Mamiya C330

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by mark4583|1, Jan 2, 2021.

  1. Looking to pick one of these up, What should I look out for and what set of lens would be a good portrait?
    laurencecochrane likes this.
  2. It's a purely mechanical beast so just look for signs of dropping, bent stuff and wear. All Mamiya TLR lenses are fungus candy, or were subject to some other kind of internal surface damage. The inside surface of the rear group is usually the worst. I'm not convinced there are any pristine Mamiya TLR lenses left. Do a penlight test. The early chrome shutters can be service problems as no parts exist other than other shutters. Some lenses are uncoated or minimally coated and might be good for portraits; they tend to be softer and lower contrast, but I like the later black-shutter lenses better for most purposes.
  3. Much involved in cleaning the fungus, doesnt seem like there would be a lot to take apart?
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Great camera, had one with 3 lenses back in the '70's. Problem with the fungus is that some varieties actually etch lens or coatings. Had not been aware that Mamiya lenses were particularly vulnerable, but sources here are usually very good.
    mag_miksch likes this.
  5. The lenses are generally easy to pull the front and rear groups, and easy to clean. The problem is, you have to catch them very early or the surfaces will be permanently etched.
    laurencecochrane likes this.
  6. 55 & 65mm lenses are the biggest fungus & haze victims. Portraits I05mm or I35 at extreme I80mm . Expect to pay for a I35
  7. Its a quirky system and lots of fun to use, but does have several inherent foibles and flaws one needs to look out for when buying and monitor during ownership.

    With the bodies the two most common as-found faults are film advance defects (spacing, or skips the 12th frame in 120 mode) in both 220 and 330 series, and the auto shutter cocking connection glitching in the 330 series. These cameras are fairly simple and built like Jeeps, so repairs are not that difficult for most competent camera techs, but DIY is sometimes tricky due to all the possible cosmetic damage you can inflict trying to uncover access points. Today, I'd probably return any malfunctioning Mamiya TLR body and just look for another that works properly. Unlike the lenses, in non-pro use the bodies don't tend to randomly drift into dysfunction: if the body works right when you get it, it typically remains working, if you opt for a repair on a funky example the body then generally chugs along fine for the rest of your life.

    Check any prospective body for overly-sensitive shutter button interlock, esp the 330 series non-moving body mounted "chin" button. The crudely implemented double exposure prevention interlock in these cameras tends to be a inherently twitchy, but some aging or worn bodies get to the point of unusable. Check for problems by winding a frame, then very gently rest your finger on the shutter release (with the 330, alternate winding and testing both the chin release and the release on the right hand lens frame). Remove your finger, then try to fire. If the button has locked and won't release, the system is far too sensitive and needs adjustment.

    There's a fine line between the annoyingly-engineered "normal" operation and hyper-sensitive: personal visceral reaction will tell you if that specific body will suit you. in general, with Mamiya TLRs you need to avoid the common habit of resting your finger on the shutter button while awaiting the decisive moment. Especially avoid attempting to take up the slack: this will almost always prematurely activate the double exposure interlock. If that happens, you can over-ride it and free the button by switching the side dial from single to multi, but then you must remember to set it back again or you'll shoot the rest of the roll on that one frame.

    Use a small flashlight to check the extended bellows for pinholes. Inside it has two chambers: one for the viewfinder and one for the film. Pinholes in the viewing path don't affect anything, but if holes get thru the lower reinforced film path bellows you'll have problems. Holes are fairly rare in the 330 and 220, so you aren't likely to suffer from it unless you stumble on a really beat ex-pro example. The older, huger two-digit models (C33, etc) were more prone to pinholes.

    Not a defect, but something to be aware of: the portrait/tele lenses and the 55mm wide angle are very slow by modern standards (f/4.5 max aperture). This can make for very dim and flat viewing on the old-style focus screens of most C220/C330 bodies. Not a big problem outdoors in daylight, but indoors: ugh. If you wear glasses or have any visual difficulties, be patient and look for the harder to find, final C330-S or C220-F bodies. These are more expensive, sometime double the cost of older models, but the price gets you a fantastic, bright, snappy focus screen that rivals Hasselblad's Acute Matte. The difference is not subtle, it makes the whole system much more usable. Unfortunately the newer screens are not compatible with older bodies,so limited to just these two final models.

