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Review: Mamiya Twin Lens Reflex System

by Mike Rosenlof, 1998


Imagine it's early 1959. LIFE magazine photographers are using their brand new $380 Leica M-2s. Newspaper photographers are giving up the Speed Graphic in favor of medium format, or maybe even 35mm. Nikon's top model is the SP, a modified copy of the Contax rangefinder. Imagine you want to buy a camera for professional use. This could be studio or location portraits, photojournalism (but that word didn't exist in 1959!), even some product shots. It needs to be at least medium format, and you need fast handling and great versatility. Of course you want a twin lens reflex.

The undisputed king of the TLR was the Rollei. In 1998, you can still buy one of its descendants new from B&H for almost $4000.00. It was small, had a killer lens, and a wonderful precision feel. One of the Rollei's lower cost competitors was from a little-known Japanese company called Mamiya. It wasn't as small, or as smooth mechanically, and of course no Japanese lens could compare to the Zeiss planar on the Rollei. Still, the mamiya had interchangeable lenses. Not even Rollei did that.

The Mamiya Twin Lens Reflex cameras are 6x6 cameras using 120 or (in some models) 220 film which were in production from the mid 1950's until 1994. Mamiya regularly came out with new models which added features and capability throughout their production life. There are thousands of them out there, and they are plentiful on the used market. Some have seen heavy professional use, some have been used lightly by amateurs. Some are beat up, some are still pristine. Many wedding photographers have used these cameras because you can still look through the finder and see someone blink at the moment of exposure. I've recently seen a school photographer carrying one of these as a backup to his motorized long roll camera.

The Japanese Yen was extremely strong against the US Dollar in 1993 and 1994, and that drove up prices to the point that there was very little market for this system. The story is that some of the tooling just wore out, and they couldn't justify retooling. As I write this in August of 1998, B&H still has a couple of new lenses and accessories for sale. The prices are quite high.

The pages at http://www.btinternet.com/~g.a.patterson/m_faq have an excellent description of all of the cameras, lenses, and accessories of this system. I won't try to duplicate that information. At its most extensive, there were seven lenses, six finders, sheet film backs, several focusing screens, and other assorted accessories.

I own two C330-F bodies, and this review will be based primarily on my experience with them. Features and capabilities of other bodies are similar, but have some differences.

Handling and operation:

When using a waist level finder, the camera fits nicely into my left hand. It's not small and light, but with 35mm SLRs putting on weight in the 90s, it doesn't feel as heavy as it would have seemed to a Pentax MX user in 1979. Shutter release, focus, and wind controls are in logical positions for easy use. Shutter and aperture controls, are not visible from the top, you must turn the camera to the side to see and set them. The viewfinder brightness is OK, but not stellar. It's dramatically easier to compose with a Beattie focusing screen, but I'm not convinced it's any easier (or harder) to focus accurately.

There is no exposure information in the viewfinder, and there are no coupled meters available. Mamiya made a couple of metering finders with CdS spot meter cells. These are match needle meters, uncoupled, and probably use mercury batteries. I'm a big fan of incident metering for most lighting situations, and have nearly always used a separate incident meter with this camera.

The shutter sound is much quieter than a medium format SLR since the TLR has no mirror flapping around or automatic diaphragm snapping shut. I think the film wind makes a more distracting sound than the shutter.

Lenses:

I own the 65mm, 80mm, and 135mm lenses--all are the later 'black' models. I've shot a test target with only the 65mm, and the 50 linePair/mm line group was resolved very sharply at the center at all apertures, somewhat less so at the corners but still sharp from at least f/5.6 and smaller. I'm convinced the resolution limits are definitely up to professional standards even now. The 135 is extremely sharp, especially at f/11 or so. The 80 is a recent purchase, but preliminary results look extremely good.

The 135mm lens focuses at infinity with the bellows racked out about half way, so it's possible to focus past infinity and get nothing in focus. Other lenses focus at infinity with the bellows nearly all of the way in.

Because of the bellows, the shorter lenses can focus very closely. Of course they are not optimized for macro work, and parallax is a problem, but you can get really close.

The older "chrome shutter" lenses are reported to be pretty good also. But then, nobody admits their lenses are junk except Holga users. Some of the oldest model lenses might not be coated. These chrome lenses sell for much lower prices than the newer black models, partly because shutter parts are not available. On the other hand, if the shutter has worked for 30 years, it will probably last a little longer.

The taking lenses all have leaf shutters. This means electronic flash syncs at any shutter speed. There is also an M sync available for use with flashbulbs. If you use M sync with electronic flash, the flash fires before the shutter opens, and you get no flash adding light to your exposure. Many shutters that have been used by pros have the sync selector epoxied to the X position. It's hard to bump the setting accidentally, but if you do change it right before the newlywed couple marches back down the aisle, it's a disaster.

Finders:

There is a standard folding waist level finder with a relatively low power flip up magnifier. It's compact, and works well. There is a rigid "chimney" finder with a 3.5x full field magnifier, and a flip up 6x lens that magnifies the center of the screen only. This finder blocks outside light much better than the folding finder, and I think accurate focus is easier, it doesn't weigh any more, it's just more bulky.

Waist level viewing is reversed left to right. With practice, you can follow moving subjects, but it does take practice. Every now and then, I'm surprised when I see a photo I took with the TLR, and everything is reversed from the way I remember seeing it in the viewfinder.

I've never used any of the eye level prisms. There is an all glass pentaprism that gives correct left to right viewing. There is also a porroprism, constructed from mirrors. Reports are that the pentaprism is much brighter. It's also heavier and more expensive. I've heard mixed reviews on the porroprism finder--mostly that it's dim, and the image is small.

Yes, there is parallax error. The viewing lens is 50mm higher than the taking lens. Some models have a finder indication where the top of frame cutoff lies. The body has to be set for the correct lens mounted for this to be accurate! You can tilt the camera to compensate, and usually this is fine. If you're trying to do precise near/far compositions, try to find a 'paramender' device. This mounts between a tripod and the camera body. After composing, turning a lever raises the body so the taking lens is exactly where the viewing lens was. At shooting distances for full length photos of people, parallax is not a concern. At head and shoulder distances, it is.

