TLR vs. SLR

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by sarah_briggs, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. I am going to the Grand Canyon and want to take along a medium format. Which would be better for photographing landscapes in the Grand, a TLR or SLR? Also, any recommendations on INEXPENSIVE ones would be very helpful. Hopefully between $150-$200.
     
  2. A really good, dependable medium format camera body and lenses (if interchangeable) are usually considerably more than your budget.
    On the other hand, for shots of the grand vistas and such, a nice older medium format folding camera might be just the thing. They're not reflex, and often have kind of skimpy viewfinders with scale focusing, but the images and lenses can be excellent - even within your budget.
    Plus they are even more funky than TLRs. ;)
    Whatever you find, get it well ahead of time so you can learn to use it and check it out completely before you go. Also make sure you understand how, where and how expensive processing the film will be. You may want to think this over before committing to it.
     
  3. For landscapes, where you are typically focused more or less to infinity, I don't think it makes too much difference whether you use an SLR or a TLR. TLRs can be annoying at close range because you have to mentally compensate (or use a paramender) for parallax error between the viewing and taking lenses, but for longer distances that isn't really an issue.
    The main problem with many film cameras is finding one that's in good shape and works reliably. There are many good ones out there, but also many not so good ones, and for a special occasion like a trip to the Grand Canyon, I think my preference would be to take a camera that I had already tested and knew was in good working order.
    JDM's suggestion of a folding camera is a good one, though. They can be much more portable than a TLR.
     
  4. Very few TLRs allow you to change lenses.
    TLRs let you shoot handheld in lower light than SLRs because there's no mirror slap.
    Folders are the lightest but bellows wear out (leather bellows last longer so go for those if you can) and they weren't really designed with ergonomics in mind.
    Shooting landscapes, I'd be using a resting platform (flat rock)/tripod and cable release anyway, so mirror slap shouldn't be so much of an issue. Choose based on lens.
     
  5. It is going to be hard to acquire a reliable medium format SLR in your budget so, despite the benefits of being able to change lenses cost alone will likely rule one out. As has been said, most TLRs do not permit interchangeable lenses, the main exception being the Mamiya C series. I was fortunate to acquire a Mamiya C220 with standard lens for $100AUD last year, and there are more sources of affordable cameras in the USA so this is possible, I suppose. The C220 is one of the lighter and less complex Mamiya models so has less to go wrong and is lighter to carry. The advantage of a Mamiya is that further down the track you could consider alternative lenses, if you find the medium format/TLR experience suits you.
    If you are content to work within the confines of a standard lens, a Yashica TLR or Rolleicord offers good quality optics at a price that fits your budget. Of course, some care is required when buying to ensure details such as focus alignment, film advance and shutter operation is correct. Although my Mamiya is a very capable piece of kit, my own preference goes to the various Rollei TLRs, due to their quality of manufacture which is without peer. A Rolleicord V is likely within your budget and offers everything you need to capture square format images in colour or black and white of superb quality, whilst being lighter, less complex, and more affordable than the majority of Rolleiflex models. They are fitted with a 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenar lens of excellent quality and superb centre sharpness wide open, and across the frame from f/5.6-f/8. Here in Australia I would struggle to find a really good example locally within your budget, however this should be achievable within the USA. Classified advertisements at Rangefinder Forum and APUG are good places to try, and Craigslist (from what I have read).
     
  6. I would also recommend a Yashicamat 124g for the grand canyon. From what I remember it can be quite a workout doing that location (if you want to get both sides). The Yashicamat is very light compared to pretty much any other MF camera out there. The lightest interchangeable lens MF I can think of off the top of my head would probably be the Bronica ETR and it would weigh around 1-2 kg with a couple lenses and cost 2-3x as much.
    Yashicamat 124G are going for 2-300 on eBay, but can be found for less at KEH, Rollei TLRs as Brett pointed out are good also, also look at the Minolta Autocord. These are all light cameras that have an 80mm lens, (basically 50 in 35mm terms) square format, and take 120 film.
    You could also look for a refurbished Agfa Isolette (1, 2, or 3) This is a good folding camera and for about 150 AUD you can get a completely overhauled and reworked camera that's much lighter than any of the above cameras. It will have an 85mm lens and take 120 film (square format).
     
