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TLR - For a beginner

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by yellowballoon, Sep 7, 2007.

  1. yellowballoon

    yellowballoon New Member

    I am new to medium-format photography, as I am normally a Sony DLSR and Minolta SLR user. I am interested in purchasing a second-hand medium format camera for a low price (under £200-£250). Am I really getting my hopes up for nothing, or is this viable. My father tells me I should look at a TLR camera, but these look heavy, expensive and hardly practical...but maybe I am wrong!
    Anyway, I hope you can help me out, and give me some advice!
    Many thanks.
  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Heavy? For medium format, they're light and cheap. Practical depends on how well you can get on with them - I love the Rolleis.
  3. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Bulky, yes, but most of the innards is only air. A complete, loaded & ready-to-shoot Rolleicord or Rolleiflex weighs about the same as a Canon EOS 5D, before you attach the lens to the DSLR.

    You should be able to get a usable Rolleicord III or V for under £100. A Rolleiflex T will be more expensive but you should be able to find a respectable one well under £200. IMO the British copies made by MPP (Microcord & Microflex) are superior (at any rate the Ross Xpress outperforms the Zeiss Tessar) and are usually even cheaper.

    The essential difference between the 'cord and the 'flex is that the 'flex has a easy-action lever winder instead of a knob and the focusing knob is on the other side. Not really a big issue.

    With all of these, watch out for shutters which stick open when set at low speeds. A cheap and easy repair but it's still better to get one that works properly in the first place.

    As an alternative ISTR the Chinese make (or did until very recently) a TLR branded "Seagull". Don't know what you'd be expected to pay for one...
  4. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    TLRs are an acquired taste, you either like them or hate them. I had a Yashicamat 124g for a while some years ago, it was capable of some good results, but the camera is a totally different experience to an SLR. The slow operation renders them less than ideal for any kind of action photography, but like most medium format cameras leads to a more considered approach to what you are doing. There is no fire off 30 frames and delete the poorest, after a while these cameras will almost certainly improve your photography, within their limitations. I bought mine in the time when I was using a Mamiya 645 extensively, mainly for the square format of the 124g, but concluded that I greatly preferred the operation of the Mamiya, partly because of the pentaprism, as opposed to the wlf of the Yashica.

    If you can take the weight, try a 645 with pentaprism, it is within your budget and although heavier than a tlr it is much more familiar in handling. The 15 on 120 is reasonably inexpensive to use as the machine gun attitude is not present when using medium format cameras.
  5. Garry McNamara

    Garry McNamara Well-Known Member

    TLRs are generally smaller and lighter than the average 35mm SLR - the Yashica being particularly so -

    Yashica 1100g
    Nikon D80 and 18-70mm 1100g!

    You can pick a decent one up for £100-120 so what's the risk? If you hate it you'll get about the same back in three months time.

    There's less to play with on a TLR and you can't splurge on more lenses but actually have to get down to taking pictures - good ones! You'll find you go out with one camera instead of a camera body and three lenses - which in effect makes them very light!

  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Rather more of an issue is that the 'Cord shutter isn't self-cocking, nor does it have double exposure prevention. It also has a slower viewing lens, and except for the Vb, a darker screen - those are the real handling differences, and they're certainly more important than knob wind v leverwind IMHO. Oh, and the position of the focusing knob on the 'Cord varies according to model - on all models up to and including the V, it is indeed on the "other" side, but on the Va and Vb, it moved across to the "correct" side for a Rollei.
  7. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    I think the other posts have well covered TLR's for you but you do say "medium format" not a TLR necessarily. So I'm going to draw your attention to something quite different. A fifty year old folder which will take 6x6 photos about as good as it gets but will fit in a coat pocket. The Agfa Super Isolette made in about 1957. I've been using one for many years and results are truly outstanding. You would probably find this style of camera quite easy to adapt to from modern cameras. As for any camera of this age it would need checking over and a CLA (clean,lubricate and adjust) by a good camera mechanic. Buying it from a specialist vintage camera shop would be probably be best.
  8. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    A long time ago I had an Ensign Selfix 820 which took 8 frames of 6x9 cm on a roll of 120 or 620 film. (I think it was intended to take 620 but I found 120 fitted and worked without any problem). Super lens - Ross Xpress 105mm f/3.8. When folded up it was only about the size of an OM-1 body only and it certainly wasn't any heavier. However with modern films the limiting factor would be that the fastest shutter speed was 1/100 sec. ISTR there were also Selfixes in 12-on-120 (square) and 16-on-120 (6x4.5) format, also with Xpres lenses but obviously shorter focal lengths to suit the smaller format.

