Buying a medium format TLR camera.

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by christian_muro, Jun 23, 2009.

  1. I just started shooting medium format film. I am used to using a TLR (Yashica MAT 124G) but it was not mine and I had to reserve before using it. Instead of going through all that trouble I was wondering if anyone knew where I can buy a excelent or decent TLR for around $100 or less? Since I am a student I am on a tight budget. (I have been to but their cameras were way to expensive. I have also visited and searched for several medium format TLRs but either they were to expensive or the camera was disfunctional.) By the way, I have learned that HOLGA will be releasing Holga 120 TLR in August which would sell for about $59.99 at Freestyle Photographic Supplies ( the only problem with this is that they are plastic cameras with plastic lenses and I would much prefer a metal base with glass lenses. (This is because I might be shooting Infrared film in medium format) Any suggestions are welcomed, thanks.
  2. Steer clear of holgas for your first TLR, Christian. Condition is a big factor in selecting any used camera. While KEH is a bit more money, they rate equipment conservatively and offer money back if not pleased. That's a good situation for your first TLR. The Minolta Autocord, in good condition, should be near your price range as well as the various flavors of Ricohflexes.
  3. There is a Rolleicord w/ a Xenar lens on Fleabay right now for $89.00. The seller will take a return. He states that the speeds sound slow, but my guess is that the camera hasn't been used in a spell and firing the shutter 20 times or so on every speed will likely bring them up closer to spec. There are a lot of other possibilities on your budget. The Weltas are known to have good optics, just to name one maker. I'll bet that if you went to the auction sire and got into the TLR category under Buy It Now you would be able to find a good user w/ a return privelege for your budget.
    I also second the advice to not go w/ a Holga. Buy a real camera. The Xenar lenses on the Rollliecords or Rolleiflexes are excellent lenses.
  4. Thank you for your responses! I looked for Minolta Autocord cameras but they still were a bit to expensive. I also looked for a Richoflex camera and so far so good. Im just asking questions about lens condition and if shutter speeds are acurate. The cosmetic condition is excellent though. As far as the Rolleicord ($89), I found one on ebay but it sounds to good to be true and it has not been tested so I do not want to take a chance.
    Do you think a Richoflex camera is a good starter TLR? Does it take 120/220 film because it looks tiny so it might take 127 film. Once again thank you for your responses!
  5. There are Ricohflex models that take 127, a Super 44 I believe; but most take 120.
    Also I think some of the Super RicohFlex models could take 120, 35mm and 127 with the adapters but are hard to find with the adapters.
    I'd go with a 120 version.
    Some of the RicohFlex models are quite good but they seem to be fecthing silly prices these days.
    BTW, note the spelling it is RicohFlex not RichoFlex; a common mistake.
    Having said all that see if you can find a nice Yashica TLR like a 124. They can still be had reasonable at times but on ebay people seem to go crazy and bid them up.
    I bought an almost mint 124 from a member on one of the other forums for not much more than $100.
    Good luck, a TLR while sometimes an aquired taste can be a lot of fun to use.
  6. Right now I have found a Ricohflex IIIB 6X6 TLR (This should be 120/220 format, right?) and it is being sold at a reasonable price. I love the Yashica 124 Mat G but the prices on ebay as well as other locations are by far unreasonable!! So with this being said, should I purchase the Ricohflex IIIB TLR or continue to search for another TLR? (The Rolleiflex camera looked fine but was still out of my budget price range, thank you for the suggestion though.)
  7. Here's a good website on the Ricoh TLR's:
    The Ricohflex III looks pretty basic, but if you're planning on doing a lot of daylight work with slow film it probably will be a good starter. Otherwise, you might want to hold out for a Diacord or something similar to give you more flexibility in the future.
