Looking to buy a TLR, but would like some advice...

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by william_p, Nov 4, 2013.

  1. I'm currently looking for a TLR camera, but would like some recommendation. I want a bright viewfinder, decent lens, it to weigh no more than 1000g and to have an automatic cock shutter when you wind on the film. Looking to spend no more than £200. I don't mind if it's made of plastic or if the lens isn't interchangeable. Previously I've had a Yashica 635. I really didn't rate it, because the viewfinder was horribly dull and I dislike having to wind on the film then cock the shutter. Also, because it was able to shoot 120 and 35mm film, it had far too many buttons etc. However, its weight was perfect.
    The camera will be for fun, something I can carry around and forget about, because it's light. Cheap, so I don't have too much money invested in it. Easier to use than the Yashica 635 (bright viewfinder and automatic cock shutter) and with a decent lens.
    I'm willing to look into something that might be a little bit more expensive or slightly heavier. I've already ruled out the Mamiya c330, due to weight and the rolleiflex 3.5f, due to price.
  2. Hi, thanks for the quick response, this seems perfect for my needs!
  3. Well, it won't have a bright viewfinder. If you want a bright viewfinder in a TLR you will have to install a Maxwell screen. That's what I had done to my Rollei 2.8 & my baby Rollei 4x4.
    The Yashica 124 is a good camera but it's would not be a good investment to put a Maxwell screen into one.
  4. A good choice - Minolta Autocord. Also a Rolleiflex T, or Rolleicord Va or Vb, or a Yashicamat EM
  5. Agree with John. The Minolta Autocord, if you fond one in excellent condition for its age (50 years ago) has a high quality/cost ratio.
  6. More obscure ones, but with good capabilities include the Zeiss Ikoflex (link) models and the East German Weltaflex (link) models. There are various models with different lenses, any of which are going to be better than the "plastic" ones, and most of which are perfectly capable, if not equal to the best $1500 TLR.
  7. For that much money I would consider a Bronica SQ-A, a Bronica ETR/S or a Mamiya M645/1000S/J. Even if you don't need extra lenses these cameras will accept extension tubes so you can get a lot closer to your subjects. You can even get the Bronicas with prism finders for very little. A Bronica SQ-A with a back, 80mm lens and finder does not weigh much more than a TLR but is more versatile.
  8. A Bronica SQ-A with a back, 80mm lens and finder does not weigh much more than a TLR but is more versatile.​
    This is probably true, but I think the choice might depend on what you're doing with the camera (I own an SQ-A and a Yashica 124G). For studio type work, or in the field with a tripod, I use the SQ-A. For casual handheld shooting, I am more likely to use the TLR -- I like it better ergonomically. It also seems to provoke warm fuzzies among bystanders. Another data point -- a TLR is nice for shooting infrared as you can leave the filter on the taking lens and still use the viewfinder!
  9. hard to beat the less fancy rolleiflex models - 3.5 instead of 2.8, D or E instead of F, and rolleicord - for quality, price, light weight, good
  10. Yashica 124G would be my suggestion.
  11. I appreciate you find Mamiya TLRs heavy, but I have found that prices for these very capable high-quality cameras have hit a new low (probably because of their bulk and weight, although some of the early models are a bit lighter). I had a big Mamiya TLR outfit 20 years ago and find it's very hard to stop buying again at today's prices. I just bought an 80 mm f2.8 lens pair, nearly mint, for slightly over £110. Compare that with the £1200 and more being asked for an optically only marginally better Rollei 2.8E or F. In terms of value for money, a 6x6 folder would be much better value than a Rollei, which seem to have become very expensive lately.
  12. I too was going to suggest a YashicaMat ( I own 3) however I take it from a remark you made that winding the crank back 1/2 turn to cock the shutter was a no-go. Is that correct? Peter
  13. Thanks for the response, I've read all the email alerts but couldnt log back in, on my phone. I think I've talked myself into
    the c330, the body and one lens will be nothing to carry. I've owned a few slr mf cameras, my last being my rb67. I was put off by weight simply because my kit of 3 lens,
    prismfinder, tripod etc weighed so much. I also disliked using it handheld, so I might as well have had a LF. The bronica
    etrsi I had was my favourite mf, but the 6x4.5 wasnt for me. I've also had a bronica s2a, which weighed close to the c330
    and was also 6x6. Im thinking more towards a tlr, because I own SLRs, and I want something for fun, to mix things up a

