TLR Users: Which Would You Recommend and Why?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by copake_ham, Mar 21, 2007.

  1. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Having now entered into the MF world via the SLR route - I'm now considering trying a TLR.

    I know less than nothing about these cameras (other than the "parralax" thing) and would like to learn more.

    About all I really know to ask at this point is that I'd like a model that isn't more than about 20 years old and, if this is even possible, uses interchangeable lenses for different focal lenght options.

    Can you help me, please?
     
  2. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I entered MF just the opposite as you, George - TLR first, then SLR. I prefer Rollei TLR. My preference might be a bit odd to some, but I prefer Rolleicord for price/simplicity. I had no problems or disappointments with a Tessar-type lens (Xenar on the Rolleicord) or a max aperture of f/3.5.

    The Vb model is the last Rolleicord made and allows use of almost all Rollei accessories since it has removable hood, unlike the earlier 'cords. I bought mine from a former boss, who inherited it from his Dad. It had barely been used - the film spool tension spring hardly had a friction mark on it. I had the shutter overhauled and then "shot the hell" out of the camera. I schlepped it all over the country and several places outside. It still is my favorite camera, especially when mounted on a monopod.

    Only "problem" is the fixed focal length lens. You'd better like "normal" because that's all there is. Only with portraits did I wish I had an option, though.

    I'm not very tall so the only other "issue" is that most of my snaps have a low camera angle. Again... only a problem with portraiture as it tends to emphasize nostrils in the most unflattering sort of way.

    (Question: SLR not working out for you, or R U just looking for something different?)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2007
  3. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    Very few TLRs with lenses that can be changed. You are really probably looking for a Mamiya C series TLR and a few lenses. The C330 is at the top end of the features, C22 at the low end.
     
  4. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    You only have one option: Mamiya C220 or C330. All other TLR models have fixed lenses (Rolleiflexes, Rolleicords, Autocords, Yashicamat, etc). There are about three categories of TLR: top/pro models, in-betweens, and good, clean, cheap fun.

    First category: Rolleiflex 3.5/2.8; Mamiya C-series
    Second: Yashicamat (12, 124, 124-G, plain "mat"), Autocords
    Third: Yashica-(A,B,C,D), Flexaret, Ciroflex

    I will leave to the experts where to put the Rolleicords and Tessar/Xenar Rolleiflexes, given that they have excellent lenses, but are not exactly as advanced as the 3.5/2.8 models.

    There is a fourth category of box/toy TLRs, but you're dropping lens quality by a mile. In comparison, with a Yashica-D, even with the lesser Yashikor lens, you can still make a nice 11x11 that is worthy of your walls.
     
  5. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I'm no expert, but I'd propose the proper place is your "second" category.
     
  6. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    This might be a tough requirement. Aside from the Chinese TLRs I don't know of any other than the revived Rolleiflex models that wouldn't be > 20 years old.
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The entire Mamiya C-serie has interchangeable lenses.

    I've got a C3 with 65, 80 and 134mm lenses (if I remember correctly), but that may be a little too old for you?
     
  8. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Wow,

    Great responses - helps to answer a lot of questions as I flip through the KEH catalog.

    Brian: Quick note, no I'm not down on the MF SLR route at all - just an "itch" to try the TLR option. BTW: I'm not too tall myself at 5'9" on my tippy-toes so I appreciate your comments on that.

    MHV: Thanks for the breakdown of quality/model, it is really going to be helpful as I sort through the offerings.

    Ole: Thanks for the advice on the "C". I very much like the flexibility of various f/l options and appreciate the info. I'd imagine the "C's" are commensurately more expensive and so will have to consider price to usage etc.

    Boy, you've got to love this site!
     
  9. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening, George,

    In addition to the information above, I'll add that there is also the Koni-Omegaflex, one of which I'm fortunate to own. It's definitely on the heavy side, but it gives a 6 x 7 negative and has four different lens sets available. Lens quality is very high, but I've noticed that prices on this and other Koni used equipment seem to be moving up compared to some months and years ago.
    (The Koni stuff is usually 1970's vintage, but it's tough, and repairs shouldn't be a big problem to arrange.)

    Konical
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2007
  10. Kobin

    Kobin Member

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    Depends. I bought my C330S on the 'Bay for less than what clean Autochords were fetching at the time, and a lot cheaper than Rolliflexes. I love the monster but it outweighs my Crown Graphic. A nice 220 model would be lighter if that's an issue for you, and would perform as well. The S model is actually lighter than the F or the earlier C330. I like the interchangeable lens sets: I use the 180mm for portraits and the 80mm for land/cityscapes. I'll get a 55mm someday when I have the loose change. Whatever you choose, I think you'll find there's something special using about a twin lens.