  8. If you are to buy Ricoh, I'd say get a Diacord instead of Ricohflex.
  9. Why should I buy a Diacord rather than a Ricohflex?
  10. I would recommend Mamiya - the C330, C220 or C3.
  11. Why do you reccomend that? So I should not buy a Ricohflex IIIB 6X6 TLR?
  12. The Mamiya cameras are way out of my price range. So right now I am in a dilemma: for sure I will not purchase a Holga, but Ricohflex TLRs are great cameras (good candidate in purchasing, however I do not know which model to buy because so far ive seen Ricohflex IIIB), Rolleiflex and Rolleicord cameras are absolutly great but it is rare to find an affordable model (also in most cases it is uncertain if it functions correctly), Yashica cameras are also great but the prices are unreasonably high, and now i've come to learn that Diacord cameras (from Ricoh) are also great cameras and I have seen an affordable 1958 Diacord G that is a good candidate to buy as well.
    -Ricohflex IIIB (Not sure if shutter is accurate but cosmetic is fine)
    -Rolliecord/Rolleiflex (Keep waiting for an affordable one but risk if its functioning)
    -Diacord G (uncertain of all aspects but cosmetic condition looks good)
    * Any camera that I buy, I will try to send it to be cleaned and inspected to see if it functions properly!
  13. Christian, have you actually checked out these cameras in real life? Modern TLRs like the Yashica Mats, Mamiya C series and latest Rolleicords have very good and bright viewfinders -- unlike many, many other TLRs.
  14. Camera conditions/Prices:

    -Ricohflex IIIB
    “The Camera is Exceptionally clean and functioning well. It comes in a Richohflex wood box with a Ricoh 80mm f3.5 Anastigmat lens, a front twin lens cap, a film insert with both film spools, a waist level finder with loupe and a focusing screen. The Glass is in good condition: clean and clear with a few cleaning marks and a bit of internal dust - this will not affect image quality. The Shutter is working well but not guaranteed accurate. The Aperture blades are clean. The Film chamber is clean and in Pristine condition. The Leatherette covering and paint finish are in Fantastic condition. Cosmetics are Excellent+. [$98] 7 day return policy.

    -Rolleicord III
    It has a Xenar F3.5, 75mm taking lens, but no markings around the viewing lens. Physically, it appears to be in excellent condition with no dents, and minimal scratches given the age of the camera. There is minor paint loss along the lower edges. Has not been tested.... the shutter seems slow, especially at the lower speeds. A professional inspection would be a really good idea if you wanted an accurate, photo taking tool. [$89] 3 day return policy.

    -Diacord G
    In excellent condition. Appears to have been well taken care of and seems to be in good working condition. The body of the camera is clean and intact. The leather case has wear commensurate with its age and use. (As you can see the seller did not include detailed information on condition of lens, shutter speeds, apertures, etc.)” [$94.99] 7 day return policy.
  16. So with the seller's description, price and return policy displayed, do you guys believe I should purchase the Ricohflex IIB, Rolleiflex or Diacord G? or should I continue to wait and search for another TLR?
  17. Between the Ricohflex IIB and Diacord G, there is no contest. The Diacord G has a superior 4 element lens compared to the 3 element lens of the Ricohflex. But Ricohflex models can be confusing. I have a Ricohflex which is actually a Diacord but not marked as such. Mine has the 4 element Rikenon lens and top speed is 400. Focusing is not by front geared wheel but by pushing up or down the levers situated near side of front of camera.
    Between a Rolleiflex and a Diacord, one would normally go for the Rolleiflex due to its reputation and prestige. It is the leica of TLRs. Film loading is unique and patented. There is no need to line up arrow against markers or red window.
    But in IMO, except for Rolleiflex models fitted with Planar or Xenotar, Rolleiflex models with Tessar or Xenar should not outperform the Rikenon on the Diacord.
  18. So I should go with the Diacord G for its 4 element Rikenon lens which is better than Ricohflex IIB's 3 element lens and Rolleicord's Xenar lens? ... Even though the condition is unknown because the seller did not provide a detailed description?
    -Diacord G
    "In excellent condition. Appears to have been well taken care of and seems to be in good working condition. The body of the camera is clean and intact. The leather case has wear commensurate with its age and use. (As you can see the seller did not include detailed information on condition of lens, shutter speeds, apertures, etc.)” [$94.99] 7 day return policy.
  19. It's about a wash between the Rolleicord and the Diacord. Both have very good 4-element Tessar-formula lenses, both have good shutters and the designs are very similar. I would probably rate the Rolleicord a bit higher than the Diacord, but only slightly. Either of these can be expected to give good service. With the prices and descriptions as you have shown them, I would go for the Rolleicord.
