For my recent downtown Austin series, I’ve been shooting with an adapted Mamiya 35mm lens. It’s a manual focus lens designed for the Mamiya 645 medium format film cameras. I’m using an adapter from FotodioX, which I’ll review separately in a couple of days. Their website indicates they now have 3 different adapters that allow you to use the Mamiya lenses on the Fujifilm GFX digital medium format cameras.
Why use an old adapted lens? It’s usually an inexpensive way to use lenses on another system, particularly if you already own the lens. About six years ago, I ended up collecting 5 Mamiya lenses, though the 35mm f3.5 is the only one I’m planning to use. Architecture is my primary purpose, and I wanted the widest possible angle.
Most new Fujifilm GFX lenses run $1699 and up — quite pricy, though with fantastic image quality. The Mamiya Sekor C 35mm f3.5 N version, which I own, runs between $280 and $350 on eBay. So how does it compare? Better than I thought, actually. I’ll elaborate below.
Because I’m adapting a medium format film lens, I get complete coverage on the Fuji GFX when using a standard adapter. I don’t get any excessive vignetting, which might occur if I were adapting a full-frame Canon or Nikon lens. I’m using the FotodioX tilt-shift adapter, which does vignette if I do excessive lens shifting, however.
On the Fuji GFX, the 35mm becomes a 28mm equivalent — the typical 0.79 crop factor. On the original 645 film system, this 35mm is equivalent to a 21.7mm lens. 645 film is bigger than Fuji’s medium format sensor and has a 0.62 crop factor.
This works in my favor. Since I’m using the tilt-shift adapter for architecture, which can reduce the lean of tall buildings. I can shift the lens a fair amount without getting the vignetting due to the lens’ large image circle.
I’ll start by saying that I didn’t do side by side sharpness comparisons of my Fuji lenses to this Mamiya. If I find the lens satisfyingly sharp, and it creates images that please me. I don’t see the need for extensive comparison tests. The bottom line is that this lens is adequately sharp for my needs. Yes, the lens does appear to be slightly softer. It doesn’t create that eye-popping sharpness that I see with the Fuji lenses. However, in some ways, the Mamiya lens can be more pleasing. Creating a less clinical image with character. When using good technique, shooting on a tripod, and using a small aperture of f16, I found corner sharpness to be excellent.
Either way, if you don’t print large or pixel peep, you won’t notice the difference. I did analyze my Mamiya images a 100% magnification and found them satisfactory.
A bigger concern than the sharpness of this lens is the lens flare. It doesn’t always show up. You need strong sources of light like the sun and street lamps at certain angles. Here’s an example. You can see a few hexagon-shaped flares near the light. Also, there is a greenish smudge near the top-left corner. Here’s another example of even more flare, though this doesn’t bother me as much. The position of the flare seems to matter to me.
I don’t have a lens shade, which may help reduce the flare. Either way, I’m resigned to not shooting close to strong light sources. Or artistically using any resulting flare, when possible.
I also see some barrel distortion near the edges. Though how noticeable depends mostly on the picture. Architectural photos with straight lines near the edges are probably the worst-case scenario. In regular photographs, you may not notice this at all. Modern lenses often have lens profiles built into Capture One or Lightroom that auto-correct these types of distortions. I applied a generic barrel distortion correction, and while not perfect, it did improve the situation.
The distortion becomes worse and more complex to fix when shifting the lens with the tilt-shift adapter. I know this is a specialized case, which I will cover more in my FotodioX tilt-shift adapter review.
As with many lenses from the past, the Mamiya 35mm f3.5 is solid and made mostly of metal. The focusing is smooth, and the aperture stops have a nice clickiness to them. Build quality is equal to or superior to most modern lenses.
At about $300 for the lens and another $120 for the standard adapter, it’s a worthwhile combination to use. Since it’s a manual focus lens, it’s best for static subjects like landscapes or architecture. I shoot my Fujifilm GFX 50R often on a tripod and manually focus my lenses anyway, set to the hyper-focal distance. I do this even with my autofocus Fuji lenses. It’s an easy way to get everything in focus at f16. Therefore, using this manual focus Mamiya is no difficult than using a native Fuji lens for my urban landscapes and architecture. Keep in mind, you don’t get the aperture setting recorded in the photos’ EXIF data.
Optically, while not nearly as good as a Fujifilm GFX lens, it’s over $1000 less expensive. The image should be more than satisfying for all but the most demanding. I think the lens can be used professionally, too. If you don’t have a scene with excessive lens flare and you don’t need absolute architectural accuracy.
I may still buy the Fujifilm GF 30mm f3.5 lens someday. I get a slightly wider 24mm equivalent, the autofocus can be useful, and I’m sure the optic is superior. The lens lists for $1699, so I’m not planning an immediate purchase. The downside is, I can’t get the tilt-shift with this Fuji lens. I’m using the FotodioX Pro TLT ROKR, which is a $300 adapter that allows the tilt-shift capability with the Mamiya. I’ve really grown to love this feature when shooting architecture. Look out for the TLT ROKR adapter review in a couple of days.
Click here to see pictures made with the Mamiya 35mm f3.5.
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