User Tips:

Use lens hoods. The front lens elements are not recessed deeply into the lens barrel, so a hood can make a big difference. The black lenses all take either hard to find 46mm filters, or easy to find 49mm filters. I use a 49mm tiffen metal hood with a 46 to 49 step up ring for the 80 and 135 lenses. The 65mm lens will vignette with a screw on a hood or filter, so try to find one of the specific Mamiya hoods for this or the 55 mm lens. These hoods clamp to the outside of the lens barrel. I epoxied a 67mm filter ring (no glass) to the inside of the box-shaped 65mm hood, and I attach filters to that and they don't vignette. I chose 67mm just because I already had a bunch of them for other lenses.

Except for some of the 105mm lenses, the viewing lenses have no aperture, so there is no depth of field preview. The web page referenced above links to a postscript program that prints out a depth of field calculator wheel. I printed this out and laminated it. This is the easiest device I've seen for managing depth of field with this system. I tend to trust depth of field scales more than dim stopped down images on ground glass, so this works well for me.

For users experienced only with 35mm, the depth of field you get with medium format can be a shock. It's narrow. Plan on stopping down about two stops more than you would if shooting 35mm. Keep reading for my comment on tripods.

If you hold down the shutter release and wind the film, the film does not stop at the next frame, it just winds on. This is a feature not a bug. It lets you wind off a partially exposed roll of film quickly. If you start winding the film and you don't realize your cable release is locked, it seems like a bug.

My 330-F bodies are somewhat sensitive to early pressure on the shutter release. Push it down slightly and release, and the double exposure prevention kicks in and locks the shutter release. For many years, I kept the single/multi control at multi and avoided this problem. If you do this, you have to be really careful when changing lenses to make sure both the lens and body are in matching states: shutter cocked and film wound, or shutter not cocked and film not wound. You won't jam up anything like you can with a Hasselblad, but you can easily get double or blank exposures.

As with all cameras, for maximum sharpness, use a tripod. Many people talk about how easy it is to handhold a TLR or rangefinder at slow speeds. Maybe it's true, but I'm not convinced. I've taken nice pictures hand held, but all of the framed 11x14 enlargements on my wall were made with cameras bolted securely to tripods.

Conclusions:

The Mamiya TLR is not a perfect camera. What is? But it works well for a lot of applications. I think it's wonderful for individual, or two person portraits with the 135mm lens. It was a wedding photographer favorite for many years, and I've done some nice landscape and travel photographs with it.

Medium format has been called the great compromise format. The TLR would not be my first choice for sports photography, and when I'm chasing my kids, I use 35mm, or a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder. I can get more detailed landscapes on 4x5, when I have space to carry it.

I haven't really watched the change in prices over the years. I've heard a comment that the market has crashed for Mamiya TLR equipment lately -- no demand for something with no meter, motor or flashing LEDs. If that's so, I consider it good news for me. I'm not selling mine, and maybe I can find a good cheap 250 mm lens now.


Review Copyright © 1998 Mike Rosenlof. All Rights Reserved. Revised: 19 August 1998

Article created 1998

Readers' Comments


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Colin Povey , September 28, 1998; 02:47 P.M.

I have shot many, many weddings with my Mamiya C220 system. IMHO, it may be the best system available for lower priced weddings and portraits. Whole systems can be had for the price of a single Hasselblad or Rollei SLR body, let alone lenses.

The cameras are very relaible, as they are simple. If a shutter dies, just use a different lens until your is fixed.

Switching between 120 and 220 is easy, at least on my C220. No seperate parts to get lost of broken. Just turn one knob and then turn the pressure plate 90 degrees.

I use the 65mm for most of the shots at a wedding, and carry a 135mm for portraits. While the shutter is quiet, the film advance is not. I carry a Leica M3 with a 35 and 90mm lenses for shooting during the ceremony, to keep the noise down.

I always use the chimney finder on my C220, as it makes the image much easier to see and focus. The mirror finders are dim, and the pentaprism is heavy, and does not show the whole image. They are generally best avoided for most work.

For closeups, Mamiya made a paralax corrector that works well if your subject is stationary and you are using a tripod.

With lower prices, I may be adding to my system. Overall, one of the best "bang for the buck" camera systems available.

Jeff Philbrook , October 05, 1998; 12:19 A.M.

Having used a C330S for years but always wanting a polarizer, I have recently Bought a Leica flip-up polarizer for the mamiya. And yes it works like it was made for it!Mabey someday I will own a Leica!It works on the 55, 80, 105(Ithink mamiya`s best lense),180 &250 ,which I own. Idon`t think it will work on the 65.

Todd E. Gaul , November 22, 1998; 11:54 P.M.

I have modified my C220 to take 360 degree panoramic photos. To do this yourself, install an in-camera mask with a 1mm(1mm X 58mm) slit directly over the 6cm X 6cm exposure area. If the camera was laying on its side, the 1mm slit would be perpendicular to the ground. Load film as normal. Set aperature like you were using an exposure of 1/60th, but set shutter speed to "B." Place the camera on a tripod, on its side with the wind knob facing upwards. The tripod should have a fluid movement in its panning ability. Start the exposure by releasing and locking the shutter to the open "B" position. Now here is the tricky part: Turn the wind advance at a rate of about 1 turn per 2 seconds while also panning the camera on the tripod in a counter-clockwise direction. Finish one pan(360 degrees) in about 10 seconds Please note that these speeds and measurements are only approximate and are based on using 100ASA film and an 80mm lens. By doing this procedure by hand like described here, results may be less than perfect. Variations in speeds of panning and winding will cause stretched and squeezed image properties. Maybe not perfect images, but certainly interesting. I have attached a motor to the wind knob with pretty good results. Have fun!

Todd

John Fleshin , November 25, 1998; 10:32 A.M.

The Mamiya tlr is still a great learning and classic system, glad to see the comment on being able to view the subject at the time of exposure, which is why I still use my C330s for weddings. I have caught quite a few people with closed eyes nicely illuminated by the flash.

I began shooting weddings with a Rollei, went to the C220 and finally the C330S.

The Mamiya series is much easier to load, especially with a flash bracket, if you can remember how to release the back.

Biggest problems were: First- trying to zone focus, with the strange and hard to read footage scales-- there was a device that fit over the focus knob and had an easy to read scale.

