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TLR brand differences, lens choices

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by JDCB, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. JDCB

    JDCB Well-Known Member

    Having previously sold a Mamiya 645, I'm having withdrawal symptoms and am considering getting back into MF. I think I'm sold on 6x6 - the format appeals to me. There is however no chance that I'm going to spend more than £500, so used TLRs appeal. I'm pretty sure I can live without interchangeable backs, but know nothing of the quality of the various brands available. My intention would be to use the camera for "intimate" landscapes - no sweeping vistas, but rather tighter compositions, so a standard lens will probably do, although a 60mm would probably be ideal.

    With a hypothetical £400 to spend, which camera would members suggest? From looking at the internet, that sort of money includes everything from Yashicas to Rolleis. Is there a huge quality difference between a £199 Mamiya C330 and a Rollei 3.5 at £400?

    Thanks for any assistance

  2. skellum

    skellum Well-Known Member

    Hi James. I've never shot Rollei cameras, but can comment on Yashica and Mamiya.
    I use a pair of Mamiya C330 proS 's. Bullet proof reliability and very versatile. I have 55, 80, 135 and 250mm lenses. There are also 65, 105 and 180's out there.
    Interchanging lenses is pretty swift, with reliable interlocks to prevent accidental exposure. In the viewfinder you get a parallax warning and exposure compensation factor (it has bellows focussing, so goes very close). Mamiya also made eye level prisms, parallax correctors (paramenders) and left hand grips to make the cameras more managable. All in all, they were a real system camera, so if you get to liking your big Mamiya brick (sorry, TLR) like I do then they are very handy.
    On the down side, they do take a little getting used to and they are now all getting old. Also, they are non-metering so expect to pick up a meter and refresh your exposure guesstimation skills. As for optical quality, mostly very good. Yesyerday I was making 16 inch square prints from my mamiya negs and they are VERY sharp and rich in detail.
    Yashica- consider a Yashicamat 124G. GREAT (fixed) lens, small, very quiet, has built in CDS meter which is low-tech but puts you in the ball park. Prone to dim viewfinders, with no system back up, except for the odd close-up lens and VERY rare wide/tele converters. These go on the front of the lens and are opticaly , well, a 'compromise'. If you can live with the limitations they are lovely to use.
    In terms of optical quality they will still give big 16 or 20 inch prints without trouble, thanks to the big negative. Again, I recently printed some old stuff from 124G and was knocked out by the crispness of the prints. Certainly at smaller print sizes the results will be pin sharp.
    Rolleiflexes? As far as I know they suffer from the same limitation of a single fixed lens. Reputedly they're stellar performers but you'll need someone else to chime in . .
    PS What about an old Hasselblad? Or something Russian??
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Well I would always go for a Rolleiflex, but then they are the best cameras ever made. ;)

    I wouldn't touch a Yashicamat 124G - the film transport mechanism is pretty flimsy and liable to failure, and the lenses certainly aren't as good as the Rollei's Xenotar or Planar, although nearly as good as the Xenar or Tessars. Personally, I don't like the Mamiyas purely because they're so big and heavy, and really need to be used on a tripod IMHO, which rather negates the appeal of a TLR for me. If you really need interchangeable lenses in a TLR, a Mamiya is your only option; if not, Rolleiflex, Rolleiflex, Rolleiflex. ;)
  4. Mojo_66

    Mojo_66 Well-Known Member

    Another vote for the Mamiya 330, it's heavy, but I manage to amble up a few fells in the Lakes with it, and being a TLR with no mirror slap I find I can shoot at 1/60 just using a neck strap, I do prefer to go for a faster shutter speed though if I can. I've found Mamiya lenses to be superb, loads of detail and nice and crisp. Very reasonably priced too at the moment. Never tried a Rollei, but I believe due to the film loading system the film can sometimes kink if left in the camera for any length of time, but as I say I've never tried one and am happy to be corrected on that matter.
  5. OneTen

    OneTen 'Two Breakfasts'

    I had the Mamiya C330f with 55, 80 and 135mm lenses.

    - I found the lenses to be good rather than excellent when it comes to sharpness.
    - I never found the weight an issue, easy to hand hold successfully.
    - Takes a bit of getting used to but I thoroughly enjoyed using mine.
    - I regret selling it.

    I've been looking recently at buying another one. This time I wouldn't bother with several lenses and just stick with the 80mm which now opens up a similar question to yours, should I look at Rolleis? Good luck with your decision
  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Certainly the results from the Mamiya are generally very good - I've seen the results from some duff lenses, but for the most part I rate Mamiya lenses highly. For me, the tripod issue is central to which to choose - if you want to use it mainly on a tripod, get the Mamiya, mainly hand-held, get a Rolleiflex. Of course you could always get a 220 AND a Rolleicord... :D
  7. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Well-Known Member

    A lot depends on whether you want interchangable lenses. If not, then get a Rolei. If yes, then get a Mammy. I never couldd get on with TLRs, but my wife gets great results with her C330 and the lenses seem to be superb.

