Lens review : Mamiya Sekor 110mm F2.8

This is quite a niche product I'll review today : a Mamiya RZ medium format film body. Normally at that stage I lost 95% of you. However this is why you should keep reading a little farther:

  • It is the best you can get for portrait and studio.
  • It is the cheapest used >$1500 new, but a mint one can be found for $300 online without risk.
  • If you're a growing amateur looking for the next level in photography (which should be medium format film, I'll explain why in an other post), this should be in your top 5 potential target product.
  • You won't find reviews of MF lenses on most of the classic photography sites because well, digital sells so no one gives a damn.
Ok back to the lens. This is the standard lens sold with the Mamiya RZ, a studio photography reference. It's a bulky tank-like camera, but a wonderful machine for artists and portrait lovers. 

It is equivalent to a 55mm lens on a 35mm camera. 
I'll be very straight forward : this is the most exceptional portrait lens I have ever used so far. I could talk about sharpness (unreal), I could talk about the bokeh (sublime), and I will, but there is a subjective dimension to all appreciation, the image feel you get, and this lens perform terrific when it comes to that. See for yourselves (scanned at 2400 DPI with an Epson V700, I had to reduce the files since they are >20MO, 48MP equivalent !):

6pm window light at F2.8 1/60S

Let's be a little more analytical now. The most impressive part is the ability to perform the best at F2.8. It doesn't get soft at all, it remains as sharp as the sharpest thing you've seen, but the out of focus areas are smooth, soft, beautiful. For intimate images with that reserved feel, this is the one lens you need.

This is solid built, full metal, mine's quite old and nothing's shaky.

Some people mention a dust infiltration problem with that lens. I don't doubt it can happen, but I don't suffer from it, even though I took a sand storm with it. Be aware just in case you buy it used, servicing costs around $150.

I never review with charts, graphs etc. I trust my eyes and compare images. I don't give a damn if the whatever distortion is 3.4% or 3.5%. Anyway if you're a pixel junky you wouldn't be looking at film products :) The images should speak for themselves.

Pros : astonishing in low light at F2.8, crazy sharp, outperforming Leica 35mm lenses, cost the same price new but so easy to find for $300 used. Goes a classic MF body that cost $4000 new, but can be find used, in mint condition, for $600.

Cons: I believe it can suffer from dust infiltration in some cases (haven't had the problem myself). Hard to get serviced. 

If you have a Mamiya RZ, I bet you already have it. So if you're looking for your first MF gear, this gets interesting. Legendary Mamiyas like the 6 or 7II are aiming at landscape. They just don't have such a lens. The RZ is a studio classic, fantastic camera. If you like shooting studio portrait, or portraits in a set up stage (tripod, make up artist, and tons of stuff along with any photoshoot), this lens justifies buying the Mamiya RZ67. However you might want to consider these alternatives:
- Pentax 67II body has built him metering and large aperture great portrait lenses too. It's more pricey and not better, just a little (really a little) more versatile.
- Rolleiflex TLR: Great lenses, but this is in a totally different price range, but a results that is no better, if not, in my opinion, inferior. 

If you get a Mamiya RZ system with that, for proper portrait photoshoot, you will never be disappointed, and often be wooowed by your own shots :)

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