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Assessment: Mamiya Twin Lens Reflex System
Envision it really is early 1959. LIFE magazine photographers are employing their brand new Leica M-2s. Newspaper photographers are giving up the Speed Graphic in favor of medium format, or possibly even 35mm. Nikon’s best model is the SP, a modified copy of the Contax rangefinder. Imagine you want to buy a camera for skilled use. This could be studio or place portraits, photojournalism (but that word didn’t exist in 1959!), even some product shots. It wants to be at least medium format, and you require fast handling and wonderful versatility. Of course you want a twin lens reflex.
The undisputed king of the TLR was the Rollei. In 1998, you can nonetheless buy 1 of its descendants new from B&H for virtually 00.00. It was little, had a killer lens, and a superb precision feel. 1 of the Rollei’s reduce expense competitors was from a tiny-recognized Japanese company known as Mamiya. It wasn’t as little, or as smooth mechanically, and of course no Japanese lens could compare to the Zeiss planar on the Rollei. Nonetheless, the mamiya had interchangeable lenses. Not even Rollei did that.
The Mamiya Twin Lens Reflex cameras are 6×6 cameras using 120 or (in some models) 220 film which have been in production from the mid 1950’s until 1994. Mamiya regularly came out with new models which added functions and capability all through their production life. There are thousands of them out there, and they are plentiful on the utilized market place. Some have noticed heavy skilled use, some have been utilized lightly by amateurs. Some are beat up, some are still pristine. Several wedding photographers have utilized these cameras simply because you can still look by way of the finder and see a person blink at the moment of exposure. I’ve not too long ago noticed a college photographer carrying one particular of these as a backup to his motorized long roll camera.
The Japanese Yen was really robust against the US Dollar in 1993 and 1994, and that drove up costs to the point that there was really small marketplace for this technique. The story is that some of the tooling just wore out, and they could not justify retooling. As I write this in August of 1998, B&H nonetheless has a couple of new lenses and accessories for sale. The rates are fairly higher.
The pages at www.btinternet.com/~g.a.patterson/m_faq have an excellent description of all of the cameras, lenses, and accessories of this program. I won’t try to duplicate that info. At its most substantial, there have been seven lenses, six finders, sheet film backs, a number of focusing screens, and other assorted accessories.
I personal two C330-F bodies, and this overview will be primarily based mostly on my experience with them. Attributes and capabilities of other bodies are equivalent, but have some variations.
Handling and operation:
When using a waist level finder, the camera fits nicely into my left hand. It’s not little and light, but with 35mm SLRs placing on weight in the 90s, it does not really feel as heavy as it would have seemed to a Pentax MX user in 1979. Shutter release, focus, and wind controls are in logical positions for simple use. Shutter and aperture controls, are not visible from the top, you must turn the camera to the side to see and set them. The viewfinder brightness is OK, but not stellar. It is substantially simpler to compose with a Beattie focusing screen, but I am not convinced it is any less complicated (or harder) to concentrate accurately.
There is no exposure data in the viewfinder, and there are no coupled meters obtainable. Mamiya made a couple of metering finders with CdS spot meter cells. These are match needle meters, uncoupled, and almost certainly use mercury batteries. I am a huge fan of incident metering for most lighting conditions, and have practically often used a separate incident meter with this camera.
The shutter sound is much quieter than a medium format SLR considering that the TLR has no mirror flapping around or automatic diaphragm snapping shut. I consider the film wind makes a far more distracting sound than the shutter.
I personal the 65mm, 80mm, and 135mm lenses–all are the later ‘black’ models. I’ve shot a test target with only the 65mm, and the 50 linePair/mm line group was resolved very sharply at the center at all apertures, somewhat significantly less so at the corners but nonetheless sharp from at least f/five.6 and smaller. I’m convinced the resolution limits are undoubtedly up to specialist standards even now. The 135 is extremely sharp, specially at f/11 or so. The 80 is a current obtain, but preliminary outcomes appear very excellent.
The 135mm lens focuses at infinity with the bellows racked out about half way, so it is achievable to concentrate previous infinity and get nothing in focus. Other lenses concentrate at infinity with the bellows practically all of the way in.
Due to the fact of the bellows, the shorter lenses can concentrate quite closely. Of course they are not optimized for macro function, and parallax is a issue, but you can get really close.
The older "chrome shutter" lenses are reported to be pretty good also. But then, no one admits their lenses are junk except Holga users. Some of the oldest model lenses may possibly not be coated. These chrome lenses sell for significantly lower rates than the newer black models, partly since shutter parts are not obtainable. On the other hand, if the shutter has worked for 30 years, it will probably final a small longer.
The taking lenses all have leaf shutters. This implies electronic flash syncs at any shutter speed. There is also an M sync offered for use with flashbulbs. If you use M sync with electronic flash, the flash fires just before the shutter opens, and you get no flash adding light to your exposure. Numerous shutters that have been utilized by pros have the sync selector epoxied to the X position. It’s tough to bump the setting accidentally, but if you do alter it appropriate prior to the newlywed couple marches back down the aisle, it really is a disaster.
