Last Updated on 03/22/2017 by Chris Gampat
Something that has always been in the back of any camera lens lover’s mind is the question of how well the older lenses hold their own against the newer lenses. Indeed, older lenses have a special character to them that can’t really be replicated with most modern lenses, sans the offerings from Lomography and Lensbaby. While most 35mm film format lenses were designed with an appeal for consumers over professionals, medium format was always more of the cream of the crop (with exception to large format).
So we went through our archives and looked at how a few classic medium format lenses compare to the new king: the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens. Of course, this is a very interesting battle in the film vs digital debate.
Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art
We didn’t use the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens with film during our review. But we did use it with a Canon 6D and flashes. It’s highly capable, as we all know. Modern day portrait photographers using this lens with high megapixel DSLRs will get the most out of it unless you’re shooting with a super low ISO film like CineStill 50D.
Of course, many of you can see why this lens is so highly coveted.
This portrait is shot with the older version of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens which, when used with film, you can see is still very sharp. Now let’s take a look at how medium format lenses compare.
Bronica 75mm f2.8 645
Before I sold this camera, I dearly loved it. It had a TTL prism, was fairly compact, built like a tank, and worked really well. I used the camera with the 75mm f2.8 lens and Tri-X. But I’ve also used it with Portra 400 and Portra 160.
As you can see here, the lens and the film both hold up very well, especially with good scans. To boot, even when you consider medium format in the 645 format, you can see that unless you’re pixel peeping for the absolute finest details, medium format can surely hold its own. And even then, I’d think that medium format’s smallest frame type is highly capable.
Mamiya RB 90mm f3.8 6×7
Now let’s take a look at the Mamiya RB system. The lenses for the 67 system are very sharp if not very tough to use due to how shallow the depth of field is. This camera was shot with Ilford Delta 400, Tri-X 400, Ektar 100 that was expired for 10 years, and Kodak Portra 160.
Even this old analog lens is still very sharp. We’re shooting with this lens typically with flash to augment the specular highlights; but so too was the Sigma lens. It’s still very beautiful with its rendition and is meant for mostly studio style work. The 67 format was more or less really designed for headshots and portraiture and as you can tell even these days the lenses still remain to be great.
This isn’t the sharpest lens available for the RB system, but it’s still very good.
Fujifilm 90mm f3.5 6×9
Perhaps one of my favorite new lenses is the Fujifilm 90mm f3.5 attached to the Fujifilm GW690 III. The camera body is a rangefinder and providing that this shoot was done with expired Portra 160, it’s still proving just how good the lens is.