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  1. #1

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    Mamiya C-330: Santa rides again.

    Last year my wife asked for a cheap TLR for Christmas, the idea being to dip a toe in the water and see if she liked them, but on a minimum investment, on the understanding that she would get something decent next year if it worked well. As I have never used TLRs myself and knew next to nothing about them I asked for advice here and got loads of very helpful comments, which eventually led me to getting her an old Seagull.

    Well, she loves it. She is currently busy creating a 120 film shortage round here and I am starting to get hints that this year she would like Santa to come up with something better (i.e. as good as possible so that she won't have to upgrade again). In particular, she'd like something with interchangeable lenses, majoring on the wide angle, preferably with the ability to take 220 film and a split prism focusing screen, and preferably something where you don't have to cock the shutter and wind on separately (to lower her accidental double exposure rate).

    From what I can tell, this means a Mamiya C330: do people agree? If so, could anyone explain the difference between the different variants ("f", "s" etc) and advise on how reliable they are and how suitable they are for hand holding? Also, could anyone tell me what sort of things I should look out for when buying one used (in other words, what kind of things tend to go wrong with them)? I don't know if there is a web site dedicated to them anywhere? I couldn't find one.

    Finally, hunting round the web I seem to detect something of a controversy over which lenses are sharper: the old chrome plated ones or the newer black ones. Any ideas? She would probably want to start with a standard 80mm and a 55mm wide angle and her work is mainly of archaeology and architecture, where resolution and crisp contrast is more important than flattery.

    Many thanks, David.

    p.s. yes I know it's only August, but I like to be organised.

  2. #2

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    Yup, the 330 fulfills your criteria, but I found its wideangles to be pretty poor. For the same money you could probably get a Bronica SLR that does all that stuff and has better lenses. Lighter, too.

  3. #3

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    I agree that a Bronica or Mamyia SLR may be a better choice if your wife is planning to do close ups of archaeology digs and finds. For felid work a 6X4.5 is quite handy and streches out the film so she can get 16 frames on a 120 roll or 32 on a 220 roll.

  4. #4
    BradS's Avatar
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    Graham Patterson's Mamiya TLR page is perhaps, the de facto site on the net for information about the Mamiya TLR.

    Personally, I owned a Mamiya C-330S for a number of years. In my opinion, it is not a real good choice for hand held work - unless you have the tilting Mamiya grip and even then, it would not get my vote. I had the 55mm, 80mm and the 105mm lenses. The 55mm was really disappointing. The other two were...well, pretty good but, not stellar. The 105 D was by far the best of the lot. The C-330S is widely regarded as the least reliable of the 330 lineup and my experience was consistent with that observation. It never completely let me down but, the little bits were always breaking or falling off. Frame spacing was always a little erratic and the flash synch seemed to have a mind entirely of its own. Other than that....not bad. Personally, I'd rather have the Seagull, a baby rolleiflex or a Yashica 124 in really good condition (if I were bent on a TLR).

    The shutter cocking and film advance mechanisms seem to be the only serious problem areas with the C330. These are the things to watch out for.

  5. #5

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    Thanks folks. We have medium format SLRs. She just seems to prefer TLRs. I don't get it myself, but such is life.

    David.

  6. #6
    Dave Miller's Avatar
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    What a sensible wife you have David, between you, you seem to have researched the market for TLR’ s quite well. BradS’s link to Graham’s page is the best to follow to uncover the differences in versions, however his comments on quality and reliability do not mirror my own experience. I cannot help with handholding comment since I always use mine on a tripod – that said, today is a hand-holding day – In the year that I have owned a 330s I have found it faultless and a pleasure to use. My lens (55, 80, 135) are as sharp as I could wish for.
    Regards Dave.

    An English Eye


  7. #7
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by psvensson
    Yup, the 330 fulfills your criteria, but I found its wideangles to be pretty poor.
    I had a C3, C330f and C330s. I loved the cameras and most of the lenses but found the 55 needed a lot of stopping down to bring the edges in (I bought a second 55 to compare, just the same). At the time, I was doing a project with a lot of against-the-light shots and also found the 55s flared easily (even with the correct lens hood). I never owned a 65, I heard they were better in these two areas.
    To answer specifics, they are reliable, any secondhand camera that looks well cared for is unlikely to disappoint, handholding is possible (very low vibration level), an L-grip is a very good idea. I understand spares are no longer available for the custom Seiko shutters, but if not used too heavily these last a very long time.

  8. #8

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    A few months ago, I upgraded from a Yashica Mat to the Mamiya C330 with 55, 80 and 180mm lenses. I can't really comment on the reliability, but to use the 330 is a real pleasure. The bellows eliminates the need for extension tubes or expensive macro lenses, exposure/ parallax compensation is indicated in the viewfinder (though the paramender is a accessory you must have if you get really close). The lens quality of the 80mm (black version) is comparable to the Yashinon on the Mat, as is the 180mm (chrome). The 55mm (black) is IMO the sharpest of the three. The Mamiya is very suitable for handheld photography, but beware that this is a very heavy camera!
    Merry Christmas!! :P

  9. #9

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    I find a monopod helps a lot with the weight of the camera over a long day and is convenient to carry. The 'L' grip doesn't suit me so well. If you need a TLR, and you want system features - choice of lenses, finders, etc., then the Mamiyas are the way to go. The C330 or C330f would be my first choice. You want auto-cocking and alternate screens, so that rules out the C220 and C33.
    I feel, therefore I photograph.

  10. #10

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    I have to voice in favor of the C330... I could not imagine choosing a plastic Seagull to a C330. I will admit, wide angles are not much of an issue for me. I use the standard lens and I also use a 135mm for portraiture... They are bulky, heavy but if you adjust you neck strap accordingly, you never have to actually hold it... Just my thoughts...

    T answer your other question... The black lenses are the sharpest.

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