Second, the parallax is severe enough that on the C220 I emphasized the line in the viewfinder with Orange grease pencil, which I wiped off just before I sold it. I had cut heads at ten feet before using this. The C330 has a red line.

Third, look for a split image screen if you need to focus reasonably fast in lower light conditions. People at weddings are not patient.

Fourth, look out for fungus in lenses from down south, OTOH, it will drop the price and give you that soft focus?

I never had a complaint about the lenses, had to have one cleaned to bring up the speeds, I glued my Sync as well. I do recommend spending a few extra bucks and buy the C330F or S, the extra features are worth it.

John

Hugh Macaulay , December 18, 1998; 09:51 A.M.

Not that I want to send any business across town or anything, but at the Mamiya website (www.mamiya.com) there is a very compehensive, well structured, and active user forum for medium-format users. Check it out.

David Bindle , January 11, 1999; 12:26 P.M.

I had a Mamiya C330 pro-s (f?) in mint condition with 55mm, 80, and 135mm (Black)lenses + paramender... and sold it... The reason I sold it... profit and I wasn't using it enough. Now, I really wish I hadn't sold it. I bought the system for only $800 Cdn...!!!! Sold it for quite a bit more than I bought it. But now... I wish I hadn't. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! Oh well... I have a few nice chromes and B&W negs... A great system... just add an incident meter!

Hugh Macaulay , January 14, 1999; 12:36 P.M.

David, sorry to hear about your decision to ditch your C330. I recently acquired one and am having a ball! One little quirk that I'm running into, though, is parts. I'm having some work done on the parallax indicator and, if my repair guy can't improvise (as he usually can) then I'm faced with a somewhat daunting expense. But, hey, the quality of those big ol' negs is worth it.

Matt Bigwood , May 23, 1999; 03:44 P.M.

I've acquired a C330F with 55, 80 and 135 lenses. The 55 and 135 seem great, though the 80 is VERY soft at the edges - I think this lens has seen heavy use, and is possibly damaged, as the X-M selector is glued down and the shutter speeds are slow.

I've got a British photography book from the early 1960s which states that the 65mm lens 'is one of the sharpest ever to come out of Japan'.

Ken Rowin , July 19, 1999; 09:37 P.M.

I've been using a C330 for 3 years and have been quite pleased with the system. I have obtained negatives that enlarged nicely to 16x20 for an exhibit of landscapes earlier this year. Flare with the 55mm lens has been a problem as I have not been able to locate a suitable lens hood. In addition, I find the lack of depth of field markings on the lens a bother, as I keep having to refer to tables. Overall, for less than the price of one lens for a Haselblad, I have a sturdy camera and 3 lenses that seem to do the job.

Jeffery Randall , August 15, 1999; 07:00 P.M.

I started doing weddings with a c330 and made enough money doing so to buy a new Bronica GS-1. I use the Bronica for most of the wedding work, but I always have my Mamiya ready. I also like the Mamiya better for shots of the ceremony because the camera is almost silent and does not disturb the ceremony. I was considering selling this camera, but it's value to me is much more than I could get for it. I like some of the portraits it produces better than the "tack sharp" bronica lenses. I use the Porro finder because I have never mastered the waist level finder. I'm sure the glass prism is much better.

Herb Garrett , August 20, 1999; 12:17 A.M.

I am a professional Wedding Photographer and I have used the C330 for 20 years. In my opinion, it is the best wedding camera ever made. I have Hasse's and Nikons, but to the naked eye the twin lens, when used by a pro, produces images that will compete with most medium format cameras today. My studio has photo's made from the Hasselblad and the Mamiya and it is very hard to tell the difference. I own 6 Mamiya TLR's and most of the accessories that go with them. Mamiya tried to replace this camera with the Mamiya #6 then the #7 and they are already talking about stopping production on the 6x6 Mamiya. I am sorry but I believe Mamiya made a big mistake when they halted production on the Mamiya TLR. Rollie has capitalized on this, by bringing their TLR BACK.

Bill Hilburn , October 08, 1999; 12:53 P.M.

Hello,

Having sold my Mamiya TLR gear some years ago, during trying times, I am getting back into the game. I have recently purchased a C330, functioning Cds Porrofinder, and 135mm lens, and will add lenses as I am able. I had a Prism finder on my old system, and while it made viewing much like a SLR, it was also as heavy as a truck tire and was not something I wanted hanging around my neck for a long period of time. Prices seem to be going back down, and good lenses are quite common, except for the 55mm and 250mm. There are many Mamiya TLR components listed on eBay, though the prices end up challenging companies like KEH or B&H, so it pays to take care. Thank you for your comments.

Bill Hilburn Jr.

Tom Hildreth , October 20, 1999; 07:03 A.M.

I owned a Mimiya C-33 with 105mm and 180mm lenses between 1968 and 1975. It was a popular camera among B&W aviation and railroad photographers then, and it was affordable. None of us shot at waist-level, instead we used mirror or prism finders. I exposed a lot of 220 Plus-X film, and enjoyed the convenience of 24 exposures per roll. My experience with frequent camera body and lens breakdowns was shared by others-it was a very troublesome system mechanically. The most common body problem was the tendency for the film advance gears to jam. I decided to sell the Mimiya system and pick up a second 35mm for B&W. So these days, when I'm printing a little 35mm negative sandwiched in a Gepe slide mount (to keep it flat), I kind of miss the old medium format. Especially when I'm removing the negative from the slide mount for the third time to remove a statically charged piece of dust. Oh well, always a compromise.

Edward C. Nemergut , November 09, 1999; 07:45 P.M.

I purchased an old C330f with an 80 mm lens this past May in an attempt to "get into medium format." I own a full Canon EOS system (EOS 3, A2E, and at least 5 or so "L" lenses) and didn't want to spend the bucks for a new camera until I was sure MF was "for me." So, I purcahsed the C330f expecting to learn MF and, maybe, take some pictures which *hopefully* would be close to those I was already taking with my 35mm system. To my continuing surprise, the C330f routinely blows the socks off my EOS 3, especially in indoor photos of people (i.e. weddings). It's more than grain--it's something more, something else--the skin tones seem creamier and other colors more complex. Obviously, my EOS still has many advantages, but I find myself using it a lot less...

Matt Orth , February 04, 2000; 03:03 P.M.