    K.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    George,

    I have a Mamiyaflex C330 that I inherited from my father. It includes a 65mm, 80mm and a 250mm lenses. There is a similar system with a 180mm lens that has be advertized in the APUG Classifieds for $600. I also have a Paraminder which is a devise that moves the Mamiyaflex 5 cm up on a tripod so that the focal plane sees exactly what the viewing lens saw.

    Comments:
    1. I consider it part of my fitness program.
    2. It is the Crocodile Dundee of TLR - "Thats not a camera, THIS is a camera."
    It never fails to bring out comments every time it take it out. [search this site for C330 comments.]
    3. Yes because of its lack of automation and human engineering, I cannot take photos with it as fast as I do with my Nikon and autofocus zoom lens.

    - .-. -.-- .. - --..-- -.-- --- ..- .-- .. .-.. .-.. .--. .. -.- . .. - .-.-.- :tongue:

    Steve
     
  12. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    George, you've just hit one of my favorite topics, this might be a good reason for us to hook up for a cup of coffee -- I work on Broadway at 47th Street. Aren't you close by?

    In a word: Rolleiflex. Yes, you can get one that is less than 20 years old -- they have been in continuous production since 1929 -- but the best Rolleiflexes were made in the 1950s and 1960s. So long as they have not been mistreated, they will outlive you.

    If you want, I can bring a few to work one day and let you play around with them. If you want to buy, I enthusiastically recommend Ken Hansen, a legendary camera seller here in the city. Ken closed his shop a few years ago, but he still trades in Rolleiflexes out of his apartment on the upper East side. Ken sends out all cameras for service before reselling them, has Maxwell bright screens installed for superior framing and focusing, and warrants his cameras. You'll pay more than KEH, but you'll get a better camera and the peace of mind of being able to return it uptown to Ken if anything goes wrong with it. Ken's email address: KHPNY19@aol.com.

    These are addictive little cameras. Serge Gainsbourg sang about them! Do it.

    Sanders
     
  13. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    - .... .- -. -.- ... . .-. --- .-. - .... . .- -.. ...- .. -.-. . .-.-.-

    - .. -- . .-- .. .-.. .-.. - . .-.. .-.. .- .- .-
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    George:

    All lawyers should have Mamiya C series TLRs:D .

    I was a student working in a camera store in the late 1970s when I bought my C330, with the standard 80mm 2.8 (black) lens.

    I (and a legion of other photographers too) have shot lots of weddings with it - and if you can shoot weddings you can shoot anything with a camera (unless you need movements).

    I've had my camera and lenses serviced once since then (admittedly, I acquired the other three lenses [55mm, 65mm and 135mm] at various times, in the years since). That service was preventative only, not because of any current problems.

    Four or five years ago, I found, and my wife and some friends gave me as a birthday present, a used Mamiya C220 body as well. It was and is in mint condition. It was ridiculously cheap, and it was purchased from a store, with a warranty!

    The cameras and lenses are relatively simple, and anyone who can service manual cameras, can most likely service them. Even Mamiya still services many of them.

    In recent months, I've been playing more with my Mamiya 645 SLRs, but the TLRs are patient.

    You can carry a body and three lenses in a very small camera case (for MF).

    If you use flash, the leaf shutters in every lens are wonderful.

    The C330 series is better for fast action (e.g. weddings) because the film advance and shutter cocking processes are interconnected, but the C220 is lighter, slightly smaller, and simpler.

    If you look at my gallery photos, the photo of the "ropes" was shot with my C220. I was able to take it, two lenses, a small flash and some film with me that day in a camera bag that is probably too small to use with a Nikon F5.

    If you want to know more, Graham Patterson's website (he posts regularly on APUG) is a great resource:

    http://www.btinternet.com/~g.a.patterson/mfaq/m_faq-contents.html

    Personally, I use a prism finder a lot (it's better for handheld use at weddings) but it certainly isn't necessary, and the waistlevel finder on either body is a wonderful combination.

    As for parallax, it really doesn't matter much, unless you are shooting at close distances. I have two paramenders - the accessory developed by Mamiya to deal with the problem - the first is an old, simple one, usable on any tripod, while the second is a rare one - a Mamiya tripod head, with paramender built in.

    Sanders (who of course is a lawyer too:D ) is right - the Rollieflexes are wonderful cameras, especially if you are fortunate enough to have a Tele Rollieflex as well as the standard model. Personally, however, I prefer the option of the interchangeable lenses.

    if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.

    Matt
     
  16. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Due to a sudden change in my economic situation after a surprising find on ebay, I'm considering selling my C3. With 65, 80 and 180mm (? can't remember, will check this weekend when I get home) lenses. It's a heavy beast, so postage will cost a bit. But it's going cheap. :smile:
     
  17. Ulrich Drolshagen

    Ulrich Drolshagen Subscriber

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    If you still own a MF-SLR I'd much recommend reconsidering the need of interchangeable lenses. A Mamiya C as the only camera, though bulky, is a fine system. But you already own large and bulky MF-gear do you? OTOH the charm of a Rolleflex, Yashica or whatever other Rollei-clone is, that you can take it with ease literally everywhere.

