TLR lust


New Member
May 4, 2023
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Little Rock, Arkansas
I always wanted a TLR ever since I attended a wedding where the photographer there used a TLR for the entire wedding which I found incredible. Not sure how the pictures came out, but ever since then I have lusted for a TLR. I already own a medium format camera, actually my one and only Mamiya 645 1000s. The Mamiya lets you mimick the steps in taking pictures with a TLR, by using a waist level finder which is one of the many accessories you can use on that camera. Although the waist level finder allows you to view your subject(s) at waist level like you do with a TLR the two cameras are totally different. The TLR is a Twin Lens Reflex camera in that it uses 2 lenses, one for focusing and the other for composing. The Mamiya is a Single Lens Reflex camera, in that it uses one lens to do both. The only thing they really have in common is that they both use 120/220 medium format film.

Having said that, I really don't have any experience with a TLR, but I would like to. There are 3 main TLR cameras selling on eBay. The Rollei wich is quite expensive, the Minolta Autocord that is less expensive and the Yashica which is the cheapest and most populous of the three. Of course I would love to have a Rollei but I'm not willing to pay up to a couple of grand for an experience I might not really like. Yashica put out a lot of TLR models much cheaper than the Rolleis starting in the 1940' all the way to the late 1960's early 1970's. Each model improved on the previous with the last models offering a bulky light meter. Minolta jumped on the band-wagon a little later, but their TLR cameras were known for their excellent optics. I did my research, and to tell you the truth, unless you do some serious pixel, oops grain peeping you really can't tell the difference between the image quality of all three cameras. The big difference is in the build quality of the camera and the enjoyment one feels when using one. This is where the Rollei excels. The build quality is really good on the Rolleis.

Right now I'm leaning toward the Minolta Autocord becuse of the so-called optical quality which some say bests the Yashicas. What Yashica has going for it is that they sold more cameras than the other two combined, so there are a lot of parts available on the used market. I was about to spring on a Yashica last December, but something came up so I had to delay that purchase. I'm in no rush, so this gives me a little more time to think. This is not a must-have item for me just something I need to do out of curiosity or maybe pure pleasure.
If you just want to experiment and see if a TLR is right for you, then you could go with a Yashica to find that out. Having owned a Yashica 124 G way back and then moving on to Rollieflexes I can say that the Yashica made decent images but that the light meter wasn't that useful. The Rolleis feel much better in the hand for me and they feel like they are much more rugged. I've owned two of them for 30+ years and they have always performed well for me. My former repair guy told me that the later Yashica TLRs had a lot more plastic in the wrong places inside the camera and said that the older Yashica Mat 12 was the best built model of all of them. I've never used a Minolta Autocord but they do have a good reputation apart from the thin metal piece that is used to focus them. This is notorious for breaking if the focusing helical has lost its lubricant and becomes stiff.
I love TLR's not only for the look and feel, but the image format. My first TLR was the Yashica 124 (non-G) model. I had both the close-up and telephoto lens attachments but favored the stock configuration. I sold that a few years back--and later acquired a Minolta Autocord which I still have.

The G designation is really consumer BS. Yashica plated the battery terminal pins and flash contact switch with gold. Big damned deal, but it sold handily.

Sadly, it lives in a sealed container and has for years now. I started a full CLA and drifted off to something else... Perhaps later this winter I will dig it out and finish the job, including new leathering. And you are dead right about that focusing arm. Mine is very slightly bent and I do not dare try to straighten it, as the thing is made of zinc pot metal!


Yashica 124, Ilford FP4 in ID-11
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Years ago I purchased a square format negative carrier for my Beseler 23C enlarger in anticipation that one day I would get a square format medium format camera. I don't think I will have any problems with the enlarging, but composition is another thing, being that the rule-of-thirds might no longer apply ?
I give a nod to third-thinking, Fibonacci spirals, horizon lines, and all of that good stuff. My approach approximates some of these things but mostly concerns the expression of the content I am trying to capture. I no longer shoot film, but as you might note from other of my digital images, I am a fan of the format ratio... :unsure:

BTW, here is a nice article on the Yashica 124 series that was just posted:

Very good article, nice pictures too ! Now you got me thinking about the Yashica 124 again. This was my first choice, but at the time, I was I wasn't willing to go over the $250 mark which is about the lowes price they are selling on eBay right now. Yashica is synonymous with TLR cameras. I remember back in the day people calling all TLR's Yashica's regardless of the brand. This is why I was under the impression that there were only two types of TLR's, Yashica and Rollei.

During my research I stumbled upon a Web page which list all, if not most Yashica TLR's ever produced . The Yashica 12 is another option I was thinking about, but those are hard to find, or so I heard. Some say that some of older models were better built or had less plastic than the newer models, but the 124 looks pretty well built to me with minimum plastic ? It's a a little bigger and the corners are sharper than your typical Rollei however.
As for composition, there is nothing that says that you must always print the entire negative. Most users of TLRs know that eventually there could be 8x10 or 5x7 prints and you have to leave some space to accommodate that. Since the negative is so much bigger to begin with, cropping is not the potential technical problem with grain, etc. that it can be with 35 mm film. I'm not suggesting that you would want to be sloppy about it, but the art police won't come for you if you crop some of your image.

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