Mike's done a very nice job -- I also went the Mamiya TLR route to medium format and have been very pleased with the results. One point to emphasize; Medium Format in general has a more limited range of lenses than 35mm, and the TLR system is even more limited. The widest lens is 55mm (supposedly around 30mm in 35mm format terms, but it seems to have an even narrower field of view than my Canon 35mm lens) and the longest is 250 (roughly 135 in 35 format), and while I've never used a 250, it doesn't seem to be very popular (their next longest lens, the 180 Super, has a fantastic reputation. I have one, and it is very sharp).

I've also noticed the prices dropping.

If you can live with the lens choice and don't plan to shoot fast action, this has to be the least expensive way to get into quality interchangeable lens Medium format.

Joseph Albert , February 10, 2000; 11:57 P.M.

There are alot of myths about the Mamiya TLRs, and one of them is that the optics were only so-so in performance compared to other medium format systems. I went from a Mamiya 645 to the TLR system, and can't really see any reason to prefer one to the other in terms of image quality. I've also done side-by-side comparisons of a C220F with 80/2.8S lens with a Rollei 2.8E Xenotar TLR, and I really can't see much difference in the slides viewed with a loupe, other than the fact that the color balance of the Mamiya image is slightly cooler perhaps. I've been quite pleased with the 55/4.5 and 180/4.5 Super as well, and could see that the 135/4.5 chrome lens was quite sharp in the short time I owned it. I can't speak for any other of the lenses, but I have to concur with Herb Garrett above who notes that the Mamiya TLR renders an image meeting professional quality standards in every way. The front elements of the lenses are not recessed in a helicoid, and so a lens hood is non-optional when shooting outside on clear days.

Another myth is that the Mamiya TLRs are quite heavy. This is certainly true of some camera body models in the series. But the C220 and C220F models are only slightly heavier than a 6x6 SLR body and back, but the TLR lenses are much lighter on account of not needing a long barrel (the bodies have bellows). So a whole outfit is comparable in weight to a 6x6 SLR outfit, and in fact generally lighter weight.

The main downsides to the system are the lack of any lenses wider than 55mm, parallax error inherent in a TLR design, and the lack of interchangeable backs. But considering what you do get, ie a reliable camera with sharp lenses with leaf shutters that sync at all speeds in a low-vibration TLR design that is still supported by repairs, I'd say that these systems have to be one of the best bargains in a used medium format camera system today.

Christian Deichert , April 16, 2000; 05:10 P.M.

Mike writes,

The 65mm lens will vignette with a screw on a hood or filter, so try to find one of the specific Mamiya hoods for this or the 55 mm lens. These hoods clamp to the outside of the lens barrel. I epoxied a 67mm filter ring (no glass) to the inside of the box-shaped 65mm hood, and I attach filters to that and they don't vignette. I chose 67mm just because I already had a bunch of them for other lenses.

I have had success with a similar adaptation on the 55mm lens shade. I filed down the male threads on a 52-72mm step-up ring, then superglued the step-up ring inside the lens shade centered on the hole (which is 52mm -- snug fit! Might have been easier with a 49-72). I used a step-up ring because it's thinner than a 72mm filter ring, ergo less chance of vignetting.

Speaking of vignetting, I've been able to use two 72mm filters at a time in this fashion without vignetting; combining the polarizer and the 812 filters I already had saved me the cost of buying a new warming polarizer.

I have used a similar approach with the metal lens hood for 180mm / 250mm; this works well with 55mm filters (I used a 52-55mm step-up ring, employing the same process described above), and it appears it could work with filters up to 62mm.

For the record, I only recommend this for the lens hoods with the hinged top, without which it would be nearly impossible to get inside and get filters out quickly. It looks technically possible to use 49mm filters inside the standard lens hood for 80mm, 105mm, and 135mm, but just because it's possible doesn't mean it's practical.

Brian Hall , May 10, 2000; 10:42 P.M.

An old Mamiya C3-pro has recently provided me with an affordable entry into the world of MF. If you have thought about getting into MF, don't wait like I did. Don't wait for the Hasselblad or whatever. Buy a TLR now, with a couple lenses, and get shooting. You will enjoy it immensely, I guarantee it. (Even if you did not, you can re-sell it next week for what you paid for it). This camera is helping improve my skills, as well; It's a nice break from the "machine-gun" mode I can sometimes get into with 35mm. I stick it on a tripod, I compose... adjust... adjust... think & look... adjust a little more, and after several minutes of that, you press the button and hear a nice little >snik< that means you have just captured a sublime moment. There's no excuse. Get one now.

Arthur Salmons , September 25, 2001; 04:42 P.M.

I recently purchased a Mamiya C330 S as an entry to medium format photography. I also own a Canon 35mm A2E with 4 Canon L lens and I'm really impressed with the image quality produced by the Mamiya. I have the 55mm, 80mm and 135mm black lens and I'm currently waiting for delivery of the 180mm Super lens. I just bought a C330 F as a second body because I want to be able to do both B&W and Color when doing scenics. The two bodies and 4 lens don't weigh more then the Canon system with 3 L lens. I'm very impressed that all this equipment was bought nearly mint for less then $1500. I'm still learning the system and I make some really stupid mistakes but I find I'm really concentrating more on the image and I've been very happy with the results. I think in the end I will be using this much more then my Canon system. However, I will still use the canon for action photography and walk around street shots. I'm using the Mamiya for portraits and scenics and I have to shoot with the camera on a tripod. I don't know if it's just me but the hand held shots are of lower quality in terms of sharpness. I want to get a 250mm lens but they are harder to find and the clean ones still go for $300 plus so I'll have to wait.

Art salmons

gregg cook , September 26, 2001; 04:08 A.M.