  20. Have you thought about getting a Lubitel? I got my Lubitel 166 Universal for $50. It has 3 element lens so the image are kinda soft. It my 1st and only TLR so far. It take 6x6 6x4
  21. Ok then I think I would go for the Rolleicord since the lenses have the same four element system. "There is no need to line up arrow against markers or red window." (M Roslan Habibullah) I am not sure how I am going to load my film but i will find out. Im am just glad it does not have the red window because I can shoot infrared! any more comments before ?I purchase it? Thank you very much for your advice and suggestions. Continued responces are still accepted, thanks. I am still going to send the camera I buy to be inspected, cleaned, lubricated and fixed asap.

    -Rolleicord III
    It has a Xenar F3.5, 75mm taking lens, but no markings around the viewing lens. Physically, it appears to be in excellent condition with no dents, and minimal scratches given the age of the camera. There is minor paint loss along the lower edges. Has not been tested.... the shutter seems slow, especially at the lower speeds. A professional inspection would be a really good idea if you wanted an accurate, photo taking tool. [$89] 3 day return policy.
  22. I have heard of these USSR cameras however I do not know anything about Lubitel 166 Universal cameras. They are sold for around $100 or less!
  23. Im stuck in the same dilemma again. Rolleicord III is a great camera for its reputation, 4 element lens, comes with leather case and strap, price, cosmetic condition, etc. Ricohflex IIIB is a great because its a simple camera, comes with wood box and leather case and lens cap, great cosmetic condition, and a great price. Diacord G looks to be in great condition cosmetically, it has a 4 element lens just like the Rolleicord (someone mentioned slightly better) comes with a leathercase and lens cap, and the price is affordable. As far as having minor problems repaired I beleve the least expensive would be the Ricohflex IIIB, followed by the Rolleicord III, and then Diacord G.
    The only problem I have with the cameras are:
    Rolleicord III the shutter may be off and I only have three days to return it if I am not satisfied. Ricohflex IIIB the shutter is also not guaranteed acurate. Diacord G has not been described in detail so I do not know the condition of the lens (whether it has significant scratches or dust, if the shutter is off, etc.)
  24. Christian, there is no need to shout. Maybe I should clarify: While these vintage cameras are all decent picture-takers, most are very inconvenient to use because of their many quirks. The biggest drawback of many old TLRs is their poor viewfinder, i.e., on my Rolleicord IIe it is very dim with lots of vingetting (despite having new mirror). Critical focusing is very difficult in "low-ish" light.
    So while some TLRs are within your budget, you better be sure not only that they work, but also that they work for you. You have experiences with a Y124G, which is a modern TLR with a very nice, bright WLF. Classic TLRs are quite different in usage, features and viewfinder. If you look long enough, you will find lots of fine and affordable medium format cameras (e.g., Mamiya SLR kits etc.).
  25. hi, my first tlr was a yashicamat, excellent camera and i paid 53.00 usd for it w/ shipping. btw this was about a year ago. good luck
  26. If you like the Yashica (and why wouldn't you) you should be able to get a Yashica mat (not the 124G) for about or under $100 if you look around. The 124 is identicle to the G other than the gold contacts. Actually an older Yashica Mat/LM/EM (doesn't matter if the meter works or not so long as the shutter and lens are good) might be a better, more reliable camera (I have heard bad stories about 124G's relating to the winding mechanism being produced by worn out equipment) and it will definately be cheaper. Just avoid the Yashica (non Mat) camera's with the Yashikor 3 element lens, the 4 element Yashinon is MUCH better and quite close to a Rolleiflex.
    good luck, and I hope you find a good un
  27. To Bueh B:
    Im sorry if you thought I was offensive, I truely was not attacking you. I understand what you are saying and it is true that modern TLRs like YASHICA MAT 124 G are great cameras to use but unfortunatly I can not seem to find one in my price range. Personally I loved Yashica's light meter, crank lever film advance, and lens! But unfortunatly I can only settle with my options given such as the ones I listed above. None have the crank lever or the match light meter I love but I expected this on a $100 budget. Thank you so much for your advice Bueh B and I am sorry if you thought I was attacking you.