  7. My choice would be a TLR. I use Mamiya TLRs (C3, C220, C330) and a Yashicamat.
     
  8. I'd just like to add to my previous post. I would recommend a Mamiya TLR first but they are very heavy (about as heavy as a full SLR Medium format camera). If you can take along that much weight go for the Mamiya.
     
  9. I personally prefer a 6x9cm rangefinder for landscapes. However, in the past, I have used a Mamiya TLR and a Yashica TLR. If I could not find one of those two within your price range and in good working condition, I would also consider a Seagull TLR.
     
  10. I would also recommend that you use a tripod.
    Good luck & have fun on your adventure!
     
  11. I would recommend against planning to buy a new camera of a format you haven't used before just for this trip. If you really want to get into medium format do it well ahead of time. And in all likelihood, plan on spending more money than that. Medium format film cameras are cheap, but still you should plan on spending at least $200-$400 for a decent camera and lens.
    If you don't need to change lenses an old Fuji 645 rangefinder might be one of the easiest to use, like the GA645 or one of the variations. I would opt for the wide lens version.
     
  12. Wow, thanks for the advice. It seems that a TLR is what everyone is leaning toward, so I think I will be going with that! I've owned a Mamiya 220 in the past and liked it a lot, but have been thinking maybe the 330 would be a littler sturdier. Weight isn't really an issue, I will be rafting the canyon so most of the time, it'll be in a dry box on a boat. We only have a few days with hiking and I'll probably bring my digital along for those trips.
    As for the rangefinder answers, I've never used one. What are any advantages/disadvantages to taking a rangefinder versus a TLR on this trip? I've found both a few rangefinders and TLRs on ebay within my budget. The rangefinders I've found have been names I've never heard of or don't really like (like Kodak). Any advice is appreciated!
     
  13. I find RFs 10x faster to focus, but that's very likely because I use an RF every day and take the TLR out maybe 5x a year (if that). It must just be what I'm used to — when I used an SLR every day, I could focus quickly with a plain matte screen…
    I find the biggest advantage you can have is that you know it and are used to it.
     
  14. Cost-wise, I'd look for an SLR model like one of the early metal-bodied Mamiya 645s. You might be able to find one with an 80/2.8 for $200. I'd be reluctant to depend on an old Yashica or folder that hadn't spent some quality time with a tech who could vouch for shutter accuracy and light tightness. Just make sure whatever you buy is up to scratch before the trip.
     
  15. Maybe a little heavy, but what about a Mamiya RB67? I've seen these selling on ebay for around $200.
     
  16. If I were you I'd take SLR with several lenses, but that (depending on a camera) will cost over $1000. Sure, I've seen RB67 with couple of lenses for less than $500. Lot of it depends on your luck...you could spot really excellent (even mint) equipment for quite reasonable. Other times you pay and pay and then you discover that both the camera and lens shutters need CLA....or the camera requires new seals (light leaks), etc, etc, etc.
    The canyon is spectacular...and my feeble attempt with a bridge camera (pic below) doesn't do quite the justice. Whether you use digital or analog, the fine sand whips around in the canyon and it can get into the smallest cavities....like around the barrel of the lens (grind grind...). Unless everything is totally calm, I'd refrain from changing lenses....if you don't want to introduce sand to your camera. I was there in 2008....and talking from 1st hand experience. I'll just add that I'm glad that I didn't have a chance to take my later acquired D700.
    If you insist on film 6x6, find a camera (TLR) that's in good shape (like Yashica, Autocord, Mamiya) either on Craigslist or KEH and run several rolls of film through it....making sure that all the things that you need work correctly. If not, send it to have CLA done on it. I'd get few things like a tripod, trigger release and a light meter. Since there are no provisions to plug-in, take extra battery/ies. Once you return, you can decide whether you wish to keep it or put it up on a shelf and then get a real nice 6x6 SLR. Enjoy your trip.
    Les
    00b8vk-508827584.jpg
     
  17. Leszek,
    Exactly what I'm trying to avoid...sand all over the place. It's bad enough to have it in your drysuit...I don't want it near my cameras. This poses the question that if I went with a Maiya C220 or higher, would sand be likely to get into the bellows?
     