I have used a Mamiya TLR system (c330) for about four years and recently added a second body (c22) and a chrome 180 lens to my system and a cds porrofinder to dedicate mostly as a concert camera, Even though everyone who has used one derides me for this use I have taken some of the best photos of my life with this setup. I use these for night stuff too and have nothing but good things to say about them for any use I have tried them for. But the best thing I figured out this year is that the dark slide (flap) is perfect to use as a shutter for pinhole work. I made a pinhole lens that interchanges for these bodies by tracing the lens mount on a piece of paper and using it as a template. Then I centered a hole on it and transfered it to the bottom of a pie tin and put a hole in one side and sanded the other side smooth and painted it black. Works like a charm and there are internet sources for figuring out the aperture and exposure. ( I still had to fool with the exposure from there to get it more accurate for my methods) But my c330 and a black 80 and the c22 with the 180 chrome (which does not fit on the 330) and the pinhole mount have made me use my 35mm Mamiyas even less than ever. (yes I still use these b/c screw mount lenses are cheap and plentiful and sharp and I love the spot meter option) But I have compared my work with people with bronicas and hassies and I feel it is on par and I get the most satisfying feeling when I see the moment of esposure and hear the click and just know I have created an image that I will cherish for years. I don't recommend handholding the things for sharp landscapes any slower than 1/125 or 1/250. For art stuff and my blues and jazz club work there is nothing better. My only beef is that the price on the 250mm and 55 mm lenses is much higher than the rest of the line or it seems so. I probably won't be able to buy them for another year or two. Another tip is that everyone mentions that you need the parmender for close up work, but I have used 50mm paint marks on my tripod column to the same effect, it just slows you down a bit to use them and you have to have the camera somewhat level, but the same can be said for the paramender.

Gregg Cook

choeN . , August 05, 2002; 02:22 A.M.

Bought a C220 with the 65mm lens. Fun factor 10/10. The amount of thinking involved for just one composition in my opinion, allows for production of pictures, once the user masters it's simple controls and exposure with the help of a hand held lightmeter. Btw, I still use my old beat up Pentaxes (ME Super, MX, MZ50) for more *casual* and street photography.

Matthew King , October 02, 2003; 09:30 P.M.

I wanted to mention a further advantage to the Mamiya TLR system - it is great if you are left-handed. I have limited dexterity in my right hand, but I have been successfully using and enjoying my Mamiya C330 for almost 20 years. I use it with a prism finder and slightly modified left hand grip (allowing attachment of a Metc 60CT2 flash bracket) and photographing weddings is straightforward. I have recently addes a C220 body, when a lighter kit is handy, and own a rare Mamiya tripod with built in paramender head. First question - does anyone know of any other cameras (other than the Mamiya RB67 and RZ67) that are also quite well suited for us left handed photographers? Second question - has anyone seen any attempt to develop a digital back for these cameras - it would seem to be a natural?

Ray Nieves , February 23, 2004; 02:39 P.M.

To answer Matthew's question about other left handed cameras, I'd like to mention another excellent if little known TLR: the Koni-Omegaflex. You hold and fire the camera in the left hand while you focus and wind/cock the shutter with the right. I used to have 3 Rolleiflex's ( C, F and Tele) and they were excellent with great optics, but too limiting. In college I started to assist a pro while shooting the college paper/yearbook in 35mm, so I got a C330f and 4 black lenses for portraits and weddings. The C was solid and gave very good results, but not as sharp as the Zeiss/Schneider glass in a bigger package. I once tore the bellows and ruined 4 rolls before I knew there was a tear. I moved onto a Bronica S2A in MF and got great results and kept that. I missed the TLRs for their mirrorless, hand-holdible quality (the Bronica needed to ALWAYS be on a tripod for best results) and flash synch at any speed (FC shutter on the Bronica was 1/30, so I was limited). The Nikkors were excellent and eased the pain of parting with my TLRs.

A year ago I read positive articles about the Koni-Omegaflex as what the Rolleiflex's could have been with interchangable lenses: I found a lens test site that had the Hexanon's rated sharper than ay other TLR! they at least rival the glass on my old Rolleiflexes and (sorry)were better than comparible Sekors. I got one and love it! Comparison to Mamiya C: Bigger than the Rolleiflex but just as well made. Great parralax correction feature. Four lenses cover pretty much the same range as the C (58, 90, 135 and 180) and don't forget this is a bigger 6x7 format..no cropping which makes 6x6 actually closer to 6x4.5 after crop. Having used Rolleiflexes, a Mamya C330f and now Koni, I would have to say (for me) Koni is the best TLR: a mutated melding of the best features of the Rollei and Mamiya C. I offer this not to put down the C, which is a fine system, but to offer a viable alternative in TLRs few people know about. .....Especially if you are left handed! ;^)

Stefan Haas , April 13, 2005; 04:33 P.M.

I've recently taken up MF photography with a Mamiya C3 that my father had bought back in the early Sixties. As I soon experienced problems with film transport (that tends to blockade especially after the first six frames of a 120 have been shot) and didn't want to waste three or four frames per film, but was fascinated with both format and working method of a TLR, I've just bought a C 330. I was surprised how much lighter a 330 is in relation to a C 3 - seems it's just half the weight! I plan to buy a few more lenses soon - and hope to have a lot of fun using the camera!

Stefan Haas , April 13, 2005; 04:33 P.M.

I've recently taken up MF photography with a Mamiya C3 that my father had bought back in the early Sixties. As I soon experienced problems with film transport (that tends to blockade especially after the first six frames of a 120 have been shot) and didn't want to waste three or four frames per film, but was fascinated with both format and working method of a TLR, I've just bought a C 330. I was surprised how much lighter a 330 is in relation to a C 3 - seems it's just half the weight! I plan to buy a few more lenses soon - and hope to have a lot of fun using the camera!

Fred Welch , May 13, 2005; 03:59 P.M.

I recently decided to get back into medium format photography, after selling my gear about 10 years ago when I gave up doing weddings. In those days I used all Bronica gear of the 6x6 format. This time I decided to go the twin lens route and so purchased a mamiya C330s, along with an 80mm and a 65mm lens set. I'm absolutely astounded at the quality achievable from this camera in both colour and black and white. It's made working in the darkroom a real pleasure once more. As the type of pictures that I like to take are mainly landscape and architectural, the care that has to be taken with this camera is not a problem, and with thee side grip and pentaprism attached hand holding is very easy - even at really slow shutter speeds. Since buying this camera my 35mm stuff has stayed in the case. A real pleasure to use.

Bip Mistry , November 15, 2005; 12:57 P.M.

I have a mamiya c330s which is an absolute pleasure to use. Peoples reaction to the camera is also a delight. The lens quality is superb and it is not too expensiv to build up a kit. Bip Mistry, photographer.

Martin Whitney , May 27, 2006; 10:39 A.M.

