Twin Lens Reflex cameras
Why buy a TLR in a digital age?
apart from being perhaps a collectors item and a prop for photography, there are not many good reasons to buy a TLR instead of a digital SLR, but you may consider one if you don't already own a medium format outfit AND:
you wish to try infrared film photography:
medium format film allows larger enlargements than 35mm film
unfortunately, Kodak HIE IR film is not available in medium format and the main film available, the Rollei really needs an opaque IR filter (eg. Hoya R72) to give good IR effect. This means a SLR camera is blinded when the filter is on - you cannot see the image to compose and focus so this must be done before applying the filter. This is not the case with TLR or rangefinder cameras, but you may have trouble finding a IR filter to fit the bayonet mount TLRs such as Rollei & Yashica.
avoid racking bellows out too much as it may leak IR light onto the film.
in general, you need to rack out the bellows by an extra 1/100th of the focal length of the lens for IR focus, thus:
for a 55mm lens, you only need to change it 0.5mm
for a 250mm lens, you change it 2.5mm
alternatively, you can make your own estimations on focus adjustments for IR, basing this on a 6x6 SLR lens, for example when using a 105mm lens:
subject at infinity, set focus to about 25m
subject at 15m, set focus to 10m
subject at 8m, set focus to about 6-7m
subject at 5m, set focus to about 4.5m
as an approximation, rotating the focus knob by 45deg only so lens moves out after you have subject focused, will probably be sufficient for IR focus, but to be safe, also use an aperture of f/8 or smaller which should cover any error.
if you already own a medium format SLR, you are probably better off putting up with the inconvenience of attaching filters for each shot than spending your money on a TLR even though they are quite cheap, you still have to carry it around, and you can't pre-load backs with IR film for field trips - you need to find a dark spot to change your film.
you wish to experiment with medium format films:
utilising their higher dynamic range (B&W films) or grain patterns
you wish to take very long exposures (hours) which is not possible with digitals or battery-dependent cameras:
wide field astrophotography to show star trails around the celestial poles in very dark rural sites.
you cannot afford a full frame digital and want very shallow depth of field:
you really need extended daylight fill-in flash capability:
as with medium format SLR's and rangefinders, X-sync to 1/500th sec effectively gives your flash a lot more reach for daylight fill-in, so it may have a role for group photos (eg. at weddings or swimwear shoots) - most other cameras with a reasonably powerful flash should manage subject distances of up to 3m, and beware - most modern flashes have flash durations a full power of 1/200thsec, so using 1/500thsec will give you less flash output, nullifying your X-sync advantage.
you just want to be different.
in general, there are better cameras for most forms of photography and a TLR is a compromise:
weddings - the TLR used to be a great wedding camera as it gives great quality enlargements and has a quiet shutter (although noisy winder) and X-sync to 1/500th sec for fill-in flash, but people now are not so patient to put up with the photographer painstakingly setting composition, focus, winding film to cock the shutter, adjusting exposure settings using a hand held light meter and then having to change films every 12 or 24 shots.
landscapes - the lack of ability to visualise polariser and gradient filters along with higher lens flare make the TLR not as suitable as a SLR, and they are heavy to carry (1-1.6kg)
architecture - no perspective control so limited functionality
street photography - too big, heavy and difficult to use, there are better cameras - small rangefinders or digitals with waist level live LCDs such as Olympus C8080 or E330.
action - the TLR is not a very good action camera even if you do get used to the back to front viewfinder image, use a fast AF digital SLR with fast burst rates and low noise at high ISO, eg. high end Canon.
macrophotography - parallax error makes life tough - use a digital SLR with live preview such as Olympus E410/510/330.
pets and children on the floor - if they didn't move, a TLR might be great if you sort out parallax error, but as they do move, a digital SLR with AF and waist level live LCD is much better - eg. Olympus E330 or Olympus E3
a TLR (twin lens reflex) means that it has two lenses, a lower lens that actually takes the picture and an upper lens that is only used for viewing and composing.
compared with MF SLRs, low weight (although Mamiya C330 is heaviest) and very quiet operation.
Since there is no moving mirror, hand-held images are often sharper than if a medium format SLR (single lens reflex) was used.
Many wedding photographers have used these cameras because you can still look through the finder and see someone blink at the moment of exposure.
can still compose and focus with opaque infrared filters (if you can find one to fit the lens)
due to using one lens to compose and a different lens ~50mm higher to take the photograph.
In normal use, this isn't a big problem with full length portraits or landscapes.
starts to be a problem for head & shoulder portraits
Even for closeup work, some clever paramenders and other devices help reduce if not eliminate parallax effects.
