The search for a medium format film camera.

I was wanting to get more into shooting medium format film, but the big question was: on what camera?! A camera type that has always fascinated me is the TLR (twin-lens reflex). These cameras are very recognizable for their double stacked lenses and down-looking "waist-level" viewfinders, but the most well known brands (Hasselblad and Rolleiflex) come at pretty outrageously high costs. Mamiya, though, is more on the affordable side. Looking into Mamiyas and various examples of shots taken by them, I found that I really liked the images they produced. And so Mamiya it was.

The Mamiya C220

The Mamiya C220 was manufactured in the 1970's by the Japanese camera manufacturer Mamiya. It is a twin-reflex lens camera that shoots 120 and 220 film. TRL cameras use the upper lens for focusing and framing, but then the actual shot is taken through the lower lens. This means that you need to compensate slightly for the parallax that will occur (there are helpful compensation guides within the viewfinder).

A few unique things about the C220: It allows for interchangeable lenses, employs a bellows for focusing, and can shoot multiple exposures. With the lenses not being fixed to the body, you can change to a zoom or a wide, and if you ever have a malfunctioning lens you can simply replace it without having to overhaul the whole camera. In the case of the bellows, instead of turning a focus ring, you extend the fixed lens out via an accordion-like bag (the bellows) to gain closer focus; this works as a sort of "tube extension" and allows very close focusing for macro shooting. And with multiple exposures you can expose the same piece of film multiple times for creative effect.

A quick Ebay search brought up a few buying options, and then it was just about examining images and reviews, and looking for scrapes and dings. And then ordering. I found one for about $200 from an Osaka-based Japanese camera shop called Wakkie's Camera Store. $200 isn't cheap, but also not too crazy expensive. When it arrived I found, unfortunately, that the lens did not fire, the shutter wouldn't prime or release. Thankfully this was not a camera body problem, it was a lens problem, and lenses can be replaced or repaired. Wakkie's was super helpful and reimbursed me for a replacement lens, and so I ended up ordering two lenses: an 80mm F2.8 and 105mm F3.5 (equivalents on a full frame are 50mm and 85mm).

The next step was to test if everything worked by heading out and shooting a roll of film. Things to look for: shutter firing correctly, aperture opening and closing accurately, no light leaks, film advancing smoothly, and pictures showing up. I shot a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus (400iso) with my daughter and wife out in a field nearby our home. With no built-in light-meter, I used a simple light meter app "Exponometer" on my iphone to check and record exposure. After shooting I took the film home and developed it in my bathroom. Here are my results:

All the negatives laid out on my light table.

iphone vs film: I forgot to compensate for the parallax on this one and cut off the top of Jinny's hand.

Charlotte in the tall grass.

Tried out some double exposures. Each shot at 1/500th x 2 at F5.6 = 1/250 total at F5.6

A nice progression from ground to sky. All shot on the 80mm lens (50mm full frame equivalent).

Overall, I'm extremely happy with the camera and lens. It's a lot of fun to shoot with and I can't wait to get out and shoot some more... next time with color film :)