by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="The Herald of the Ice Queen" src="[/img]"531" width="800" /></a>​

    In use the lens is versatile and easy to use. It handles a variety of situations well and the ability to close focus means that you can be more spontaneous that you would be if you had to stop and change lenses. I have also found that the size of the lens makes it easier to hold steady even when shooting in low light. I find that I have been able to hand hold shots as low as 1/10th of a second and have them come out sharp. I suppose I could have incredibly steady hands but most fo the credit goes to the fact that the lens is balanced well and easy to hold steady.

    <a title="Games by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Games" src="[/img]"531" width="800" /></a>

    <a title="Sock by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Sock" src="[/img]"537" width="800" /></a>​

    <strong>IS IT AS GOOD AS THEY SAY?</strong>
    On paper I would tend to dismiss the usefulness of the 35-70/3.5 reality is has become my most used lens. I can take it anywhere and no matter the situation (except if i need along reach) it can accomodate me. The IQ is very good. The sharpness is not at the level of my MC primes but it is very VERY close. What it gives up in performance it more than makes up for in utility. As much as I like my Rokkor primes (and I DO like them) if I had to choose only one lens to go with me it would be the 35-70 zoom without hesitation.

    So is it as good as they say? Yes it is!

    <a title="Icing on the Wings redux by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Icing on the Wings redux" src="[/img]"532" width="800" /></a>

    <a title="Pearls by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Pearls" src="[/img]"523" width="800" /></a>​

    Zoom lenses are by design are a study in compromise. The lens isn't perfect. It's a big and heavy and if you're looking for something pocketable this isn't the lens for you. It sharpest between 35-50 with the the images becoming noticeably softer at 70. I also wish the build quality were a bit more like my MC Rokkors. That said, the MD 35-70/3.5 macro is quite a remarkable lens and I can see why Leitz would have chosen to sell it as a Leica R lens as well.

    <a title="Wand Mother by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Wand Mother" src="[/img]"531" width="800" /></a>

    <a title="Nail by dixeyk, on Flickr" href=""><img alt="Nail" src="[/img]"531" width="800" /></a>​

    Of the three 3 versions of the MD Rokkor 35-70/3.5, I find the macro is the most attractive option because of the additional flexibility you get from being able to close focus. If that is not a priority then I would thin any flavor would be equally nice in terms of image quality. In the short time I have been using this lens it has become one of my favorite lenses to use and one of the very few lenses i would not consider selling for any price. Not bad for a 30 year old zoom lens that cost me $48.

    <em>FWIW. when I was looking for the Rokkor 35-70/3.5 macro I came across the non macro Leica version selling on a popular forum for the "discounted price" of $400.</em>

    Also located <a title="Adapted Rokkor 35-70/3.5 macro review" href="" target="_blank">HERE</a>
  2. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Interesting - thanks for sharing! (I may have to keep an eye out for a macro version...)
  3. freddytto

    freddytto TalkEmount All-Pro

    Dec 2, 2011
    Puebla, Mexico
    Well Kevin, I've been waiting for this for a week, and wow did an excellent job here, I commented that I'm interested in this lens, I really liked your first shot, very cute, the second is amazing. I want to buy a goal, I think this would be great, also are not expensive. Have any other suggestions.
  4. kevistopheles

    kevistopheles TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
    It took me a while to find but they're out there. I would keep an eye on KEH. They get them from time to time. They come up less frequently on eBay but I think you're better going with KEH or someone selling one on a forum.
  5. eno789

    eno789 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Jan 1, 2012
    NoCal, USA
    I really really like the mushroom picture, thanks for sharing Kevin.
  6. freddytto

    freddytto TalkEmount All-Pro

    Dec 2, 2011
    Puebla, Mexico
    thanks :)
  7. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012

    Just kidding! Thanks for this review and awesome shots as always!
  8. Chuck Lawson

    Chuck Lawson TalkEmount Regular

    Nov 23, 2012
    Dallas area
    Great write-up (and great shots!) -- thanks! Another lens to put on my "watch for" list. :)

    I'm beginning to get intrigued with the whole concept of "close focusing" (instead of or in addition to macro) lenses -- is there a list or other reference around as to some of the better close-focusing lenses in various lengths?

    Thanks again!
  9. kevistopheles

    kevistopheles TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
    Some of my favorite close focusing lenses are the Vivitar 28/2 Close Focus, Vivitar 70-210/2.8-4.0 macro (both Komine made), Olympus Pen-F 38/1.8 and 40/1.4, Hexanon 24/2.8 and Rokkor 24/2.8...and of course the 35-70/3.5 macro
  10. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
  11. kevistopheles

    kevistopheles TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
  12. Chuck Lawson

    Chuck Lawson TalkEmount Regular

    Nov 23, 2012
    Dallas area
    I'll keep an eye out for some of those --- thanks!
  13. freddytto

    freddytto TalkEmount All-Pro

    Dec 2, 2011
    Puebla, Mexico
    Me too :eek:
  14. parabellumfoto

    parabellumfoto New to TalkEmount

    Jun 3, 2013
    I have a beat up copy of the 35-105 f3.5-4.5 Macro Zoom. It's got the same macro switch and ring.

    I'm blown away by what this lens can do. Some users have claimed it's better than the 35-70mm Macro Zoom and from my personal experience I would think so as well although I have tried the 35-70 to compare against mine.
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