  28. I have both the Rolleicord and the Diacord. I personally like the focusing on the Diacord better. To me the ergonomics on the Rolleicord feels like a left handed camera. On a tripod the Rollei feels ok but I don’t like to hand hold it. As to the glass, I would say the Diacord is a bit smoother in out of focus areas and equally as sharp as the Xenar.
  29. Christian, if I were you I would keep watching the ebay listings and also craigslist and save my money with the goal of buying a Yashicamat 124G. I own one and have used several and it's really the best value in a TLR. Despite how the prices sometimes go, if you get lucky you might find one for $100 and if not, save up until you can get one. You also might just get lucky: I didn't pay a cent for mine. Instead, I swapped two 8mm movie cameras I'd bought at a yard sale to a guy who was interested in movie cameras but not still cameras. I also have a Mamiya C330 with 80mm lens and waist level finder -- which is a far better TLR but normally much more expensive than the Yashicamat -- that I bought for $75 from a wedding photographer who had gone all digital. It had been his first wedding camera many years ago, long ago replaced by Hasselblads, then by digital, so it didn't have much value left for him. Stay away from junk like the Seagulls and Lubitels -- if the Yashicamat is a poor man's copy of a Rollieflex, then those are a cheap copy of a copy. I would also avoid all of the older TLRs like the Ricoflex, Minolta, etc., for the dim viewfinders, shutter problems, etc. that others have mentioned that come with cameras that old. If you dont' see a Yashicamat listed for sale at your price anywhere, try putting an ad in craiglist or on and other forums saying you want to buy one. These cameras were popular for beginning professionals but were also widely sold as a "good camera" for amateurs and there are certainly thousands gathering dust.
  30. If you liked the 124G you could also look out for a "vanilla" 124. I haven't checked recently but the prices tend to be less. The G had gold plated contacts (in the meter?) but legend has it that Gs are mechanically worse than the vanilla 124s because they were built on the same tooling, but the tooling had become worn out by the time the Gs were produced.
  31. If you're lucky, you might be able to pick up a Mamiya C2 with 80mm lens for under $100. If in good condition, this would be fine, though you have to be careful to keep track of whether or not you've advanced the film! Also, it seems films have changed thickness over the years, and consequently you have to move the film about half an inch beyond the red dot when loading it, or you'll get overlapping frames.
  32. I would love to buy a Yashica Mat 124G but its too expensive and being froogle and saving my money is not a factor, the problem is it's just way to expensive. I do have experience with this camera and its wonderful and produces excellent results!
  33. Buy cheap, buy twice.
  34. I have a bunch of these TLR.
    I like the Yashica 124G and my Seagull (...) the best. The Seagull has a brighter viewfinder.
    Have patience till you find what you need I would suggest. In the meanwhile you can also save some money for film and development if you are on a tight budget.
    Have fun
  35. Christian, if money is that tight (and I've been there, so I know it can be), would you be happy shooting 35mm or are you wedded to MF/TLR? You can pick up a solid 35 SLR -- say a Nikon FM with 50mm f/2 , or an old Pentax screw-mount for even less -- any day of the week for $100 or less. Also, everything is cheaper in 35 from film to enlargers. The feel of a 35 SLR is very different than a MF TLR and the negative is smaller, but at least you'd be shooting pictures. And for all that TLRs are great, an SLR is a more versatile camera. I'm assuming here that you don't have a camera at all at the moment.
  36. Christian, I suggest that patience is the secret of eBay success. Watch, wait, then jump on the right item. Whatever is the inventory today, you can be sure that more will appear tomorrow, the next day, and so on. If you like the Yashica MAT 124G, just keep at it. I bought a really clean, fully functional 124G for $80 a couple months ago.
    One other note: I don't know where you'll get the camera cleaned and adjusted, but I think you could easily spend another $100 in the repair shop.