  18. Sand will get into any and every opening of any camera you have, given the chance. You wouldn't go wrong to take some gaffer tape with you and tape over any openings you don't need (e.g. shutter cable thread).
     
  19. For your price range, consider a TLR (my suggestion is for a Minolta Autocord if you go this route), or a folder. The thing to think about is, will shooting square format pics work for you? Not everyone is comfortable composing with 6x6, and a folder w/ a 6x9 neg will give you a more traditional landscape format. Whatever you buy, test it well before traveling.
     
  20. Given the wind blown sand problem, you would probably be happiest with a fixed lens TLR with UV filter on the lens and a simple plastic freezer bag to keep it protected until using. RF medium format cameras are great for travel, landscapes and even shooting details, but a good bellowless one is not very likely available in your price range (a Fuji 670 6x7cm camera may be had for 500 dollars, and the Mamiya 6 body alone goes for at least that).
    I bought (300$) a near mint Minolta Autocord for its double exposure capability, used it only a few times for a project requiring that and exercise the shutter periodically, but have done little else since. If you cannot find something else to your liking, let me know.
     
  21. If blowing sand is a big issue, skip the old folders, skip the TLR, and go with something simple and easy to use like the Fuji GA series. No lens changing to fuss with, AF, built in meter, light and portable, one model even has a zoom lens. extremely sharp lenses... and relatively affordable!
     
  22. The op's price range is unrealistic for a decent MF film camera. Digital has impacted film across the board, but the MF film fraternity are alive and well.
    The better or easier a MF film camera is to use, the higher the price. Hasselblads and Rollie's are holding up better that predicted. The Rollie 645 is still commanding $2k+ pricing. A good camera to live with that has good sharp lenses is the Mamiya 6/7, but again, achieving prices of $1500+.
    If I wanted to do film MF landscapes the Fuji 670 and 690 rangefinders are good.
     
  23. The main advantage an SLR would give you over a TLR for most landscape shooting would be interchangeable lenses. I've shot the Grand Canyon before and there are places were you might want a wide angle to take in the sweeping vista, others where you might want a telephoto to single out some of the features. The Mamiya C220 or C330 TLRs give you interchangeable lenses, but not within your budget. For $200, about the best you can hope for is a Yashicamat or, if you get really really lucky, maybe a Mamiya with a standard 80mm lens. I have a C330 with 80 that I got for $75 but it was a sweetheart deal from somebody I knew. In adition to interchangeable lenses, if you are planning on using graduated ND filters, an SLR would let you see the effect through the lens. Polarizers are also easier with an SLR.
    From a pracitcal point of view, I would simply stick with your digital camera. But if you want to have fun with MF and stick to the budget, I would pick up a Yashicamat plus a yellow filter and a red filter to make the clouds pop (I'm assuming we're talking B&W). Tripod would be good so you can stop down for maximum depth of field and still have a high enough shutter speed by the time you've added the filters.
     
