Can anyone recommend a good Medium Format TLR?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by snay1345, Jan 29, 2011.

  1. snay1345

    snay1345 Member

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    I was wandering around a local bookstore the other day (I live in Japan) and I bought this thing called a gakkenflex. It is basically a cheap plastic TLR that comes with a magazine you put together yourself. Anyway I have been having fun with it and I have always been interested in getting a medium format TLR, but since nobody seems to make good TLR's anymore; or at least I don't believe they do; I was thinking about buying one used. From what I can tell Rollieflexes are the cream of the crop, but they are pretty expensive. The other alternative that I seem to come across in my searches is the Yashica Mat 124-g. I was wondering if anyone else had any opinions on TLR's and if there are any others out there I should be watching out for. Thank you.
     
  2. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    Older Rolleiflexes are cheap cheap - anything from the Automat 4 (MX - late 1950's) to the $$$ ones of recent times will (if in good condition) give you splendid optics and functionality. You can get a very good older one for $300-ish, and it will give you years of service. They are very personable to carry around, and people like being photographed by them, probably because they are less threatening (looking down) and so darn aesthetically charming.

    Marc!
     
  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    As a TLR user I'd suggest it depends on your budget. I use both a Yashicamat 124 and a Rolleifles 3.5E and while both are good cameras the Rolleiflex is far better built, a bit heavier and the Xenotar lens is better than the Yashinon at wider apertures. There's also a big difference in value.

    So for £75-£100 ($120-$160) you can get a decent Yashicamat like a 124/124g or a Rollieflex with Xenar/Tessar for about double that, you pay more for a 1960's or later Rolleiflex with a Planar/Xenotar and condition plays a big part. A mint early 60's 3,5E can fetch more than £750 ($1200).

    There's also Minolta Autocords, and MPP Microflex's and Microcords as well as the budget Rolleicord Vb's, all excellent cameras.

    Ian
     
  4. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    You'll get many answers, which is a good thing. Rolleiflex, Yashicamat, Mamiya, Minolta, Ricoh, Flexaret, etc. They'll all take a good photo. They're also all getting old now, so my advice is, buy one that isn't beat the hell, has a clear lens, that you can have serviced reasonable easily and feels great in your hands. My personal favourites are the Rolleiflex and Yashicamat. People love the Minolta Autocord too. You should be able to find all of these in great condition, and have good service too in Japan.
    I love using my TLR. Good luck.
     
  5. Grainy

    Grainy Member

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    I absolutely love my Rolleiflex f/3.5 from the late 1950's.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I'm a big fan of the Yashicas, and Mamiya's. I have a Yashica D, its basic but good quality. It affords all the features of its big brother models except automatic shutter cocking, you have to do that yourself, but allows for easy multiple exposure. I also shoot aMamiya C-220 and C-330. These have interchangable lenses in a wide variety of focal lengths, and interchangable focusing screens, all in all a versatile system. Either brand is well built with quality optics.
     
  7. R gould

    R gould Member

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    You can get early Rolleiflex models, say like a automat 4, for peanuts, and they will give negatives as good or better than anything else, execpt perhaps for Rolleicord, again something like a Va, go for peanuts, I bought a automat in perfect condition, serviced, for £89 last year, also a Rolleicord Va2, 1961 vintage, for £99, again serviced, look after them and either canera will last a lifetime, the Flex has a tessar lens and the cord a Xener, Richard
     
  8. snay1345

    snay1345 Member

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    Thanks for all the info. I guess I will start looking around for deals. It helps that I am about to get a couple grand back for my tax return.
     
  9. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I have a yashica C and a rolleiflex automat mx with tessar 75/3.5 lens.

    For yashica's, I am very happy with my C, but the D has a slightly better lens, as does the 124/124g. I got mine for free and had to pay for a CLA and new pleather from dean's photographic. It's a lightweight reliable camera and a huge amount of value for the money. It takes rolleiflex bayonet-1 filters.

    I've also wanted a rolleiflex and was put off by the high prices. Something with a planar or 2.8 lens will be expensive. f2.8 was reserved for pricier models. Tessar is a 100 year old design that is very very sharp at medium and small apertures. Planar is a little sharper wide open. In that manner, a tessar is more versatile as it provide a little tiny bit of softness for portraits wide open if you want. tessar and planar both provide very attractive bokeh in the background. I have a tessar on my LF cameras, so it was an easy and pleasant change to use them in MF as well. I ended up with the automat mx for $225 on craigslist, and I paid the asking price because I had it in hand and could test everything. I ran a roll of film through it, tested the shutter speeds by ear, viewed the iris at different apertures while doing a B exposure, etc...

    The rolleiflex seems a little heavier and more rugged than the yashica, but either is fine for walking around. The rolleiflex also has a sort prism viewfinder by putting the sport finder flap halfway down. Find some manuals online to see the differences. The yashica C doesn't have a cable release option. My C is also a little swirly wide open depending on what's in the background which I like. Both had frame counters built into the camera. This is preferable to something older with the red window that you squint through to see how far you've wound the film. Both also have a little pop-up magnifier for focusing on the groundglass.

