Deciding on TLR

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by EKDobbs, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    I'm spending $500 or less on a used TLR camera. Currently, I'm interested in the Mamiya C330, which gets great reviews everywhere I've seen.

    Now, I'm not blowing images up to gallery size or doing professional work by any means, but I'm also interested in at least 8x10 quality. That being said, are there alternatives to the C330 that have meters/are cheaper, but not so cheap as to have poor image/build quality? I was thinking Yashica Mat 124 or a Rolleicord, but it's difficult to find comprehensive comparisons.

    Thanks in advance for helping out an armchair-enthusiast such as myself.
     
  2. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I have a Rolleiflex 2.8 which is more than you care to spend.(I got mine after my father passed away 20 years ago) Mamiya C330 is a great choice.

    Jeff
     
  3. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I think any TLR shooting 6x6 will very, very easily make an extremely high quality 8x10" print. I think any of those camera will serve you well, I only have experience with Rollei, and the quality is outstanding. You can get a Yashica Mat for much less than $500, and it'll be a lot smaller than a C330, if that's important to you.
     
  4. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    The problem in working out which one is best is that they are all good. Mamiya, Rolleicord, Rolleiflex, Autocord, Microflex and Yashicamat are all great.

    If you are happy with a fixed 'normal' lens then all but the Mamiya will offer you this in a lightweight body. If you want to change lenses then you need to look at the Mamiya range of TLRs. More versatile but also a bit more bulk to carry around.

    I have a Rolleicord V in my collection of around thirty film cameras. If I was only allowed to keep one, this would be the one.


    Steve.
     
  5. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    Thanks. I'm definitely leaning towards the C330. I've got a M645 pro, and I love the build quality. Still, a good testimonial could push me towards a Yashica or Rolleicord, especially if it's cheaper (I make ~$90 a week, working weekends).

    And thats why I came here. I had no idea Minolta even made TLRs, and I'd never heard of Microflex.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2012
  6. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    They are probably all more than adequate for 8x10, but many that have meters may be a bit erratic, and/or run into the mercury battery problem. I have a Yashica MAT 124g, which I believe was their last TLR model. It's early 1980 vintage, thus pretty old. I have a battery adapter to try a silver oxide cell in it, but at the moment there is what may be a dirty contact problem in the switch that enables the meter when the hood is opened. I plan to get in there and look around one of these days, but meanwhile a Gossen Digisix solves my problem.

    Just wanted to toss that out, as a small separate meter would leave you ready for any (or multiple!) camera(s) and might be better, or at least not a major deciding factor.

    DaveT
     
  7. Chrismat

    Chrismat Subscriber

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    I have a Minolta Autocord, a Rolleiflex Automat and a Yashica 24 for tlrs. They are all great. If you do end up getting a Yashica, you will need to flock the inside film box to eliminate internal reflections, which is a real problem with a lot of Yashica tlrs unless it is a late model 124G.

    Chris
     
  8. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    How and what are you going to shoot? The Mamiya 3 and 2 series are great cameras. Lens quality seems to be better with the later versions but even early seem fine. Multiple prime lenses so quality is not compromised. Minus of course is if walking around it gets to be a heavy kit and is not as unobtrusive as most of the fixed lens tlrs. I used to craze a C330f Professional system but as much of my photography is hand held walk around, it had weight against it.

    The Yashica and Rollei models are lighter for walking around. But to get to a longer focal length or wider view when you can only do it via a different lens are the auxilary lenses. I've yet to find a set even the Rolleis that do not affect the quality. Yes, you can crop to get around the longer lens issue but in some instances can not get wider when your back is against the wall, no pun intended. Yes, there is the tele-Rollei but, last time I looked at pricing, I doubt you'd carry it around often.

