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Camera review: Me and my Mamiya C33 TLR with Instax back

Hey everyone!

We are Damian and Sandra, and like many of EMULSIVE’s readers, we are passionate about photography!

Some of our followers on Instagram have come across our Fujifilm Monochrome Photo Competition test entry on our website and noticed one of our newest addition to our camera family: a modified Mamiya C33 TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera with a Fuji Instax Mini back! Here’s what’s covered in this article:

 

We love how sharp and clear the photo quality is, and when we found someone in who was selling one of his modified cameras, we decided to buy it from him.

Today we want to introduce this camera to you, show you some of the photographs we have produced with it and hopefully inspire a few of you to consider your own modified Instax camera!

 

 

The Mamiya C33 INSTAX mod

The Mamiya C33 with one of the Instax Mini Monochrome sheets it produced!

The Mamiya C33 with one of the Instax Mini Monochrome sheets it produced!

Mamiya C series TLRs, which is known for its outstanding design and function, was produced in the late 1960s, and has the option of interchangeable lens. In fact, it is the only mass produced TLR “system” camera.

The Mamiya C series was camera was designed for use with 120 (and latterly 220) film, but our camera has been modified solely for use with Fuji Instax Mini film, using a donor Lomography Diana Instant film back.

We think that this is a great project for anyone who is keen to modify their own TLR cameras for instant film. With the permanent instant back modification, we recognise the possibility of improving the quality of instant film photography.

 

 

Using the Mamiya C33 INSTAX

Damian using the Mamiya C33 Instant Back; it certainly caught a lot of attention when we were using it in public!

Damian using the Mamiya C33 Instant Back; it certainly caught a lot of attention when we were using it in public!

Though the Mamiya C33 is a heavy, bulky camera, it reaps dividends with its stunning quality and clarity in terms of the photos produced.

Steady hands are required when composing and shooting, and it must be noted that what the user sees in the viewfinder originates from the top lens. This must be borne in mind when composing the shot, and you must remember to raise the camera higher when shooting close-up (approximately 5cm).

The viewfinder of the Mamiya C33

The viewfinder of the Mamiya C33

Because the Mamiya C33 is a fully manual, mechanical camera, one will need to invest in a light meter (or a smartphone app).

As we mentioned, the C series is a system camera, which means lenses are interchangeable! We are currently using a Mamiya-Sekor 105mm f/3.5 lens.

Each lens “block” somes with both a “viewing” and “taking” lens the latter has an integrated shutter, which runs from B (Bulb mode), to 1/500 second shutter speed. This particular lens has an aperture range of f/3.5 to 44.

Although the ISO of the Instax mini film is stated at 800, we have heard from some in the photography circles that the ISO setting seems to be about 640 on non-Fujifilm cameras. Therefore, our advice is to use the light meter at 640 and 800 to get a gauge of the appropriate shutter speed and/or aperture.

 

 

Our the first photos

We took this photo with an external flash connected to the sync point of the Mamiya C33. We were stunned at the quality of the lens, and remarked how sharp it looks compared to the manufactured instant cameras (such as the Lomo’Instant, or the Mint TLR).

We took this photo with an external flash connected to the sync point of the Mamiya C33. We were stunned at the quality of the lens, and remarked how sharp it looks compared to the manufactured instant cameras (such as the Lomo’Instant, or the Mint TLR).

We shot this without a tripod, and as such took advantage of the various shutter speed of the lens. The combination of the aperture of f/3.5 and the focusing wheel and bellows allows us to adjust the size of the bokeh accordingly.

We shot this without a tripod, and as such took advantage of the various shutter speed of the lens. The combination of the aperture of f/3.5 and the focusing wheel and bellows allows us to adjust the size of the bokeh accordingly.

We were amazed at the depth of field and clarity that the Mamiya C33 produces; just look at how sharp the photo of the flower is!

We were amazed at the depth of field and clarity that the Mamiya C33 produces; just look at how sharp the photo of the flower is!

As mentioned, the Mamiya C33 is brilliant for shooting close-up, macro shots. We love the soft appearance that the lens produces in the photos, and the razor-sharp images of the subject.

As mentioned, the Mamiya C33 is brilliant for shooting close-up, macro shots. We love the soft appearance that the lens produces in the photos, and the razor-sharp images of the subject.

One of our first test shots with the instax mini monochrome film! We must commend on the focusing ability of the lens.

One of our first test shots with the instax mini monochrome film! We must commend on the focusing ability of the lens.

The Mamiya works well in bright daylight, and in the night, this gave us the opportunity to test the “bulb” exposure mode. (1/2)

The Mamiya works well in bright daylight, and in the night, this gave us the opportunity to test the “bulb” exposure mode. (1/2)

The Mamiya works well in bright daylight, and in the night, this gave us the opportunity to test the “bulb” exposure mode. (1/2)

The Mamiya works well in bright daylight, and in the night, this gave us the opportunity to test the “bulb” exposure mode. (1/2)

We had fun during Christmas, using bokeh filters (which were designed for DSLRs but fit well with our twin-lens; see our website entry on DIY Christmas cards using these instax films!) The lens' bulb exposure mode is really handy, and the tripod mount works despite the presence of the instant back.

We had fun during Christmas, using bokeh filters (which were designed for DSLRs but fit well with our twin-lens; see our website entry on DIY Christmas cards using these instax films!) The lens’ bulb exposure mode is really handy, and the tripod mount works despite the presence of the instant back.

 

Some drawbacks

One of the drawbacks of this camera modification (apart from its bulky body), is the ‘fern-print’ which the Lomo Diana instant back produces. Unfortunately, we think that this is due to the instant back design (being fitted from a Lomo Diana camera), causing some issues with the rollers.

This is an intermittent problem, which occurs on some packs, but not others, and tends to occur with the last 4-5 Instax sheets in each pack.

We are currently exploring ways to fix this, but the quality of the Mamiya C33 cannot be understated.

We would like to thank EMULSIVE for the opportunity to write about our Mamiya C33 Instant. We are encouraged by the photography community’s continuous interest in revitalising the use of film cameras, and we hope to see more creative modifications to spur the interest of film/instant film photography!

Till next time…

~ Damian with Sandra

 

 

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  1. Great idea. Thanks for posting.

    I gave away my C220 but if I hadn’t, I might’ve given it a go.

    I wish Fuji would release a GA645 quality camera with an Instax back.

    Reply
  2. What a great idea. I used the C33 in the 1970’s for wedding photography, when the camera was new!

    Reply
  3. VERY interesting idea! But could you provide details concerning the Mamiya C modification to allow use of the Diana Instax back?

    Reply
  4. @lomography @Instax @fujifilmprofilm nice one

    Reply
  5. @incasino_out @lomography @Instax @fujifilmprofilm Sweet

    Reply
  6. @lomography @Instax @fujifilmprofilm I’d love such back for a Rolleicord V, its back plate is removable.

    Reply

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