As the title suggest this article is a love letter to TLR cameras, specifically the Mamiya C220. Before I get to that, I’d like to start with a little personal history. When I first got into film photography back in 2002, My parents bought me my first SLR, a CANON EOS 300. Boy was it crappy but I fell in love with it. It did everything I want it to do. I was young and this was my first journey with photography. Times were moving and DSLRs were just around the corner. I left film, like most humans and went on a long long journey.
I started my “big Pursuit”. First, it was for full-frame cameras, and then it was for the bigger file size and at last – SHARPNESS AT THE WIDEST APERTURE. I didn’t stop and money kept pouring out of my pockets. I did a lot of photography in those years. I wish that my photos were good as my talent as I switched to better gear every 6 months. There so many cameras, I am a bit embarrassed to write them all down, let’s just say there were A LOT.
One day I found my old EOS 300 in the closet and decided to give it a go, I went out and bought a new battery, new film and took it with me for a week. I chose the worst lab, paid extra for the film and battery and got shitty results. I posted the results online and… NOTHING. They stank. Ahh well.
All that being said, I felt a new sort of magic inside me. I think it happened while the actual photos were being taken and again when I got to see them. In my mind, all of my photos that roll of Fuji C200 were damn near perfect (of course not!!!).
I loved that feeling. That wait. I love how I imagined the image would turn out.
So my film journey started (again). A friend gifted me a Yashica 635. I had no idea what for but I liked it. A lot. The feeling of looking down the viewfinder and seeing that clear image of reality outside – I was amazed and blown away by the beauty kept inside that little screen.
I have been using the Yashica for the past 3 years and I love it. BUT when I give it a second thought, I am not sure why, her optics are… Ok. She’s very simple. Not that pretty but gets the job done! And she never fails, she doesn’t need a battery and… I can’t sell her. Cause she was a gift. So she’s a keeper!
I understood that I loved the TLR EXPERIENCE but I was not sure that the Yashica was my perfect fit.
So I started a new journey, The Journey for the Perfect TLR (for me). I Tried Rolleicords, the Minolta Autocord, a Seagull…but nothing was right for me. I couldn’t find the right lens. Until…drum roll, I came across this video, “Rolleiflex 2.8e versus Mamiya C330” by Eduardo Pavez Goye:
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The moment I finished watching the video I hopped on eBay and found a Mamiya C220 with an 80mm f/2.8 lens at a wonderful price.
I saw that camera here and there on social networks but it was always described as a “Beast”,”‘Behemoth”, “Tank”. None of these names worked for me, I wanted “Light”, “Elegant”, “Petit”. After I saw the video I thought to myself this wass bad. I didn’t seem that big, not like a “Tank” anyway. The C220 was bigger then what I wanted it to be, sure, but it the 80mm f/2.8 Mamiya Sekor lens was so darn impressive that I couldn’t say no.
What do I love about that camera?
My 80mm f/2.8 blue dot lens. I love it. She has that magic that legacy glass has. Her style is unique and she paints reality much better than reality. The way she captures faces and light is amazing. I didn’t find that in any other TLR I had, not even on my Bronica GS-1 or Mamiya RZ67 SLRs. And it’s sharp. I use it at f/5.6 or f/8 and it gets the job done — every time.
I love the close focus distance. With its bellows focusing, I can get as close as 30-40cm! Seeing most TLRs can only get close as a 1 meter this one blew the competition away. It enabled me to get better portraits and close-ups.
It’s all-mechanical, there’s no battery, no moving mirror, no light meter. It makes everything much simpler. The viewfinder is HUGE AND BRIGHT! I bought two additional focusing screens to replace old and dim ones, so this a big important feature for me. I do a lot of indoor portraits and boy is it dark down that TLR chamber.
It’s great fun using, everything just works well and you can carry it around on your neck 🙂
I fell in love with the Mamiya C200 after trying many medium format cameras. I feel this is the perfect camera…for me! It answered all of my needs in a perfect way. After a two-year search for the perfect medium format camera I got it, and I got it good!
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I had the C330 with a couple of lenses. Great results from the system, but too heavy to use as a travel camera, so I sold it. I still miss it.
Thanks for sharing. Great story. Great shots. I would be interested to see your EOS 300 photos 😎