Mamiya C220 Twin Lens Reflex Medium Format

When I hear someone talking about a TLR, my mind instantly goes to Rollei. They ruled the market on high quality TLR cameras (and some others). The next best thing to a Rollei is a Mamiya from the C line of cameras. The C220 is the third camera in the Mamiya C line. It’s a new version of the C22 and a lighter version of the C330 with a few fewer features. Mamiya started making Twin Lens Reflex cameras with the Mamiyaflex line in 1949, and they’ve been getting it right ever since. There is a newer version of the C220, the C220f which they started making in 1982 and continued to sell until they discontinued the entire line in 1994. They’ve been labeled as a “poor man’s Rollei” but I don’t think that’s giving it enough credit.

TLR Cameras - size comparison
TLR camera size comparison

The C220 is a substantial camera (for an example of sizes, see the image to the right – Baby Rollei, Yashica C, Mamiya C220), much in the same way the RB67 and RZ67 are. It’s very well designed and built with features that are expertly deployed, enhancing its usability. Despite its large size (most noticeable when compared to Rollei and Yashica TLRs) the C220 isn’t clumsy, cumbersome, or excessively heavy. Instead of an aluminum brick with a finder and a lens, what you get is a versatile device that’s just as comfortable around your neck as it is on a tripod. It’s not an overly expensive camera either, and honestly I’m not 100% sure why, given the upward trend of film camera pricing. Mamiya did a great job keeping the weight and cost down while still making a great camera with features that make you want to use the camera more, not less.

The standout feature has to be its interchangeable lenses, in fact there are 6 ranging from 55mm to 250mm. So whether your thing is wide angle landscapes or portraits, the C220 is one of the most versatile 6 x 6 cameras available. Focusing those lenses is also very well thought out and implemented. The entire range of focus can be traveled in 3 1/2 turns of the focus knob making it easy to implement precise adjustments to the focal point. They also have a focusing knob on each side of the camera to make it easier no matter which is your dominant hand. The bellows has 2 1/4 inches of adjustment giving the C220 the ability to be used in a macro situation with any of the lenses and you can focus on something as close as 6 inches away.

Another feature, related to focusing, is an integrated reciprocity scale to make it easy to figure out what your exposure needs to be adjusted by with the bellows fully extended. The use of a bellows here solves one issue but creates another; the length of the bellows can affect the exposure time. The scale is attached to the left side of the focusing mechanics. Now, it’s possible that you’re like “WTF?!” Yeah, I know Bellows Extension Exposure Compensation and reciprocity don’t come up in medium format photography very often, especially if you don’t do much in the way of long exposures. Due to the length, or space between the lens and the film plane, you need to adjust the exposure time 1 or 2 stops longer, and having a scale that tells you exactly what you need to do in order to get proper exposures the first go-round.

Using the camera is simple and free of complicated or quirky procedures. The C220 line has four other finders available, and the Prism and chimney finders from the C3, C330 should fit and has an excellent magnifier, and it also has a sports finder built-in (which later versions do not) and also has the ability for the sports finder to be used with wider angle lenses through the use of a clip on magnifier lens so you get a better idea of what you’re looking at.

The lenses are amazingly sharp and have lovely Bokeh, although they are not overly fast in general (having a f/1.4 for any of the lenses would be awesome though), they are Mamiya lenses; sharp through all apertures, and excellent weight to size ratio. Most of the lenses came with metal thread-on hoods that are square stamped steel coated in the typical black crackle finish you would find on many other photographic accessories from the time. I seldom bother with lens hoods but in this case if you had to choose cost over having a hood, I would happily pay a little more for the lens if it had one; especially for the 55mm, 65mm, and 80mm. Another feature the C330 has that the C220 doesn’t is interchangeable ground glass screens. The C330 screens will not fit the C220 but Beattie Intenscreen made 6 different models. I have several Beattie Screens on a few of my other cameras, and I love them all. They are indeed noticeably brighter, and I wouldn’t mind having a grid on mine. They are easy to remove (just a few screws), just make sure you put it back together in the same order as it came out, otherwise you’ll have focusing issues as the screen will no longer be in line with the film plane.