    I've had the Yashicamat-G and several Rolleiflexes, no 'Cords. On balance the Yashica is a good starting camera to test the waters with. It uses the Bay I filter set so if you later move up to a Rolleiflex 3.5, there is a good chance the accessories are transferrable. Do'nt get bogged down with the lens too much, the Tessar vs Planar debate, like trying to compare 2 perfects with each other. The 'flex lenses are simply for most part above almost anything you'll likely shoot. This tlr design is easy to carry and shoot with as they are vitually identical except for the Rolleiflex T. The Rolleiflexes I've had were quieter than the Yashicamat-G. If you look at Rolleiflex , look for a T. It is between the 'Flex and 'Cord supposively but in comparing it to both, it is really a 'Flex less the autostart mechanism so the same system as the 'Cord and Yashica, align the arrow on the film to a mark on the camera. It Does use the EV shutter system so the dual wheels are lacking. If you get it CLA'd the interconnect of the shutter and aperature levers can be defeated. I actually like the shutter button on the T better, I find less potential of body movement with less thinking about it. It also has the removeable hood for the 'Flex finders and is easier to replace the screen than the earlier non-removeable hood 'Flexes.

    Assume that any camera you get should or will need a CLA to assure shutter speeds and lens alignments. The 'Mat-G and some Rolleis have some form of meter. Make sure they are either accurate or use it a bargaining chip. Repair and replacement of the selenium metering cells (Rollei) is not cheap, figure a trip to Quality Light Metric in California, the non-selenium meters I think all use the PX625 mercury so something like a C.H.R.S. adaptor will get you power.

    The limiting factor result wise for each of these will be the user's ability; all are excellent cameras but, only a tool.
     
  9. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Just get the Mamiya and stop the agonizing. I love mine. Even though I usually use the normal 80, being able to change focal lengths is a big plus. And to echo Brianl - simplicity is its own reward.
     
  10. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    Have you held a Mamiya TLR? I know by saying this I'll encourage people who climbed Mt. Everest with a C330 in their waist pack to chime in, but face it, they are big. And no matter how far out he bellows go, parallax is an issue with any TLR inside of a meter.

    Interchangeable lenses- nice! Size- well, your call. At least it is very simple here- large size, interchangeable lenses, or small(er) size with fixed lens. For me, a fixed lens works best, so I give that up and get a camera I can carry in one hand for hours on end.

    Don't choose based on a meter. Too many excellent TLRs with no meters or broken meters.

    Condition might be more important than model. I'd take an aligned Rolleicord III over an abused Rolleiflex MX-EVS any day.

    Anything of the Yashica level or up will do you well. Look around, but don't spend forever looking.
     
  11. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    Thanks everyone. You are all incredibly well informed on the subject, and this is a great introduction to the general atmosphere of APUG forums. I've decided to see if I can get my hands on some that you've mentioned, see if the weight/feel is really an issue, and to familiarize myself with TLRs in general. If I can't, I'll likely just get the C330 and enjoy.

    I'll definitely by frequenting this forum often!
     
  12. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    I'm an old man so please take this from a grizzly old guy who has been around the block a couple of times. I just read your post as to you already having a very decent mf camera and your income level. Not sure of your situation but, given these 2 facts is it advisable to start investing in a 2nd system? A camera system can be like getting married, the price of admission may be the least expensive part of the deal. The Yashicamat and most 3.5 Rolleis use Bay I filter systems. This size is more plentiful and less expensive than the II and III but, even a lens hood is not cheap and filters unless you get a series adaptor such as that which is in the classifieds (not mine) also carry sticker shock.

    Other than the larger 6x6 format, the tlr will not do much that the 645 will not except have a potentially lower view as you look down vs through the finder but, they make knees for a reason.

    Years, well decades ago, I was into multiple systems and trying to build several systems and soon learned the lesson and retreated to a single main system that I built up; a mf with a 35mm back so I did not even need a mf and 35mm system. In the long run I saved a bundle and never missed having multiple systems. Today, I do have a couple but, each was acquired at a time when I could afford my Jag and Volvos and did not dig deep for the accessories but over some 30 years dug through the trash bins of photo stores; most of which either no longer bother putting the stuff out for sale or finally realized the stuff was worth gold.

