This is my Mamiya C330. Its the camera equivalent of taking a Howitzer to a knife fight.
I use medium format for the image quality. It’s slow and deliberate equipment to use but the resulting negatives are sublime for printing big from. I’ve probably shot more images recently on my Bronica than any other camera, but I’ve been in the mood for something new in medium format for a while. Having printed and framed some 6×6 square negatives recently from my Yashicamat I was feeling the square format bug but wanting something a little more serious.
The obvious answer would be a Hasselblad, but I’ve yet to find a nice one at a reasonable price. However I had also been keeping an eye out for a nice Mamiya TLR and this one jumped out at me a couple of weeks ago and my debit card was powerless to resist.
The Mamiya C330 Professional F, to give it it’s full name, is a medium format twin lens reflex camera (TLR) made by Mamiya back in the 70’s and 80’s. There were various versions, the C3, the C33, and the C330, with the Professional S being the last version (my F was the penultimate model). It shoots 6×6 square negatives with 12 shots to a 120 roll.
Where as the Yashicmat is a close visual copy of the iconic Rolleiflex TLR camera, the Mamiya is very much its own camera and has a number of really nice features that make this worth seeking out.
Firstly, it has interchangeable lenses, which is something very special for a TLR type camera. The aperture and shutter are self-contained in the lens and the whole double unit can be removed, with an internal flap mechanism to shield the film for mid-roll changes. A very neat sub-feature is that when changing lenses you set a couple of dials on the body that recalibrate the focus distance scale and parallax correction features to suit.
It also has a bellows focussing mechanism that allows you to focus at really short distances, effectively macro shooting without needing any special optics. As you don’t look through the taking lens you need to correct for parallax by reframing the image against the guide line in viewfinder (which is calibrated to the focus position). And because the lens ends up a long way from the film plane you also need to compensate by increasing the exposure accordingly (also indicated in the viewfinder). The camera can be a bit unwieldy when used up close, but if you overcome that it presents some really nice creative opportunities to get up close and create very shallow depth of field.
Beyond this is has a lovely double shutter release mechanism that add a slider release on the wide of the camera (right where you thumb naturally sits) to the more traditional button trigger at the base.
Shooting with this camera is nice. Sure it’s a bit big, but not unreasonably heavy and it feels very well engineered. You need to get into the habit of following a series of steps to make an exposure, its certainly not point and shoot, but it doesn’t take long to get your head round.
The shutter is near silent and even the winding mechanism is quiet, a world away from the medium format SLR kick I’m used to with the Bronica. This is great for shooting out on the street – if you preset the focus, shutter speed and aperture then firing the shutter takes a slight flex of the thumb. The camera has no internal meter so you will need a handheld one. I generally take a sun reading and a shade reading and then set my exposure in the middle and knock the aperture ring back and forth a stop as the light changes (minimise the variable by leaving the shutter speed alone).
So there it is, the Mamiya C330 Professional F. Quite a camera and capable of seriously high quality results. I think the square format suits photographing things rather than places, but I intend to get one of the wideangle lens sets to broaden it’s versatility and try shooting all sorts. It is unlikely to replace my Bronica as my main workhorse, but it will certainly get a decent amount of use.