The view you see on the ground glass of the waist-level finder is reversed in left-right orientation. This may seem like something that could be awkward, but in actual usage the eye, hand and mind quickly adapt, and handling the camera properly soon becomes second nature.
viewing lenses usually don't have stop down apertures thus depth of field cannot be visualised
cannot visualise ascertain the polarising filter effect or gradient filter effect
viewing lens is often of lower quality and its aberrations may make accurate focusing only possible for the central areas - if your target subject does not fall in this region, you may need to move the camera until it is, focus then recompose.
no interchangeable backs
The major TLR brands include Rolleiflex, Mamiya, and Yashica.
the Rollei was king - it was small, had a great lens and a wonderful precision feel, but very expensive.
Mamiya TLRs include some with unique interchangeable lenses and standards but were heavy.
The other TLRs are limited to their original lens, although telephoto and wide angle adapters are also available.
in addition to X-sync for electronic flash, most also have an M sync available for use with flashbulbs. If you use M sync with electronic flash, the flash fires before the shutter opens, and you get no flash adding light to your exposure. BE CAREFUL not to accidentally put in in M position!
general notes on Mamiya TLRs:
interchangeable sets of Mamiya-Sekor C-series lenses with Seiko #0 shutters 1-1/500thsec + Bulb which can be used on any of the bodies:
The earliest Seikosha-MX chrome lenses had shutter speeds to 1/400th sec and these are not compatible with auto-cocking bodies - the C33 and later;
the Seikosha-SLV chrome lenses made 1958-1962 will not auto-cock but unlike the MX lenses will not foul up the mechanism of auto-cocking bodies.
The Seikosha-S chrome lenses are not multi-coated, some of the black lenses are. The chrome lenses were replaced by the black models sometime in the 1970's as production of the black models appears to have started in 1969.
a blue insert on the shutter cocking arm of some black lenses indicates a newer shutter with raised tip on the leaf designed to minimise chance of shutter blades locking when closing;
lenses of different focal length have different back focus distances and thus require different bellows positions for infinity focus.
the square clamp-fit Mamiya lens hoods will only fit over slimline filters
many lenses have had their X-M sync lever cemented into the X position to avoid inadvertent movement to the M position which is designed for old bulb flashes and thus fires the shutter after a 200msec delay.
whilst intermediate apertures can be set, the shutter speeds must be at the marked speeds.
from Tim Brown:
"for the lenses that take 49mm filters, I start with a regular 49mm UV filter (Hoya), screw it onto the viewing lens, mark the side of the filter that faces the taking lens with a scribe, remove the filter, carefully file down this side with a fine stone grinder. After clean-up I replace the filter on the viewing lens. I now have enough room to put even a polarizer on the taking lens, which brings me to the next issue: A regular polarizing filter has an index mark on the side. I add several more marks on either side of this mark in multiple colors in approx. 1/4 in. intervals. I used fingernail polish but the little Testors paint for models could be used also. When I want to use the polarizer I hold it up, look through it and rotate it until I get the effect I want, note which mark or space between marks is facing up and place it on the taking lens with the same orientation. It might be more accurate to place it on the viewing lens first. It's a little tedious but it works."
55mm f/4.5 wide angle:
equates to 35mm wide angle o a 35mm camera
close focus to 24cm = 6.4x6.4cm subject
65mm f/3.5 wide angle:
vignettes with 49mm lens hood or filter so use step up ring
close focus to 27cm = 6.7x6.7cm subject
80mm f/3.7 SLV chrome:
rare "budget" lens
80mm f/2.8 chrome:
80mm f/2.8 black:
50deg angle of view;
close focus to 35cm = 8.6x8.6cm subject
in 2007 on EBay sell for $US220
80mm f/3.7 black:
uses a Copal shutter
rare "budget" lens
80mm f/2.8 S black:
later model, probably multi-coated but viewing lens is different design to taking lens
105mm f/3.5 standard (silver):
40.5mm filter thread & 42mm hood (not the usual 48mm hood for the black version)
older chrome/silver version, not multicoated.
closest focus 57.9cm covering subject 17.9x17.9cm;
different flange-focal length to the f/3.5D & f/3.8DS lenses so distance scale on the 330 camera should be the one marked 105, not 105D.DS
this is the one I have.