    With your level of income, if your current kit is complete, then I'd look for film, darkroom systems, meter, etc. and expand rather than duplicate.

    Sorry, if I sound like a father but I've seen too many persons go too far into debt and done too many bankruptcies for them to make a recommendation and then when learning more facts, keeping quiet.
     
  13. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    You may want to consider a Mamiya C220. Pretty much the same camera as the C330, but about one pound lighter.

    Jim B.
     
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  15. BobD

    BobD Member

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    Don't forget the Mamiya C220. Same interchangeable lenses with less cost and less weight than the C330.
     
  16. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    reply to BrianL

    Very good points. I'm a senior in highschool, so I've got the good fortune to not have any monetary responsibilities. I work weekends purely to support my photography, so any money I spend is going to be spent on this or other photographic interests.

    That being said, I really do see your point. The reason I want a TLR is because I want to figure out what works for me and what doesn't; I haven't had the experience with all different cameras or systems, so I don't know what would best fit the way I make and process photographs. I'm currently trying out different films, setting up a darkroom at school, and preparing to create my own prints.

    Granted, I have a bit of gear junkie in me. The look and style of TLRs is incredibly cool, if only as a conversation piece, and I understand that's part of the reason I want it (and maybe not the best reason). The 6x6 format also intrigues me. If I could somehow borrow a C330 for a week or two, I would jump on the opportunity. At worst I'll buy it, not like it and sell it for the same or a slight loss.

    The fatherly advice is still greatly appreciated. I may consider instead spending the money on film and enlarger parts (I need a 6x4.5 neg carrier and a 75mm lens if I'm going to make prints from the M645).
     
  17. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    Oh boy, EKDobbs, you're gong to love this: Look, kid, I spent the first six years of photographing, meaning from 14 to 20, with a 35mm SLR and a 50mm lens. Period, that was it. Won awards, was published, did pretty well thank you. Until you have a specific reason for a piece of equipment- meaning a client or a project demands it- focus on prints, on results. I assume that you are scanning? Make prints of the scans, any way you can.

    You want to try 6x6? Mask your 645 viewfinder- simple pieces of cardboard on each side. That will tell you 80% of what you need to know about the square format. You are young, so your eyes are good and you'll be able to see the 4.5 x 4.5 screen pretty well.

    Take that Mamiya 645 and drive it into the ground. Work that thing every which way you can. Do portraits, landscapes, interiors, sidewalks, everything. Make prints one way or another. Put them on the wall, pin them up. Use a hunk of the garage wall if that is all, basement wall. Look at what you are doing. LOOK!!! And look at other people's work. At museums and books, not Flickr. Look at videos and films, see how they make a shot work. Magazines. Go to the local library and ask if they have any photo archive materials. See what got saved, see if they are of interest, try to understand why and why not.

    Here, look at this series. Looks to me to be two lenses- 'normal', about 75mm for your Mamiya, and 'wide', about 50mm. It's got it all- landscapes, interiors, space, not bad for some guy shooting one film, one body, a couple of lenses. Buy the medium-wide lens foro yur Mamiya first, and then you could do what this guy did-
    http://www.magnumphotos.com/c.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.StoryDetail_VPage&pid=2TYRYDDWML5P
    Or this guy, again very limited equipment-
    http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?...tail_VPage&l1=0&pid=2K7O3R13ENVZ&nm=Alec Soth
    Or this guy, maybe two lenses, all 35mm-
    http://www.egglestontrust.com/guide.html
    Or this gal, one lens-
    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/L/levitt/levitt_4boys_full.html

    Wait until you have no choice but use another camera. Until then, focus on shooting and looking at your own work and other people's work. Beg or borrow other equipment. And save your money for travel with one camera rather than staying home with ten cameras. There's always time to get another camera, but there isn't always time to be be in your late teens exploring the world in all its richness.
     
