Mamiya-C330-Professiona_7
Mamiya-C330-Professiona_7

Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex

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Mamiya-C330-Professiona_6
Mamiya-C330-Professiona_6

Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex

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Mamiya C330 Professional
Mamiya C330 Professional

Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex

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Mamiya-C330-Professiona_7
Mamiya-C330-Professiona_7

Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex

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Mamiya C330 Photographers review

These cameras have serious purpose about them. It is the business of ’in studio’ photography. Not to say the C330 cannot be used out and about hand held, but it is somewhat awkward and takes time. If you have the detachable trigger grip then hand held becomes much more possible. I like cameras which are simple to use and do what they are designed for. The first day I picked up the Mamiya I thought – heavy (1.5kg) and complicated. After some playing around – yes it is heavy but no, it isn’t complicated once I had read the manual thoroughly gaining understanding of controls.  If you are going to enjoy using your C330 you must read and understand the manual, otherwise you will be out in the field wishing you had read the book.

The C330 is in rarefied company with its ability to swap lenses. Due to an internal film shield, these can be changed out mid roll – a very useful feature. Very few TLR designs have this lens interchangeability. From 55mm wide angle up to 250mm telephoto the Mamiya offers the serious photographer great scope. Mamiya Sekor lenses are very high quality and when focused accurately are sharper than almost any other.  The 330 was introduced in the early 1969 and was modified to the 330f, then the 330s eventually ceasing production in 1994. The 3 models are virtually the same with the latter 2 somewhat plasticky to reduce weight but otherwise very minor differences between the 3 versions. Achieving consistently flat film has a bearing on precision focus and the C330 provides a flat film path with no right angles.  The C330 shoots a 6x6 square format which I think is the holy grail of medium format photography. Being TLR design I am mindful of what I am seeing through the view lens and what is captured by the taking lens may not be the full frame. When focusing close in, and the Mamiya can focus at 12cm with its 80mm lens, the frame is very tight. What I am looking at through the viewfinder has its head cut off on the capture. A neat little red line appears, slowly sinking down the viewfinder as I focus closer and I know that everything below the line is in the frame and what is above is out. On a tripod it is a simple matter to adjust to have your chosen subject completely in frame. The Mamiya Company produced a device called a Paramender which is attached to the tripod automatically adjusting the camera tilt so capturing a full frame as viewed in the finder. With the shutter being in-lens there is no mirror so very small shutter noise and no vibration. The lens I have fitted is the 80mm F2.8 blue dot. Speed range is B – 1/500. Film speed range is 10 – 1000 ISO. Once again, read the manual to ensure these controls are set correctly.

There are several viewfinder attachments which take you beyond the standard fliptop finder experience.  The Magnifying hood offering 3.5x or 6x, the Porrofinder offers an eye level view, the cds metered Porrofinder which measures exposure then manually transferred to the lens.  The Prism finder is ideal for street work being about 2.5 times the focus screen image. The Magnifier which is attached to the sides of the standard hood and enlarges the focus screen image 5.5 times. The C330 also offers the ability to change out focusing screens. The standard screen fitted is matt with a microprism centre circle for accurate focus. For more accurate focusing the #3 Rangefinder screen has split prism focus. All these accessories are on the 2nd hand market now and are not easily obtainable so definitely a 'hunt & gather' exercise.

Personal experience is everything and once I decided how I wanted to use the C330 it is simple and intuitive. Being a TLR design (twin lens reflex) with a viewing lens directly above the taking lens the viewfinder is waist level. Out and about with the Mamiya, framing the image looks a little odd to the casual observer. You have to get over this feeling and if you are new to TLRs, shooting in a public space, expect some casual scrutiny. If you have been street shooting for a while with a standard viewfinder camera then you will be used to being looked at. I have the 65mm lens but I am finding the 80mm stays on my C330 95% of the time. This is equivalent to a 50mm in 35mm format so a near standard lens. It is beautifully sharp. I am keen to try the 135mm short telephoto so I am actively looking for 1 of these. Working off a tripod the 330 is a satisfying camera to use. The C330 is very well made, being all metal precision built and will keep delivering the perfect frame for decades to come. . It requires no batteries which is always reassuring when out on a job. Some vintage cameras need hard to find batteries and modern digital with lithium power supplies slowly lose their charge holding capacity. So, no battery at all keeps the blood pressure at normal levels. The 330 has 2 shutter releases; a tab on the right side, perfect for your thumb and a button on the lower front which is threaded to accept a standard cable release. The shutter release can be locked, preventing inadvertent actuation. If you are using the Mamiya already , most likely you will have a good understanding of exposure relationships (shutter speed – aperture/depth of field – film speed). The hand held meter will confirm your settings and is a reliable accessory to have with you. On the day you develop your first roll I am sure you will say 'my C330 is a keeper'.