  24. A quick glance at ebay indicates you can get an ETRSI setup with 75mm lens, body, speed grip and even metering prism for less than $300. Setting $200 as your cut off eliminates some nice choices that are maybe $50 more.
    You most certainly can shoot landscapes without a tripod. If you are shooting the Grand Canyon from the rim there is not going to be anything in the frame from 0-100 yards out. You can set our camera at f5.6 and infinity and get very hand holdable shots with Velvia 50. If you are on the Canyon floor and want to do work that has more in the foreground then yes you will have more issues. But if you hyperfocal and use higher ISO film you can still get away with hand holding. The fact of the matter is a lot of really good medium format lenses are sharpest at f5.6-f/8. I do go higher for those really big DOF shots but I try to shoot nonportrait images at F/5.6-f/8 if DOF and bokeh compromises don't hurt the image too much. Craig is right though. If you have 100 ISO B&W film and toss a red filter on your lens you are now looking at a sub ISO 25 situation. Make sure you get an ETRSI and not an ETRS. The ETRSI has mirror lock up. This comes in very handy on a tripod.
    If you order from ebay make sure you have enough time to get the equipment and run a test roll through it. I have had good luck with ebay but one guy did try and pull a fast one on me. From the time I sent my payment to the time the whole fiasco was resolved in my favor was something like two months. The guy took his sweet time sending the camera and when it arrived there were multiple issues that took several days to ferret out. You get an unfamiliar camera dropped on you and have to figure out whether you are doing something wrong or if someone is being dishonest. If your trip is in six months go ahead and ebay. If it is in two months... you may want to rethink.
     
  25. Here you go. This is (almost) inside your budget: from one of the most reliable camera sellers on the planet, with a great return policy; and is a Rollei, to boot. They don't say, but I suspect it is an Automat model with Xenar lens, lovely piece of glass. I'll shut up now, and let some of our other members get back to recommending equipment way in excess of your stated budget. ;)
     
  26. Brett has suggested a fantastic choice and it is within your reach. I have the Automat with the Xenar lens and it is sharp and will do the job.
    If the camera is functional, I would use it first and then factor in a CLA afterwards. That way you will have a sand & dust free camera that has been CLA. I used a Rolleiflex T in Inner Mongolia, Malta, Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, and Bryce Canyon. Never had any issue with sand or dust. I clean my camera on a nightly basis after shooting with either can air or the Giotto blower.
     
  27. Ok so I bought a C220 on Ebay for $200. The seller said the shutters work properly, film advances, and the lenses are clean but he's never developed anything from it so there might be light leaks. Of course, I will test this camera before I use it. I think an SLR would have been more practical, I could use the filters I already have, I don't have to worry about separate light meters or sand in bellows, but they are wwaaaaay more expensive than the TLR's I've been seeing.
    Craig, I like the mention of a red or yellow filter, how would it work with a TLR? It's been a while since I've held one, I'm not sure a standard filter would fit across both lenses. Any suggestions?
     
  28. next question...is color film worth it? The only time I've shot color negative film with a medium format has been with studio lightening in a closed space. Is it more or less easy to do in the outdoors, or will it be a big waste of my money buying color film and paying for the processing when I'm just starting out with it?
     
  29. You hold the filter up to your eye, Sarah, look through it and decide that it is what you want/need, then, if it is, mount it on the taking lens.<br><br>Is colour film worth it? Why would it not be???
     
  30. next question...is color film worth it? The only time I've shot color negative film with a medium format has been with studio lightening in a closed space. Is it more or less easy to do in the outdoors, or will it be a big waste of my money buying color film and paying for the processing when I'm just starting out with it?
     
  31. "I like the mention of a red or yellow filter, how would it work with a TLR?"
    I usually find "Q.G." quite astute, but I don't agree that looking through a color filter intended for monochrome use tells you anything worthwhile. The good thing about that is that there's no reason go have a filter on the viewing lens of a TLR (so, unlike an SLR the view isn't darkened. You can easily Google examples of what yellow and red filters (and, for that matter orange and green) filters do with B&W film. I use an arange one most often; YRMV.
     
