Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z 75mm 1:4.5 W RZ Lens Review

For Architecturial Photography and Distortion-Free Stitched Macro Panoramas

5 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .

Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z 75mm 𝒇4.5 W (RZ) lenses are hefty pieces of glass and engineering made for the legendary Mamiya RZ67 medium format cameras.

Designed for macro and architectural photography, they can correct perspectives and even help you create better stitched panoramas on medium format film.

Shift Zs are heavy, scaling at the hefty 1.66kg/3.66lb, but light on the wallet, with many copies still available for under $200.

What are shift lenses, and what are they used for?

Shift lenses help correct barrel/pincushion and perspective distortions for wide-angle views with perspective shift controls.

Perspective distortion can appear in various scenarios, including stitched panoramas and angled shots of scenes with prominent straight lines.

Pincushion distortion makes the objects/subjects on the sides of the frame appear larger than if they were in the middle (barrel distortion is the other way around). You may notice it on photos shot with swing-lens panoramic cameras, i.e., Widelux and Horizon Perfekt. If you are stitching your panoramas, you’ll need to correct those distortions digitally — which isn’t always easy.

Advanced optics and camera designs may correct these artifacts to a degree; Hasselblad XPan’s lenses are very good at eliminating barrel and pincushion distortions.

Yet even the best lens designs will not eliminate perspective distortion. The best way to avoid it is to position your camera level with the horizon — which may limit you from certain angles and compositions. This is when a shift lens becomes useful: you can set it level with the horizon and shift it up/down/left/right instead of tilting it to get a distortion-free view of the scene beyond the typical frame lines.

Hasselblad XPan with 45mm 𝒇4 lens. This lens should be considered a wide-angle lens with the true panoramic 35mm film format. The black lines illustrate the perspective distortion that the lens produces when not level with the horizon.

While it’s possible to correct perspective distortions digitally, doing so will involve cropping parts of your image and possibly some loss of quality; it’s also not practical if you’re planning to print in a darkroom.

Lens size, weight, and ergonomics.

A typical setup for a shift lens is a tripod, and its common application is taking distortion-free photos from tricky angles of architecture and interiors. Thus, the bulky 1.66kg/3.66lb weight is a non-issue.

Unfortunately, I only had time to test this lens in the field without a tripod. It’s possible to place an already chunky RZ67 with this lens on a lap or a flat surface to take a shot or two, though I wouldn’t recommend that.

Lens controls.

Aside from taking one good composite photo with the lens (below), I’ve also spent extensive time playing with it at home. Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z has a very short closest focus distance, 0.42m/1’4”, which is fantastic for making near-macro panoramic images on medium format.

Mamiya RZ67 with Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z 75mm f4.5 W RZ lens.

Lens shift is achieved on Shift Z with a small metal wheel that pokes out on top of a metal rod; you can see the degrees of shift on a built-in scale with the numbers in fringes highlighted in red — which is where the cut-off begins for angular orientations.

After you shift the lens, you can direct that shift up/down/left/right or anywhere in between by rotating the lens. This is very helpful for advanced use cases; this level of control isn’t available on all shift lenses.

The maximum shift is 20mm in horizontal and vertical directions or 17mm at the angular orientations. If the shift is set to 20mm and the lens is angled to anything not directly up/down or left/right, the image will begin to cut off. If you shift the lens down more than 15mm, the viewfinder may cut the picture — but that’s due to the mirror obstruction and can be ignored.

You will need to cock the shutter inside this lens by twisting the large ring with an arrow close to the hood before taking a shot.

Stitched medium format panorama on Kodak Gold with Mamiya RZ67 and Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z 75mm f4.5 W RZ lens.

Image quality.

As with any Mamiya lens made for RZ67, you can expect superb image quality and detail across the frame.

Crop enlargement from above: Stitched medium format panorama on Kodak Gold with Mamiya RZ67 and Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z 75mm f4.5 W RZ lens.

Shift Z is a high-contrast lens that can produce a lot of aberration-free detail in the corners. And since it’s mounted on a medium format body, you can print or display those high-resolution images without any visible grain.

There is some vignetting, which you may need to correct after scanning your film. When making stitched panoramas, the individual images show significant overlap, leaving plenty of slack for blending the layers.

Is Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z worth its weight?

Shift Z works well for specific applications. Few lenses can create stitched panoramas on medium format film from .45m away. And as a shift lens, it makes correcting perspectives in-camera easy, making it very useful for architectural photography. Though there are likely better (but not cheaper) options for making landscape/panoramic images on medium format.

How much does Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z cost, and where to find one.

These lenses weren’t cheap when they launched back in 1984 — but today they are. You can find one for under $200 plus about $40 for shipping from Japan.

By the way: Please consider making your Mamiya-Sekor Shift Z 75mm F/4.5 W RZ purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!