    If you can live with manual, separate winding and shutter cocking, the 220 bodies are less expensive and lighter weight, the final 220-F being my favorite. The older C220 can upgraded to very nice Rick Oleson brightscreen for about $80, for viewing comfort almost as good as the later 220F. But the popular, original auto-cocking 330 and 330F are stuck with fairly dim screens: Rick Oleson has no current offering for them, and vintage BrightScreen replacements are scarce. If you want auto shutter cocking and a bright focus screen, budget for the final 330-S variation.

    Make sure you get the best possible WLF when shopping potential bodies. The older C220 and most C330 came with an old-school WLF with flaps gaps and holes that leak annoying reflections on the screen like crazy. Some of the later 330f (and all of the final 330-S and 220-F) come with modern self-erecting. sealed-box WLF that are excellent at keeping stray light off the screen. Over the years, many C330 and C330F were upgraded to the newer WLF: opt for one of those if possible. The older, less desirable WLF is easily identified by the flip-up magnifier floating above the side flaps, leaving huge open gaps around it. The newer WLF has vertical side hinges and a fitted flip up magnifier that forms a sealed cube.
    cameragary, SCL and laurencecochrane like this.
  8. Re lenses: I own and like all of them (except the rare 250mm), but some have controversial reps based on the very wide sample variation that plagued Mamiya thru most of the 60s, 70s and early 80s. When their TLR and RB lenses are good, they're very good, but bad ones got panned as too soft for landscape (while wedding photogs deliberately sought those out). The silver faced lenses were/are thought to be slightly sharper than the first batches of all-black lenses, while the final black lenses with a blue dot on the shutter cocking handle were probably the most consistent in terms of what we'd consider "modern" performance and minimized sample variation.

    Take that with a grain of salt, as age has leveled most of these differences, with condition of the glass and individual sample performance overriding general reputation. Ergonomically the black lenses are easier to use with their wide knurled shutter speed collars and large, soft-grip aperture handle. The silver lenses are fiddly and hard on the fingers, esp the aperture setting pointer. The 65mm and 180mm lenses came with knurled silver filter thread protection rings installed on the viewing and taking barrels: be sure to get these with the lens, as they're hard to find. They reinforce the paper-thin metal front barrel when a filter is not being used.

    Mechanical "repairability issues" with the silver faced lenses have become a little exaggerated. The basic leaf shutter design is about as simplified as you can get in a medium format camera. While spare parts for the silver barrels are not as plentiful as for the black, spare black parts aren't exactly falling out of trees either. Fortunately parts are not often the problem: old, sticky lube from decades sitting in storage is. An ordinary CLA typically gets any Mamiya TLR leaf shutter back in the game and running well for years afterward.

    The most common as-found lens shutter issues are dysfunctional slow speeds, and very commonly a shutter that fails to open 4 out of 5 times (at any speed, you hear a fast click but the leaves never actually open). Sure signs the lens hasn't been used since the '90s and needs a simple clean/lube/adjust. These aren't complex Hasselblad shutters requiring Keebler Elves to service: they're basically dead-simple press/view camera shutters mounted in TLR lensboards. If you find shutter problems, check that the M-X flash sync pointer is pushed firmly over toward X: if it drifts off X the the old grotty M flash bulb delay geartrain causes hangups.

    For portraits, the 105 or 135 are probably most versatile while the 180 is great if you prefer a longer perspective and have enough distance to work with it. There were two optical versions of the 105: all silver and the early black employ a Tessar formula, while later black lenses marked D or DS are Heliar derivatives. Both are excellent, with a slightly different look in focus falloff and bokeh (I can't choose a favorite so keep both myself). The 135 has acquired an undeserved rep for being "soft" which may stem from misunderstandings of how it works leading to poor technique. It is a true "long focus" design, meaning the bellows racks almost all the way out at most portrait distances. This makes for clumsy handholding and camera shake unless you use a tripod or side grip: with careful technique you'll find the the 135 isn't soft as in "bad", more that it has a not-harsh rendering of details.

