My impossible Mamiya C33 Twin Lens Reflex

 

 

This was my first medium format film camera. I bought it used about 15 years ago. At that time the camera may have already been more than 30 years old. It was terribly expensive, around $ 400, together with a standard 80 mm black lens that turned out to be defective.

The Mamiya C33 is a true beast of a camera. It´s the heaviest of all Mamiya TLRs. Aside from the bellows and the nice grey leatherette, most of it must be constructed of metal. Nevertheless I have had serious problems with the film transport. Unpredictably, the camera produced blank squares and double exposures every now and then.

 

 

I have shown the C33 here with a possibly even older 105 mm chrome Sekor lens that I purchased separately. When I bought this camera, it was equipped with a black 80 mm Sekor that had a sticky shutter.

There´s one little detail that makes my C33 appear like a rare exception. The authorities tell us that the C33 was the first Mamiya TLR to feature an automatic shutter cocking device. As you can clearly see in the following picture, mine has none.

 

 

I have no doubt that my camera is a true C33. Its name is engraved on the front frame, and there are no signs that indicate that someone has exchanged the front frame later. It also has the blue insert in the frame counter window that the older C3 lacks. Maybe it´s one of the first cameras of the C33 series, and maybe the cocking lever was added later. I don´t know.

 

 

The chrome 105 mm f/3,5 Sekor lens has a much smaller filter thread than all the later black lenses. It´s only 40.5 mm in diameter. The structured chrome rings at the front of both the viewing and the taking lens are not stiffening rings as with the bigger lenses with 49 mm filter threads. These are true threaded rings. But they are just as delicate as the thin filter threads on the big black lenses, and chrome lenses with bent or dented filter threads are just as common. The filter rings on my lens show remains of black varnish, but I don´t know wether this colour is original or not.

 

 

I also have a chrome 180 mm f/4.5 Sekor lens. It´s the oldest version since it doesn´t have an extension lever for the automatic shutter cocking device (no problem since this is missing on my C33 anyway). This lens is apparently in good cosmetic condition, aside from the dust on the front element.

 

 

But it´s unusable, though. When viewed at a certain angle, some of the lens elements appear as if they are covered with greasy droplets. This odd fluid is said to be the result of disintegrated lens coating. I cannot confirm the composition of the droplets, but I know that this problem cannot be solved. It´s simply impossible to clean the lens elements if this problem has occurred.

 

 

 

The above pictures show how this degradation may look like. Check older chrome Sekor lenses carefully before you buy them!