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Mamiya RZ 110mm Z performance findings (long)

Christopher Perez , Mar 03, 2003; 01:23 p.m.

I have been thinking about the quality of Mamiya SLR lenses. [whine mode on] This after my Hasselblad 500C/M has been in the shop 4 times over the past 6 months. The front and rear of the 'blad body was 3 thou sandths of an inch out of alignment. The mirror gave a focusing error of 1 foot at 5 feet. A barndoor spring bent after the camera, wrapped in foam in a plastic case, slid off another case and dropped 6 inches (yes SIX!) to the floor. Then one of the film backs started to overlap the first and second frame (that 'ol clutch problem). What's next? A lens spring failure?[whine mode off]

At a photoswap this past weekend I carped about my 500C/M fate with Hasselblad users. Some do weddings. Others do street photography. And others do portraits. ALL said 'it's just the beginning... keep a pair and a spare on hand... they'll be passing each other on their way to the repair shop...' Ouch! I'm just a hobbiest who's neurotic about resolution. [yep, whine mode is still off]

I came across a decent Mamiya RZ with 110mm Z f/2.8. In search of better MF camera system reliability, I bought it, took it home and tested the lens. Here's what I found. Using a USAF resolution chart from Edmound Scientific to read lines per mm (l/mm), TMax100 film,and souped in D-76:

68 60 60  f/2.8
60 68 68  f/4
76 85 68  f/5.6
76 76 68  f/8
76 68 76  f/11
68 68 68  f/16
54 54 54  f/22

Since I'm completely neurotic about such things, here are a few apertures comparing various lenses I've tested over the years ( http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/MF_testing.html ):

68 60 60  f/2.8 - Mamiya RZ 110 Z
68 68 38  f/2.8 - Hasselblad 80 CT* Planar
54 34 19  f/2.4 - Pentax 67 105 SMC
60 60 38  f/3.5 - Koni/Omega 90 Hexanon
67 53 53  f/2.8 - Bronica 80 Zenzanon-PS

76 85 68  f/5.6 - Mamiya RZ 110 Z
95 85 60  f/5.6 - Mamiya 7 80 L
96 96 54  f/5.6 - Hasselblad 80 CT* Planar
85 85 48  f/5.6 - Hasselblad 120 f/5.6 C Planar-S
76 67 21  f/5.6 - Pentax 67 105 f/2.4 SMC
67 67 38  f/5.6 - Koni/Omega 90 f/3.5 Hexanon
60 67 60  f/5.6 - Bronica 80 Zenzanon-PS

76 68 76  f/11 - Mamiya RZ 110 Z
85 76 60  f/11 - Mamiya 7 80 L
85 76 60  f/11 - Hasselblad 80 CT* Planar
76 76 60  f/11 - Hasselblad 120 f/5.6 C Planar-S
67 67 48  f/11 - Pentax 67 105 f/2.4 SMC
67 76 48  f/11 - Koni/Omega 90 f/3.5 Hexanon
60 67 60  f/11 - Bronica 80 Zenzanon-PS

Based upon single copies of most of the lenses listed above, I can climb a long ways out on a limb and share a few observations.

First, Hasselblad's Zeiss 80mm Planar is a very very fine lens. It's equal appears to be the Mamiya 7 80mm L. These lenses deserve the reputations they've gained over the years.

In the second group, the Mamiya 110 Z performs ever so slightly better than Pentax's 105mm SMC and the 110 Z is about equal to an old Hasselblad Zeiss Planar-S 120mm f/5.6 C lens.

In the last group, Bronica's Zenzanon trails Koni/Omega's Hexanon by about 10%. Users report good performance from these systems.

Frankly, I was a little disappointed with the Mamiya 110 Z performance. The brochure I have says something about 'ultra high performance'. That description might apply to the Hasselblad and Mamiya 7 L-series 80mm lenses. But not, IMNSHO, the Mamiya RZ.

However, after roasting the language in the Mamiya brochure, take a look at the Mamiya 110 Z edge performance. It is consistantly higher than anything I've seen thus far. So I'm left wondering; has Mamiya traded center performance better edge resolution?

Thanx for listening - Chris


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Garry Edwards , Mar 03, 2003; 01:32 p.m.