    The black barrel 180 Super is the hidden gem of the Mamiya TLR lens lineup: so sharp it rivals the legendary Hasselblad Zeiss180mm Sonnar. Great for landscape, but a bit long in perspective and too sharp for some portraits (and even more front-heavy & clumsy than the 135 when handheld without a grip). The previous silver or black 180 with no "Super" markings is also excellent, but the Super was exceptional,

    It takes awhile to get the hang of parallax compensation with the longer lenses. The 330 has a helpful moving top frame indicator to remind you, the 220 has fixed engraved parallax reminder lines that are remarkably effective once you train yourself to interpret them. For total precision on a tripod, one of the Paramender accessories completely solves the issues.

    Glass issues: yes, the Mamiya RB, Press and TLR lenses really are magnets for fungus and a weird, recurrent type of chalky haze. Which one afflicts you (and how often) depends on the specific lens and your environment. Here in New York City, I've experienced fungus in just one RB lens and never in any of my two sets of TLR lenses from 55 thru 180. What I do experience in the TLR lenses, way more often than I'd like, is the chalky haze phenomenon. Almost all my TLR lenses routinely develop a white-ish film, almost like chalk dust, on one inner element. It manifests as either concentric rings or diagonal streaks. It doesn't etch the coatings, and comes off easily with a lens cloth dampened with peroxide.

    But it is wearisome to have to constantly inspect and clean the lenses: on average after a cleaning it takes about six months for the haze to slowly build up again. Fortunately all the lenses (except the widest 55mm) are easily disassembled to expose each element surface for cleaning. When this recurrent haze really bugs me, I comfort myself with the fact I can purchase a complete set of leaf shuttered 55, 65, 80, 105, 135 and 180 Mamiya TLR lenses for roughly the price of just one of my Hasselblad lenses. Its amazing how relatively minor Mamiya foibles (like needing to internally clean the lenses more often) fade to insignificance when you remember the incredible price-performance-fun ratio vs any other medium format system.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
    cameragary, SCL and laurencecochrane like this.
  9. Appreciate the info, I have a RB67pro SD, that I love to shoot, Had a 645pro but I didnt care that much for it so I sold it, Just picked up a 127 for it off Ebay, they said it had a mold spot, but I dont find any, a little dust but looks real clear and I got it for near nothing, my 180 has a little separation but I havent notice any effect in the photo. The C330 im just looking for a decent body that I will most like get off ebay, no one close to me sells that older stuff let alone MF equipment. Im just looking for a lens thats nice for portraits and general use playing around. Thanks again
  10. If you're wanting to keep the investment minimal at first til you see whether the TLR system is as good a fit for you as the RB. you could opt for the earlier original C330 instead of C330f. Aside from clueless or greedy sellers who price them all at the same high level, generally the older 330 sells at a discount over the later 330f. Assuming equally good condition, I've owned both and the only appreciable difference I found btwn 330 and 330f was the latter (usually) had a better WLF. There may have also been some internal tweaks that were significant at the time of introduction, but all these years later I don't think it matters: they either work right, or they need repair. I did have more incidence of film advance issues as-found in 330 guise vs 330f, probably down to age.

    If you want to thread the needle between portraits and general photography, you can't go wrong with the older silver or black 105 with Tessar optics. Sufficiently longer than the standard 80 to better suit portraits, but not so long as to cramp general use. At f/3.5, not as slow as the f/4.5 135 or 180. Very nice rendering for people, which also works well for street, landscape and nature while sharp enough for architecture. Can also get you very close for product shots with the bellows racked out. In silver mount esp, the older 105 tends to sell at a good price, less than the 80mm. The final 105 DS Heliar derivative is scarce and expensive (double or triple the silver/black Tessar), mostly because its the only TLR lens with a self timer and DOF preview iris in the viewing lens.