  32. Sarah, if I were you I'd take the camera for a whirl and see how it behaves....both, in b&w and in color. Check out some colorful spots, rocks, beach (if you have any of those), etc. but also find some subtle scenes and see how they play out. If you don't have a hand meter, you can use the meter that's in your digital camera. You just never know, you may totally fall for the color look. Well, who knows you may be resentful that you didn't take it with you into the canyon.
    In regard to orange or red filter in b&w, you might want to meter the filter by measuring the light through it....to determine the exposure.
    Since you're not going to change lenses on the 220 you shouldn't have too many problems with the sand. Nonetheless, I'd have a towel over it....even if it's sitting in a case...and as it was mentioned previously, it would be good to have the case in plastic. Also, you'll be the best judge each eve whether it needs cleaning. There will be several several dozens of whitewater spots and some are splashy to drenching. Just saying.
    Les
     
  33. If you want to use a red, orange, or yellow filter with black & white an effective way to check its effects is to bring along a cheap digital point & shoot that has a black & white mode. Select that mode and hold the filter in front of it to preview what scenes would look like with various filters. I use an old Canon A470 for that purpose.
     
  34. There is no magic in what filters do, Robert. They don't work in a covert way we can only imagine. We can (who would have thought...?! ;-) ) actually see what they do.<br>The only thing left to your imagination is to think away colour. And how hard is that? If you can't, using B&W must be a bewildering guessing game, constantly resulting in the unexpected.<br>But it isn't. It's easy. We don't need monochromatic viewing filters or the modern day equivalent (digital P&S in B&W mode). So don't even begin leaning on such unnecessary crutches. Just learn how to do it yourself (have i mentioned that it's easy? ;-) ) and do it.<br><br>You do not need to meter through the filter. Filters have a fixed filter factor. Dial that in on your meter and you're done.
     
  35. "Color film?"
    If you are interested in the history of the Grand Canyon exploration, and beautiful color film photographs, you will enjoy the book, "Down the Colorado" Powell/Porter. This large format hardcover book includes the diary of John Wesley Powell, and the photography of Eliot Porter. Eliot Porter did much of his career's work with a 4x5 view camera -- although there is no mention of his equipment used for the book. I am sure that Q.G. is quite familiar with Porter's work.
    Of course I have the book, and have in the past purchased another copy for a gift, from Advanced Book Exchange. I would think that to replicate the beautiful appearance of the prints in a fully digital workflow would require the work of a post process master.
    Down the Colorado. $5.00 plus shipping:
    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=6036190265&searchurl=kn%3DPorter%2BPowell%26sts%3Dt%26tn%3DDown%2Bthe%2BColorado
    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?kn=Porter+Powell&sts=t&tn=Down+the+Colorado
    I have kayaked class IV rivers, and brought my 35mm film camera along many times. I don't have much interest in taking my Nikon DSLR down the river without a housing, so I hang onto my old Nikon N8008s, or my Nikon FM for the river. Although my Pentax 67 never made those trips, I think your TLR will be a great choice.
     
  36. You've received a lot of very good advice but I'm not clear what digital camera you are taking and what you want the medium format camera to do beyond the capabilities of your digital, If you are just going after a film look and you are going to end up with a rectangular image then any 6x6 or 6x4.5 will do but don't expect a noticeable improvement in image quality over a good digital, especially without a tripod. If you want image quality a 6x9 format will be noticeably better in landscapes with small detail. The Fuji 6x9 range finder will get great image quality but you give up interchangeable lenses and they start around $400 (you have to decide between a slightly wide and a real wide angle ov view). One of the Mariya press cameras would give you what you want but are heavy (great lenses though). Heck even an old 6x9 speed graphic with a decent lens at f8 will give great images but take a bit of getting used to. Of your 6x9 option, unless you get a Fuji, become really familiar with the camera before you go - too many things to go wrong in the filed.
     
  37. "Color Film?"
    The days of Kodachome are gone, but to me, it has the film look; This is 35mm. Although I like b&w film very much, I choose color film on the river. Selway River, Idaho. 48 miles through the wilderness.
    00b9hZ-509539584.jpg
     
  38. Somewhat above your budget, but IMO an ideal solution for lanscape on the go. I have a Fujica GS645W, cost 300€ (250$ ?). That is the camera I take on trips. Lens 45mm (28mm equivalent in 35mm format) is ideal for landscape. Aperture "only" f:5.6, but once you go into low light situations (dusk, etc) you need a tripod anyway, and in daylight you'll shoot at a smaller aperture than 5.6. And in MF there is little image quality difference between 100 and 400 ASA film. Significantly lighter than an MF SLR. Nice bright line viewfinder (much better than most foldings). And if you must have a single focal length the "28mm" perspective is ideal for landscape (not to say that other focal lenses can't be used), and many other uses except portrait. Built in meter is accurate.
    Last advice (any camera). DO NOT take a "new" camera on a trip without having exercised it. Purchase enough in advance so you have time not only to find any problem but also organize a repair if needed.
     
