03 November 2013

Fuji X-E1 with Minolta 50mm and 100mm Manual Lenses

I made the decision to get a Fuji X-E2 about two weeks ago just after it was introduced. At that time I ordered the camera with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom and the 35mm f1.4 lenses. Unfortunately the camera would not arrive on time for me to use it on a trip to Europe.

That was the reason I was keeping an eye on the used market for the current model, the Fuji X-E1. On Friday I was able to get a used camera and also two old manual lenses for a very good price.

Here's what the package looks like:

Fuji X-E1 with 50mm f1.4 lens mounted, 100mm f2.5 next to it

The camera is just the plain X-E1 model, I already had a fast 32GB memory card and spare batteries for it as they are the same as for the X-E2 model, very handy!

Let's start with the lenses:

Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f1.4

This is a "standard" lens from the late 70s. The particular model I have is the older one with the 55m filter mount which was built from 1977 to roughly 1979. This lens is in absolute mint condition, has a very solid feel to it and focuses smoothly. The aperture ring moves great and the whole lens gives a feel of quality.

The lens needs an adaptor to mount to the Fuji camera. These adaptors are basically just distance rings which have a camera manufacturer specific mount on the rear end and a lens manufacturer specific mount on the front. They couple the camera and lens in a way together that the distance between the rear element of the lens to the camera's sensor is the same as it was on the original camera - only there it wasn't a sensor, it was 35mm film. What this also means is that there is a "focal length multiplier" involved, 1.5x with the APS-C sized sensor of the X-E1. These adaptors range in price and quality from around $15 up to $100. The one I have seems to be one from the $15 category, although it looks okay and seems to provide a solid coupling.

The challenge with using this type of old lens is that you a) have to make a manual aperture selection and b) have to focus manually, too. The first one is how I prefer to shoot anyways, I use Aperture Priority as my preferred shooting mode where I select the aperture and let the camera figure out the rest (shutter speed and ISO) to get a correct exposure. This works absolutely great with the Fuji as you can see in some of the shots I took yesterday:

A wild animal in its natural habitat - focus on the mane, 50mm wide open

Colors - again shot fairly wide open, I believe it was set to f2.8

We were doing some walking around in the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose and after that also in Santana Row - a fancy schmancy street for the rich and the beautiful with restaurants and overpriced shopping. Anyways, it's a great place for trying a out a camera.

Relaxing in Santana Row - X-E1 with 50/1.4

A small side road has some older looking doors, again a great opportunity for close up shots:

X-E1 with Minolta 50/1.4

And the last shot for now from this camera/lens combination:

Brooks Brothers - X-E1 with Minolta 50/1.5

As you can see, the lens produces very lovely results, sharp focus areas, smooth bokeh, and great color rendition and contrast. You can get lenses like this from $10 up to $80 depending on the condition. Mine is absolutely mint, so it would be in the $60 to $80 range on eBay if not sold in a package. An incredible value!

I also used another lens a little bit to get some more intimate shots.

Minolta MC Tele Rokkor-X 100mm f2.5

This is a short telephoto lens which produces an actual 150mm equivalent on my APS-C camera. The lens itself is tiny for what it actually is. That's one of the benefits of no zoom and no motors for autofocus. It's a very solid, all metal lens, feels great and also is in very good condition.

Again the focus ring moves very smoothly with a solid and quality feel, the aperture ring feels excellent, too, just from 2.5 to 4 it feels slightly loose. Might be because the previous owner(s) used this end of the aperture setting most often. There is no functional issue with it, it just clicks ever so slightly different than the rest of the settings.

I didn't use it all too much, so more photos will be coming in the future as I really like the focal length to get some more sneaky shots and also really, really nice portraits and detail shots.

Here are two examples:

Melancholy in B&W - Fuji X-E1 with Minolta MC Rokkor-X 100/2.5

Beautiful Colors - Fuji X-E1 with Minolta MC Rokkor-X 100/2.5

The 100mm Tele Rokkor produces even nicer results and much smoother bokeh than the 50mm. It's a bit harder to focus as the picture moves and stumbles in the View Finder when in the 3x magnification mode with focus peeking to get the exact area you want sharp into focus.

I believe 100mm or maybe 135mm might be the upper end of what I would use with manual focus on a camera that doesn't have in-body image stabilization. It's important to position yourself correctly, stabilize the camera, hands and arms against your body to focus shots like the one above. But the results are incredibly rewarding.

So far I love using both lenses. I have not tried to get any specific shots to gauge sharpness or distortion or whatever other things gear heads are into, they don't mean much to me in the real world. I want my photos to look great and these lenses certainly deliver in that regard.

The only thing I noticed is that bright backgrounds/highlights can look slightly harsh on the 50mm lens. The 100mm does these much smoother. But that's a fairly minor concern. Overall the out of focus highlights with the Minolta 50mm are on par or better than the 35mm/f2.0 Canon EF lens on our 40D. So far, I'd say, it's slightly better, but of course due to the manual focusing harder and slower to use.

Btw: all of the photos above where shot in JPEG mode, the photos pretty much as they came out of the camera, with just the typical Apple Aperture import adjustments and very small exposure corrections.

Overall Impressions

So far I am incredibly happy with that purchase. For a small price, less than half of just an X-E2 body only, I got an incredible package. I will still keep my order for the X-E2 and decide then what to do with the X-E1. I've also notified Adorama to split my order and send the Fuji 35mm lens right away so I can use it in Europe.

