8 TLR Cameras For the Creative Photographer


With twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras there are no image blackouts and the image in the viewfinder is the same as what appears in the film. Medium format films have higher quality in terms of grain, contrast, resolution, color, even clarity compared to the popular 35mm. Experimental and creative users can manually control and tinker with the configuration to produce phenomenal photographs. Here’s a list of 8 twin lens reflex cameras for you to try.

Yashica MAT-124G

The Yashica MAT-124G is a well-loved Japanese TLR model. Its control features are similar to the Rolleiflex. Made in the 1970s, this vintage TLR is popular to this day. It is budget-friendly and great for taking subjects in motion. The model has 80mm f/3.5 Yashinon lens and is compatible with both 120 and 220 films. This is best for entry-level users who want to take professional-looking shots.

Yashica MAT-124G from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: blueskyandhardrock, jeahh, ck_berlin, weidong & broad_ologie

Read more about the Yashica MAT-124G.

Rolleiflex 2.8F

The Rolleiflex 2.8F remains a classic (the 2.8FX-N is one of the newest reincarnation of the 2.8F series). It is one of the most popular TLR cameras owing to Carl Zeiss’ 80mm f/2.8 Planar lens and with a shutter speed ranging 1/s to 1/500s — plenty of room for versatility. This particular TLR only uses 120 film for 12 exposures 6×6 cm, but latest models, from 1965 onward, accepts 220 film.

Rolleiflex 2.8F by Sputniktilt from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: sweetyyydreams

Gakkenflex TLR

The Gakkenflex TLR is a plastic TLR, perfect for artists who like to play with their cameras. It has a fixed shutter speed at 1/125 and a fixed f-stop at f/11. Though this camera is built for portraiture (35mm-sized), it’s DIY and can be easily tweaked. You can change the aperture, swap lenses or add some other trinkets such as a finder prism, or turn this camera into something else: either a pinhole camera, square-format or underwater camera.

Gakkenflex TLR by Siam Thanachai from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: gakurou, fruchtzwerg_hh, kwandog, opon21 & moochie_lomo

Read more about the Gakkenflex TLR.

Mamiya C330

The Japanese Mamiya C330 is one of Rolleiflex’s competitors in the 70s, and it was very popular because of interchangeable lenses, a feature that not all TLRs have. It’s the biggest asset of the C330; the model has 7 available Sekor lenses (2 wide-angle lenses: 55 mm f/4.5 and 65 mm f/3.5, 2 normal lenses: 80 mm f/2.8 and 105 mm f/3.5 and 3 telephoto lenses: 135 mm f/4.5, 180 mm f/4.5, and 250 mm f/6.3). It’s also compatible with both 120 and 220 films in 6×6 format. This camera is perfect for photographers who like to change in between photographic styles that rely on focal length, most especially with macro photography.

by Mamiya C330 pluzz from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: werriston, blueskyandhardrock & shuaibin

Read more about the Mamiya C330.

Flexaret VII

The Flexaret VII is the last model of the series made by Meopta in the 60s. It has Belar 80/3.5 and shutter speed reaching 1/500. It’s unique because it deviates from the Rolleiflex formula. Although already considered a vintage camera, the lens offers pretty outstanding aperture and speed. The only caution for this TLR is that it can be difficult to manage since measurement of the Light Value Scale and EV values is coupled.

The Flexaret VII by Lubomír Čevela from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: weidong, pierrefriedmann & gurkenprinz

Read more about the Flexaret VII from its manual.

Seagull 4A

The Seagull 4A line is a Chinese TLR patterned according to older ones, especially the Rolleiflex in 1968 and it’s still being manufactured today, the latest being the 4A-109. As a cheaper alternative, the 4A produces images and quality that can be at par with Rolleiflex’s or Yashica’s if done right. This camera is perfect for beginners because it offers full manual controls on the aperture and shutter speed settings.

Seagull 4A by Michele M. F. from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: emmka, 37pieces & balzzac

Read more about one of Seagull 4A’s models, the 4A-103.

Minolta Autocord

The Japanese Minolta Autocord of the 1950s (whether the original, the RA, or the CDS series) is a TLR that keeps increasing in value because of its excellent optics and control— the only TLR that may have outperformed Rollei during its time. It boasts of a Rokkor f/3.5 lens and shutter speed up to 1/500, with some models including light meters. Compared to the Rollei’s Xenar or Tessar, the Autocord’s Rokkor lens is much sharper. It can also create double-exposure shots, something that the Rollei couldn’t do.

Minolta Autocord by David from Wikimedia Commons
Credits: novotao, scraperj, gbremer & ace14

Read more about the Minolta Autocord from its manual.

Lomo Lubitel 166+

The Lomo Lubitel 166+ is recreated from the classic Soviet Lubitel, and it’s one of the most versatile TLRs available today, with interchangeable film formats (the Lubkin makes it possible to use 35mm films). With f/4.5 lens, 75mm focal length and shutter speed at 1/250, the Lubitel is for both amateurs and professionals who want to achieve Lomographic style in photography.

Credits: disdis, 5thdimension, chippo, moodification & warning

Can’t wait to get one now? Find out more about the Lubitel at the Lomography Online Shop.

Did we miss a camera or two? Tell us about it in the comment box.