    If you're thinking about a folder my main concern would be to find one without pinholes in the bellows - I doubt that many which haven't had a bellows transplant will still be in a usable condition.
  9. Mikerocks

    Mikerocks Well-Known Member

    I have just bought a Mamiya 645 and I really like it. It does make you slow down and think about the photo you are taking more than a 35 mm SLR or much much more than a dSLR. I mostly take landscapes and the camera is not too much to put into my rucsac for the day.

    I picked up my first film on Wednesday and the slides it took are stunning (well the ones I got the exposure right for anyway).

  10. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I find folders very difficult to hold - I've used a fair few over the years, most recently a Selfix 820 Special - the lens is decent, but I simply found it very much harder than a TLR to use effectively. And they're not cheap - I sold it for twice the price I paid for my Rolleicord Vb, which produces much better pictures. Don't know about the plain vanilla 820, but the 820 Special certainly took 120 only.
  11. Garry McNamara

    Garry McNamara Well-Known Member

    Yes - folders are brilliant value - here's a couple of shots from a £6.50 Agfa Isolette. I don't know the model but it's the black bakerlite one.

    I haven't sharpened these scans - the smaller image shows the fantastic quality in an enlargement of the main image.

    No problem with the bellows on this camera, which is probably 50 years old.


  12. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member

    I have to agree about folders, I bought a Franka Solida 111 and was really surprised at the image quality.

    Regarding TLR's I would suggest you look at the Meopta Flexaret V11, it can shoot 6x6 or 6x4.5 on 120 or 35mm with the filn adapter kit. The 5 bladed Prestor shutter provides speeds 1-500 + B, the lens is a Meopta Belar 80mm f/3.5-22 Lens. The shutter cocks automatically when the film is advanced but can be cocked independantly. The Aperture can be locked to the shutter speed so the once the EV is known, any change to the shutter speed automatically changes the aperture. Both can be set independantly. The only complaint is that the screen is not as bright as some othe TLR's.

    AP tested the camera (3rd July 1968) the general verdict was

    I bought mine See Here on ebay from Gold Camera, they can be had for around £50.

  13. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Yes, especially given the shutter speeds. I found it helped to use a cable release rather than just the short solid screw-in shutter release which was very awkwardly placed. Also, to get really sharp images, you needed to be a good judge of distance - no focusing aids, just a distance scale.

    I certainly agree that, pulling down and in against the strap, a TLR can easily be hand-held at surprisingly slow speeds - 1/30 sec ought to be possible for most people. But the rather dim, reversed view presented by TLR viewfinders makes focusing and framing awkward until you get the hang of it.

    Don't know about current prices on Selfixes. I lost mine during a family move 30 years ago :(
  14. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    They're not all dim...
  15. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Are TLRs all 6x6? Actually I've heard of a 'baby' Rollei using smaller film, but other than that, are there variations on the film size?
  16. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Most are. There were a number that used 127 film for 4x4 pictures - the Baby Rolleiflexes being the best-known, but there were others - Ricoh, for example. The Baby Rollei is a lovely little camera, and 4x4 ("superslide") a great format.

    In other sizes, there has been the Gowlandflex - 6x7, and also I believe large format versions.

    And of course there was the original Zeiss Contaflex 35mm TLR, a camera of extraordinary beauty and desirability.

    On top of that, several TLRs could take 35mm film, either out of the box or with an adaptor, and several Rolleis also allow something pretty close to 645 on 120, and even 4x4 on 120.
  17. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Is 127 still available? I don't recall seeing any listed anywhere? The idea of a slightly smaller than average TLR is quite tempting...
  18. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Yes, although it's not that easy to track down - generally needs a Google session every time...
  19. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Careful! You'll be back in 'buying mode' before you know it if you keep on talking like that. ;-)
  20. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    For 645 or 4x4 even if you can't get an adapter you can mount a mask in the viewfinder. You do waste film, though.

    Another issue is that the focal length of the fixed lens may be rather too long for the smaller formats (this applies especially to 35mm, though the ~75mm lens is useful for portrait work on 35mm).

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