First TLR. Help me choose for street photography

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by parasko, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. parasko

    parasko Member

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    Hi all,

    My first APUG thread!..

    I am currently using a Leica M7/35mm Summicron for street photography but I want a bigger neg. I want try a waist-level camera for discrete shooting so I'm not considering a Mamiya 7. In addition, I also want to use the same camera to experiment shooting 'tree-portraits' wide-open with a 'creamy' bokeh.

    Hence, a TLR seems a good option? I am willing to spend around US$1500. Is a Rolleiflex the way to go? Which version has the best optics? Does the lens vignette considerably? Any other cameras recommended?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    Less than $1500 will get you a beautiful Rolleiflex. Make sure you get the "F" model, like a 2.8F (Planar or Xenotar), then have it sent off for expert service to a reputable place. If you're used to the mechanical precision of the Leica then the Rollei is the camera for you, IMO. I have one, a 3.5 though, and love it.
    Where are you on the planet?
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I also recommend the Rolleiflex 2.8f Planar. Excellant camera period.

    Jeff
     
  4. kavandje

    kavandje Member

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    I'd concur with the Rolleiflex notion, and I do have a 2.8F Planar, and I agree wholeheartedly that it is a darn fine camera.

    But as a first TLR for street shooting, it can be pretty spendy. I'd submit that a 1950s-era Automat with the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 3.5 is a worthy alternative. They're generally *literally* an order of magnitude cheaper, and the Tessar has a vibe that the Planar -- despite being a "better" lens -- can't quite match.

    I have both, and I find myself using the old Automat much more frequently.

    A Rolleiflex T is also well worth considering.
     
  5. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    Sometimes the "T" can go for a lot of money. In that case I'd rather have an Automat. I'm on the hunt for an Automat with a Xenar. Still, if you have the money and you're using Leica,you might as well just jump in. If you buy wisely then you'll get your money back if it turns out not to be the style and format for you. Make sure you find a lens shade for it. Usually 3.5 Tessar is Bay I, 3.5 Planar is Bay II and 2.8 Planar is Bay III.
     
  6. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Don't be afraid of the 2.8F Xenotar. Just as good as the Planar and in many opinions better.
    If you are accustomed to using a 35mm lens on your leica then you might consider the 3.5F with the 75mm lens instead.
    If you want to consider a little longer lens there is a Tele Rollei that you could get for that kind of money which also might be great for tree portraits as well as closer up street shots.
    Dennis
     
  7. mudman

    mudman Member

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    I love my 3.5 Automat. Great camera.
     
  8. Lightproof

    Lightproof Member

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    Just buy the Rolleiflex 2,8F. It is a great camera.
    The lens does not show a lot vignetation.

    However, in my opinion "discrete shooting" is not possible with them today.

    You have two options:
    a) hide the camera in a bag and pull it just before.
    b) carry it around your neck or in your hand. This will get you the attention of passangers. They are not used to the look of a TLR anymore.
     
  9. C A Sugg

    C A Sugg Member

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    One I would not recommend is the Mamiya TLR and not just for the noise and weight. I have the 220 with a 105mm. (add: "remember to cock the shutter" on that one) My biggest problem is finger placement. I keep getting them in the path of the cocking lever during exposure. If it's travel is interrupted, the shutter doesn't open.
    Of course, this might not be as big of a problem with an 80mm or wider, which wouldn't be racked out as far and I would be supporting differently.

    As far as attention is concerned, it seems to me that people aren't as wary of an obviously analog camera as they know it's not 10 seconds from the Web. With a TLR be prepared to be distracted by people wanting to share stories about "the camera grand-dad used to use." Double if you also smoke a pipe!
     
  10. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    Me too, especially since replacing the original ground glass with a brighter one.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Yet another reason why in spite of the price and features Mamiya TLRs are not so wonderful. Do a search under my user name and you can find out more reasons not to buy Mamiya TRLs. For $1,500US, one can buy a Hasselblad with a f/2.8 80mm lens, or a Bronica with several lenses and be as happy as a clam [Are clams really happy? I never talked to one.].

    Steve
     
  12. Henry Carter

    Henry Carter Member

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    A Rolleiflex TLR is great for street shooting. Most people ignore you as you bend over the waist level finder and look like you are just fiddling with an odd looking camera, which makes it an excellent tool for candid shots. They mistake the act of shooting with that of someone adjusting and fiddling with an odd and old looking camera that they just don't quite know how to use.

    I once sat accross a table from someone who had agreed to be photographed, and as I was shooting my 3rd roll of 120 film she asked: "when are you going to stop fiddling with your camera and take my picture?".
     