    Ulrich
     
  18. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Like Brian, I prefer the Rolleicord over the Rolleiflex for its simplicity. i.e. no self cocking shutter combined with wind on to go wrong. If you want to change lenses though, the Mamiya C series is really the only way to go. My father has a C330 but I haven't had a chance to play with it yet (I mean use it!).

    Steve.
     
  19. kraker

    kraker Subscriber

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    C2xx / C3xx

    After a quick look at the reactions so far, I believe what I'm about to say has been said already. I'll keep it short.

    Interchangeable lenses on a TLR means Mamiya C3/C3xx/C2xx. I didn't even *know* this when I bought my Mamiya C3, but I'm very happy with my choice. :wink: Some say it's heavy. But as I don't have another TLR to compare it with, I don't know better :tongue: I have the C3 with standard 80mm and additionally the 65mm lens (curious what Ole is going to sell, maybe I can get another lens. Well, they always come in pairs...)

    It's one nice beast!
     
  20. fidget

    fidget Member

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    My introduction to MF was with my Yashicamat 124. Although I have had an SLR since, I found that I liked the operation of the TLR and discovered that square negs are fine too. The fixed lens of the Yash is a bit of a limitation, so I bought a user C220 and a collection of lenses. In one of life's little ironies, after weeks selecting the C220 I was offered a C330f in near mint condition and snapped it up. The system is excellent and quite cheap. The later models can be in very good condition with many years left in them. I found that I frequently lost where I was up to with the C220 exposures as this is wound and cocked separately, the C330 winds and cocks itself so is a little harder for me to mess up. These will also do nice macro work, they just need a little care to deal with the parallax error.
     
  21. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    I have to agree with Sanders, if you can afford a Rolleiflex.... go for it! It's not so much about the lenses as the Mamiya, Yashica and Minolta ( I have all three) have great lenses, but the focussing screen. The standard Rollei has a much better screen than the "cords and you can replace them with Beatie screens.
    I can also see peoples point in recommending the 'Cord as they are pure simplicity and very reliable, just check the screen before buying to see if it's ok for you.
    The earlier Mamiyas had issues with the film transport as did the Yashicas. The best Mamiyas are the C330 or 330s, the problem seemed to be solved.
    My favourite non German TLR is the Minolta Autocord, nicely engineered and great optics.

    Tony
     
  22. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    I have a C330S and love it. I would concur with Steve's comments re size and weight (and may steal them to use at a later date - he puts it so much better than I do! :wink: ). On good days it's known as "The Brick". On bad days it's known as "The Millstone"!

    It does, however, make damn fine pictures. I have the 55, 80S and 180 Super lenses and all are diamond cutters. I use it exclusively for B&W - I did put a roll of Velvia through it and it exposed just fine, but the tonality was not the same as through my Nikon glass (which I find I prefer for this application).

    My only real gripe is that a useless focussing scale and the lack of DoF preview conspire to make life tricky at times. This can be worked around with a hotshoe rangefinder and a DoF table, and it wouldn't stop me from recommending the camera system, but it's worth knowing about in advance.

    All the best,

    Frank
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 22, 2007
  23. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I've used Rolleiflexes and C330's extensively, though I have neither now. Both are excellent, but in different ways. If I were buying one now, I'd lean toward a Rollei because of the simplicity, light weight and optics, though there are no apologies to be made for the 330's optics.
    As for the low-angle view problem, just focus on the screen then compose with the sports finder.
    bd
     
  24. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I have a Rollieflex, a Yashica Mat, and a Mamiya C220. It's the C220 every time for me. I love the interchangeable lenses, and my wife got a reflex hood for it on ebay that I like a lot. There's also an attachable handle (at the tripod 'port') that makes it very easy to handhold, although I always prefer to use a tripod. The bellows makes it a very competent close-up/macro kit when used with the paramender or comparable parallax 'fixer' (like marking a spot on the tripod center column that corresponds to the distance you need to raise the camera to overcome the parallax.) Though heavier by a good bit than the Rollie, or Yashica, I completely prefer it.
     
  25. Terence

    Terence Member

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    I have a C330 with 55mm, 105mm and 180mm and all apprpriate lens shades and paramender, you're more than welcome to borrow. I also have two Rolleicords and a Rolleiflex with Tessar you could try out. Unfortunately my Rolleiflex with the Planar needs a CLA.
     
  26. rwyoung

    rwyoung Member

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    You may have already realized this, but with the TLR you can hold it up over your head, ground glass down to frame and focus. This gets the camera up over peoples heads, even for you...