Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens Review with Sample Images and Comparisons

*Update* – I know this article pops up when you google the “Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO Lens”, well I also happen to own this lens and have begun review it starting with my Field Report from Costa Rica of the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO lenses (click to view).

Image taken at f/5.6 with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO @ f/5.6 on the PhaseOne 645DF with IQ180 

Telephoto lenses are not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of medium format cameras. Initially you think of their resolution, advantages and disadvantages in certain situations, and of course with the advent of digital, their price. However there is a long tradition of medium format cameras having telephoto lenses in their line up. The standard telephoto focal length for medium format is 300mm which is equivalent to approximately 200mm on a full-frame 35mm camera (specifically 193mm). However some companies have pushed the limits by creating 500mm lenses. Mamiya has made two, the 500mm f/4.5 APO and the older 500mm f/5.6 lenses. They have also made a 2x Tele-converter which works with their MF telephoto lenses. In this review we will look at the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO, Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APo, and the 300mm f/2.8 APO with the 2x Tele-Converter.

Of course as we know, telephoto lenses are used for photographing wildlife, so I thought it would be funny to use an animal as my subject for the images in this test. And as it turns out, it is really really hard to make an owl not move for an extended period of time, so I went the taxidermy route. So a special thanks to the Connecticut Audubon Society for providing this ~100 year old owl for testing.

Physical Comparison

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO vs Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO Lens Size Comparison

As we can see here, there are some major physical differences between these two lenses. Most obvious is their size. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO is quite a bit smaller. After having hiked with it in Oregon, I can say that it is very carry-able for an extended period of time. The same cannot be said for the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO which weighs about 6.4 lb on its own. Also, theoretically the 300mm f/4.5 could be handheld, however the same cannot be said for the 300mm f/2.8. Both lenses are provided with tripod collars which like other telephoto lenses allow for them to be mounted at a position which places the center of gravity at a point which will make the lens and camera more balanced and stable. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5  offers a slide out lens hood which is the same design as the Mamiya 210mm f/4 ULD lens. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 is also an autofocus lens and this should be considered when comparing these two lenses.

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens Review

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO lens has a much more substantial lens hood which screws into the front of the lens (starts where the first black band is) and provides a significant amount of glare protection and is coated with black felt on the inside to decrease reflections. It also has some unique features. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO lens is Autofocus but it also has electronic aperture control. Mamiya does not make a teleconverter with electronic contacts so it is not possible to use the Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N with the Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 lens. The Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N is very well built and as we will see preforms very well optically when paired with the 300mm f/2.8 APO. The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO, like all of the M645 lenses has a manual aperture ring. On the side of the lens there is a switch which can be flipped and then the aperture can be controlled via the aperture ring. The aperture ring is very solid and large and easy to use even when not looking at it.  Like many modern telephoto lenses, the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO lens has drop in filters and the original set was sold with filter pouch and standard filters. It accepts 52mm filters. The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO can be used with the PhaseOne V-Grip AIR which makes it very easy to use in portrait orientation making it even more comfortable to use. For this review the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO was mounted on a Wimberly WH-200-S head which I purchased for use with the lens and mounted on my Gitzo Series 3 legs.

Functionality

The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 operates as you would expect, it is an autofocus lens which also offers manual focus. You put the lens into manual focus the same way that you do on many of the other Mamiya Lenses by sliding the focus ring up or down. Of course the autofocus speed does not lend itself to action like sports or wildlife (most applications) photography but it does work well for nature, still life etc.

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8′s aperture ring and tripod collar have already been commented on. Like many of the purpose-built manual focus lenses the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 has a very nice focus ring. It is covered in rubber which makes it easy to control. The focus throw is not very long, which is good if you are trying to focus on a moving subject, but at the same time the focusing ring offers enough resistance that it is possible to fine tune focus without too much of an issue. The f/2.8′s minimum focus distance is 3.5 meters or or around 11.5 feet. One of the great things about the PhaseOne 645DF is it’s focus confirmation feature. I have already addressed the usefulness of this feature in my initial report on the 645DF and IQ180. It works exceptionally well with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 allowing for accurate focusing however as you stop down the camera it will eventually become to dark for the camera to be able to confirm focus through the lens. This means that when shooting still subjects that you will have to focus at a wider aperture and then stop down. This also means that if you are shooting under changing lighting conditions and with moving subjects that it is possible to not realize you have stopped down past the point at which the camera can focus which can lead to errors in focus.

Image Quality

Image quality is what everyone really cares about. It will decide for you which lens better fits your needs. Full aperture series (f/2.8-f/22, f/5.6-f/45, f/4.5-f/22) are available on my Flickr page with 100% center crops of each of the images provided and labeled. Here we will look at examples which illustrate the different qualities of these lenses. All of these images were taken in M/UP mode to decrease vibration.

