By now, I’ve already made my love for vintage lenses very known on this blog! In my last post, I found and reviewed the Yashica Yashinon DS 50mm F1.9. That review actually led my stepfather to express interest in adapting vintage lenses to his own mirrorless camera! So, I decided to give him that lens and start looking for a replacement. While browsing at a local swap meet, I find an ancient-looking camera and an interesting lens attached. It was the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4. Intrigued, I decided to buy the camera and its lens and give it a try. Little did I know, this was going to wind up being one of my favorite lenses!
Join me on an exciting adventure as we explore the captivating world of the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 prime lens. From its rich history to remarkable optical performance and unique thorium anti-glare coating, this lens has truly left a lasting impression on me. Let’s dive into the story behind this lens, the cameras it fits on, and my personal experience with its exceptional image quality, performance, mechanical feel, and affordability.
The History of the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 Prime Lens:
Back in the early 1970s, the renowned Japanese camera manufacturer, Mamiya, introduced the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 prime lens. The 55mm F1.4 lens quickly gained popularity for its versatility and outstanding optics. This combination of versatility and quality made it a favorite among professionals and enthusiasts alike. One very interesting aspect of this lens is its use of Thorium as an anti-glare coating. Thorium is a radioactive element, therefore, this lens is actually slightly radioactive! As the Thorium ages, it actually yellows, giving photos a slightly warmer tint. No danger of radiation poisoning though: This lens will barely ping a Geiger counter!
Initially designed for the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL series, this lens proved to be a perfect match for these cameras. The advanced features and build quality of the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL series complimented the exceptional capabilities of the 55mm F1.4 lens. This lens allowed photographers to unleash their creativity and capture stunning images.
In addition to the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL series, I was delighted to discover that the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 lens is also compatible with other M42 screw-mount cameras. This versatility allows me to experience the lens’s exceptional optics on a wider range of camera bodies. I ended up buying a simple M42 adapter for my Canon DSLR camera to fully test the capabilities of this lens.
Impressive Image Quality:
The moment I first attached the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 prime lens to my camera, I was blown away by its outstanding image quality. The lens delivers impeccable sharpness, stunning contrast, and vibrant colors, allowing me to capture every detail with precision. Whether I’m shooting portraits, exploring the streets, or immersing myself in low-light environments, this lens never fails to impress me. For reference, the following gallery was shot at around F1.4 – F2 in Aperture Priority mode, in differing lighting conditions. None of these photos were edited either!:
The wide maximum aperture of F1.4 is a game-changer, enabling me to achieve a beautiful shallow depth of field and exquisite subject separation. The bokeh produced by this lens is simply breathtaking, rendering out-of-focus areas with a smooth and creamy quality that adds a touch of magic to my photographs. It creates a three-dimensional feel, enhancing the visual impact and drawing viewers into the scene. The bokeh effect even has swirl! In addition to this, the lens is still fairly sharp fully open. At F2, the image becomes even sharper but still retains that incredible depth of field.
Unmatched Performance and Mechanical Feel:
Using the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 lens is a joy in itself. The lens feels robust and well-built, instilling confidence in its durability. The smooth focus ring allows for precise manual focusing, giving me full control over my compositions. I appreciate the tactile feedback and the satisfying mechanical feel of the lens, which adds to the overall shooting experience. The aperture dial also features half-stops, allowing greater flexibility in different scenarios. In comparison, my Nikon Nikkor-S.C. Auto 50mm F1.4 does not feature half stops!
Furthermore, the lens performs exceptionally well in low-light conditions. Its wide maximum aperture not only facilitates creative depth of field control but also ensures I can capture stunning images even in challenging lighting situations. The lens’s ability to excel in low light expands my photographic horizons and allows me to capture moments that would have otherwise been missed.
Affordability and Rarity:
One intriguing aspect of the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 prime lens is its rarity in today’s market. As a result, prices for this lens online tend to average over $100. This is a reflection of its desirability among photographers seeking its exceptional optics and vintage charm. However, there is still hope for those looking to add this gem to their collection without breaking the bank.
While the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 lens may be rare and command higher prices online, luck may shine upon you in unexpected places. Just like I did, you might stumble upon this lens at a local swap meet or thrift store, presenting a golden opportunity to acquire it at a fraction of its market value.
Sharing my personal experience, I was fortunate enough to find the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 lens bundled with the Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL SLR camera at a thrift store. The combined cost? A mere $25! This unexpected find further highlights the hidden treasures that await in unconventional avenues, allowing photographers to obtain remarkable equipment at surprisingly affordable prices.
The Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 prime lens has made a lasting impression on me through its rich history, camera compatibility, exceptional image quality, remarkable performance, satisfying mechanical feel, and affordability. It has become an indispensable tool in my photographic journey, helping me capture stunning moments with clarity, artistry, and a touch of magic. Whether you’re a professional or an enthusiast, I highly recommend experiencing the brilliance of the Mamiya Sekor 55mm F1.4 lens for yourself. It’s a lens that truly lives up to its remarkable reputation.