    For landscape work, you might benefit from something smaller and lighter, though. If you want to stay with 6 x 6 you could probably get a Mamiya 6 rangefinder and a standard lens with your budget. They are great cameras with superb lenses and work well either hand held or on a tripod.
  8. JDCB

    JDCB Well-Known Member

    Thank you all - good ideas to ponder on.

    Just to get me into the ball park, is this a good buy, and good value at £349?

    Rolleiflex 3.5E, signs of use, includes leather case


  9. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Depends entirely on condition, where you're buying it from, etc. etc.

    If it's generally pretty clean, lenses are perfect, no stickiness at slow shutter speeds, focusing is smooth and accurate, and there's a decent guarantee, that's OK.

    EDIT: I see it's from Ffordes, so there's no risk. Just check that there's a strap with the case and camera - they can be very expensive!

    I personally prefer the F to the E, as the E has an uncoupled meter (if it works) and uses the EV method of exposure setting, but it's a fairly minor point. Only other real difference is that the finder and screen aren't removable on the E, but it's a very capable camera. But overall a very decent camera, and a fair price, I think.
  10. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    Seconded. A bog standard C330(f) weighs in at a mere 100g more than my F5. Course, you'll need a light meter, unless you're good at guestimating. I've carried mine up the lakes, on ice climbs (with a tripehound 'n all), and many, many a rambles here and there. They're tough and the lenses are good, with the possible exception of the 250mm. The 55mm is a superb lens, as sharp as a tack. Handling is made immeasurably better with the trigger grip. A big plus IMO is the fact that should your lens bite the dust, you don't have to send the whole camera away for repair as you would with a Rollei, Yashicamat etc.
  11. parisian

    parisian Well-Known Member

    Have to agree with Nick. The Rollei is most certainly the finest camera ever made and if you pick up a good one then you are set for several lifetimes.
    A perfect match of design, build, functionality, feel and overall class.
    Photography in the purest sense.
    For all the above reasons - yes.
  12. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    <Grumble, mutter, mutter, LINHOF, mutter, ALPA, mutter, mutter...>

  13. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Hmphh, yes it's very good, but IMO the Microcord/flex is a better camera than the equivalent Rollei, the Ross Xpress is a better lens than the Tessar especially at the corners and especially at wide apertures.
  14. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    But we're not talking about the poxy Tessar, we're talking Planar or Xenotar, either of which whoops tha ass of the Xpress. Further, there are less problems with the Rollei.
  15. parisian

    parisian Well-Known Member

    Quite right, the only debate really, (actually a gentle, gentlemans discussion over a quiet G&T) is the sharpness issue between the Planar and Xenotar and the aesthetics of the physically larger lens.
    As with the German cousins at Leica, the only folk who 'knock' Rollei are those who have never owned or used them.
  16. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Umm, I said equivalent - there is no MPP equivalent to the Rollei 3.5F.

    Next thing you'll accuse me of rubbishing Rollei for suggesting that the B35 might be somewhat inferior to a Leica MP. Which it is. However the Rollei 35S is a very, very fine camera indeed, for a fixed-lens distance-scale 35mm compact.
  17. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Precisely, and as it was a 3.5E with a Planar under discussion I couldn't really see what point you were trying to make by bringing the MPP up...

    As to the 35S, you really don't need to preach to me about them - I have a couple of them. The Triotar on the B35 is OK, particularly by f11, but really nothing special at wide aperture. FWIW, the 40mm f2 Summicron-C is better than the 40mm f2.8 and f2.3 Sonnars, IMHO.
  18. GeoffC

    GeoffC Well-Known Member

    Ah, but you only say that because your Microflex doesn't work! /forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif

    Besides, everyone knows the Flexaret is the best. :D
  19. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler


    All my Rolleis do, though!

    :D :D
  20. John_K

    John_K Well-Known Member

    Briefly - Yes.
    Whilst mamiyas are very well made and engineered, a real quality Rollie 3.5F can be described as the 'mutts nuts'.

    The definition of the F3.5 Planar lens is OUTSTANDING! So much so that I had to modify my developing technique to counter the extra contrast that the lens gave.
    Yes they are old, yes they are expensive, but will outlast a Mamiya by a lifetime. My only niggle is the screens can be scratched by now and they are difficult to find in good condition and as the camera will be expensive.

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