Mamiya Sekor 180/4.5 Super TLR lens

I HAVE a few quick observations about this lens, which has only just arrived.

First, it is light. Very light. Well …. compared to the monstrous 180mm Sonnar for the Pentacon Six, anyway (which is the only other medium format 180mm lens I have).

The Sekor weighs in at just under 650g (1.4lb) compared with the Sonnar’s 1,365g (3lb). With a maximum aperture of f/4.5 and a 49mm filter thread, it lacks the massive, heavy glass elements of the 86mm wide Sonnar.

Of course, it also lacks the Sonnar’s low-light capabilities but for daylight work or with fast film, that is usually not a problem – and TLRs are not designed for action sports..

The Sekor relies in part on the bellows extension for its length when in use, which means it folds into to a package not much more than 16cm from the front of the lens to the back of the camera for carrying purposes. That is something you can fairly easily walk around with, unlike a Pentacon Six with a Sonnar attached.

At full extension of the bellows, the focusing distance is about 1.1m (4ft) and the image on the screen appears to be about half actual size, which is quite an impressive near-macro capability.

The filter rings on both lenses of my example still have the original steel support rings screwed into them. These have to be removed before any filter can be mounted. I presume these were included with all the Sekor TLR lenses and that most of them have got lost down the years, as my other lenses don’t have them.

This is not an easy lens to mount on the auto-cocking C33 body, though it fits easily enough to the C220. The shutter is further forward than in the shorter Mamiya TLR system lenses, so the cocking lever on the camera body does not reach the cocking knob on the side of the shutter. To get round this problem, a metal plate extends backwards from the shutter in order to connect with the cocking lever, but because these are both quite thin it is possible for the lever to slip beneath the plate unless they are positioned perfectly.

My initial experience was that it took several attempts to mount the lens properly. This involved cocking and firing (or attempting to fire) the shutter and more than one minor camera jam. If there had been a film in the camera I would have lost several frames.

The best procedure seems to be to cock the lens and hold the lens cocking plate halfway down so that it does not interfere with the cocking lever on the body while the lens is being positioned correctly.

Finally, when trying to change the aperture and shutter speed while out shooting, I accidentally fired the shutter. The shutter button has a long flange reaching back towards the camera body and it is very easy to knock it and fire the shutter while turning the dials.

Accidental firing can be avoided by getting into the habit of not cocking the camera until after the aperture and shutter speed have been set, immediately before shooting.

It will be a while before I get test shots back from the lab but I am confident the lens will live up to its excellent reputation – which means I have a very usable 180mm, medium format street lens, roughly equivalent in coverage to 135mm on a 35mm camera.

About ambientimages

Paul Cowan is a former journalist turned full-time photographer.
This entry was posted in Film cameras, Lenses, Mamiya Sekor, Photography, Sekor 180/4.5 super, TLR cameras and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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