I had the chance finally to take my Mamiya C330 Professional out for a spin and run two rolls of Ilford Delta 400 120 through it. This had been on my to-do list since the beginning of 2019 when I made this post: New Year’s Resolution: Shoot More Film in 2019. Subjects included a few around-the-house shots, and a wonderful young woman, Melissa, who accompanied my wife Coralie and me along the Georgetown waterfront under the Whitehurst Freeway, as we strolled along heading for Chaia Tacos and Hill & Dale Records. During the shoot, I had my suspicions something wasn’t quite right with the camera. When I returned home, developed the film, and cast my eyes upon the first set of negatives, I realized something definitely was amiss. Sometimes, equipment malfunctions create happy accidents. Read on.
The Mamiya C330 Professional requires a bit of getting used to. You just can’t pick up this camera cold and start shooting with it. A detailed reading of the user manual is in order to learn how to do everything from opening the back cover, loading film, changing lenses, swapping out the distance scale, to advancing the film and taking pictures. After about 20 minutes of familiarity training, I loaded a roll of film and scouted the house looking for image opportunities.
In times like these I get a bit lazy and default to the back yard. I never grow tired of taking pictures of dead grass and Christmas tree lights, and the backyard has become a sort of proving ground for newly acquired cameras and lenses.
It was here I first felt a glitch in the Matrix. I advanced the film wind crank, which cocks the shutter, but the shutter didn’t stay cocked. Instead, it tripped at the very end. “Hmmm”, I thought. I took a few more pictures and everything worked normally. So, into the house I went, looking for more targets. I spied the cat laying on the sofa in a shaft of glorious light. Fair game.
Again, the glitch in the Matrix strikes, with ramifications I have yet to fully comprehend. I continue shooting and get what I think is a cool shot of the cat. Full disclosure – this is not our cat. Nope. It’s a community cat that likes to hang out in our house. Now, I have a soft spot for any critter that presents itself at my door, and kindness such as this becomes known throughout the animal kingdom. Word gets out and spreads like wildfire. If you’re hungry and happen to be passing by, dog, cat, bird, mouse, doesn’t matter, stop in for a snack and a square meal. On a typical day, Cat-Cat La Chat, as we call her, eats and retires to the couch, where she snoozes until recharged and ready to return to the rough and tumble outdoors.
Walking around with the Mamiya C330 Professional is no picnic. It’s easily three times as heavy as the venerable Yashica Mat 124G and twice as complicated to use. The Yashica Mat 124 G is perhaps one of my favorite cameras of all time, ranking up there with the Nikon F3HP, but the Yashica feels like a little, rattly, tin can of a camera compared to the Mamiya. (Regardless of how it feels in the hand or how it compares in weight to the Mamiya, the Yashica renders incredible images.) If I had to negotiate a tough neighborhood, I’d grap the Mamiya, as it can serve as quite an effective weapon!
Well, like anything, it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it, but it’s a real beast of a camera, weighing in at close to 4 pounds with the 80mm lens attached. To make extended carry more comfortable, I use the UPstrap-Pro Large M Pad with Quick Release strap, model M-QR-K, which runs $60 available from upstrap-pro.com. This is, by far, my favorite camera strap.
It’s also cool to be seen with this camera, as the picture above attests to. I was loitering outside Bluemercury while Coralie received a makeover, when a guy walks up and says, “Hey, cool camera!” Wearing this camera is like strolling the street with a hot chick on your arm; other guys just wanna be you! Seriously, though, you don’t see a twin lens reflex (TLR) camera very often out in the wild nowadays. It’s the rarity of such sightings that bring camera aficionados in for a closer look and a kind word. I get the same treatment with the Yashica Mat 124G or a Rolleiflex. TLRs just look, well, strange, especially in the smart-phone-digital-camera age. It’s a great ice-breaker, and it’s not just TLRs. If you’re shy and find it hard to approach people, simply parade around with a classic camera, and sooner or later, someone will buy you a drink.
We stopped along Water street in the vicinity of the Berliner to take a few pictures of Melissa. Again, the glitch in the Matrix.
I cranked the lever for another shot and again, everything worked fine. On we walked to Chaia Tacos.
If you haven’t yet paid Chaia Tacos a visit, I highly recommend making the effort. You won’t be disappointed. Melissa is a regular and knows the ropes. She recommended the Creamy Kale and Potato taco and when I tasted it, it became my favorite as well. We each ordered three tacos. I rounded out my three-taco order with a Braised Mushroom and a Black Bean with Scrambled Eggs.
Upstairs, after ordering, I took several more shots. This time I saw the glitch occur. Occasionally, the film wind lever wasn’t moving the shutter cocking arm all the way down into the locked position, this allowed it to make a double exposure as I followed through with the film advance, even though the multi-exposure knob was set to SINGLE. From that point forward, I manually cocked the shutter and the camera performed flawlessly.
We arrived finally at Hill & Dale Records where I used the last frame on the roll to take one last picture of Melissa before Coralie and I headed home. If you’re an audiophile and love the sound of vinyl, this is the place to go for classic and recent pressings, unique, signed photographs of bands and artists of all genres, and cool, hard-to-find posters.
Had the camera not malfunctioned, I doubt I would have experimented with double exposures. But I have to admit, I like the results obtained from these types of happy accidents.
Rick Miller, Falls Church, VA – 22 February 2020