105mm f/3.5D standard (black):
close focus to 58cm = 18.4x18.4cm subject
105mm f/3.8DS standard (black):
later model, probably multi-coated
similar to f/3.5D but also has:
aperture control on viewing lens for DOF preview, although of limited utility;
V setting as well as X/M for flash sync which effectively acts as an ~11 sec self timer
shrouded PC socket to reduce risk of damage
135mm f/4.5 chrome:
33deg angle of view; 46mm filter
close focus to 82.3cm = 22.8.2x22.8cm subject
135mm f/4.5 black short telephoto:
33deg angle of view; 46mm filter
close focus to 90cm = 25.2x25.2cm subject
One odd fact about the 135 is that all the glass is forward of the shutter and there is nothing in the rear. In other words, you can reach in the back and touch the shutter blades with your finger which risks damage.
180mm f/4.5 chrome telephoto:
= 100mm angle of view in 35mm terms
four elements in 3 groups design and has a shutter that is no longer supported with repair parts
close focus to 118.9cm = 23.5x23.5cm subject
180mm f/4.5 black telephoto:
same optical design as the chrome lens, with a newer shutter and cocking mechanism
marked 18cm not 180mm
close focus to 129cm = 27.5x27.5cm subject ?
180mm f/4.5 Super black telephoto:
close focus to 129cm = 27.5x27.5cm subject
optical design changed to 5 elements in 4 groups, retaining the new shutter and cocking mechanism
earlier ones don't have f-stop detents whilst the later ones do
earlier ones have a yellowish coating, the later ones have a purplish coating
said to give as sharp an image hand held at 1/125th as a Hasselblad 6x6 SLR with 180mm lens.
250mm f/6.3 telephoto:
manual cocking on all bodies
close focus to 205cm = 31.1x31.1cm subject
black version made perhaps as early as 1967
bellows focusing allows extreme close ups
pc cord connection is on the lenses, not the body
There is no exposure information in the viewfinder, and there are no coupled meters available.
dim, and the image is small
in 2007 on EBay sell for $US90
metered CDS Porrofinder
gives correct left to right viewing and is brighter than the mirror-based Porrofinder
rigid chimney finder:
with 3.5x full field magnifier and flip up 6x lens that magnifies center of screen only.
blocks outside light much better than the standard folding finder, and accurate focus is easier, it doesn't weigh any more, it's just more bulky.
optional paramender accessory to compensate for parallax:
This mounts between a tripod and the camera body. After composing, turning a lever raises the body so the taking lens is exactly where the viewing lens was
multiple exposure setting
If you hold down the shutter release and wind the film, the film does not stop at the next frame, it just winds on. This is a feature not a bug. It lets you wind off a partially exposed roll of film quickly. If you start winding the film and you don't realize your cable release is locked, it seems like a bug.
when changing lenses to make sure both the lens and body are in matching states: shutter cocked and film wound, or shutter not cocked and film not wound. You won't jam up anything like you can with a Hasselblad, but you can easily get double or blank exposures.
Switching between 120 and 220 is easy. No separate parts to get lost of broken. Just turn one knob and then turn the pressure plate 90 degrees.
film wind tends to be noisy
manual shutter cocking and frame counter resetting; 120 film only; lens focus scales for original chrome 80mm, 105mm, 135mm lenses; 1/4" tripod screw;
no interchangeable screens; 80mm sportsfinder WLF; film advance via a knob;
adds a 2nd focus knob; 65mm & 180mm lenses added;
film advance changed to a crank with partial 350deg wind then reverse to rest;
lens focus scales for 65mm, 80mm, 105mm (chrome), 135mm & 180mm lenses;
WLF for 80mm but can use masks for the other lenses;
lenses upgraded to 1/500th sec instead of 1/400th sec;
auto-zeroing frame counter; two-stage lens release;
1.81kg; automatic shutter cocking;
automatic parallax and exposure compensation marker in viewfinder for 80mm, 105mm, 135mm & 180mm lenses;
lens focus scales for 105mm (chrome), 135mm, 180mm on plates (after 1968, some models also had 55mm & 250mm scales on the plate), while window display showed scales for 65mm & 80mm lenses.