  37. "Buy cheap, buy twice"
    I don't know if your tongue is in your cheek or not, but I think it is and this is basically what I've been reluctant to add to the conversation. Looking for a $100 or less TLR for reliable use as a photographic tool might be tough... especially if one considers that it could cost that much to get it overhauled... and most old or cheap TLRs are lijkely to need overhaul. A lot of patience and extemely cautious buying are certainly the keys to "bottom feeding" without disappointment. Like others have reported... I've been successful at bargain buying, but the real bargains are few and far between.
  38. I have the super ricohflex picked it up at a pawn shop $15us at a pawn shop I have used it for ballon races model shots and air shows good camera 120 film and no meter to go bad but you need a good meter for some situations.
  39. i would look harder at the minolta autocord: I know if you search a little more you can get one for under $100. my father gave me his and I'm still using it as I love how light it is and I like the way the focusing lever is at the bottom of the camera
  40. Yashica Mat 124 G ($180+$30 S/H = $210)
    "This camera is in Mint Condition and is fully working, includes Brand new battery for the exposure meter, Yashica genuine case in excellent condition and a Roll of film to strart taking pictures with this beauty, thank you" - seller's description
  41. Yashica Mat 124 G ($147.50 + $12 s/h = $159.50)
    "Camera is in excellent mechanical conditon and ready to go to work! Lens clear, meter & shutter check out. Camera does show signs of use, including driver license # engraved on back. No case or lens cap." - seller's description
  42. Have you thought about a Zeiss Ikoflex? Here's one on ebay , I am pretty sure it is the Ic model. I have one, and although I like my Rolleicord better, this is a vary capable and solidly built camera.
  43. I would look also in the local used market (e.g. Craigslist, Kijiji), there may be someone selling a good TLR for a good price, just the other day I saw a Rolleiflex Tessar, asking $100 in Craigslist (Toronto). The price of seconhand cameras vary a lot and you may find a good deal on one, just need to check from time to time.
    I got myself a Mamiyaflex some years ago, was looking for a Rolleiflex and actually didn't even know about the Mamiyas TLR, it was at an excellent price, didn't think it twice. I like the camera a lot, love the bellows, fantastic camera and great quality.
    From those three, I would choose the Rolleicord. But I must say I just love Rolleiflex.
  44. I just found out that a roughly estimated standard repair for the Rolleicord III is $130.
    So $89 camera + 12.98 S/H + $130 Standard Repair = $231.98 Total
    Again this is just a rough estimate. (May be less or more but around this price range) With the total cost, it still cost less than other Rollei IIIs sold on and also much cheaper than a decent Rollei TLR on
    Should I go for this good opportunity?
  45. Actually the Lubitel that cost +100 is Lubitel 166 + which is a remake by Lomography. Lubitel 166B n Universal (from actual Russian facotry which stop producing before 1990)always under $70. Previously I lost a Lubitel 166 Universal,the winner got it for $24. If you are interested in Lubitel just keep looking. There will be very cheap one keep popping up. The guy work in my school stock room told me 3~5 years ago to buy a new cost around 20~35 bucks. The hundred something one is actually the remake. Just make sure you r looking at the actual Russian Lubitel.
  46. If you can only afford a 100 dollar TLR, can you afford film? Can you afford to have good quality prints made or can you afford a box of paper to print? Maybe all you hope for is scans and jpgs. Can you afford good quality ink jet prints? A good quality Rolleiflex is worth several hundred dollars and rightfully so.
  47. So my mind is made up and I am going to purchase a Yashica Mat 124 G for around $160. And BTW Dennis, yes I can afford film and I do have many packets of paper so I do not know why you would comment something so juvenile. And also I make my own prints in a darkroom. I am a film photographer not a digital so I do not have to be concerned with ink jet prints, jpegs, etc. If I have to scan my prints I have a reliable scanner so although I was deeply offended by your comment I would still like to thank you for leaving a comment on my forum.
  48. Juvenile? I am only saying that you are asking a lot for a very little.
    I guess I am glad you are offended.
  49. It is possible to find a great bargain on cameras (many have given their testimony in this forum), I do no understand how you would say that I am asking for too much for very little when a great bargain is unbeatable. Why pay regular price when there is a chance you can get the same product, same condition, for less? If you wish to offend someone on a forum I do not know why you would contribute something negative when unprovoked. I suppose some people need some excitement in their lives so therefore they seek to provoke problems with people.
