I am in the market for a medium format camera, and am looking at a TLR. I know these cameras have Tessar lenses, so they're at least decent performers.
How do they work beyond just lens sharpness and contrast? How about loading ease, winding ease, known common problems?
Too many TLRs out there to answer that. Not all have tessars, low end types often have triplets, and better models have better lenses. If I were you I'd look for a clean rollei if the budget allows, they are the model all the others started with, baring that look for a good Japanese make, by and large they will be better than a Russian or Chinese camera.
Right now budget does not allow for anything but a Chinese or Russian camera. If the consensus is it's worth it to wait to get a better camera, I will. Probably won't get a Rollei; I'd rather have a nice 645 SLR kit than a Rollei TLR.
The newer Seagulls use Tessar copies. The older ones (and I guess newer, less expensive ones) use triplets. No Seagulls that I'm aware of use anything better than a Tessar.
I am just unsure of build quality, reliability, etc on the Seagulls.
You should be able to get a Yashica TLR (nice triplet or tessar) for $75-200. A rolleiflex Automat MX starting at $200 (tessar), rolleicords starting in similar prices. Minolta Autocord for similar $.
I owned once a brand new Seagull. It hat thre different failures during the firts year so I gave up with that camera.
I recommend Rollei too. Rolliecords are not such expansive and the model V has all the features a Seagull has. Especially the bright screen. ok. you have no crank, but that should not play any rôle using MF.
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new seagull is more expensive these days than used japanese high quality yashicamat
many years ago, when Seagulls and Yashicas were still produced, here in Munich a shopping center had a whole pallet of horribly cheap Seagulls. After one week they all had disappeared because they were all defect and nearly all customers had brougth them back and got their money back!
I would also opt for a Yashica or Rolleicord. Meopta Flexaret (Czech TLR) is also said to be nice and I´ve seen some listed on Ebay US for small money and recently CLA´d ;-)
How much can you spend?
Last edited by Slixtiesix; 07-05-2012 at 02:33 AM. Click to view previous post history.
What kind of budget are we talking about here, in dollar terms? I paid $158 for my Yashicamat 124. I love it. I actually prefer the 124 over the later, more common 124G. The G has gold plated flash contacts but that doesn't matter to me. The 124 is said to have more robust internal gears; it certainly makes a more metallic "zing" sound on winding. I just happen to like the classic chrome trim on it.
Old Yashicas are cheaper. Minolta Autocords too.
Well, I'll try to answer OP as best as I can.
I know Seagull is working on improving their cameras, so the new ones will be better than what I have.
Film loading is about as easy as any other TLR. Open up the back by turning the dial, and load the film in the bottom. Mine has pull knobs which work just as well as the push bars on my rollei or the pull knobs on my yashica. The knobs on mine don't lock in place if the camera is closed, so I guess if you tugged one, it would drop half your film reel and be interesting to recover from, although I believe the yashica does the same. The seagull has a locking bar on the know that needs to be pushed to allow it to open. Never seen a TLR accidentally open, but it is a nice positive retention method that does show you that you have incaft closed the camera completely.
The self timer on mine eventually broke, but I prefer using a cable or air release. Even for a picture I am in, Either a cable release or a friend at the camera works fine for me, ad is how I use any camera really. I don't use self timers.
mine uses a knob to advance the film, with the red windows on the back. Simply turn until the number appears in the correct window and take a picture. The shutter on mine is cocked by an actual cocking lever on the front. I think newer ones use a winding lever instead of the window and cocking lever.
So I can double expose and other stuff as much as I want, which does allow me some extra freedom.
The lenses aren't the sharpest or the most contrasty. They are adequate for most needs, and are capable of far more than holgas. Not as good as a high quality lens, but they are functional mid-range lenses.
I actually like the viewfinder on mine. It has the split-line focuser with the matte ring around it, like you tend to see in 35mm cameras, so when I unlatch the magnifier (it has its own little latch, which is neat) I can get a really good focus with the magnifier and the split circle.
Unlike any other TLR I have used, using the sport finder does not pop up the magnifier, as that part hinges at the back instead of from the front, and has a cutout for the sport viewfinder.
My suggestion is if you can get one cheap enough, it can be a fine camera for basic use. Don't expect German or Japanese build quality. Seagull is working on improving, and some more professional reviewers have stated that the cameras are in fact, getting better.
Still, yashicas, rolleis, and that c220/c330 from (I want to say mamiya or minolta, but I'm sure neither of those is right) are all good cameras.
Actually, those c220/c330 have interchangeable lenses and other luxuries not seen on most TLRs, and have been highly recommended to me, I would suggest one if you can swing it.
Ultimately, it's your money and your choice. See if a rental place has some TLRs, or if a camera store has them. Try out some various ones and get the one that seems to fit you best. If the Seagull does it for you, get one. If a yashica floats your boat, get that instead. How's that for useful advice?
EDIT: Seagull actually seems to have a fairly large product range, including lenses, lights, and large format cameras. http://www.camerachina.com/product.asp
Last edited by Discoman; 07-05-2012 at 03:37 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Eating my words