1.48kg; manual shutter cocking; parallax/exposure compensation scale only;
optional 220 film back; multi-exposure only via direct manipulation of shutter;
1.15kg; film advance knob with fold-out crank; manual shutter cocking; parallax scale;
rotating pressure plate for 120 vs 220 film; no removable back;
1.47kg; film advance crank;
automatic shutter cocking; automatic parallax and exposure compensation marker in viewfinder for 80mm, 105mm, 135mm & 180mm lenses, and also for 55mm & 65mm lenses if 55/65mm correction plate employed.
has a little distance scale rod with a sliding cover keyed to the lens you have attached
rotating pressure plate for 120 vs 220 film;
has interchangeable focusing screens, the 220 and 33 doesn't:
matte / 4deg split / 6deg split / microprism / cross hair /grid
has two shutter release buttons, the 220 has one;
back is removable and sheet backs exist, not for the 220;
lens focus scale now a rotatable rod.
is heavier than the 220;
tripod screw now 3/8" with 1/4" insert;
film speed reminder dial includes B&W, daylight & tungsten film reminder;
no focus lock;
The major difference between the 33 and 330 bodies is that the 330 can use 220 film without attachments
this is the model I have
see as for C330
1.39kg; film advance now a single 360deg crank, no need for reverse to rest;
WLF is type 2, not type 1 as on C330
see as for C220;
larger film advance knob than C220 but no fold-out crank;
automatic frame counter adjustment for 120/220 film;
lens focus scales via chart;
WLF type 2 but without sportsfinder;
as for C330f but adds:
focusing knob larger and with fixing lever to lock focus
sportsfinder frame for 65mm lens
release button for sportsfinder frame
lugs for neck strap instead of loops
rear door latch now on body not on back, with separate lock & release catches;
interchangeable screens NOT compatible with C330 and C330f.
WLF type 2, sportsfinder with interchangheable masks for each lens 105mm and longer.
tripod screw now back to only 1/4"
1650g with 80mm lens
in 2007 on EBay sell for $US350
production of the Mamiya TLRs ended.
general notes about Yashica TLRs:
most use 120 film to give 12 exposures of 6x6 negatives
some (eg. the Mat 24) use only 220 film to give 24 exposures of 6x6
the 44 uses only 127 film to give 4x4 negatives
the Mat 124 and Mat 124G allows either 120 or 220 film
most (?all) use a 80mm f/3.5 taking lens with a Copal shutter 1-1/500th sec and Bulb with M-X sync. No filter thread but a Rollei bayonet 1 mount for Yashica filters, lens hood or auxiliary lenses;
most have a self-timer BUT you must use this ONLY when the XM lever is in the X position
the later models use a f/2.8 viewing lens for brighter focusing with a 3x viewing loupe built-in
auxiliary lenses available via a bayonet lens mount to give wide angle (58mm), telephoto (113mm), macro 1 (40-65cm distance) or macro 2 (35-45cm distance).
The Yashicamat is basically a Rollei copy, with a few of the more expensive features left out, but the ergonometrics left in. Crank wind, combined film wind-shutter cock, Rollei bayonet 1 mount for filters;
Yashima Seiki Company was formed in 1949 with an initial investment of just $566 and Yashica started business in Nagano, Japan making electric clock parts and branched into camera components.
changed name to Yashima Optical Industry Company, Ltd.
released their first complete camera, the Yashimaflex, a 6x6cm twin lens reflex. Lenses were bought from the Tomioka Optical Works.
Yashica LM TLR:
similar to the Yashica C but has a built-in uncoupled selenium light meter under the hinged nameplate.
Copal shutter 1-1/300th sec?
Yashica Inc. was formed in New York to market their products in USA.
Yashica Y-C TLR:
Copal MXB 1-300 shutter which must be cocked manually
came with an adapter kit to allow 35mm film to be used and a 35mm sports finder.
Copal MXV 1-500 shutter
Yashica 44 TLR:
used 127 film
Yashica Y-D TLR:
entry level camera; shutter had to be manually charged;
the Yashica Mat range was released and proved hugely popular.
Yashica Y-Mat(O) TLR:
f/2.8 viewing lens and 80mm f/3.5 taking lens
shutter 1-1/500th sec plus Bulb; self-timer; M-X flash sync;
crank handle winder sets shutter, prevents double exposures & counts exposures automatically;
fresnel viewing screen with centre focusing spot;
Yashica Y-Mat(N) TLR:
another name change to Yashica Company Ltd. with the acquisition of the Nicca Camera Company Ltd.
Yashica Y-A TLR:
Copal 25-300 shutter; f/3.5 viewing lens;
Yashica 44 LM TLR:
127 film giving 4x4 negatives;
Yashica Mat-LM TLR:
Yashica 44-A TLR:
introduction of the Pentamatic 35mm SLR with its bayonet mount interchangeable lenses.
Yashica acquired Zunow Optical Industry Co. Ltd. Zunow was known for its advanced SLR which was the first Japanese 35mm SLR with an auto diaphragm. It had an instant return mirror and interchangeable pentaprism or waist level finders.