The camera certainly is different from the typical DSLR but I haven't found that to be an issue, on the contrary, I'm fast and comfortable making exactly the adjustments as I want them for each photo. It feels actually more natural to me to use the Aperture ring on the lens, the shutter speed dial on the camera and the perfectly placed dial for exposure compensation. In combination with the Electronic View Finder it gives a perfect impression of what your photo will look like. One benefit of the fully manual aperture selection is that you get immediate depth-of-field preview in the view finder while composing. Incredibly helpful for a photographic dilettante like me.

The focus peeking works good, I wish though I could change the peeking color to something more "intrusive" than white. Like neon green or red would help in most shots. On the other hand, red wouldn't have helped with the photo of the rose above ... ;-)

So, more to come. Especially more photos and probably also more thoughts about the camera overall.

Right now, I just love it!


  1. Is it wrong that my favorite picture is the donkey in its natural habitat?

    Nice crisp photos. Great composition too. I enjoyed them all.

    1. ;-)

      They are so patient when you take their photos! Great way for "wildlife photography".

      These photos were the best of a selection of photos I took on Saturday. What surprises me most is how well the two oooooooold lenses work.

  2. +1 for the donkey, but I also Like Lady Melancholy. Excellent results, Guido. In case you might want to upgrade to the E2 one day… ask Roland. He might be interested to take over your E1.

    1. I will definitely get the X-E2, just talked to Adorama folks to make certain that the 35mm Fuji lens will be here on time and kept the X-E2 kit order in place. I believe a few things will be easier with that one, especially as it has a faster processor and better manual focus help which might help to focus the tele photo lens.

  3. Guido:

    I know what you mean about having a viewer, whether OVF, or EVF. My NEX only has the rear screen so I have to hold the camera, held arms out which is not that great for focusing nor framing. I tried to hold an X-E1 for sizing but they were all sold out with everyone waiting for the E2. I also like the aperature ring on top of the lens in Aperature Priority mode which is what I use all the time to control DOF.

    My main purpose would be to use Leica M or Nikor Ai/AiS lenses as I have a few but I would buy the Kit Lens. I also have some old Pentax M42 lens which are very smooth focusing. I have had good luck with cheap $15 adaptors from China for my NEX. The good ones are better calibrated for infinity (at the end stop), the cheaper ones focus farther than infinity so they are not so easy to use "on the fly".

    I think the new E2 has Split Image focus Mode which should make things easier, and also I think the focus peaking colour can be changed

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. From my perspective, being able to use old lenses was a benefit but no reason at all to buy or not buy the X-E1/2. It certainly is a nice benefit as I can cheaply use some focal length I won't buy in the short term as good modern lenses are just really expensive.

      All I read about the various cameras, the focus peeking with the Sony cameras is better and easier than with the Fuji. I got used to the Fuji fairly quickly and I believe that it will only get better with the X-E2. There will be split image focusing, but I don't think it will have configurable color. We'll see.

  4. It sounds like a great deal and a great way to use the old lenses. I really miss the aperture ring on the lens. So much simpler than using the little knob on the back of the camera as you "knew" what aperture you were on by feel (counting clicks). I must admit to being addicted to vibration reduction and auto focus though I really like the concept of focus peaking.

    1. I found that I can very quickly and intuitively set up the camera for each shot. Much, much faster than I was able to do with the DSRL which always confused me a bit. I plain don't use a camera enough to build full muscle memory for all the complex features and the simple layout of the Fuji helps me a lot.

      Vibration reduction isn't really critical for me as I can use a fast lens (my slowest lens right now is the 100mm f2.5) and I take most photos outdoors in okay light. Also, the 18-55mm zoom the camera comes with has optical image stabilization which should be good for up to four stops.

      So far I have not introduced all too much shake into the shots as long as I didn't forget to tell the camera that I have the 100mm on and not the 50 so it can adjust the minimum shutter speeds accordingly.

    2. I have recently retired as a professional wedding photographer and sold off my Nikon full frame sensor body, lens and flash guns etc, choosing to hang on to my back up camera being a Fuji XE-1 complete with the wonderful 18-55mm and 35mm lens. I have since added the 55-200 lens to my collection and between them I am very happy with the quality so much so that I am saving for the new XT-1. I have also dug out my old Pentax Takumar M42 gear and started adding to the lens which I test (well actually use) on my XE-1 and the 50mm f1.4 lens delights me. However, I then dug out my old Minolta gear and added to the lens collection including an MD 50mm f1.4 which, I have to surprisingly admit, beats the old Takumar f1.4. Camera technology has come on in leaps and bounds but the sheer quality of glass and coatings with these old lens gives me as good as I have ever had from my Fuji and my Nikon albeit without AF and image stabilisation - and at a fraction of the price. They have given me a new lease in life and I am currently enjoying testing old lens on my Fuji but once I get the XT-1 with it's split screen focus peaking I'll be well away - but then there is always the new Pentax cameras that have image stabilisation built into the body - although that's another story!

    3. It really depends. I have just recently made a comparison between my Fuji and my Minolta lenses. The Fujis are significantly sharper and have higher contrast and better color reproduction. It probably doesn't matter in real world shots as many can see, but when you do direct comparisons, the Fuji lenses (I own 14mm, 18-55, 27, 35) are stellar, while the Minolta lenses are good to very good.

      The only Minolta lens I have that can really hold a candle against the modern ones is the Minolta M-Rokkor 90mm f4. This is one crazy good lens, I would love it even more if it was a 2.8, but then it would probably be around the same price as the Leica Elmarit-M 90mm f2.8 - which is about 5 times what I paid for my Minolta.