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The Gakkenflex Experience!

The Gakkenflex TLR is a great little 35mm plastic camera that takes dreamy shots - and that you get to build! Bonus!!

Photo from: cgmoyer.blogspot

The Gakkenflex TLR is a camera kit from the Japanese magazine Otona no Kagaku (Science for Adults), vol. 25, published by Gakken – they call them mooks. Each volume has a different kit and this is Gakken’s third camera (the other two were pinhole cams) and their most advanced. The instructions are in Japanese but it’s mostly easy to follow the pictures (if you’ve been to Ikea, you know the drill). The Gakken website has extra information and even has a video on the shutter mechanism that’s very helpful. It takes about 1.5 hours to build. Just don’t lose a spring in the carpet! (Yeah, I did!) I found the design of the camera fascinating. I learned quite a lot about camera design, which is the point. But that’s just where the fun begins!

The camera itself surprised me from the very first use! It’s a true twin lens reflex, so as you focus through the pop-up viewfinder, the taking lens is automatically focused. What I love about TLRs is that you have to slow down a bit. My viewfinder is bright but slightly blurry – that’s OK because it gives a great representation of the shots I’ve been getting. And what shots! I’ve heard each Gakkenflex lenses can vary widely but, from what I’ve seen on the web, they tend to have a focus sweet-spot near the center and get dreamy very quickly. Think the Diana Telephoto lens and you’ll get the idea. That’s what mine does and I love it. I find I even get a fake tilt-shift effect in my landscapes because of this. But, the most surprising thing about the camera for me was that it can focus up to 1 foot (30cm) away! This camera loves color and black and white equally. My black and white shots were 400iso and the color shots were 200iso and I think they worked very well in mostly cloudy conditions. Per the mook, aperture and shutter speed are fixed at F11 and 1/150, respectively. Excellent vignetting can be achieved if you watch your film speed.

On the downside, there’s no bulb setting. But you can mount it on a tripod and trip the shutter a few times to get a long exposure effect. There’s also no hot shoe. Lastly, there’s no real counter, just a notched disc that you move 180 degrees to advance the film – it’s up to you to keep track of your shots. None of these are deal-breakers, in my opinion.

Bottom line: the Gakkenflex TLR is an excellent toy camera! You should know: these are fairly limited in production. They’re still widely available as of January 2010 but are very popular. If you want one act now!

written by moochie_lomo


  1. cinzinc


    i want this in my hands

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  2. vicuna


    great shots, love the blurry effect of the lens on the corners of the pictures... must really get one ! :)

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  3. breakphreak


    I like this camera and the idea to make the camera by yourself

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  4. rater


    A real beauty.

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  5. stouf


    N°21 !!!! I just shot my first roll with this baby... Can't wait to see the results ! Great review !

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  6. renaishashin


    A must get camera!!!!!!!! :DD

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  7. trash-gordon-from-outer-space


    These are awesome shots! I love the tunnelvision effect.

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  8. leela_dark


    your shots are wonderful! thx for this great review!

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  9. violet_rayy


    Nice work Moochie!
    My man is gonna have to try and finish building his this weekend. We both need to have a go at using it and soon!

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  10. pctechgirl


    I love shot 24. . .it looks like a watercolor painting!

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  11. born-to-ruin


    Ok so where do I get said awesome camera? I want to build & shoot with this!!

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  12. crumpy


    you tube video on how to do long exposures! :D


    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  13. shadrack1


    I love this camera. Just got one last week for my birthday. Took me just over an hour of assembly, with no hang ups at all. I've only run one roll through, and just loaded my second today. Recommend it to everyone if you can get your hands on it.

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  14. seiji

    I got this two weeks ago as my first tlr lomo cam instead of a bbf. and i'm on my fourth roll as of now. I really like the dreamy, soft effect of the lens. switching the aperture disk at the back of the lens will take out the vignette and your shots will be superb for serious landscapes and portraits! I agree, this is a MUST HAVE camera! Nice review on this one
    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  15. dogtanian


    great stuff dude!!!

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  16. falsedigital


    I got lucky and found this camera in practically mint condition at a thrift sale for only $4. Crazy eh? It's a great camera for sure. One of the best fixed lens rangefinder cameras. Nice gallery, happy to see you use it well :D

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  17. falsedigital


    hahha oh crap! I had two windows open! Meant to post the last comment in the Canonet review! Wish I could delete my comment.

    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  18. hi! i've run through 3 rolls of film already with my gakkenflex, and the images are great. however i can't seem to use my focus knob properly! my far-off shots turn out blurry most okay all of the time (although they're still nice), but my close-ups are great and clear because i simply turn the focus knob full out. there's no difference in my viewfinder when i turn the focus knob! the image still looks exactly the same!! not blur, but clear. does anyone have any focusing trouble too? thanks
    almost 5 years ago · report as spam
  19. pia


    I'll be getting mine next week! :) excited! excited! :)

    over 4 years ago · report as spam