Mamiya TLR 105mm 3.5 DS Lens

Oh, how I had dreamed about adding this lens to my relatively newly put together Mamiya C330f kit. I had read about it online; about how it’s supposed to have this heliar-type design that gives you this magical creamy smooth out-of-focus areas… And then there is the fact that it is the only Mamiya TLR lens with built-in self timer. By necessity, I use myself as a subject for a lot of my studio shots, and a self timer on a film camera is therefore a blessing for me. There are cable releases, of course, but the longer ones, which I would need for a self portrait, don’t always work that well. I actually have a self-timer on my Yashica 635, but I’ve never dared to use it, because I’ve read horror-stories about how trying to use it messes up the camera for some reason.

I came across the 105mm DS on KEH’s outlet on that big auction site a few weeks ago. It was listed in “ugly” condition, and priced accordingly. I’ve bought “ugly” gear from KEH before, and the worst I had ever gotten was a lens with a very tiny crack in the front element that had absolutely no effect on image quality as far as I could tell. I don’t care if my gear looks ugly, as long as the images it produces are not affected I’m game for any beaten up piece of photography gear. This Mamiya 105mm DS made me nervous when it arrived though. Turns out that it has balsam separation on the front element of the viewing lens and on the rear element of both the viewing and taking lenses. It’s not minor either. But I become attached to anything photography very easily and I decided to give it a try… With an old expired Kodak Tri-X Pan film.

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I was convinced that the Tri-X Pan was a 100 ISO film, and because it was about 18 years past its expiration date, I over-exposed it by a stop. Why would I ever think that Kodak Tri-X would be ISO 100 film is a mystery to me now, since it has never been produced as such, and in more recent decades it has only been made in 400 and 320 speeds, but thankfully I discovered my mistake when I was going to develop it and ended up pulling the film by a stop during development compared to the recommended development time. It still came out over exposed, but not a complete failure.

But back to that lens. I specifically took a shot that would show off the out-of-focus areas to put the reputed “creamy-smoothness” to test. This is a photo of the clay frog we have by the pond in our back yard. I shot it wide open to really separate the frog from the background and foreground.

(Mamiya C330f, 105mm 3.5 DS lens, expired Kodak Tri-X Pan 400, developed in Ilford DD-X)


Are the out-of-focus areas really creamy smooth? Well, I’d like to believe that, if for nothing else, to convince myself that I made a good purchase. At a minimum, they are pleasing to my eye. That counts for something, right?

Next up was of course to test how well the lens holds up when shot into sun, considering that that’s where any issues related to balsam separation show up the most, or so I’ve read. Presumably, it can cause your photos to have this milky ugly splotch on them.

(Mamiya C330f, 105mm 3.5 DS lens, expired Kodak Tri-X Pan 400, developed in Ilford DD-X)


I don’t really know what to think. Is the whiteness on my baby boy’s head the milky splotch that people describe? If it is, it’s not much worse than shooting any other lens into sun without lens hood. I probably need to test this a little more and with a good non-expired true 100 ISO film, not an expired 400 ISO film that I think is slower than it really is.

Just for the fun of it, here’s another shot from the test roll – “golden hour” on black and white in my back yard shot with the sun behind me. I’ve decided that I like the “golden hour” more in black and white than I like it in color.

(Mamiya C330f, 105mm 3.5 DS lens, expired Kodak Tri-X Pan 400, developed in Ilford DD-X)


All in all, I was actually pleasantly surprised about my rather messed up “ugly” lens. These photos probably don’t do it justice – not only was the film expired and over-exposed and probably had some extra grain due to age, because I over-exposed the film, I had to pump up the ISO on my digital camera when taking photos of the negatives on the light table to get a useable digital copy of them, making these digitized version of the images look worse than the negatives. I know one thing though –  I will NOT be returning this lens. 🙂

2 responses to “Mamiya TLR 105mm 3.5 DS Lens

    • Thanks, Chris! I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to some things, like clothelines 🙂 I much prefer the fresh smell of laundry that has been dried outside to laundry that comes out of a dryer.

      Liked by 1 person

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