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 Aperture Comparison

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO at f/2.8 and f/4 (Left and Right Respectively)

Full Image

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Aperture Comparison 100% Center Crop

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO at f/2.8 and f/4 (Left and Right Respectively)

100% Center Crops

As would be expected, the 300mm f/2.8 has some significant vignetting at f/2.8 however one stop down at f/4 there is significantly less vignetting. Looking at the two files, it would appear that the f/2.8 file is underexposed if looked at quickly, however exposure was kept constant for these shots and the darkness is entirely attributable to vignetting. f/2.8 also offers excellent bokeh which is pleasing to the eye and very good at isolating the foreground subject. Another effect of the 300mm f/2.8, just like with the Mamiya 80mm f/1.9N is the very shallow depth of field. When you look at the 100% sample of the f/2.8 file you can see that the center is very sharp (point of focus is around the beak / forehead / nose area of the head of the owl) and then the shallow DOF makes the sharpness fall off very quickly. Again, when stopped down to f/4 there is already an increase in the in-focus area along with vignetting being controlled and still pleasing bokeh which helps to isolate the subject.

Now we will compare the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO to the 300mm f/4.5 APO:

Mamiya 300mm lens comparison at f/8

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and 300mm f/4.5 APO at f/8.0 (Left and Right Respectively)

Full Image

Mamiya 300mm Lens Comparison 100% Crop

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and 300mm f/4.5 APO at f/8.0 (Left and Right Respectively)

100% Center Crops

Both of these images were taken at f/8. When comparing the two images you can see that the 300mm f/2.8 is more contrasty then the 300mm f/4.5. While very similar to my eye the 300mm f/2.8 exhibits more pleasing bokeh at f/8 then the 300mm f/4.5 APO. When looking at the 100% center crops of the f/8 comparisons, it becomes apparent that the 300mm f/2.8 is slightly warmer in its rendition of colors then the 300mm f/4.5 which is slightly cooler.  As far as I can tell, the 300mm f/2.8 is also sharper then the 300mm f/4.5. While the difference is very slight, it seems to me that the 300mm f/2.8 APO does a better job at rendering fine details then the 300mm f/4.5 APO at f/8.

The next set of images will look at the Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N on the 300mm f/2.8 APO

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 Teleconverter Comparison

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and M645 Teleconverter 2X N wide open (f/2.8 and f/5.6 Respectively)

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO with the M645 Teleconverter 2X N yields of a focal length of 600mm which is approximately equivalent to a 400mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera (exactly 386mm). As commented on before the effects of the vignetting on exposure are again apparent when comparing these two images where the image taken with the M645 Teleconverter 2X N where wide open vignetting significantly darkens the image. However as we will see just like without the TC as the lens is stopped down the effects of vignetting disappear. The TC does however maintain the sharpness and optical quality of the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and as far as I can tell does not significantly effect image quality. It’s biggest disadvantage is in function where at smaller apertures it is too dark for the camera to accurately confirm focus (discussed above) which can create an issue for some field use.

Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N with 100% Crop

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and M645 Teleconverter 2X N at f/11 with 100% crop on right

When stopped down to f/11 (f/5.6 + TC) the vignetting issues experienced at smaller apertures are all but gone. As we can see here in this example, especially when looking at the 100% crop, the image is very sharp and there has not been any degradation in the image quality with the addition of the teleconverter. This shows how well designed the teleconverter is, which can also be used on other lenses, like the Mamiya 150mm f/2.8 N to yield a 300mm f/5.6 (if you need it in an emergency).

Conclusions

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 Owl Final Image

Edited image from the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 with M645 Teleconverter 2X N shot at f/5.6

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO is capable of producing some stunning images in certain situations. It excels as a as a telephoto lens for portraits when shot wide open at f/2.8 where the subject is isolated in a dream like world because of the vignetting and shallowed depth of field. It is also excellent for applications where a significant telephoto magnification is needed because of its ability to work with the teleconverter without any noticeable differences in image quality. These make the 300mm f/2.8 a very versatile tool when applied correctly.

The 30mm f/4.5 APO has some advantages over the f/2.8. Firstly, its size lends itself to use in landscape photography since it is significantly more practical to carry. Secondly, its autofocus capability makes it all the more appealing. Also, its electronic aperture control should not be overlooked since it helps to keep your hands on the camera when shooting and not fiddling around with the lens.

I like the 300mm focal length on medium format cameras, as I have discussed before when reviewing the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC and for this reason both of these lenses have a place in my kit. They can both technically excellent images, however I will give a slight edge to the 300mm f/2.8 APO in terms of its renditions of fine details at smaller apertures.

Full aperture series from the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO with and without the M645 Teleconverter 2X N and the 300mm f/4.5 can be seen here on my flickr.

As an aside the 300mm f/2.8 APO can be used with adapters on 35mm cameras. There are some examples of it with an adapter on my Nikon D4 here.


