Mamiya lens comparison: 80mm f1.9 vs 80mm f2.8

Mamiya lens comparison: 80mm f1.9 vs 80mm f2.8

Mamiya lens comparison: 80mm f1.9 vs 80mm f2.8

A normal lens

Normal lenses free the photographer from the complexity and distraction of zoom lenses. When I walk around with a normal lens on my camera, I see things in an everyday kind of way. My photographic vision moves from “???, wtf do I take a picture of?” to one of clarity, seeing exactly what I can capture with the normal lens. While you might be able to photograph more with a zoom lens, you can see more when you use a normal lens. Not that it’s an advanced concept or anything, but it took me a long time to really “get” this.

80mm on a medium format camera is a “normal” lens. It’s the same as using a 50mm lens on a full frame camera like the Canon 5DIII, or a 28mm lens on a crop sensor camera like the Canon 60D. The Mamiya 80mm lens sees things with approximately the same perspective as your eye, thus images appear present, immediate, and real. Normal lenses are excellent for all kinds of photography (including travel!), so long as you are able to frame your shot in an interesting and visually pleasing way.

Old school lenses

It’s nearly impossible to find any worthwhile comparisons between old school lenses – especially when it comes to medium format film. I suppose the reasons for this are a) hardly anyone shoots with them, and b) those who use them don’t have a photography website.

Well I have a website and I shoot with them, so I’ll go ahead and break the trend. You may find the following less than useful if you’re not planning on shooting with this exact camera (Mamiya 645) and lens combination, and if you prefer to use zooms instead of fixed focal length lenses. If that’s the case, feel free to check out my tutorials on shooting both digital and film:

Shooting and Editing Photos – a 7 part guide
The Visual Guide Series

Perhaps you’re thinking of getting into film, or maybe you just love all things photography. If that’s you, then let’s get to it.

Head to head

The Mamiya 80mm f1.9 and f2.8 are optically very similar lenses. Performance at and beyond f2.8 is nearly indistinguishable. There are, however, four important differences:

  1. The f1.9 lens is significantly larger and heavier (67mm filter thread vs the f2.8’s 58mm thread.)
  2. The f1.9 lens offers beautiful bokeh when shot wide open which is unattainable when using the f2.8 lens.
  3. The f1.9 lens, at about $300 is $150-$200 more expensive than the f2.8 lens.
  4. The f1.9 lens offers slightly superior bokeh at equivalent apertures when viewed side by side against the f2.8 lens. This won’t be obvious unless a direct comparison is made.
Mamiya Lenses

Left: 80mm f1.9, center: Mamiya 645 1000s, Right: 80mm f2.8. Each lens has a 77mm step up ring attached

As for point #1, the Mamiya 645 camera is already large and incredibly unsightly, and if you’re willing to carry it around you probably won’t mind carrying a slightly larger and heavier lens along with it. The f1.9 lens is better, and it offers more options to the photographer. The only practical difference is one of money – so is it worth the extra money? Personally, I think that it is.

f1.9 opens up so many more photographic opportunities which simply aren’t available with the f2.8. And if you are ever going to buy the f1.9 lens, you might as well do it now. The price difference is not going to change, and you can’t go back in time to recapture your initial shots with the better lens.

This review is useless without pictures

…so let’s see some, shall we? All of these were shot on Kodak Ektar 100 film using a tripod.

You can view full resolution images on my Flickr stream here: Ed Graham on Flickr

f2.8 at f2.8

f2.8 lens at f2.8


f2.8 at f8

f2.8 at f8


f1.9 lens at f1.9

f1.9 lens at f1.9


f1.9 at f2.8

f1.9 at f2.8


f1.9 at f8

f1.9 at f8


Real world example

Real world example of the 80mm f1.9 lens on July 4 2014, America’s 238th birthday. Fuji 400H. Notice a beer trend here?


I hope this short review helps you decide between the 80mm f1.9 vs the 80mm f2.8 lens. And if you don’t shoot medium format film, I hope I’ve shown the benefits of using a normal lens in your day to day shooting.

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Comments ( 16 )

  • r. peters

    Your comparison is centered around close up portraits. How much difference between the two lenses are you going to see in a landscape shot at, say, f16? I’m wondering if in that situation, the 2.8 may be sharper than the f1.9….?

    • edgrahamphotography11

      I have not tried a landscape at f/16 with this lens since I was mostly concerned with the bokeh qualities.. If/when I do I would be happy to post an update. In the meantime the full sized images I posted on flickr at f/8 might provide some guidance (albeit they are not focused at infinity.)

  • Khalid

    How does the Mamiya with f1.9 lens compare to the Contax 645 w/ 80mm f2 lens?

  • david

    sorry a don’t speak english very well, i have a question please, the lens 1.9 is really better or not?
    thx for your answer

  • icanleaking

    The lens shows results that could be considered very good, but not unique among fast medium telephoto primes.

  • Andrej

    Hi mate, can you tell me if Mamiya 645 pro with 80mm 1.9 requires ND filters for Sunny days at ISO 100-200? I am thinking about buying such set for Fine Art Weddings but not sure if I also need ND or not? As far as I remember the speed for such sunny days on my 35mm Canon was 1/4000 or close to it. How would Mamiya give me that speed?

  • Andrej

    Also – is it really hard to nail the focus? I have never worked with manual focus before and I am afraid to miss it most of the time.

  • Andrej

    Hi, I hope you answer my question as I am in doubt and I need an advise from a person like you. I am thinking about Mamiya 80mm F/1.9 lens with the body. So looked at the Mamiya 645 Pro TL and cannot understand one thing – it says it has maximum speed of 1/1000. I kind of think this is too slow for a bright day with F/1.9 outside. I have metered with my EOS 3 and it pushed speed to 1/8000 – 1/4000 in very bright situation (My ISO was set for 100, lens Canon L 50mm at F/2.0). How would that work with Mamiya? Will I need to narrow aperture and loose my DOF or start using ND filters?
    Rodyti mažiau

  • homayoon

    Hi , please can you send on of your night shots that you used f2.8 and iso 400 please? its my email : [email protected] thanks sir

  • Joe

    Hi! I’d love to see these comparisons but the photos aren’t loading.


    • EdGraham

      Apologies Joe, this posting is nearly 6yrs old and as I’ve updated the site I’ve run into problems maintaining some of the old images. Good luck in your lens search and thanks for visiting this page.

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