Matthew King had a question if ther was a digital back for the Mamiya TLR. In the searchs I'f dun on this camera, thers not been one. Bute I'f faund a Mamiya C330f Polaroid. It's a D.I.Y., but for testing lighting and exposure it miet douw the job.

http://www.cameraquest.com/m330pol.htm

Cory Johnson , July 04, 2006; 01:12 A.M.

Somewhere in 1993 I came across a Mamiya C220, in the most unlikely of places - a computer shop! It was a dream come true! Outside it was in perfect condition, no scratches, no scrapes, the bellows were perfect, the action was excellent, however the mechanical condition was unknown. Well, I offered the guy $300 and he took it. Damn! It works excellent! I don't use it as much as I'd like. It's certainly not a casual camera :) But what I do enjoy is having to take my time for each shot. Each shot is planned and deliberate. And I love the sound of the >snic< and still be able to see the image! It came with the standard 80mm lens set. I'm very anxious to acquire a 135mm lens set, and maybe even a 250mm lens! Aww, who am I kidding, I want them all! :) And lucky for me there's a photo lab 3 blocks away that processes MF film! So many people are on the digital band wagon these days, but I talk to a lot of pros and many of them aren't entirely sold on digital yet. Neither am I, because digital cameras don't even compare to the resolution of a Medium Format! :)

R Hofland , September 21, 2006; 02:40 A.M.

I'll do Cory one as good. Found a near mint 330 ProS with Porrofinder in an antique store having a sale. Bought it for under $250 with the 80mm lens and a few accessories including leather case. Got it home and dug through everything and found $150 in crisp bills carefully hidden away inside the camera.

I think it is probably the least expensive camera I ever bought, even less than my old Ricoh bought in the early 70s. Definitely a great deal! Well, I guess my old Kodak X-??? 126 camera was cheaper, but that is a totally different category.

Phillip Bond , November 11, 2006; 06:01 P.M.

Ok, while it's tough to top R Hofland's story of an instant $150 "rebate", I think I can go one better. ;-)

About six months ago I answered an posting on craig's list for someone selling an RB67 and some assorted old stuff. I checked it out and his only caveat was that I had to take everything - a cheap old enlarger, some non working stuff, an old pentax me... . Well I took the lot for $100.

The RB had seen some wear, the 120 back was missing the darkslide and needed some foam gasket. The 90mm was in good optical shape although the times are a little off.

The kicker is that I got an email from him about two weeks later saying that he forgot to include one more camera and wondered if I would like it as well. The only right answer is yes. The "one more camera" turned out to be a C330 with porofinder, 55, 80, 105 and 135. All for the original $100.

I didn't, however, find any money in any of the cameras. That was really disappointing... ;-)

Peter Hovmand , March 06, 2007; 05:18 P.M.

Well, let's see if we can keep this post alive for 10 year :) After buying my Nikon D100 my "need-more" started to grow. Solution: Go medium format. I took the Mamiya-way, 645. Wonderful! And now I have fallen for their TLR's. Just got a nice system with 3 lenses for about 500 Dollars including postage to Denmark from the US. I really think it should keep its value ... The system is absolutely charming, like nothing else, it's that simple.

Matus Kalisky , May 22, 2007; 04:55 A.M.

Yes - I think we can keep it alive. I am curently shooting DSLR and started with 4x5 only a year ago. I produced my first contact prints just a few days ago. But well - I am lusting after 6x6 MF because of the portability (and I like it square!). Although I am more leaning towards some "standard" TLR like Rolleicord or Minolta Autocord, the C330s is also ineresting (lenses lenses many of them :). Well - concerning the weight it is getting close to my Tachihara, but I guess it will be still a lot of faster - you just can not take yur 4x5 everywhere. I will let you know how this will go. Thnks for all the comments in this thread.

Matus..

Chris Nagle , June 05, 2007; 03:30 A.M.

I agree - keep it alive! I've just been using my battered old C330f for a few landscapes in the Yorkshire Dales. Although my fabulous Canon 350d was always there for quick "on the hoof" pictures, its a great feeling using an older camera that requires no computer to see the final images. There's a singular beauty to the 6x6 transparency isn't there?

John Christopher Bunyan , June 17, 2007; 11:12 A.M.

I have been using my own kit of Mamiya C330 gear for the last 28 years - off and on, for professional work connected with my career and for out and about leisure photography. Starting 34 years ago with a useless C3 but sporting a very serviceable 65mm lens pair I then purchased a c330f kit with 80mm lens for ?90 and picked up a 105 lens to add to the kit. Much later I bought a second c330 body and acquired 55mm and 135mm lenses.

I have shot a lot of portraiture, display and work environment shots with this kit over the years and always been able to achieve excellent quality results - except the time I shot a whole graduation ceremony set of portraits with electronic flash with the lens set to M synchronisation! definitely the worst day of my working life.

These cameras have not been without their problems over the years. The weakest feature on a C330 is the clockwork film transport stepper mechanism. This is particularly prone to misuse as I found with the camera I purchased from my ham-fisted boss. Overlapping frames, the slight buckling of the film at the film plane giving rise to focus inaccuracies, missed frames and failure of the shutter to fire were all symptoms of this. Repairs sorted this out. I now have all items in my kit functioning perfectly and intend to embark on some serious landscape photography with it in my leisure time.

My advice to fellow Mamiya C330 /C220 owners is to watch out for the above problems and get the camera properly repaired if they arise. The lens mounting panel, rack and pinion focussing and focussing knobs are all prone to damage if knocked. If pictures are not in focus at full aperture (particularly with the wide angle lenses) set up the camera on a contrasty subject -/ test chart etc. and use a ground glass screen cut to fit the film channel and see if it matches the viewfinder picture focus point. I have found that paper schamfers glued to either the back panel of the viewing or taking lens will then correct its mounting point to the camera.

I salute every user, owner and enthusiast who uses the Mamiya C TLR series in any capacity. They may be ugly but they have always delivered the goods for me.

John Bunyan: Professional Photographer.

Mark Satola , June 19, 2007; 07:11 A.M.