11 Responses to Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens Review with Sample Images and Comparisons

  • Hi Brian,
    This is such a useful article! I am just about too buy a Phase One kit and as I shoot mainly animals and landscape I really need a long lens ……………. now the debate 2.8 or 4.5!!!!!!!!

    Best

    Steve

    • Thanks for the comment, look for my new and upcoming review of the 500mm f/4.5 APO along with comparisons to the 300mm f/2.8 APO as well as 600mm and 1000mm’s (2x TC on both) and possibly the 500mm f/5.6 lens.

  • Pingback: Mamiya 80mm f/1.9 N Lens Review | Brian Hirschfeld Photography

  • Pingback: Field Report: Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO Lenses in Costa Rica | Brian Hirschfeld Photography

  • Carlos says:

    Hi Brian,
    Hope that this e-mail finds you better than ever!
    It’s so nice to have people like you that share information!!!
    I’m also a mamiya enthusiast…
    I recently bought a 645 mamiya 300mm f2.8 APO lens and i’m very happy with it.
    Do you know or can you please give me links of compatible FRONT filters (UV and skylight… which one you personally recomend?) so i can protect it from dust and risks…
    I appreciate all the help :)
    Kind regards and keep doing great photos! ;)
    Carlos

    • I don’t think that it would be possible to mount a filter on the front of this lens for a couple of reasons. Primarily this would have to be an exceedingly large filter (thread-size wise) which would most likely not be made or would be excessively expensive if it is. More importantly however, I don’t believe (I’ve never looked) that the front of the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO is threaded. Unlike the 300mm f/4.5 APO which takes standard 77mm thread size filters the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO like the Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO (and many other super-telephoto lenses like those from Nikon and Canon) take drop in filters via the special drop in slot. This slot contained a mounting device for a filter and contains a clear filter which must be left in when not using another filter since this is actually an element whose thickness is calculated for in the optical designs of these lenses. The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO originally came with a set of basic filters one could want (mine came with these) in a small black pouch and they are already fitted into holders. However, you can purchase 43.5mm filters (you can confirm the size via B&H’s tech specs here http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/32970-REG/Mamiya_210221_300mm_f_2_8_APO_Lens.html) and place them in the holder and then into the lens. While there is no way to confirm the thickness of the glass in the filters included with the camera, it would stand to reason you want to find thinner filters rather then thicker ones (both in terms of the glass as well as the housing). Though limited 43.5mm filters do exist, your best bet would be to find a set of the original drop in filters via ebay or a forum.

      Thanks for your note and positive feedback!
      Best,
      BH

  • Pingback: Just Announced: PhaseOne IQ250, The Rise of CMOS | Brian Hirschfeld Photography

  • Hello Brian,

    We read you website over and over and learn a lot of all the useful information and tests

    Is the Mamiya AF 300mm/4.5 APO as well so good and the 2.8 as you tested? Please advise.

    Do you give training so we can enrich our experiences.

    In awaiting your respected reply,

    HENRY FAGOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

    Henry T.fagott

    info@henryfagott.com

    Tel + 41 21 534 92 03

    Chemin de Somais 2/ Ave General Guissan
    1009 PULLY

    Switzerland
    http://www.henryfagott.com

    http://www.royyallart.com

    • Hi Henry,

      Thanks for the comment. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO is a stunningly good lens. It is incredibly sharp and is one of my favorite lenses. It benefits from being smaller then the 300mm f/2.8 APO and from the fact that it has autofocus capabilities as well. You can see some more, live examples of the 300mm f/4.5 APO in action alongside the 300 f/2.8 APO and 500mm f/4.5 APO in my Field Report from Costa Rica where I brought along all three of these lenses to be used in different ways. I would highly recommend the 300mm f/4.5 APO unless you need f/2.8 or want to be able to shoot a 600mm f/5.6 on medium format and don’t mind sacrificing mobility and autofocus control.

      If you have any further questions please feel free to email me at brianhirschfeldphotography@gmail.com

      Best,
      BH

  • Fil says:

    Hi Brian,

    thanks for your interestring review.
    I also own a Phase One 645DF+ IQ180 and I’m searching a tele lens.
    The 300 f/4.5 would be my best option for portability, but I’m not fully convinced about its image quality.
    The sharpness seems good, but the pictures posted in flickr have 19MP of resolution and not the native 80MP. Also your 100% crop seem derived from the 19MP version.
    About colors rendition, I find color and micro-contrast not so vivid like in the actual standards (ED lenses).
    Highlights are strong in the tonal range. It’s really strange considering the 11 f-stop of IQ180.

    What about the 210mm ULD F/4 IF ? Did you test also this lens with the P1 DF+ IQ180 ? Can you share some impression ?

    Best Regards

    Fil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>