2016-03-18 #gear #lifestyle #seagull #minolta #rolleiflex #mamiya #flexaret #lomo-lubitel-166 #twin-lens-reflex-camera


  1. argentic-translation
    argentic-translation ·

    Lubitel 166B =)

  2. driftusmaximus
    driftusmaximus ·

    I love my lubitel! One day I'll buy me a rolleiflex, but until then the lubitel does just fine! :D

  3. shuaibin
    shuaibin ·

    c330 is nice but it's really heavy.
    cant imagine bringing c330 with other camera...

  4. poglad
    poglad ·

    Mine is a Lubitel 2 - I love it to bits!

  5. basilis
    basilis ·

    Lubitel 2

  6. lefolle
    lefolle ·

    @shuaibin I regularly carry a C220+ C330 and lenses with an RB67. It's heavy but it doesn't stop you :)

    Article is slightly misleading and should be changed. What you see through the viewfinder is what you get from a certain lens at a given distance. If you are too close, Parralax occurs and the Mamiyas are the only ones which show how much you need to change to get the picture you are viewing in the shot

  7. lefolle
    lefolle ·

    Also, using a WLF which all the cameras use in the article, the image is reversed. A chimney with an additional mirror will correct this

  8. schugger
    schugger ·

    Lubitel & Flexaret VII :-) great cameras!

  9. jvujnovi
    jvujnovi ·

    My father had a Flexaret (I don't know if he still does, I hope he didn't throw it out when my parents decided to de-clutter) - Czechoslovak cameras were much sought after in Yugoslavia in the 1960's because they were the best affordable & best quality East European cameras (German & Japanese being very expensive until the late 1970's) I remember him using it on some of our family trips. I'd like to try it out if he still has it. Otherwise, I may end up with one of the other cameras suggested.

  10. broad_ologie
    broad_ologie ·

    Great article was enjoying reading about the Yashica Mat as that's what I shoot with, and noticed you link one of my images 😻 Thanks guys, honoured!

  11. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    Lubitel+ :)

  12. shokijay
    shokijay ·

    My favourite by a long way is a 1957 Rolleiflex 3.5e, it is stunningly beautiful. People comment on it every time I shoot with it 😄

  13. trad69
    trad69 ·

    The Autocord is superb, lighter and better handling than my Dad's Rollei as you don't have to keep changing hands all the time and the lens is just as good. I really must fix the light seals and get using it again. There is a prism with the close up set which goes over the viewing lens to avoid the parallax error. Never found the double exposure feature though.

  14. mona_smena
    mona_smena ·

    lubitel 166 B

  15. billseye
    billseye ·

    Yashica 635, dual format

  16. cyberpunkrocker
    cyberpunkrocker ·

    The Flexaret series is the most "Art Deco" of all cameras

  17. kashmir2209
    kashmir2209 ·

    Actually I own Flexaret IVa and Ikoflex II/III for medium format. And I like both. Ikoflex is better, the shutter speed is 1/500 and focus starts on 2.8. But my TLR love is Yashica 44 for 127 film format.

  18. shuaibin
    shuaibin ·

    @lefolle :) Once I brought my dslr, c330, and my laptop with me for shooting. Yeah, it is possible but then I found my shoulders covered with bruises. lol
    I will have to get a lighter one for better mobility.

  19. ibkc
    ibkc ·

    I had a Rolleicord V for a long time. The 'cord was Rollei's consumer TLR, without the Zeiss optics and accordingly priced lower, but it still produced outstanding images with its Xenar lens. It could also do double exposures (I'm kind of surprised to read that the 'cord had this feature while the high-end Rolleiflex did not -- is this really correct?) Anyway, a while back, I gave my Rolleicord to my uncle. So now all I have is a Soviet-era Lubitel 166 Universal and a Kowa Kalloflex (also a fine camera, but my specimen has problems with its taking lens.)
    In any case, people shopping for a fine vintage TLR on a budget should consider the Rolleicord. It's truly underrated next to its better-known brother, IMO.

  20. mjanekerr
    mjanekerr ·

    Lubitel 2 ❤️

  21. eromero
    eromero ·

    Myself I prefer the Mamiya C330. Being able to change lenses is a big plus. I can’t see how a little difference in weight can matter. I have multiple cameras in medium format 2 Mamiya, a Bronica SQ-A and a Kodak Tourist. Use them all my RB 67 has 5 lenses up to 360mm with a tripod that weighs 16 pounds. And I’m 72 years old and I don’t cry about weight. One advantage the TLR has besides being quiet is you not focusing looking thru a filter. But any of the above cameras would be a joy to have and use

  22. eromero
    eromero ·

    Myself I prefer the Mamiya C330. Being able to change lenses is a big plus. I can’t see how a little difference in weight can matter. I have multiple cameras in medium format 2 Mamiya, a Bronica SQ-A and a Kodak Tourist. Use them all my RB 67 has 5 lenses up to 360mm with a tripod that weighs 16 pounds. And I’m 72 years old and I don’t cry about weight. One advantage the TLR has besides being quiet is you not focusing looking thru a filter. But any of the above cameras would be a joy to have and use

  23. astyanaz
    astyanaz ·

    You left out the Ikoflex Line. Best Choice - Go for a IIa.

  24. flamingoid
    flamingoid ·

    The Autocord is a delight to use. Mine is the first version, the MXS, so the coating is a bit primitive, which causes some flare if I'm not careful but I think it adds to its charm. But the lens is very sharp, the whole package oozes quality and it fits in my smaller camera bag tightly. Having used extensively a Rolleicord, I must say the Autocord is superior optically and mechanically. It's yet cheaper.

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