  39. You're quite right Q.G. that "there is no magic in what filters do", but IMO it's far easier to familiarize oneself with their effect, by studying illustrations, or trying them out, than to squint through filters and try to ignore the strong color cast while thinking in B&W terms. I'm sure that works for some people, but not me--no doubt my loss.
     
  40. For the benefit of those who haven't used filters before:
    You still make it sound, Robert, like something that's difficult, needs 'familiarizing' with. It's not.
    You can see (!) what a filter does instantaneously, the moment you look ("squint"? How difficult can it be?) through it.
    You don't "ignore the strong color cast while thinking in B&W terms", if anything, the strong colour of a filter helps those who can't imagine how a scene looks like as a monochrome see (!) how it will.
    So for those who haven't used filters before: it's easy. Photograhy is a visual medium, right? You can actually see what you are doing. ;-)
     
  41. That just doesn't work for me (for B&W) but I can see how it could be useful. For those who are as visually non-accute as me, it only takes looking at a few examples to learn what various color filters do to a B&W image. There are also rules one can memorize about what colors lighten or darken, if you're inclined to think that way (I'm not).
     
  42. You're quite right Q.G. that "there is no magic in what filters do", but IMO it's far easier to familiarize oneself with their effect, by studying illustrations, or trying them out, than to squint through filters and try to ignore the strong color cast while thinking in B&W terms. I'm sure that works for some people, but not me--no doubt my loss.​
    I agree. I have an affinity for deep red filters that require 3 stops of compensation. Even at noon in the middle of summer on a cloudless day those things are DARK. It's tough to get a good sense of what your final print is going to look like staring through a dark red pane of glass. What is far more useful is knowing what a filter does. Knowing the film you are going to use and your developing technique and having experience are also crucial. The only filter I commonly use where looking directly through the filter is very revealing is of course a polarizer. The polarizer is why I avoid TLRs.
    The true test for me is asking the question, have you ever changed filters based on what you see through the view finder. I have never looked at a scene and chosen a colored filter and reversed my decision based on the view through the view finder. By the time I've made my mental calculations I have the information I need to take the shot. I have removed polarizers, but never colored filters while doing B&W. I will say though I try and do my focusing with the red filter in place. The red filter is so extreme that the focus plane may be different than with white light. Just like in infrared photography.
     
  43. DARK, Jeff? If a 3 stop reduction "at noon in the middle of summer on a cloudless day" baffles you, you also can't take pictures in the shade of that same noon, nor on a slightly cloudy day at noon in the middle of summer, etc.
    In other words: you are a master in the art of exageration. ;-) (But seriously)

    As advice to people wondering about filters not having used them themselves, trying to determine what filter to use and when based on what you remember books said about them is very poor. "Mental calculations" when (as mentioned) you can see (!!! i can't stress this enough - visual medium. Look, instead of trying to remember!!!) what the result is? A photographer who has "never looked at a scene and chosen a colored filter and reversed [his] decision based on the view through the viewfinder" either is gifted with The Gift Of Being Able To Take Pictures Blindfolded, or, quite frankly, has a lot to learn, and is not in a position to be handing out advice.
    "Mental calculations"... What are you thinking...?! ;-)
     
  44. to change to subject a bit, my mamiya 220 came in the mail and I'm having a bit of a dilemma. My exposure count is stuck at five and I can't figure out how to reset it back to zero. I have loaded and wound an entire role of film and it hasn't reset itself. There is nothing in the manual that says how to do so.
     

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