The Mamiya C330 Professional: A Japanese Jewel

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When I discovered medium format with my Holga, a whole universe of photography was unveiled before my eyes. Soon I felt completely attracted to one type of camera, the twin lens reflex (TLR). These cameras have two lenses — with one lens you see the image and do the focus; and with the other lens, the camera takes the photo. Among these cameras, the Mamiyas shone with a light of their own. I wanted to have one to see how those machines worked, so I decided to buy a used Mamiya C330 Professional I found online and I never regret it. Not once.

Mamiya C330 © pluzz, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Mamiya C330 is a beautiful camera. It does not need batteries: it is a fully mechanical intelligent beauty. The Mamiya C330 Professional was fabricated in the late 60s and early 70s. The slightly upgraded versions of this camera, the C330f and C330s, were built until the early 1990s. You can use either 120 or 220 film, but what it makes it special and different to the rest of TLR cameras is that it has an interchangeable lens system. That is what the C in C330 means, so you can go wide with this camera and its 55 mm lens or you can go tele with a 250 mm lens. I myself own a Holly 80 mm f/2.8 Mamiya Sekor lens, which I really like for portraits. The leaf-shutter is not in the camera body but incorporated into the lenses. It is also capable of speeds from 1/500 to 1 second, and you have a bulb option for long exposures or flash sync at all speeds.

The operation of the camera is easy: you set speed and aperture in the lens, you focus using the huge waist level viewfinder and you shoot with the shutter release button or with a cable release. The focusing is done thanks to the extension of bellows, and this lets you focus it really close. But as you extend the bellows you have to correct for exposure and parallax error. This is given because the photographer views through one lens but takes the photograph through another, so the photograph is different from the view on the screen. This error is not big in distant subjects but the closer the photo subject, the stronger the parallax. Do not panic, on the left of the focusing screen you have a mobile line indicating the parallax error (or where your photo will be cut on the film). That feature proved really useful when I shot macro that one time! And oh, you can easily do double exposures — you have a multiple exposure selector that will let you crank the shutter without passing the film frame.

Summing up, the Mamiya C330 professional is a really well-designed camera and a joy to take photos with. I really love the waist level viewfinder. It's huge and bright and it feels nice when you use it. The only drawback I find with the camera is its weight… and maybe this is why I do not shoot more with it, my neck really gets tired of holding this brick of a camera! If you want more information on how it works, you can check its manual online


This is a review submitted by Community Member rater.

written by rater on 2009-05-20 #gear #people #medium-format #macro #review #portrait #vintage #bulb #twin-lens-reflex #220-film #120-film #double-exposure #tlr #bellows #velvia-100 #mamiya-c330-professional #parallax #provia-100 #homemade-process #ilford-delta-3200 #long-exposition #astia-100 #waist-level-viewfinder

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14 Comments

  1. ethermoon
    ethermoon ·

    nice images! i like number 7!

  2. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    You are right - TLR´s can weight like a ton!

  3. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    ai-yay-yay! what a cam!

  4. dogma
    dogma ·

    fantastic beast!

  5. stouf
    stouf ·

    Yay ! What a great review !!! The butterfly looks incredible ! Congrats Ramon !

  6. rater
    rater ·

    Thanks for the comments! It has been a long time I wanted to submit this review but I had problems with the webpage!! Worth to wait, looks nice :)

  7. lomosexual_manboy
    lomosexual_manboy ·

    Very nice gallery. Looks like a fun camera to shoot with.

  8. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Beautiful shots and great review!! :))

  9. strangelilgirl
    strangelilgirl ·

    Wow, every picture I looked at I thought "no, wait, THIS one's my favorite." I'm very intrigued by this camera...

  10. mattcharnock
    mattcharnock ·

    this is a great cam i have the c220 and it is the best camera i have ever used. great review and awesome gallery!

  11. sydneywindsong
    sydneywindsong ·

    I love pics numbers 8 and 10 - great camera!

  12. af-capture
    af-capture ·

    nice set

  13. calden
    calden ·

    Thank you so much for your little write up, because of you I went fowards and purchased one of these wonderful cameras myself. I found one on ricardo.ch that included a 55mm, 80mm and 120mm lens set for only 550 CHF. It was in flawless condition when I received it. Though it has its quarks, especially when trying to remove a lens, it has become a great companion. Along with my main workhorse, a Hasselbad 500 with the ever impressive 50MP digital back that I actually found on eBay for only $2000, yeah, I know, an absolute steal (it was listed as broken but after battery replacement, it worked just fine). My simply wonderful Rolleiflex 2.8 FX-N (which is the most beautiful camera ever created, period!) and one my favorite cameras of all time, the Fujifilm GF670, why, well, just use one for a day, than come back to me. Though it's mostly do to how easy it is to get such fantastic pictures out of it, it's almost like magic.

  14. calden
    calden ·

    @strangelilgirl Go for it, you can them for under $400 now and they are very nice cameras. That is after you master it's controls. Which I'm not going to lie, a little on the tricky side but nowhere near hard.

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