  18. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    Advice taken. After some deliberation, I think I'll save the C330 for bringing me out of a midlife crisis. (I'm not much of one for fast cars.)

    As for prints, I'm lucky enough that I don't have to deal with the hell that is digital scanning, as I just re-opened my school's old darkroom. Enlarger, chemicals, 125 sheets of MGIV, I'm ready to roll.
     
  19. edge-t

    edge-t Member

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    Great Advice. I bought a C330, Nikon N80, Canonet QL17 and 2 Minolta XD11 a while back. Bought lenses ranging from 28mm to 80mm. At the end of the day, I've been using the XD11 with 35mm lens. It suits my genre of photography---documentary. The rest of the gear have been in the cabinet for the past few months.

     
  20. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    Agreed, I love my C220f.
     
  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Another point to consider. If you already shoot 6 X 4.5 and print 8X10, unless you print square format, 8X8 or 10X10 you dont really gain a larger negative as need to crop a 6X6 for a 8X10. The money spent on a TLR can be directed towards lens, back, motor drive or even a 2nd body.
     
  22. adenough

    adenough Member

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    I used to be a Pro photographer and used a mamiya 330 system and a Rollie as a backup. The Mamiya lens are outstanding and the Portrait lens was sometimes too sharp for older clients [thank the lord for filters]. I always used the Mamiya on a tripod even though I do posses a very useful hand support bracket. For handheld shots I used the Rollie, it was lighter with a virtually silent shutter. There is no parrallex problem with the 330 as there is a compensation device built into the viewfinder and with the standard lens you would rarely use it.
     
  23. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    In high school; a great time to learn composition, exposure and explore what you really thrill at for subject matter. At that stage of my life, I had the use of my folks Argus 620 TLR and for a short period a Argus C3 before moving to a Kodak 135 Pony. The viewfinder of the Argus TLR was so dim that I made a crude sportsfinder for it; the C3 and Kodak were "real cameras" at the time. I think I paid less than $5 each and the C3 included 2 aux lenses. However, I had no money for a light meter and had not choice but to learn light and honed may photographic skills on these which have formed the basis of how and what I shoot today. Yes, I've come a long way but used the C3 and Pony with only a couple of other oldies from pre-WWII through undergrad school, a marriage and divorce and through law school that I attended a bit later in life; a timespan of 20 years with the same cameras before spurging and that is when I went nuts while losing focus on the photography and concentrating on the gear. I sadly got rid of the C3 and Pony but had I known then what I know now, they'd still be my only cameras along with a great little Zeiss Ikonta that I did keep. As for meters, GE PR-1 was finally picked up and a couple of Weston Master IIs. Only replaced b/c the cells in the Westioins died and I gave the GE to a close and dear friend after he tried it and liked it better than the Nikon F meter. I still use a pair of old meters today, a Weston Ranger and Metrastar and though I've tried others and newer, my oldies do as well.

    So, you are way ahead of me in the gear category at your age.
     
  24. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    That is the bittersweet reality of analogue cameras these days. Really easy to get involved in, but only because so many are losing interest. I know I'm lucky to have a camera that in the 80s would've been considered a semi-pro not-for-amateurs system. I think what I'll do is use the 645 like crazy (I already go out and shoot at least every other day), and I'll save a little money each week for splurging on cameras that interest me (c330, RB67). I won't keep more than three cameras at a time, especially since I go to college soon and having 5 medium format cameras would just be overkill.

    My dad does that with guitars, and it's worked out pretty well for him. No clutter, but he's still able to try ones he's interested in, and maybe even make a little money selling them.
     
  25. dehk

    dehk Member

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    A TLR with built in meter, you might as well use a hand held meter, its not really that practical, that's my 2 cents.
     
  26. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    If I had one of these I would use the parallax line - I remember that feature.

    These are the cameras I remember from high school photo class. You can give them to kids and they likely won't break them.