The Joy of Shooting With the Mostly Forgotten Medium Format TLR

Most photographers are familiar with three types of cameras: the DSLR, mirrorless, and rangefinder. However, a fourth type, the TLR, offers a completely different and rather fun medium format film shooting experience. Though they have largely been overtaken by other designs, you can still find them on the used market, and this great video shows you the experience of shooting with one. 

Coming to you from Julia Trotti, this awesome video shows the experience of shooting medium format film portraits using a TLR (twin-lens reflex) camera. Most of us are familiar with DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and rangefinders, but TLRs use an entirely different mechanism. Two lenses of the same focal length are stacked one on top of each other. One is used for taking the actual photo, while the other is reflected via a mirror (thus "reflex") up to a focusing screen (with the focus of both locked in sync), thus encouraging the photographer to shoot at waist level. The viewfinder lens was often of a lower quality since it was only used for composing an image. TLRs eventually fell out of favor due to their relatively complex design, but you can still grab them on the used market, with most shooting 6x6 square images. Check out the video above to see what the experience is like! 

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9 Comments
Robert Nurse's picture

I don't know. It's hard to determine the difference between "film" and digital here since they're both digital: scanned negatives. We'd really be comparing what came out of the scanner. Perhaps if they were both printed and the prints could be inspected. But, that's not possible online. Either way, the shots are very nice.

Howard Shubs's picture

I've shot a TLR. It's basically another kind of range finder camera, as you are not looking through the taking lens. I really prefer SLR or similar. Otoh, a TLR can be cheap.

Deleted Account's picture

It's nothing like a rangefinder...by definition. A Rolleflex 2.8f in decent condition and 50/60 years old can still cost you over a grand. Even my Mamiya c220 outfit with lenses, also around 40-60 years old cost over a grand..compare that with digital, say just 5 years old??

Brandon Hopkins's picture

? it's not a rangefinder at all.

Luke Harby's picture

Apparently Irving Penn did everything on a TLR

Mike G's picture

I shoot both digital and film….I love my TLR. Makes me slow down and appreciate photography on a different level.

Deleted Account's picture

Well I guess "most" but many who have followed photography and photographers will know the tlr was ubiquitous....the favourite (Rolleiflex) of Bailey and Newton ..and so many others! It was also THE standard for press (before 35mm), social, portrait and wedding photographers. I shot with Rollei and Mamiya through the 80's when I started weddings.

So not so rare then!!

And we must stop this film vs digital nonsense..it's not a competition ! They are all tools for jobs providing different experiences and results.

Dinah Beaton's picture

I agree, its not a competition.

Dinah Beaton's picture

I agree with Robert Nurse, hard to tell the difference and I think thats definitely because the negs have been scanned and digitally fixed and enhanced in lightroom so the "film finish" from this lovely old camera has been completely lost.
I know this because I have used both the dark room to develop a print and scanned and digitally printed from the same roll of film. The difference is huge.
But each to their own with producing results, whether it be from film or by digital, its all about what makes you happy and rocks your boat, isnt it?