There is a regular folding waist level finder with a comparatively low power flip up magnifier. It’s compact, and works properly. There is a rigid "chimney" finder with a 3.5x complete field magnifier, and a flip up 6x lens that magnifies the center of the screen only. This finder blocks outside light considerably better than the folding finder, and I feel accurate focus is less difficult, it does not weigh any a lot more, it really is just more bulky.
Waist level viewing is reversed left to proper. With practice, you can adhere to moving subjects, but it does take practice. Every single now and then, I’m shocked when I see a photo I took with the TLR, and almost everything is reversed from the way I keep in mind seeing it in the viewfinder.
I’ve never ever used any of the eye level prisms. There is an all glass pentaprism that gives appropriate left to right viewing. There is also a porroprism, constructed from mirrors. Reports are that the pentaprism is significantly brighter. It is also heavier and much more pricey. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the porroprism finder–mainly that it is dim, and the image is modest.
Yes, there is parallax error. The viewing lens is 50mm larger than the taking lens. Some models have a finder indication where the top of frame cutoff lies. The physique has to be set for the right lens mounted for this to be accurate! You can tilt the camera to compensate, and typically this is fine. If you are trying to do precise near/far compositions, try to locate a ‘paramender’ device. This mounts amongst a tripod and the camera physique. Following composing, turning a lever raises the body so the taking lens is exactly exactly where the viewing lens was. At shooting distances for full length photographs of people, parallax is not a concern. At head and shoulder distances, it is.
Use lens hoods. The front lens components are not recessed deeply into the lens barrel, so a hood can make a huge difference. The black lenses all take either difficult to discover 46mm filters, or straightforward to locate 49mm filters. I use a 49mm tiffen metal hood with a 46 to 49 step up ring for the 80 and 135 lenses. The 65mm lens will vignette with a screw on a hood or filter, so attempt to uncover a single of the distinct Mamiya hoods for this or the 55 mm lens. These hoods clamp to the outside of the lens barrel. I epoxied a 67mm filter ring (no glass) to the inside of the box-shaped 65mm hood, and I attach filters to that and they never vignette. I chose 67mm just simply because I currently had a bunch of them for other lenses.
Except for some of the 105mm lenses, the viewing lenses have no aperture, so there is no depth of field preview. The web web page referenced above hyperlinks to a postscript program that prints out a depth of field calculator wheel. I printed this out and laminated it. This is the easiest device I’ve observed for managing depth of field with this technique. I have a tendency to trust depth of field scales far more than dim stopped down pictures on ground glass, so this works properly for me.
For users seasoned only with 35mm, the depth of field you get with medium format can be a shock. It’s narrow. Plan on stopping down about two stops a lot more than you would if shooting 35mm. Preserve reading for my comment on tripods.
If you hold down the shutter release and wind the film, the film does not stop at the next frame, it just winds on. This is a function not a bug. It lets you wind off a partially exposed roll of film rapidly. If you commence winding the film and you don’t recognize your cable release is locked, it seems like a bug.
My 330-F bodies are somewhat sensitive to early pressure on the shutter release. Push it down slightly and release, and the double exposure prevention kicks in and locks the shutter release. For numerous years, I kept the single/multi handle at multi and avoided this difficulty. If you do this, you have to be truly cautious when changing lenses to make positive each the lens and body are in matching states: shutter cocked and film wound, or shutter not cocked and film not wound. You won’t jam up anything like you can with a Hasselblad, but you can effortlessly get double or blank exposures.
As with all cameras, for maximum sharpness, use a tripod. Numerous individuals speak about how easy it is to handhold a TLR or rangefinder at slow speeds. Maybe it is true, but I am not convinced. I’ve taken good images hand held, but all of the framed 11×14 enlargements on my wall have been made with cameras bolted securely to tripods.
The Mamiya TLR is not a ideal camera. What is? But it functions well for a lot of applications. I consider it really is fantastic for person, or two individual portraits with the 135mm lens. It was a wedding photographer favorite for many years, and I’ve completed some good landscape and travel photographs with it.
Medium format has been called the fantastic compromise format. The TLR would not be my very first selection for sports photography, and when I’m chasing my kids, I use 35mm, or a Fuji 6×9 rangefinder. I can get a lot more detailed landscapes on 4×5, when I have space to carry it.
I haven’t genuinely watched the modify in prices more than the years. I’ve heard a comment that the marketplace has crashed for Mamiya TLR gear lately — no demand for anything with no meter, motor or flashing LEDs. If that is so, I think about it good news for me. I am not selling mine, and perhaps I can discover a very good inexpensive 250 mm lens now.
Overview Copyright © 1998 Mike Rosenlof. All Rights Reserved. Revised: 19 August 1998
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