  13. parasko

    parasko Member

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    Great responses. Thanks. Looks like I'm on the right track with a Rolleiflex...BUT....a few more questions if I may:

    1. Apart from a CLA, will I also need a brighter viewscreen? If so, which type?
    2. How difficult (or easy) is it to accurately focus with these cameras at waistlevel, in difficult (bright light) conditions?
    3. Is the Rolleiflex a beast to carry around for street photography or is it light/small enough in real world practical terms?
    4. Major differences between the f3.5 75mm lens version vs the f2.8 80mm lens (apart from the obvious f stop and FL)? Is one lighter/ better made for instance?
    4. Recommendations on where to CLA in the US or UK (I am in Australia)?

    Apologies for the many questions.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 4, 2009
  14. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    In the US there is Harry Fleenor a Oceanside in California, and Krikor in New Jersey. I bet there are good places in Australia that know Rollei's inside out.
    There are a few different bright screens and different opinions on which is best. Maybe try and see if you get on with the original screen. The camera is pretty easy to focus, but for critical focus I use the magnifier. You can see the whole screen through it too.
    I find mine a piece of cake to carry around. You'll have to make sure you have a good and safe strap. The old original leather ones can become weak. Save the tabs off the end of the strap they're getting rare.
    It is said that the 3.5 MIGHT be the tiniest bit sharper, but I think that the difference if there is one, is irrelevant. Really they are of equal quality in lens and body. The 2.8's are considered a "higher" model generally more expensive. Just sure the lenses are perfect and it's serviced by a place with real Rollei experience.
    Jeff
     
  15. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    1. The Maxwell screen is about twice as bright as the standard stock Rollei screen and most people prefer them.

    2. There is a pop up magnifier in the WLF that you can use without bringing it right to your eye. You can just pop it up as you compose the picture and focus on a small enlarged spot. However if you are still blessed with young eyeballs you can focus pretty well without it. There is usually a split image on the screen but not necessarily.

    3. The Rolleiflex is not a beast and I can carry mine all day long without the least strain. Compared to a pocket sized digital camera it is a beast.

    4. The 3.5F is slightly more dynamic due to slightly wider lens and has slightly more depth of field. It is also slightly lighter. The lenses don't test out any sharper or less sharp than the 2.8 80mm lenses but the slightly more depth of field makes it seem that way. IMO

    You are concerned with Bokeh. There is the model 2.8C which has a nine or ten bladed aperture which gives very round looking specular highlights. Some people love that and the C is a really nice older model which usually has a Xenotar.
     
  16. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I use a C330 one-handed all the time. I've got a 135mm, an 80mm, and a 55mm. Haven't run into those issues yet. Being able to swap lenses can be a real plus sometimes.

    Add "have a beard" to the list, making me three-for-three.
     
  17. Jersey Vic

    Jersey Vic Member

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    I love my Rolleicord IV (with the very fine Schneider Xenar 80mm) and my Mamiya 220. Both are very light and easy to use. I think the mamiya might be the best choice because you can use the 80mm and the fine 55mm which is closer to your 35mm Leica lens than the standard Rollei 80mm. Both cameras with lenses were under $200 each.
     
  18. Tom Nutter

    Tom Nutter Member

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    I was shooting street photos with a rolleiflex recently in NYC, and maybe it's because I'm a little out of practice on my street photography smarts, but the camera seemed to be a bit of a spectacle and drew too much attention for my liking.
     
  19. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    Personally, I'd go for the 3.5, as they're less expensive, and I wouldn't use 2.8 much for street use, as the depth of field is very small. If you shoot a lot in very low light, then the 2.8 would be better.

    Note that there are two Rollei screen sizes, one for "non-removable" cameras, such as an MV-EVS Automat, and one for newer cameras with replaceable finders, such as an F. Oddly, the "non-removable" ones can be easily removed. It just involves taking out 4 screws. That said, you'd probably want to have a tech replace the screen so that he or she could check that focus is accurate.

    I have a Beattie Intens +, which is very bright, but focus doesn't pop quite as much as I'd like. Still, it made the camera much more usable than the original screen. I have a Maxwell screen for my 4x5, and they are great but very expensive. I believe that a place like Marflex (an authorized Rollei repair place) can install a Rollei bright screen, which I've heard good things about.
     
  20. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    There are a lot of nice non-Rollei TLR's out there that are excellent cameras. I've always liked the Minolta Autocord because both the the lens and ergonomics are excellent. Inexpensive, too.