Parallax correction

You should also be aware of the need for parallax correction as you extend the bellows. This is indicated on the exposure correction scale. As you extend thew bellows further out the top of the image that will be exposed moves down so there are two lines in the ground glass that indicate the x1.5 position and x2 position. This is just giving you an approximation, but it’s better than nothing and if you replace the ground glass, these will no longer be there unless you manually add them to the new screen. There is a section about this in the manual, which is linked to below the specifications.

The controls for the camera are well placed, accentuated when they need to be and subdued when they don’t. A lot of this stuff gets taken for granted so when a camera comes along that is well thought out, I tend to notice. The aperture adjustment is on the right of the lens along with the shutter release mechanism, so it’s easy to adjust the aperture without making it difficult to get back to the shutter release. The shutter speed is on the left, and honestly everything is setup so you can operate the camera while you hold it. I know, big whoop, but consider the size of the camera and you’re holding against your chest as you peer down through the finder. The controls are right where they need to be – this camera could be a hell of a lot more difficult to use than it is.

Being able to make multiple exposure images is a worthy inclusion, one that often gets over-looked. On the C220 it’s easy, just rotate the dial on the right side of the camera to indicate multi instead of single. Using a remote cable release is as easy as it is on most other cameras since Mamiya added a simple actuator to trigger the shutter (without having to create another lens and shutter system), so you don’t have to go through any finger gymnastics. The film counter is super easy to read too, as it’s easily twice the size if not 3 times larger than the counters on 35mm cameras. You also have the option of locking the mirror up too, another often over-looked feature which come in handy when you’re creating long exposures that are on the shorter side. If you’re dealing with exposure time longer than 1/2 second but shorter than 10 seconds I like being able to lock the mirror before I throw down. If you’re making 30 second exposures or longer any shake you get from the mirror isn’t going to matter. The mirror lock also serves as a defense to keep the lens from accidentally coming loose – which is freakishly unlikely already, but better to have it than not.

As a side note, I like the fact that both of the lenses are threaded for filters. This simple little feature makes it super easy to store a filter while it’s not in use.

The C220 is an excellent camera. It’s easy to use, fairly lightweight given its size, reliable and very versatile. In fact the only real issue I have with it is that it’s a 6 x 6 camera instead of a 6 x 7. Yeah, I know, not really fair to complain about the image format but I find myself edging back towards the 6 x 7 form factor these days but the C220 is a hell of a lot more fun to cart around than the Mamiya RB67. If you’re interested in getting into medium format and want to start off with square, you could do a lot worse than the Mamiya C220.

Oh, and no, they don’t come in red.


Mamiya C220 TLRMamiya C220 side and extendedMamiya C220 side and extendedMamiya C220 back
Mamiya C220 65mm wide angle sports finder adapterAdjustments scaleFilm type, counter and exposure type
Mamiya C220 Professional TLR with

Specifications

General:

Mamiya C220 Professional
Production: 1968 – 1982
Film: 120/220
Image size: 6cm x 6cm
Shutter: Leaf
Weight: 3lbs 6oz
Flash sync: M and X sync setting

Mirror lock up
Multiple exposure setting

Note: Every lens has its own Seikosha shutter system with a shutter speed of B, 1′ -1/500 or 1/400 sec, X or M flash synchronization and bulb mode.

Download the C220 manual.

Mamiya Sekor Lenses:

55mm
Aperture: f/4.5 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 46mm
Shutter: Seiko
65mm
Aperture: f/3.5 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 49mm
Shutter: Seiko
80mm
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 46mm/40.5mm
Shutter: Seiko
80mm
Aperture: f/3.7 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 40.5mm
Shutter: Copal
105mm
Aperture: f/3.5 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 46mm/40.5mm
Shutter: Seiko
135mm
Aperture: f/4.5 – f/45
Shutter speeds: 1 – 1/400
Filter thread: 46mm
Shutter: Seiko
180mm
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 49mm
Shutter: Seiko
Super 180mm
Aperture: f/4.5 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 49mm
Shutter: Seiko
250mm
Aperture: f/6 – f/32
Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 – 1/500
Filter thread: 49mm
Shutter: Seiko

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