28mm 1:2 - Canon nFD, Konica AR, Minolta MD-III

The Konica Hexanon AR 1.8/28mm UC is a rather uncommon and much sought-after lens from the early 1980s. When I got the opportunity to test a like-new sample (thanks to Isaac Deutsch!), I decided to compare it to its contemporary Canon and Minolta counterparts, the MD-III and the new FD 2/28mm. All three designs are from the same time (around 1980). While at work, I compared them also to the two classical Konica Hexanon AR 3.5/28mm designs (the earlier [7/7] and the later [5/5]), as well as to the later Minolta [5/5] MD 3.5/28mm, and to the Nikkor Ai 3.5/28mm (see here for the 28mm 1:3.5 test)


Test 28mmf2 overview

Overview over the test image, taken with a Sony A7 (24MP full frame). The 100% crops shown below are marked in yellow. Focusing was done slightly off-center (wooden barrier in the upper middle of the image)



Test Canon nFD 28mmf2

Canon new FD 2/28mm: A well known and respected lens, the new FD is quite a bit smaller than its predecessor FD 2/28mm. Unlike the earlier FD version, the new FD is a "positive lead" design with a positive front lens. Its barrel is not that rugged, and the floating focusing has a tendency to have play, lots of play in fact! Like other new FD lenses, also the nFD 2/28mm has some rather pale, washed-out colors. In this respect it can't compete with the Minolta MD designs and their famous "Achromatic Coating", even though detail resolution at all apertures  is nearly as good as with the Minolta MD-III 2/28mm and visibly better than with the Konica Hexanon AR 1.8/28mm.


Test Konica AR 28mmf18

The Konica Hexanon AR 1.8/28mm is a rare and expensive lens. It is quite a  bit larger than the the two other lenses tested here. In fact its size and weight are more in linie with the eralier Canon FD 2/28mmm and Minolta MC/MD-I 2/28mm lenses (not tested here). The AR 1.8/28mm is a bit faster than its Canon/Minolta counterparts, and a bit wider, too. Being a "negative lead" design also its optical construction is similar to the first generation of Canon/Minolta 2/28mm offerings. The lens has floating focusing (which is rather stiff, but has no play at all), and the "Ultra Coating" (UC) with ist typical reddish color (see image above). These coatings are as effective as the Minolta "Achromatic Coating", and certainly better than the Canon nFD coatings. Over-all, the lens performance is somewhat disappointing: Wide open, only the very center is really sharp. The remaining part of the image - maybe 75% - look quite blurred, even though contrast is good. Stopped down to f4, large parts of the image are still not really crisp, and the Minolta MD-III is much better. At f11, however, the Konica is nearly as sharp as the Canon and Minolta counterparts, and its color are much better than those of the Canon nFD 2/28mm.



Test Minolta MD-III 28mmf2

Minolta MD 2/28mm (MD-III): Not a perfect lens, but clearly the best of the three fast 28mm lenses tested here. The MD-III 2/28mm was designed in 1978 at the Sakai research center with the aim of reducing the size of its predecessor while maintaining or even improving its performance, and reducing vignetting. Six of its nine lenses consist of hight refractive and low dispersive glasses with (1.7 < n < 1.77 and Abbe numbers between 40 and 55.8), and a seventh is made from the well known SF6 (n = 1.80 and v=25).

Even wide open, its image quality is quite usable and certainly better than that of the Canon nFD 2/28mm (which has nearly as much detail, but a rather low contrastand low color saturation) or the Konica AR 1.8/28mm (which has a good contrast, but over wide areas simply isn't sharp). At f4 the Minolta still is quite a bit better than the Canon and Konica equivalents, mainly because of the much better colors, compared to the Canon (and a bit more details too), and a lot more detail than the Konica. At f11 the differences between Konica and Minolta are minor, while the Canon still looks "hazy" and is missing the color and the brillance of the Konica and Minolta lenses.