Very interesting, but a bit too technical for me.
All I know is that I've used my current RZ and lenses since I bought them nearly 3 years ago, the 110mm gets used far more than the others, I shoot from f2.8 to (very occasionally) f32, some of my pictures end up poster-size and neither I (nor, more to the point, any of my clients) have any problems with sharpness.

Isn't that more important than theoretical figures?

Hank Graber , Mar 03, 2003; 02:19 p.m.

The difference in film size would make up the difference in the amount of information recorded. So there really isn't any difference between 85 on 6x6 and 75 on 6x7.

Keith Laban , Mar 03, 2003; 04:59 p.m.


I have often seen comments here on photo.net to the effect that the Hasselblad 80mm Planar is over-rated and not particually sharp. I have always thought it to be a fine lens and was delighted when I saw your results a while back. Now we know why all the other medium format lenses are compared to the Hasselblad.

As Hank said, if you are printing from the full 6x7 neg I doubt you would see much difference. However if you prefer to shoot and print square, well enough said. Keep up the good work.


Harry Pluta , Mar 03, 2003; 06:04 p.m.


The other two points you have to consider, 1) lens to lens differences do occur in both Hasselblads and Mamiyas, 2) due to the bellows system on the Mamiya RZ & RB systems their lenses perform pretty much the same from infinity to close-up.

Interesting info though,

Christopher Perez , Mar 03, 2003; 06:20 p.m.

Harry raises the correct issue that I was hoping someone would mention: lens to lens differences.

This is just an observation (based on nothing but performing a number of lens tests), but it appears that moving from the 1940's to the present, variations between lenses decrease. Not that a person can't happen across a 'lemon' from time to time. For those of us who remember such things, there was a good and valid reason why 'Linhof Select' meant higher prices.

One of the greatest advances in lens quality came at the hands of Kodak during the 1950's. Their Ektar lenses are still spectacular, even by modern standards. It cost them a fortune, but they may have 'encouraged' the other manufacturers to reach higher levels consistancy.

While this whole exercise started as a means of testing an idea, in the end I may keep both the Mamiya RZ and the Hasselblad (for those days when nothing but a square format will do :-) Life could be far worse than this...

Dan Fromm , Mar 03, 2003; 07:38 p.m.

I think you're being a little hard on the Mamiya lenses -- both cover 6x7 -- and a little easy on the Zeiss and Bronica -- both cover 6x6. Your comparisons aren't quite like-to-like. And, as you've said many times, the differences in lpmm are small enough that poor technique can easily make blurred pictures with any of those lenses and good technique can easily make satisfactory pictures with any.



Julio Fernandez , Mar 03, 2003; 09:55 p.m.

Christopher: I'd take the quoted results with a grain of salt. Amateur lens testing is fraught with all kinds of errors and are seldom worth quoting. For example the resolution of sagital and tangential line-pairs can differ widely. Tangential lines are usually less well resolved. The quoted tests do not differentiate yet this is quite important. When resolution is not the same for both, that is an indication of astigmatism and other optical aberrations. It would be best if you were to use the Mamiya lenses for awhile and get high quality scans (imacon or drum scanner) that you can compare with those of the Hasselblad, then decide. Look for the dynamic range of image and see which is richer, look for geometric distortion and color fringing off blacks and trust your eyes.

Paul . , Mar 05, 2003; 01:00 a.m.

Response To Mamiya RZ 110mm Z performance findings (long)

There could be a tolerance variation difference, but as you point out, consistency is greater in recent years. I bought an 80 T*C new in 1997 and it was very good, it might have been even better at the edges than what you measured. I bought an RZ w/ the 110 barely used in '99 to get back to the 6x7 aspect ratio, and have been using it ever since (along with a Plaubel Makina and then a couple of Fujis); the 110Z has been very good to 30x40 prints. Just as sharp as the 80C at 30x30 with the same processing/printing but not as contrasty. I CAN tell you that the KO lenses vary a bit, but whether that is from more relaxed quality control or just the fact that all the lenses are 20 to almost 40 years old I can only guess...

Paul . , Mar 05, 2003; 01:05 a.m.

Response To Mamiya RZ 110mm Z performance findings (long)

I should add that I rarely used either lens wide open.

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