    There are other good TLRs out there too, but I don't have time or money to explore further.
     
  10. KMiller

    KMiller Member

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    I have a Rollei 3.5 and 2.8, both "F". Both are fantastic, and I've never had a problem getting them serviced. Heavier than some I've seen, especially the 2.8, but even that went on a two week West Coast tour in a shoulder bag without complaint.
     
  11. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    I have all the cameras that have been mentioned and a few that have not. In the 40's and 50's there were several Japanese companies that were building TLR's, I have a Walzflex that takes fantastic pictures but it did need a service to fix a few minor problems. Check out this page for a list of cameras http://www.tlr-cameras.com/japanese/index.html and Google TLR's to find more. There are plenty out there that can be had a good price. The one that I get good results with is my Argoflex. Argus is an American company that produced many fine cameras back in the 30's (note that I said "is", they are still in business), they made several cheap TLR's but if you can find the early Argoflex, they are easy to work on and take some great pictures and I only payed $30 USD for it.
     
  12. R gould

    R gould Member

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    Another TLR that I have and use often is a Weltaflex, I only paid around £40 for it, and the Meritar lens stopped down to around 5.6 is very sharp, it is not as rugged as the Rollei's, but it delivers good results,is light to carry, the only dis advantage, which for me is very small, is it is red window wind, but in 3 years it has not given a problem, and has been used a lot,was my favorite until I got the rollei's, another worth considering is a MPP Microcord 2, with the prontor shutter and the Ross xpres lens, in my opion, having used several cameras with that lens,better than the tesser that it was copied from,Richard
     
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Rolleiflexes are not that expensive unless you go after certain models. I'd look for a 3.5F with the Xenotar lens, not the Planar. You won't be able to tell the difference between the results from the two lenses, but people will pay twice as much for the one with the Planar. I think you can get a user one for under $400. IMO, they are one of the best Rolleis for a user, especially if you get one with 220 capability.

    Go with a Rolleicord and things get even cheaper. They are often sold for under $200, and more beat up ones can even go for under $100 sometimes.
     
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  15. snay1345

    snay1345 Member

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    How much of a real difference am I going to see in my negatives between the various more popular TLR's?
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The post WWII TLR's have coated lenses, the Yashica yashinons are good stopped down but they are a little prone to flare, the Rolleiflex's with Xenar's and Tessar's are a little less prone to flare but all these lenses are Tessar designs and sfter at wider apertures, particularly at the edges and corners.

    The Rolleiflex's with Xenotar & planar lenses are very much sharper at wider apertures, and are just as good as Hasselblad, Mamiya, Bronica etclenses, but by about f11 the Tessar type lenses catch up.

    Ian
     
  17. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    That depends entirely on your idea of image quality. A camera with Zeiss or Schneider lenses is nothing to sneeze at. I'd choose based on based on camera condition, build quality and lens quality. As someone said, all of these are getting old. A broken camera with a great lens is pretty useless. Will you see a difference between an image made with a Rollei versus a Yashica? Maybe, depending on the conditions. Just going from 35mm to 120 film is going to give your images a big boost regardless of the camera involved. As with anything, you get what you pay for. I personally own a 1953 Rollei 2.8C. I love it and it has produced good images for me for 30 years now. I've used it a lot. I'll never sell it.

    Peter Gomena
     
  18. Ric Trexell

    Ric Trexell Member

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    What is expensive?

    You said Rollei's are expensive, but look at it this way. If you buy a $500 camera and use it for a few years, and then sell it for $450, you have had a top of the line camera for only $50. Others will pay $50 for a camera and not get the enjoyment out of it that they would from an expensive camera, and when it jams up in a few years, they will have a camera that is not worth repairing. Get what you want and don't worry about the money, unless ofcourse you can't afford it. This applies to most things in life, not just cameras. Ric.
     
  19. Hikari

    Hikari Member

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    Take a look at the 3 series Mamiya TLRs (C3, C330, etc.). It was the the only system to have interchangeable lenses. And because of that, it camera has a very long bellows draw which allows for really nice close-ups. The 2 series is similar except the winding on and cooking the shutter are separate actions. The down side is they are a little bigger and heavier than the Rollei style TLRs.

    Minolta also made very nice TLRs in the vein of the Rolleis.
     
  20. LyleB

    LyleB Member

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    I have a Yashica A and D. Happy with both. The D had a gummed up shutter when I got it. A very quick trip to Dean's Photographica for a CLA (under $60) and it's working beautifully now.

    Unfortunately, I see on Dean's site that he is no longer accepting new repair work. These are simple cameras, so I'm sure you would not find it difficult to find another repair shop.

    Unfortunately, this will probably become more of a problem as the older repair men, the ones with the real experience working on these old models, retire completely. This is the reason I'm sending most of my old bodies in for overhaul as I can afford it. I figure do it now, while it's still relatively cheap. That way, they should last for another couple of decades anyway, and it will be a plus if I ever want to sell them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2011
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    There's 3 or 4 quite nice Rolleiflex's/Rolleicords for sale via a UK dealer all sub £100/$160, they are post WWII so with coated Xenars and Tessars. I'm quite tempted to get one to replace my Yashicamat 124 :D

    But then I think, well I know, maybe I'd be better paying a little more, get a good 60's Rolleiiflex with a Xenotar or Planar, a user - mechanically & optically sound but not mint though . . . . .