    To all of the contributers, I would like to thank you for your advice and suggestions. It has been a long decison process but I finally made a choice. I will keep you posted on the outcome and thank you once more for helping me come to my decision.
  50. Hi Christian, I might be a little late I'm not sure... I've skimmed over the conversation and it seems as though you might want to check out a Yashica D. It's like a Yashica 124 but without all of the extras. It was my first MF/TLR and the image quality is great compared to 35 or in my opinion, even digital. Since then, I've moved on to Mamiyas, Hasselblads, and a Contax, but I still love that camera. I haven't shot it in about a year or so, but I'm holding on to it because it's such a joy. I might lend it to my girlfriend as she has a newfound fascination with MF. I can't remember exactly, but I think that I paid about $65 for it. There is no light meter or parallax compensation etc., but if you've got a handheld meter, I find the stripped camera a nice change. Just you taking the reading, adjust the settings and shoot. Nothing else to worry about. Anyways, those are my 2 cents. Hope it helps.
  51. I haven't had the time to read through all of the responses, but I will add my experience: I have a Mamiya C330 TLR camera and it makes really nice pictures, comes with a 80mm 2.8f lens, which is pretty nice + you can interchange lenses which is a big plus if you want to expand on the focal lengths and take medium format seriously without braking the bank. It is larger and heavier than other cameras though.
  52. Christian, D Purdy is trying to understand why you think you should get a medium format TLR at a lower price then the prices the rest of us paid. I myself am at collage and I saved for months to own my 500cm, but didn't complain about money since I knew it was for good reason.
    I don't think D Purdy was Juvenile in anyway to ask if you had enough money. If you do color negative it'll be about 4 dollars a roll, and 5 dollars to develop at a professional lab. If you're particularly photo crazy like myself, you'll be spending a lot on development. Doing B&W is slightly cheaper if you develop yourself, but I'm guessing you'll want larger sizes of paper to take advantage of using a 6x6 camera, which won't be cheap either. I use Kentmere Bromide FB 20x24 and 16x20 sizes which are 58.00 and 41.00 for 10 sheets.

    Currently I'm saving for a Leica M6 and one lens, which will take two more months of saving... should expect people to tell me where I can get a better price then they ever did because I'm in school? I don't think so. They don't think so.

    If you want a low cost TLR, get a used yashica mat 124G, and enjoy MF not for the camera, but because your negatives are larger and print nicely. My friend uses a holga and loves the thing to death, she takes better pictures then I do, and at a small fraction of the cost I paid! :)
    I'm not writing to make you upset, I'm writing to let you understand where D Purdy and I are coming from, and what it'll cost when you use the thing.
  53. Hi, Christian,
    Sorry for not promptly replying to your inquiry about the differences between Diacord and Ricohflex. The other friendly folks have since answered that for me. On eBay to get a fully working older camera is a crap shoot. I see that you got a quote of $130 on the repair cost for a Rolleicord. Here's a place that charges far less:
    I have not personally used their service, but I have no reason to believe it is not a decent repair shop. I have used Dean Williams' repair service instead, who charged a similar price for the CLA of a TLR. But Dean is now semi-retired. What I want to say is that the $65 asking price by Flutot is not too out of place to be suspicious.
  54. I second Adam's recommendation for the Yashica D. While it is true that its lens is only 3 elements, I find it to be quite good stopped down to f8 or more. No lever, but knob to advance and you must cock the shutter separately from the film advance. And of course, no meter, but there is an ISO reminder. With a little looking you should be able to snag a clean, fully functional one for under 100 USD.
    Also, if cosmetic appearance is unimportant, you might even find a 124G at a good price if the previous owner engraved initials, SS#, etc. on it as this brings down its value. My Yashica D was cheap because the previous owner engraved an I.D. # on it. Doesn't bother me a bit.
    Seriously, good luck in your search and be sure and post some photos when you get your camera.
  55. The Yashica D is a good camera. I have found that the knob wind cameras such as the "D", are more dependable than those that have a film crank. Also,if you do decide on a Mamiya. The C220 is lighter than any of the "3" series. (C330,etc)
  56. Camera arrives in three to four days!

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