A Mamiya TLR from the ‘C’ series has been on my list of desires for a long time and I never really thought I would own one.  These were the professional cameras used by wedding photographers all over the place throughout the 70s and 80s and have always been at a price point well beyond what I could justify.  They’re not especially attractive cameras (though all TLRs have a classic look in my opinion) but they are solid work horses and can take a lot of use (or abuse).

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The thing about these cameras is that they are very modular in that the lenses, viewfinders and even the backs are interchangeable which means (and it took me until  a few months ago to realize this) that you don’t have to buy a whole camera at once.

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So whilst browsing that website (again) I happened upon a body which looked in reasonable condition and the seller stated it had been film tested.  I made an offer and it was accepted.  All it now needed was lenses and a viewfinder.

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The second interesting point to note about the interchangeability of these cameras (apart from that this is the only TLR which allows for lens swapping) is that the shutter and all the complicated parts for taking a photo are part of the lens assembly so if there is a problem with the shutter, fitting a different lens ‘fixes’ it.

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After a few weeks of searching I found a 65mm lens for a good price and that was that part done; it’s got a little dent but okay.  A week or two later and the right viewfinder came up and hey presto! a complete camera and everything seems to work fine and the total cost was much lower than I have seen complete cameras selling for.  Okay, so the lens could be better but I can upgrade that later and buy alternatives.

Make Model Film/format Year Lens Shutter Aperture
Mamiya C330 120/220 TLR c1970 65mm 1:3.5 B, 1, ½, ¼, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500 F3.5-32

It’s a beast of a camera, not light and not pocket sized by any means, very solid though and will work for ever (hopefully).

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I have used this a few times now and it is very good.  As 220 film is not available anymore, I use 120 which is a little bit of a shame as double the exposures would be handy; it is easy to load with the film straight through (no right angles to traverse).  The crank wind is nice and definite and easy to get used to.  I must get some sort of a strap for it as holding this brick in your hands is heavy work for any lengthy period of time.

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It always takes me a little time to switch my brain for the back to front world of waist level shooting and I spend a lot more time getting the right framing.   I do love using waist level TLRs though, there is just something about them with that big screen with the image on it.  This being a ‘Professional’ grade camera also makes the experience very pleasing.

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This thing has a lot of movement on the focusing meaning you can get close to macro photography straight out of the box.   Parallax errors up close can be a problem though and there is some guidance in the viewfinder to help with that (in the form of a line showing where the top of frame would be) but you can also get a tripod attachment that shifts the camera the correct amount once you have focused up.

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I still have a lot to learn about using this but I’m very happy with this Frankenstein of a camera and I am adding this to my core kit of film cameras which now consists of;

  • Voigtländer Bessamatic (35mm SLR),
  • Voigtländer Bessa RF (Medium format folder)
  • and now this Mamiya (Medium format TLR)

Here are some shots in both colour and black & white

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