Best: Any working TLR that is given to you
Second Best: Any working TLR that you get for $50 or less
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.
"Far more critical than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know." - Eric Hoffer
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.
Originally Posted by 2F/2F
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.
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.
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.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
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.
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!
Last edited by rulnacco; 01-30-2011 at 06:41 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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Thank you everyone for your responses. After alot of looking and reading the last few days I am looking at getting a Mamiya c330. It looks like there are alot of accessories for it as well as the ability to change out lenses. I am going to go to Hiroshima next weekend to see if I can find one in one of the local mom and pop camera shops. If not I will just buy one online.
I have a Rolleiflex 2.8F, a great camera worth every penny. There is a TLR group on this site, check them out.
My earlier post was related only to Rolleis, since it seemed like that was what you really wanted. What I would actually purchase would be a Mamiya C-series camera. They are more versatile (7 focal lengths plus the benefits of bellows focusing), and the lenses are as excellent as any higher-end camera, at least to my eyes. The weight issue is not a big one IMO. It's true that if I only need a normal lens, I usually shoot my Rollei for the day, but for occasions in which I might want to use different lenses, the slightly greater weight of the Mamiya is well worth it to have that ability.
People also think that they are fiddly. I see what they mean; there are lots of switches and knobs and interlocks, and the f stops and shutter speeds must be set directly on the shutter, not with handy knobs like a Rollei. But IMO the fiddliness mostly relates to useful features, and does not detract from the camera in practical use. Some examples are: 1) lens lock/unlock knob (also activates flap inside the camera to cover the film when changing lenses), 2) single/multi exposure switch (actually just an interlock that prevents the shutter lever from being depressed more than once on the same frame; I always set it to "multi," even for normal shooting. If it is set to "single," you cannot press the shutter lever halfway, decide not to take your shot, and then press the shutter lever again without flipping the switch to "multi." After missing the right timing on a few shots by this interlock, I decided to always keep the thing on "multi.") 3) focal length setting for parallax indicator bar on "3" models, 4) manual shutter cocking on "2" models, 5) shutter speeds and apertures must be set on the shutter itself, like a large format camera.
One note on the Mamiyas is that I would consider a Paramender to be a necessary part of the camera if you plan on focusing on anything other than infinity or close to it. They can be around $100.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 01-30-2011 at 07:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
The Mamiyas are excellent, versatile cameras. Good choice.
I used to have a working collection of these TLR's (more than twenty) but had gotten rid of most of it as I now have less time to play with these. I am now down to a Mamiya C330, a Rolleicord, and an MPP Microflex. I am planning to just hang on to the C330. The Rolleicord comes complete with auxiliary third party wide and tele lenses, Rolleiparkeil close focus lenses - see photo . If you are interested, let me know I'll do you a good deal. I am in the UK but I think postage via Royal Mail is reasonable.