I found a C330S at a camera repair shop, one of those items brought in for repair (in this case, new light seals) and then never claimed. It had a chrome 80mm lens with it, somewhat anachronistic for the body. I'd not shot square format negs since I was a kid with a Kodak Instamatic in the sixties, but I wanted to give it a shot. I was a little disappointed that I was having trouble composing, after years of rectangles (35mm and 6x7 from a Rapid-Omega 200, another story entirely!), and the camera was used only occasionally. A minor windfall earlier this year, however, made it possible for me to get a new lens, a black 55mm. The extreme wide angle changed my whole outlook on the square format, and now I find myself reaching for the Mamiya more often than anything else. The camera was obviously used only lightly, and everything works smoothly and reliably. The increased DOF on the extreme wide angle means that I've been able to use it for street pictures, which is a delight. I did get the lightweight porrofinder as my aging eyes were proving unreliable at waist-level, and now it's my favorite camera.

Tim Atwater , July 22, 2007; 05:43 P.M.

Great stories! I sold my Mamiya C33 10 years ago; I'm now about to start with simple digcams, but I notice the Mamiya TLR's seem to be excellent deals on the used market, and I haven't given up on film yet, so medium format film and especially Mamiya TLR's still have an attraction, especially since I got some excellent images from my old C33 with a 55mm lens.The larger negatives still hold their own, so I may be hunting for a used C330 any day now..maybe I'll find another $100 sytem with 4 lenses on Craigslist some time!

Lawrence Ober , August 09, 2007; 02:08 A.M.

Having owned a variety of medium and large format cameras over the years I always favored TLR's. About three years ago I assembled an almost complete C330S outfit via eBay but judged it too heavy for field work. It went back on eBay and I recouped most of the investment.

More recently, I acquired a pretty complete Bronica ETRSi 645 system. It's a nice camera, but given my preference for waist level finders the rectangular format has it's drawbacks, i.e. a need for prism viewing. I just had to have another 6x6.

While browsing eBay there was a very nice C330S body coupled to a 105 lens with quite a ding on the rim of the viewing lens. The seller, apparently, decided the only way he could market the ding'd lens (which he said worked well) was to pair it with a good body and toss in a paramender for good measure. I ended up buying the outfit for what would reasonably be the FMV of the body. Well, the 105 is tack sharp and the body only needed new light seals. Fast forward - add a Brightscreen and a few more lenses for a nice outfit that fits in a smaller, lighter, bag than my Bronica 645 system (in all fairness, with all the backs, etc. a larger outfit).

The C330S is my favorite camera for the studio except the lack of interchangeable backs precludes it's use when shooting heavily. I shoot B&W and color slide film. 220, which would go a long way towards resolving this issue appears to be almost unavailable in B&W except for TXP320. No matter how much I depend on the SLR system - to paraphrase Charlton Heston - they'll pry THIS Mamiya TLR from my cold, dead hands! Such is true love - camera style.

Christer Medin , September 03, 2007; 09:18 P.M.

Found this thread today... I just picked up a C330 (not F or S) in mint condition with a 80/2.8 (black) for $95. My, how times have changed.

It has the microprism focusing screen (used to those), but I was wondering if there were any other screens worth looking at for these guys.

Evgeny Zimin , September 06, 2007; 05:08 P.M.


Hello everybody!

The Mamiya C33 is an excellent camera. It offers interchangeable lenses in medium format at a relatively modest price. The C-series TLRs are also exceptionally reliable, and the C33 is no exception. The only downside of the C33's all-metal construction is weight - I highly recommend investing in a comfortable strap if you're going to carry the camera around for more than a few minutes. I started with a 80mm chrome lens and added a 65mm black lens over the summer. Both lenses performed well, and I particularly liked the 65mm. This is a truly capable camera for 6x6 negatives. It handles extremely well, as long as you can get past the sheer weight. The bellows focusing allows for extreme close-up shots without adding close focusing filters or other junk which degrades image quality. While the possibility was there, I never used the camera for such things as I did not have a Paramender to compensate for parallax. With the focusing knobs at the base of the camera, I found the camera a bit more stable when focusing than my Rollei's. However, setting the aperature and shutter is much faster on a Rollei. With the Mamiya, the settings are on the lens, which I found slowed me down a bit. However, since TLRs are slow to work with anyway, it didn't make much of a difference.

Above the picture of Red Square (2005, Rolleicord V, Velvia)
I have some pictures at my opera blog as well.

Regards, Zimins@NET and everebody is welcome.

J Furtado , October 18, 2007; 12:01 P.M.

Hi

I too have enjoyed the c330 immensely over the years. I now find that all my clients are requesting digital capture and so my c330 Pro f sits idol. Sadly, I have come to the decision that it is time to sell so if anyone is interested please shoot me an email for info. vastphoto at gmail dot com. Sold it.

Rufus Watson, Jr. , January 15, 2008; 03:29 P.M.

Hello everyone, I have been using the Mamiya C220 since 1987. I have found it to be one of the most easliest camera to photograph with. I love the image that the 6x6 negative produce and I have not found digital to match it. I am currently looking to purchase lens fot it from Ebay. I do not mind the slowness of the camera because I am not in a hurry to photograph my subject, Rufus.

jaco van lith , April 16, 2008; 03:38 P.M.

Another difference between my Japenese C220 and my Swedish 500C/M. The C220 did survive the fall down the stairs into the engine room of a fery-boat

Calvin Chiang , July 29, 2008; 05:19 P.M.

wow what a thread! just bought a c220 with 80mm lens. (no cash inside unfortunately). why? i've gotten really disillusioned with digital. I started out with my dad's canon ftb. loved it. then two years ago decided to jump digital and bought a pentax k100d (terrible viewfinder), and since then i've produced some of my most mediocre photography ever,.. and decided it was time for something new.

just run my first film through the c220, so far so good. i love the weight, the heft, i love the chimney viewfinder - big and bright, i love the reactions i get from people - they dont flinch when i stick it in their face (unlike my digi slr).

hoping to pick up a 65mm and 135mm and do a street-portrait project of London's crazy people!

ben butcher , August 05, 2008; 08:54 A.M.

Hi folks. Im new to the land of 120 film. I've come across a C220 but it's on hold for someone else.. but if they dont buy it, Im keen. But, I really dont know much about the format.

I like taking wide-angle long exposure landscape shots, and have done on my Minolta 35mm for years, but I want to step up a class.

The seller says he has a C3 to sell also, but for a much higher price.

