TLR or SLR?
I'm looking to move up to MF but am faced with a problem - price. The only MF SLR's even vaguely within my budget are Bonica 645's. Surfing through eBay has offered another route - Mamiya C330 TLR.
Aside from the obvious problem with parallax error is there any reason why I shouldn't seriously consider this camera? The C series Mamiya's are particularly appealing because of their ability to change lenses but, unless i've misundestood, the C330 is the only one that can be changed with film in the camera.
I have a C220, which also allows the changing of lenses while film is in the camera. The Mamiya TLR's are good, solid workhorses, and the glass is very sharp and contrasty. They are a bit on the bulky side, but once you get used to their size it really isn't substantially different from other TLRs. And on a tripod it really shines - plus no mirror slap, a quiet leaf shutter, nice big square negative...depending on your intended use (probably it would not be the best choice for grab shots on the street - although Diane Arbus used on in the mid to late Sixties) you would not regret the purchase. You already understand the downsides of TLR versus SLR, but the upside in this case would be a less expensive trip into medium format with a camera capable of extremely high quality photos.
I have no experience with the Mamiya TLR's. I do believe that there is a device called a paramender that will be helpful for use on a tripod as far as parallax is concerned.
There are three things I fight with when using my C330.
1: Parallax correction when shooting close distance objects (flowers, small rocks, etc.). The C330-S (possibly the C330 or C330-F?) has an indicator in the finder to show you (A) where the real top of the frame is and (B) how much to compensate exposure when racking out the bellows. It adjusts to suit different lenses. I find this to be very handy considering I don't own the Paramender device.
2: No DOF preview capability. I use it all the time with my RB67, and find myself using smaller apertures "to be safe" on the C330.
3: A waist level finder requires you to be above the camera. A TLR with a waist level finder requires the camera to be lower or the photographer to be higher. Maybe I'm just too short (5'7"), but I'm considering a prism finder for my camera. Hiking is no fun in platform shoes... :)
In praise of the C330 line...
- The whole line of C TLR's are built like tanks.
- Many (all?) of the C TLR's have backs that accept 120 and 220 film.
- Bodies, finders, and lenses are really cheap on eBay.
- Most of the lenses are very small. I fit 2-3 TLR lenses in the same compartment that a single Pentax 35-80mm zoom fits in my small backpack.
As for changing film, I think all of the C cameras have a device that covers them film (an in-camera light trap) for lens changes. I can't say for sure. I only have a C330-S and it's been many years since I last used any other Mamiya TLR.
I've used the 220 TLR, many years ago, and it is a decent tool.
If you want to stay with a SLR, I'd look at a Kowa Super 66.
I regret having ever sold my Kowa system, esp. the 40mm lens. The Kowa Super 66 has interchangeable backs and several different finders, including metered. The Kowa system is very reasonable in price.
Some will say these are not very durable cameras, but I didn't have any trouble with mine (about 9 years service). I did have everything I bought serviced by Ross Yerkes in LA as soon as I got it.
If I could have my old system back, I'd sell my Hassy gear and pocket the difference. Prints 11x14 or under I can't tell a difference, and probably can't bigger than that between the Kowa and Hassy.
Kowa also made a 19mm lens for this series. I've never seen one in person, but I do have a picture of one a fellow sent me years ago. It is a big lens.
Anyway, I do think the Kowa Super 66 is a viable choice for a low cost 2 1/4 SLR system.
I had the same dilemma about twenty years ago, and got myself a second hand Mamiya C330 F outfit at a fraction of the cost of a M/F S.L.R , and if you buy either a C33, C330F or C330S parallax error for general photography I find has never been a problem, since they have automatic parallax compensation, in the moving curser on the focusing screen, that delineates the top of the picture as you focus. I can highly recommend Mamiya T.L.Rs, It's Professional quality gear available currently at very reasonable prices that has given me images of a phototechnical quality that has put my 35mm Canon, and Nikon gear to shame.
I disagree that a Mamiya TLR is not as good off the tripod. I always found that supported by your hands from underneath and by the strap around your neck, it is extremely stable to handhold. I have found that I can shoot handheld at much slower speeds, especially without the slap of that great big mirror. If you want to shoot more eye level, there are a variety of prisms available. I agree that under most normal shooting circumstances, parralax isn't a problem.
Neal perhaps you are reffering to my remark about the paramender. As is said I have no experience in using a Mamiya TLR but I would think that with the PARAMENDER that a tripod would be a good idea.
Some people like TLRs some don't. I like the one I have. Personally I like waist level finders more then prisms that SLRs tend to have. But you might not. All I can say is see if you can borrow one for a few days.
I'm not sure which Bronica model you're looking at. If it's the model with leaf shutter lenses then I think you'll find other cheaper cameras out there if you can live without the leaf shutter lenses. Plus with the focal plane cameras you can spend $30 or so on an adapter and fit the various Kiev lenses. Things like the 30mm fish eye which you might not want to spend the big bucks for from a western camera company.
Not at all, Claire. Sparx mentioned parralax in his original post and Noblebeast suggested that the TLR might not the best tool for handheld street photography. The lens distance is only two inches and not a consideration in most shooting circumstances but Erickson mentioned the built-in parallax indicator which is great in most closer shooting situations but You are right, the paramender is the best, most accurate tool when you have the camera on a tripod, especially in close-up work.
That reminds me of another feature. The long bellows on the Cs allows major close-ups without additional accessories.