    If you find yourself enjoying the 330 + 105, but feel you want to go a tad longer for portraits, you can pick up a supplemental 135mm for chump change. Once the standard in portrait studios, its exaggerated rep for being "soft" makes it the least sought-after, least expensive TLR lens today. Nice silver face examples can be had for as little as $50, black for not that much more. Very simple, easy to clean optical cells. Note the entirety of the glass is in front of the iris, which sits exposed on the back of the lens board (be careful not to poke a finger thru it).
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
    SCL likes this.
  11. Here in the Uk I35s fetch £I50 over others at under £I00. Do not rule out C33s or C3 these are bargains. My red lizard skin C33 P9211064.JPG 33
  12. Heck, I've taken perfectly good shots with an old C2!
  13. OK any Mamiya C. all have their endearing attributes.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
  14. the most important point,
    and I never have had fungus issues on C330 lenses,
    and for me the best of all the very good lenses is the 180
    have fun
  16. Ended up with a C330 S with the 80mm 2.8,, had ordered a F model with the 80mm but the one that I bought was already sold after I paid for it, So he replaced it with a S model for the same price and its suppose to be in Mint cond.
    mag_miksch likes this.
  17. Sounds like fate dealt you a good hand! Believe me, you will be much happier with the 330S than you would have been with the F. The viewing experience of the 330S is a closer match to your RB67 Pro-SD, the older Mamiya TLRs have noticeably dimmer, flatter screen (not as bad as an old unrestored Rolleiflex, but nowhere as nice as the Pro-SD).

    Now the only questions are how you'll get on with the vertical weight distribution, parallax, and 6x6 square format vs 6x7. All the other handling and use issues should smoothly correlate with your RB67 skills, since the RB was literally just an SLR evolution of Mamiya TLR concept (non-helical-mount lenses, bellows for built-in close focus, distance/bellows factor scale on the side of the rail, etc). The same grips (with shutter button linkage) made for the RB are cross-compatible with the 330 TLRs.

    The only thing Mamiya did NOT improve as the C33 evolved to 330 then F then S is the tinker-toy winding crank feel, which doesn't live up to the rest of the clever design. That alone drove me to the knob-wound C220F, but the 330S is certainly a more capable body with its auto-cocking and auto-correcting viewfinder parallax indicator.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
  18. C33 has self cocking and paralax indicator. Tho I do miss the beautiful wind on of my old C3. Cocking the shutter is no biggie. I wish I could easily disable the self cocking to sweeten wind on like a C3.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
  19. Started my Mamiya TLR adventures years ago with a well-worn but still functional C33 and silver 65mm (not nearly as nice as your red-revitalized beauty above). Super-tough, innovative tank of a camera, but it makes the RB/RZ seem svelte: the C33 was overbuilt almost to a fault. The smaller C330 series may still be bricks vs the tiny Rolleiflex, but the the C3/C33 are cinderblocks. Whenever I see vintage pics of petite Diane Arbus with TWO C3s around her neck, one with 180mm and huge flash, I'm amazed she didn't tip over!
    laurencecochrane likes this.
  20. Re the three lenses commonly used for portraits: a rough indication of size and handling characteristics can be inferred from the below pics showing my three C220 bodies with 180 Super, 135 black, and 105 Silver Face (Tessar). The oldest C220 at right has the old 220-specific side grip attached, the C330S OP chose can use the larger, shutter-coupled grip of his RB67 Pro SD.

    Third row down shows the 135mm vs 105mm with focusing bellows extended to head shot distance. Last row at bottom shows the rear of the 135mm with its vulnerable, exposed shutter/iris, Next to it is the optional rigid magnifying finder which is great for portraits: totally shuts out stray light, additional magnifier flipped by side knob zooms in to the center of the screen for ultra precise focus.

    Mmaiya Portrait Lens Comparo.jpg

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