Have You Ever Used This Unique Type of Medium Format Camera?

There are essentially three types of modern cameras: DSLRs, mirrorless bodies, and rangefinders. There are a few other formats that mostly fell by the wayside, however, as time marched on, such as the zone focus camera and the TLR. This neat video takes a look at using a TLR, including its unique experience and images. 

Coming to you from Steve O'Nions, this video follows him as he uses a TLR camera on a landscape shoot. TLR stands for "twin-lens reflex" and refers to the fact that the camera actually has two lenses: one for creating the image and one for composing it. Both lenses are the same focal length and their focus mechanisms are locked together, though the focusing lens is normally of a lower quality simply since it is not used for actually exposing the image. The image from the focusing lens is reflected via a mirror (thus the "reflex") to a focusing screen on top of the body, thus making the camera conducive to being used at waist-level. Perhaps even more interesting than that is that they mostly output 6x6 square images! I personally love the shooting style and have enjoyed my Rolleiflex TLR for years, and I would snap a digital version up in an instant, though given the added mechanical complexity, I doubt we'll ever see such a camera beyond mirrorless imitations. Check out the video above to see it in action.

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Tom Reichner's picture

Alex Cooke asked,

"Have You Ever Used This Unique Type of Medium Format Camera?"

No, I haven't.

Art Mozak's picture

Yep, way back in 1973 started my career in wedding photography with a Mamiya C220 TLR camera. That camera and a bracket with a Vivitar 283 mounted on it served me well for several years.

Christopher Boles's picture

This was the first step up from a 35mm. It was affordable with a larger negative to work with. We learned on these cameras in high school back in our day. The TLR was a good wedding camera and all-around workhorse for studio work. These also had in the hood a sports finder by pushing down on the front part. If you wanted more you went to a Mamiya TLR and onto a Hasselblad.

Mark Sawyer's picture

"...the focusing lens is normally of a lower quality simply since it is not used for actually exposing the image." Not true. A well-known work-around was if the taking lens is damaged, (separation, fungus, scratches, haze...), you could switch it for the other lens.

SCOTT JACK's picture

Mamiya C330 twin lens, Mamiya 645 and the classic RB67. What a workhorse the RB was and your the images were so sharp and beautiful.

Art Mozak's picture

Jack, you listed in order the cameras I had after starting with the C220. Of all, I miss the Mamiya M645 1000s the most!

Art Mozak's picture

After thinking awhile, I recall purchasing a Yashica 635 from a friend way before the C220, sure wish I still had it, they are rare as hens teeth.

charles hoffman's picture

this was the camera for people with kids
the waist level view put the lens at eye level, so you weren't looking down at your subjects.

the square negative let you decide later whether you wanted a landscape, portrait, or plain square orientation. And the 12 shots of roll film made you shoot a lot more sparingly than 36 of rhe 35mm

While the Mamiya was a great technical achievement, and the Rollieflex was a pure gem, it was the thousands of Yashica 120s, 100-125 dollars, that were the backbone of high school and college photography courses. and the 120 negatives were a lot easier to work with than 35mm, particularly when home equipment was involved.

John Kalla's picture

It would be cool if somebody could take guts of something like a Fujifilm X-T3 or X-T4 and put it inside...

Christian Lainesse's picture

Yes but I would have preferred to get a Rolleidoscop and shoot with it... but it's too rare and expensive.

Indy Thomas's picture

Yashica Mat 124 was a huge bargain up to the day it was discontinued.
It is so true that we only see the value of something when it is gone.

Christian Lainesse's picture


Deleted Account's picture

Maybe once or twice :)