The Mamiya C series is made for use with medium format film, both 120 and 220 types, and features a twin-lens reflex (TLR) system. The C series is no longer in production so these cameras will need to be purchased used. However, they are extremely affordable cameras for those who want to learn medium format film and cannot afford expensive medium format SLR cameras or don’t want something as simple as the Holga series camera. These cameras lack all modern bells and whistles and are totally manual – there is no through-the-lens (TTL) metering available, auto exposure modes, or even a need for batteries.
The Mamiya C series employs bellows focusing, which is fairly unique to TLR cameras, allowing the photographer to shoot extreme closeups. But as a twin lens camera, the photographer views through the top lens but the photograph is taken through the other, resulting in the parallax error. This error is negligible when the subject is far away but really comes into play for close objects. The photographer can compensate for this difference by adjusting the sight line so that the lens that exposes the film is pointed at the close object.
This will take some getting used to.
The Mamiya C series is also one of the very few TLR medium format cameras that offer full interchangeable lenses. In fact, there were 8 interchangeable lenses created: 2 wide angle lenses (55mm and 65mm), 3 normal lenses (80mm f2.8 and f3.5, and 105mm), and 3 zoom lenses (135mm, 180mm, and 250mm).
The Mamiya C series is available in the following models:
Mamiyaflex C – Original model, distinguished by a singular focusing knob.
Mamiyaflex C2 – Added a second focusing knob as well as improvements to the shutter and the ability to remove the hood.
Mamiya C3 – Added a film advance crank rather than a knob.
Mamiya C33 – Film advance crank redesigned to add tension to the shutter.
Mamiya C22 – Modeled after the C2 (film advance reverted to a knob) and the body was lighter overall. Available for both 120 or 220 films.
Mamiya C220 – Added small crank to the film advance knob and naturally accepted both 120 and 220 films.
Mamiya C330 – Last line in the C Series. Designed with a lighter body and added a parallax indicator in the viewfinder.
Mamiya C220f, Mamiya C330f, Mamiya C330s – Added light improvements over the respective previous models.
The ability to change lenses on the camera, along with the more inexpensive pricetag and a solid body, makes the Mamiya C series a great camera for those interested in medium format.
Beginner’s should look for the C220 or C330 to start with.