5 frames with...

5 Frames With Mamiya C220: A Love and Loss Story – By Ivan Mendez

May 12, 2020

My love story with the Mamiya C Series started in the early 90s when I casually bumped into one while visiting my friend Hansel. The strange apparatus belonged to his father, Mr. Onorato, and it really caught my attention. I politely asked his father to let me play with it, and he kindly agreed. I’d never seen anything like it. The viewfinder was so large and bright, the image moved left when you panned right, and it used two lenses instead of one. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Years later, Mr. Onorato helped me purchase my first C220. I loved the interesting and unique way this camera captured light. I took this thing everywhere and shot countless photographs, until 10 years later someone broke into my car and parted with it. It wasn’t until 2008 that I was able to acquire my second C220.

As I rediscovered this magnificent machine and captured memories in it’s unique and timeless way, I also had acquired quite an array of gear. Unfortunately this was the cause of yet another break in, this time in my own apartment. The robbers took most of my photography equipment and with it my trusty Mamiya. I angrily accepted that maybe “our relationship” wasn’t meant to be.

Luckily in (2014) I was able to get my hands on my third C220. I guard it now with my life and only use it for when the time calls. To this day, it still feels like the first time when I first gazed through that dusty viewfinder at Mr. Onorato’s house.

Iván A Mendez (FoToGrAfIkA)

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  • Reply
    May 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m about to go see one of these tomorrow for purchase, and this just makes me even more convinced. Let’s hope it won’t share the fate of your first two.

    • Reply
      May 12, 2020 at 7:44 pm

      Close your eyes and take the leap of faith
      Believe me you will be very rewarded as soon as you make the peace with her

      Big hugs from Santo Domingo

      • Reply
        May 13, 2020 at 8:55 pm

        It’s sitting on my desk as we speak, and I’m VERY impressed! Already shot my first roll and had oh so much fun.

        One thing puzzles me a bit: the 80mm lens seems to focus a little bit beyond infinity with the bellows fully retracted. Is this familiar to you?

        Thanks again!

        • Reply
          September 17, 2022 at 3:17 pm

          its a very sharp and close focus lens for me is a joy to use wide open

    • Reply
      Steve Fretz
      September 17, 2022 at 1:40 pm

      I have the older C22. They’re robust machines, and the lenses can be very sharp. Hey, these were the cameras Diane Arbus used.

  • Reply
    Scott Gitlin
    May 12, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    The missing ingredient is a CDS Porrofinder which I use with my C220. It eliminates the left-right confusion and includes a built-in light-meter (also available without the meter). This will increase the already hefty weight – using this combination can replace your trips to a gym to maintain muscle strength.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you for the post and prod. Reading and looking at your images reminded me of the only 120 roll film camera that I ever owned, a Mamiya C33. I can understand your replacing your C220 and in this everything easily at hand sort of world a TLR would demand an involved relationship. The C220 rewards would be commensurate with your commitment and so satisfying when you get it right. As I write this and think about looking down into my C33’s viewfinder I am reminding myself, left right right left. May you continue to enjoy this C220 indefinitely. 👍

  • Reply
    Stephen McVullough
    May 12, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    Thank you very much for sharing the story of this relationship. Your images show that your relationship is deep and strong. Keep going…

  • Reply
    Mikey Kay
    May 12, 2020 at 11:20 pm

    I love my C330f. The only thing I didn’t lose, but gained, was a prism level viewfinder. Now no more right is left, but also much chunkier. But you’re right mate, there is something very special about these Mamiyas (or Rolleis or Yashicas etc.) TLR’s. They really do make you feel something inside when you use them, unlike any other camera I own. Pair that with a beautiful b&w film & it’s like you’re transported to another time. And they make stunning images when you get it right.

    Very nice images you have there! All the best & I hope you never have another one stolen, because that is just utterly tragic.

  • Reply
    Nigel Haycock
    May 13, 2020 at 4:59 am

    There is just something about a TLR and the C series (a C330 in my case) is just the pinnacle of how good a design can be. Congrats on what I hope is to be you final replacement and remember which way is left 😉

  • Reply
    Matthias Rabiller
    May 13, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Ah, the Mamiya C220… one would need to have a cold heart indeed not to love it :). Mine needed a bit of internal cleanup before I could use it, and it does weight a lot, but the viewfinder is a joy to look into, and the lenses are superb.

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