    Ian
     
  22. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Best: Any working TLR that is given to you
    Second Best: Any working TLR that you get for $50 or less
     
  23. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    I think the first order of business is whether you want interchangeable lenses or not. If so, then it's the Mamiya C series. If not, no point in putting up with the extra weight.

    Then decide on whether you want a meter or not. Generally, they really aren't that useful in a TLR. But if so, then it's the later Yashica 124 and 124G. Keep in mind they use a now extinct battery - though there are workarounds.

    The Rolleiflex's might be the king of the hill quality-wise (especially with Planar lens), but plenty good (as noted in prior posts) are the Rolleicords, the various Yashica models with the Yashinon lens, the Autocord (though focus lever is a weak spot), and some others. There are still more perhaps equal or a half step below - such as Ciroflex and later the Graflex.
     
  24. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    In a perverse way they all have 220 capability: shoot the first 12, wind on, open the camera and switch the spools, take up the leader and shoot the second 12. The second set will be upside down with respect to the first, you'll finish with the "UNEXPOSED" backing paper showing, and you have to figure out how far to wind when you load for the second half (the trailing leader doesn't have a start line), but it does work.

    Anyway, I agree with the recommendation. Rolleiflexen are wonderful cameras (of course), and the Xenotar lens is underappreciated because it doesn't have the magic word "Planar" around the edge.

    I have both---a Planar 'flex (2.8C) and a Xenar 'cord (III)---and it's interesting to compare them. I do see a difference in sharpness, especially in the corners, but in my opinion it's not as drastic a difference as the price would suggest. The Tessar-type Rolleicord lenses are quite capable and the cameras are a steal at the prices they go for.

    As far as I know, most of the other well-liked TLRs, the Autocords and Yashicamats and so on, have Tessar-type lenses and should produce optical results generally similar to a Rolleicord.

    -NT
     
  25. RPippin

    RPippin Subscriber

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    I bought a Flexaret a long time ago for under $100,00, and the images were outstanding. Sharp as a tack. Being a fan on 6X6 I've tried Rollicords and Yashicas for TLR use as well as my latest, a Mamiya C330. Overall though, the Flexaret was the most bang for the buck. It once got tossed out of a moving vehical along with my Zorki 4K, and both performed flawlessly afterwards. The Zorki had to have the rangefinder readjusted, but the Flexi did fine. If you ever come across one, by all means pick one up. As of now, the Mamiya C330 gets the most use, and the Mamiya lenses are also tack sharp.
     
  26. rulnacco

    rulnacco Member

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    I've got three TLRs: a Rolleiflex 2.8F/Planar (which I paid only £350 for because cosmetically it's a beater, but the lens is in perfect shape--it is possible to find them at reasonable prices if you're going to use them to shoot with and not just sit them on a shelf), a Rolleiflex T with the 3.5 Tessar (found it in a second hand shop and paid £65 + a couple of old Zenit bodies for it!), and a Mamiya C330F.

    I've been using my most recent purchase, the 2.8F, quite a bit recently to get the feel of it. It makes great photos, both in black and white and with colour film. The two main problems I have with it is that it does need a new/brighter focusing screen, and since I use it in the studio with strobe gear regularly, I had to buy a sync cord with the proprietary Rollei tip, as standard cords tend to fall out of the socket constantly. It is a bit lighter and smoother than the Mamiya, and a pleasure to use. I imagine it will be even more fun when I gather together the cash to get a Maxwell screen!

    However, if I were first getting into TLRs, I'd go the Mamiya route (as I did). You can generally find good bodies at very reasonable prices, the lenses have come way down in price and are themselves superb, you have the advantage of interchangeable lenses--a huge boon--and as others have also pointed out, there's scads of accessories for them. And they're much cheaper, too--compare the price of a Rollei prism with a Mamiya, for a perfect quick illustration. Mamiya lens hoods are similarly much less dear than the Rollei items, and as you can use standard filters on the Japanese cameras they are considerably less expensive as well. Oh, and you can use regular camera straps with the Mamiya--I have an Op-Tech on mine. The Rolleis use a thin leather strap with unique alligator clips, so it can be difficult/expensive to find a strap, if your camera didn't come with one.

    The Mamiyas, with their bellows, will also focus much closer on their own than the Rolleis. I've got a couple of Rolleinars for that purpose, but I'm not real keen on them, honestly. I've done some really good macro work with the C330F, a magnifying hood and a paramender, which is really not that difficult to use on a tripod.

    So, I might give a *slight* edge to the quality of the Rolleiflex Planar lens--not that you'd notice it much in your photos, typically--and the camera is a bit lighter and possibly more finely engineered than the Mamiya. But in most other ways, especially versatility, I'd give the nod to them over the Rolleiflex, particularly to someone who is just getting into medium format/TLRs. They're wonderful for that purpose!
     
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