    does the c330 balance it's weight nicely? or is it like the s2a where the weight is in the lens side?
  14. William,
    I would like to suggest a camera where you will be very happy with the lens: Rolleiflex 2.8c with the 80mm Xenotar lens. Stunning lens, period! It is to medium format what the Leica Summicron is to 35mm IMO...
    With careful shopping you should find one roughly within your budget.
  15. does the c330 balance
    Yes, but an L-handle is a big help, particularly one with a shutter trigger.
  16. I have used both the Yashica 124 and the Rollei automat with a Tessar. The Yashica was nice but the Rollei felt a little better made. Both are very capable image makers and from all accounts indistinguishable in quality at f5.6 and smaller to Planars and Xenotars. One of the charms of TLR's are their light weight and that they take away lens swapping angst. The Mamiya's are high quality but with slrs like Bronicas so cheap why bother. Bear in mind most of these are over 40 years old so a cla (at least $150) is often necessary unless you get lucky and find a good user as I did.I replaced the screen in my automat but it wasn't a straightforward process. If you do buy one which needs a cla get a new screen then but it will add cost.
  17. I've owned the Rollei 2.8C with Xenotar (wish I'd kept it, dumbest sale I've made), still have the Yashica 635 and cut my teeth on a then-new Yashica 124 way back when as a kid first learning photography.
    The Rollei build quality is noticeably better than the Yashica. But the Yashica 635 had a brighter viewfinder than my Rollei 2.8C. So if your 635 finder wasn't bright enough, and you want another TLR, you'll need to budget for a brighter replacement screen.
    I did clean my 635 screen - verrry carefully, since the fresnel is plastic. It helped.
  18. The Mamiya's are high quality but with slrs like Bronicas so cheap why bother.
    TLRs have a couple of plus points, such as low noise and vibration levels (easier to hand-hold at low shutter speeds) and of course the classic advantage of being able to view the subject right at the moment of exposure (really good for portraiture). The Mamiya TLRs (and any other cameras with bellows) also make close-up photography easy and save the price of extension tubes, ANY camera of their age is likely to need a CLA.
  19. I assume that you are in the UK - I am. If you can find a really good MPP Microflex, it will very much suit your needs. I have a Yashicamat, Autocord, and Rolleiflex with f3.5 planar. The Microflex beats the first two and equals the planar in image quality terms. But, with all tlrs of this age, you need to find the right one. The viewfinder is good, but not exceptional in brightness terms.
  20. The OP asked for advice regarding a TLR. Why is that that whenever a request like this is made, there are always a half-dozen or so who try to switch him to a Bronica, Mamiya or Pentax SLR? Those cameras may be your personal preference but the OP has already stated his. If you are not familiar with the various TLR options, then please keep your opinions to yourself, you are no help the the person requesting specific information.
    William P: There are other bright screen options than the Maxwell. Yashicas are already known to have decent screens as standard equipment, as least some of the newer ones. The older Yashicamats are a little ruggeder (and heavier) than the last 124G'sI would suggest a Rolleiflex 3.5 MX or a Rolleicord Va or Vb.
  21. The Mamiya C330 is great. With interchangeable lenses and close focusing it's much more versatile than other TLRs, not significantly bigger or heavier and dirt cheap. The lenses are excellent.
    The earlier 124 seems to be more robust than the 124G. Mine had an issue with the winder. In the cold (under 50F) it would jam but in warm weather it worked fine. I think this is a common problem.
  22. Henry Posner's response is spot on.
    For a few bucks more you get more versatility--and a bit more weight--with the Mamiya C330. I used to have a Yashicamat 124G but sold it in 1990. Now I use a Mamiya C330, primarily because of the interchangeable lenses.

    No matter what camera you get you should carefully check the seals. I recently had the seals on all my MF gear (Bronica ETRSi, Mamiya RB67, and Mamiya C330) redone. Given the amount of gear I have that and CLA for lenses and bodies wasn't cheap, but they should be good for another several years.
    Will you be scanning your photos or doing your own development and enlarging?

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