Can I get an idea of the differences and advantages between a C220, a C3, and the c330 that everyone here seems to have?

Joop Nijhuis , November 07, 2008; 08:42 A.M.

Ben, I will give you an internet address where the differences between the C220 en C330 are explained. Hopefully it will give you the information you need. sincere Joop Nijhuis Netherlands

www.apug.org/forum51/29492-mamiya-c220-c330.html

J Casper , December 08, 2008; 05:54 A.M.

Just purchased my C330 last week. Dropping off the film this week. I'm very excited to see what happens.

Jack Welsh , January 25, 2009; 02:48 A.M.

Back in the 70's to early 80's. Had a 330 and a 330F. Had the 65, 80 135 and 250 lenses. Aluminum carrying case. Sheet film back, paramender, deluxe grip holder, pistol grip and a cds porrofinder.Sold it all in the mid 80's. Wish I still had it. Now, have a 220 with the 80 chrome, 105DS and Super 180. It's a great camera and great system.

Nicolas H. , April 18, 2009; 08:04 P.M.

I just have acquire a C220 with black 80mm and 180mm Super. It is my ticket to MF. I will receive next week and I am really anxious to use it. I will come back with my own feelings about it, but meanwhile I want to give you thanks for your advices and experiences.

Dave Stevens , April 30, 2009; 11:29 P.M.

This is a great forum/review/resource, thank you. Question, anyone know what size filter is used on the black 65mm? I have tried a 49mm - too large, and a 46mm - too small. Somewhere it was stated that the chrome (aluminum?) outer ring needed to be removed? Any suggestions or advice eagerly needed. Thanks.

Dave

Follow-up: I have found the solution and thanks to several members who have e-mailed the answer. Great bunch of photogs here. Thanks.

k. djoa , May 25, 2009; 12:29 A.M.

Got my 1st C330 last year with 80mm lens for $ 75 from craiglists.com, ran several roll of film and just like my RB's minus the weight, very sharp and beautiful details and color saturation, I shoot d-SLR mostly but whenever I feel the need to "soak" myself up in the rich details of the captured moment, I'd make sure that I have one of my MF with me, and the TLR is one of the lightest, I also have a C22 and waiting for my C220, need to get the 105 and 180 thou. This discussion is really very encouraging for me as an amateur photographer to also learn how to shoot film (again after a hiatus of about 15 years)

gregg cook , July 13, 2009; 04:05 P.M.

just looking over the forum. I have been catching up in the darkroom and realized recently the 330 is still sweetness. I don't use the 22 much these days, but the 330 is used every time I need something really good.

I love this camera.

Ricardo Court , December 04, 2009; 12:47 P.M.

I am taking delivery of a pristine c330f today. It is coming with a 105mm D and a 180 Super. Thanks to all of you who reported on this camera. You made it easier for me! Now, if I can only decide between the 55 and the 65 to round out my system...

Jim Damaske , January 25, 2010; 11:14 A.M.

What's the difference between a C330-F and a C330-S?

steve timson , February 06, 2010; 12:20 P.M.

i believe that the difference between the 'f' and the later 's' is for the most part, a cost cutting exercise on mamiya's part. the 's' having more plastic and less metal than it's forebear, otherwise it is fundamentally the same camera. i will stand corrected on this as i have never touched the 's' version and have only been told this when i was researching to purchase a c330 myself. i have just bought a mint 'f' today and can't wait to see the results.

Mike Rosenlof , April 12, 2010; 03:20 P.M.

The main externally visible changes from the F to the S are (1) Focusing screens, they don't interchange between the two models, 'S' screens are more rare. and (2) back latch. The S latch is less than immediately obvious how to get it open.

The S is slightly lighter. There are almost certainly internal differences, probably a combination of cost savings or reliability enhancements.

Ben Vos , April 29, 2010; 12:59 P.M.

this forum has really helped me with my decision to purchase a mamiya c330 from my teacher. thank you

Sohail Mamdani , May 26, 2010; 02:27 A.M.

Hi folks,

Just wondering: will lenses listed as "for c330" work on the c33 too? eBay does have a lot of c330 lenses, not so many listed as specifically for the c33.

Thanks!

Sohail

Bob Tourdot , June 14, 2010; 11:06 A.M.

I have a C33, and from what I've found, the newer TLR lenses are supposed to work on the C33 as well. I purchased my camera with a 80mm silver shutter lens which works and I've found a blue dot 135mm lens to work well, but I've had some trouble trying 2 different 180mm lenses, a silver shutter, and a black shutter version.  The camera does not seem to cock the shutter of the lens which leads to a jam.  This may be a problem with my camera which could probably use a CLA, and may not be moving the shutter cocking lever far enough, but I've read this can be a weak spot of the design.  My understanding is that they should work, but it would be good to be able to check beforehand.

Eric Daigle , December 29, 2010; 10:14 P.M.

Just a quick question, I do own a C330 and it is fabulous!

What is "Blue dot" means on some lenses? Better quality?

Thanks 

Eric

Jacqueline Alkula , March 28, 2011; 01:27 A.M.

I started with 6x6 back in 1970 when a classmate sold me an old twin lens camera.  I don't remember the name or type of camera it was but do remember that the top speed was only 1/250.  When I got to Berlin in 1973 I felt a need to "upgrade" so I got a Yashica D TLR,  didn't want to spend the extra 20 or so dollars for a Mat124.  Shot that camera for a couple of years when I got my first 35mm camera.  I still kept the old workhorse around and at times would take it out and shoot a roll.  Of course if it was doing any portrait work it would be the first camera that I would reach for.  I also picked up a Yashica Mat.  I ended up selling the entire kit, both cameras, two light meters, both tel and wide angle lens kits to someone in Korea.   Big mistake.

Fast forward to this year.  I had picked up a Canon A-1 kit locally for $125.  This had the motor drive, data back and flash unit and two lenses.  I added three more lenses including a 500 f8 mirror and TRADED  for a Mamiya C220 with the 80 f2.8 and 135mm lens!  The 135mm lens goes to F45!   F45!   WOW!  I have sent off the first roll and should get results back any day now. 

And yes, going back to 6x6 square is stepping back in time when the picture was composed in the camera before the shutter was tripped.

Stay Square!

 

Jacqueline Alkula

Chillicothe, "The Home of Sliced Bread", Missouri


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