So there I was, wandering around the indoor car boot sale at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth, when I spied what looked like an old camera bag. I unzipped it and saw "Mamiya" on the top of a big aluminium Twin Lens Reflex camera.
When the seller said they only wanted a tenner, I passed over the cash and grabbed my prize without really having a good look. I knew that Mamiya made expensive profesional cameras, and this was a TLR, just what I've been looking for, for a long time.
TLR's are rather unique - you compose your image by looking down into the top of the camera. With a Twin Lens Reflex the lower lens is the one that actually takes the photo, and the upper the lens you're looking through to compose your image.
This camera is heavy. I know you can hand-hold it, and it does have lugs for a neck strap, but I had to put it on a tripod. It's difficult to describe how different it is to look at your composition through the view-finder. The viewfinder almost creates a three dimensional image - this is probably because of the small depth of field that can be achieved with these large cameras - and it looks magical.
Taking 120 Roll Film, my Mamiya C33 produces beautifully large negatives. It's a little worn around the edges - the lever that protects the film from light during a lens change doesn't work, and the hinge on the film back looks like its on its last legs, but as you can see from these images this camera can still deliver the goods.
The exposures in some cases were a little off, so more testing will have to show whether it was a lazy (slow) shutter or me using my light-meter wrongly....
The film I used for these shots was Ilford FP4 Plus, and I developed the negatives myself in Paterson Tanks using PQ Universal Developer, Ilfostop and Ilford Rapid Fixer. I scanned the negatives with an Epson V500 scanner.
As you probably already know, I'm a big fan of film cameras, not just as an end in themselves but also as a tool for photographers to improve their digital images. By having to take all the extra time to set up a shot with a Mamiya C33, or any TLR Camera, you are teaching yourself to be much more careful with all your photo's in general. You will find yourself really looking around your dSLR (or digital compacts) viewfinder for distractions and elements that take away from your subject - surely a good thing.
So keep an eye out for a cheap TLR. I love mine, even though using it is a reall effort. There's a real satisfaction from lugging my Mamiya C33 to a location and getting some half-decent shots - it's all very deliberate, and incredible relaxing, strangely enough!