The Mamiya C330 Professional is a twin lens reflex (TLR); the upper lens is only for the viewfinder, while the lower lens is only for picture taking. It takes 120 roll film, giving a 56x56mm (6x6cm) square photo. Rare amongst TLRs is the interchangeable lens facility, where you can change the pair of lenses on the front of the camera. My sole lens pair is the Mamiya-Sekor 65mm f/3.5, which seems to cover most (if not all) of what I use the camera for. Quite a lovely piece of glass, too.
I chose the Mamiya as an affordable entry into medium format, being as it was priced considerably lower than alternatives such as Rollei TLRs and Hasselblad single lens reflexes (SLR: one lens for both viewing and taking). The price difference does show a bit in terms of outright build quality, but it hasn’t fallen apart or failed, so it’s obviously put together well enough. The only build issue I have had is the focus screen seals, which perished and left black specks through the viewfinder field. I fixed this by dismantling the screen (it only takes a few screws), scraping out the old seals and wire brushing the metal. I used optical cleaner on the glass and the plastic fresnel screen, then reassembled it with black felt seals. Black felt (and wool) is my preference when replacing seals, as it’s durable and much less prone to perishing than foam.
Speaking of viewfinders, I use the standard waist level finder. While not the brightest viewfinder in the world, the large field of view facilitates easy composition, with a flip-up magnifier taking the pain out of manual focusing. Of all my manual focus cameras, this has been the easiest to accurately focus. Then again, it also happens to have the largest focusing control of any camera I’ve encountered… Ease and accuracy of focusing is important when shooting medium format, given the format’s inherently limited depth of field, and relatively high cost of film and processing. When each roll of 120 film only yields 12 shots in this camera, and costs far more than a typical 36 shot film to purchase and process, you tend to be less comfortable with the concept of making mistakes.
Along the lines of things going wrong, be wary of some lenses. As with anything that uses a leaf shutter, the shutter can lag at slower speeds, or fall badly out of adjustment. This is more about checking things carefully and asking the right questions before buying. Fortunately, shutters are often repairable, and in this instance, you can remedy the fault immediately by fitting a lens with a working shutter. Generally, though, the newer, the better; the older Mamiya-Sekor lenses with chromed shutter bodies are widely regarded as the least reliable. My 65mm is a newer, all-black variety, and has never had any shutter issues. The glass front elements are noticeably scratched, though, indicating a soft coating. Photos are unaffected by this (thus far), so I’m fairly happy to leave it as it is.
After living with the C330 Professional for four years, I have only two complaints: the exposure controls are difficult to read from above, and I wish I’d fixed the finder hood so that it popped up properly on its own. That’s it. Four years, and I only have two complaints. One of them can even be fixed with a little fettling. It’s testament to the workmanlike design ethos of the TLR; relatively simple, utterly reliable, and a joy to use. It’s hard to ask much more of a camera than that.
So, after four years of ownership, I can conclude the following: The Mamiya C330 Professional is an affordable, easily repaired, reliable camera which is joyous to use. Paired up with some gorgeous glass and quality film, it’s capable of turning out solid results. Factoring all this in, it lives up to everything a decent camera should be. Just a shame it’s been out of production for so long…