Yashica Mat-EM TLR:
Yashica Y-E TLR:
Yashica Y-24 TLR:
Yashica Electro-35 35mm SLR:
was the world’s first electronically controlled 35mm camera. It had a Yashinon-GX f/1.7 45mm lens. 14 Electro models were released up to 1973.
Yashica TL Super f/1.4 35mm SLR
Yashica TL Super f/1.7 35mm SLR
Yashica bought Tomioka, its lens supplier, which was by now one the largest and most reputable lens manufacturers in Japan, and renamed the company Tomioka Optical Co. Ltd.
Yashica TL 35mm SLR:
Yashica TL Electro-X 35mm SLR:
LED metering; metal shutter instead of cloth and to 1/1000th sec;
Yashica Mat 124 TLR:
pressure plate for 120/220 film slides pulls out and rotates between settings
prior to the Mat 124, there were two separate Mat models for 120 vs 220 film: YashicaMat 12 and YashicaMat 24;
Yashica TL-E 35mm SLR:
Yashica TL Electro-X ITS 35mm SLR:
Yashica Mat 124G:
G stood for gold plating on meter switch contacts to give better reliability
80mm f/3.5 lens with Copal shutter to 1/500th sec and minimum aperture of f/32;
match needle metering;
pressure plate for 120/220 film slides between settings (pulls out and rotates on the Mat 124)
uses now-discontinued 1.3v mercury cells but can get adapters to use modern alkaline or silver oxide batteries;
minimum focus 1m;
ASA range 25-400;
perhaps the most popular Yashica TLR model as it was a good entry level model and the last;
Yashica TL Electro 35mm SLR:
LED metering; cloth shutter to 1/500th sec;
Yashica Electro AX 35mm SLR:
LED metering; metal shutter to 1/1000th sec;
the last of the M42 screw mount Yashica 35mm SLRs?;
‘Top Secret Project 130’, a collaboration with Carl Zeiss to produce a new, professional 35mm SLR with an electronically-controlled shutter, bearing the Contax brand name. A new prestige line of Yashica / Contax lenses designed by Carl Zeiss were introduced for the camera, with a common C/Y bayonet mount allowing lens interchange between all 35mm Contax and Yashica SLR models - an innovation that was to prove very popular with camera buyers.
Yashica merges with Kyocera which also made the newer Contax cameras from that date.
Kyocera discontinues production of all Yashica, Contax and Kyocera branded film and digital cameras.
general notes on Rollei TLRs:
Rollei bayonet lens filters
automatic compensation for parallax by moving frames under the ground glass.
optional quick-release tripod plate " Rolleifix " (highly recommended)
4 main model groups:
120 and 135 film
Rollei bayonet I lens filters
shutter cocking not coupled to winder
f/3.2 Heidoscop viewing lens
Rollei bayonet I lens filters
f/2.8 Heidosmat viewing lens
Rolleiflex 3.5F / 2.8F:
Rollei bayonet lens filters - II for f/3.5 & III for f/2.8
f/2.8 Heidosmat viewing lens
Rolleiflex 2.8 GX / 2.8 FX:
Rollei bayonet III lens filters
no mechanical self-timer and no M synch but standard flash shoe
f/2.8 Heidosmat viewing lens
Rolleiflex 6x6 TLR
Rolleiflex Standard TLR
Rolleiflex Automat TLR - no PC sync flash connection
Rolleiflex 2.8A TLR
Rolleicord III TLR
Rolleicord IV TLR
Rolleiflex 2.8D TLR
Rolleicord V TLR
Rolleicord Va TLR
Rolleiflex 4X4 TLR for 127 film
Tele-Rolleiflex TLR - fixed 135mm f/4 Sonnar lens
Rolleiflex 3.5E-2 TLR
Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR
Rolleiflex 2.8F TLR
Rollei Magic - battery-less automatic exposure system
Wide-Angle Rollei TLR - fixed 55mm f/4.0 Distagon lens
Rollei Magic II
Rolleicord Vb TLR
Rolleiflex SL 66 SLR - Rollei's 1st 6x6 SLR
Rolleiflex 2.8F Platin TLR
Rolleiflex 2.8 GX TLR - adds TTL exposure and flash metering (SCA 300)
Rolleiflex 2.8 GX Edition TLR
Rolleiflex 6008 - Rollei's 1st of the 6000 series of 6x6 SLRs
Rolleiflex 2.8 GX H. Newton TLR
these are apparently still available new and are entry-level relatively cheap BUT the lens causes significant vignetting (best used at f/11) and shutter only to 1/350th rather than the usual 1/500th sec.