Twin-Lens Reflex Cameras - Are Two Lenses Better Than One?

The twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera
 features two objective lenses

Which use an identical focal length. One of the lenses reflects the image in the viewfinder while the other image exposes the film The viewfinder is made up using a 45-degree angle mirror (a basis for the name reflex), a matte focusing display located at the camera's top, plus a surrounding pop-up hood. These dual objectives are joined, so that the composure reflected upon the focusing screen becomes exactly identical to what ends up on the film. Although, many cheaper TLRs are usually fixed-focus units. A majority of TLRs employ leaf shutters using shutter speeds as quick as 1/500th sec using a B settings.

Twin Lens Reflex Cameras
Kinaflex Kodak Duraflex Yashica 44LM Argoflex
Twin Lens Reflex Cameras

TLRs differ from SLR cameras in a number of respects. For starters, unlike virtually every SLR, TLRs show a continual screen image. This view never blacks out during shutter exposure. In addition, models featuring leaf shutters converse to focal-plane shutters have the ability to synchronize with camera flash at much higher speeds than what SLRs can. Although, due to the photographer viewing through one lens while capturing the image from another, parallax error can make the image different from the one shown on the image screen. This is a negligible difference when subjects are far off, but becomes critical for subjects are close by. For increased accuracy during tabletop photography, where your subject may be a foot or so distance from the camera, there are devices available that allow you to move the camera higher so that the lens doing the shooting goes to the identical position occupied by the viewing lens. presto, problem solved. Parallax error could still occur as it's still not possible have depth of field preview as you can occur with an SLR camera, as the viewing lens on TLR contains no diaphragm.

A great TLR  the Rolleiflex

A great TLR the Rolleiflex F28 FX

A big plus for the TLR is the simplicity it has when compared with the more common SLR cameras. The SLR must use some sort method to block light from getting into the sensor while focusing, either by using a focal plane type shutter (the most typical) or by actually using the reflex mirror. Either approach adds a significant amount of noise it the operation of the camera. A majority of the TLRs employ a leaf shutter inside the lens. The only perfunctory noise occurring during exposure is when the shutter leaves open and close. Most TLRs are weigh significantly less than a SLR medium format camera.

Another benefit of the TLR technology can be observed as long exposures are acquired. During an exposure, it's necessary to retract, the SLR's mirror blacking out the viewfinder image. The mirror on a TLR is fixed while the lens doing the acquisition lens stays open during the entire the exposure process, allowing the photographer to scrutinize the image as the exposure is proceeding. This can alleviate the fabrication of transparency effect or special lighting.

The TLR is particularly useful for active portrait photography (such as martial arts portraits). Since the shutter action can be incredibly reactive to the photographer by comparison to the amount of time necessary to move an SLR mirror. Because of the large availability of TLR cameras and the simplicity of composing images, they are also preferred by numerous portrait studios for fixed poses.

Kodak Duraflex II TLR
Kodak Duraflex II TLR

The most common medium format TLR, which uses 120 roll film resulting in square 66cm photos. At present, the German made Rollei and Chinese made Seagull Camera are still being manufactured, although in the past, a large number of camera manufacturers built them. Minolta, Mamiya, and Yashica's are most common in the previously-owned-camera market, while many other companies built TLRs that are have become classics.

The C series Mamiya TLRs featured interchangeable lenses, providing focal lengths ranging from 55mm (a wide angle) through 250mm (telephoto). The simple, rugged construction of most TLRs means a great many have carried on over the years. However, many lower-end cameras featured cheap shutters, while the slow speeds of these shutters often hang up or are imprecise.

Higher-end TLRs cameras may feature pop-up magnification glass to help the photographer to focus the camera. Additionally, many feature a "sports finder" encompassing a square hole created on the back side of a pop-up hood, plus a knock-out on the front side, giving photographers the ability to sight through these in place of of using a matte screen. This really helps when tracking moving subjects like race cars or animals and an improvement of the image shown upon the matte screen which is reversed from left-to-right. However, It's almost impossible to ascertain composition with this type of an arrangement,

The C-Series Mamiya's including the C-2, C-3, C-22, C-33, C220 and the C330 including their ancestor the Mamiyaflex, all produced in the 1960s, were the only traditional TLR cameras to encompass genuinely interchangeable lenses. These Mamiya SLRs also use bellow focusing, allowing for extreme close-ups.

Rollei Rolleiflex TLR models contain an additional "sports finder" feature that provides precise focusing. When the knock-out of the pivoted front hood is relocated to the related sports finder stance a secondary mirror subsequently swings down covering the viewing screen to reproduce the image onto a secondary magnifier located on the hood's back side, just underneath the direct view cutout, allowing precise focusing while employing the sports finder function. The resulting central magnified image is in reverse both left-to-right and top-to-bottom .

Yashica 44 LM
Yashica 44 LM

There were also smaller TLR cameras that used 127 roll film featuring square 44cm pictures, the most famous ones being the Yashica 44. and the "Baby" Rolleiflex. Inexpensive TLR designs were also popular during in the 1950s on fixed focus cameras like the Argus 75. and the Kodak Duaflex Though most TLRs were built to use medium format film, there were a handful of 35mm TLRs manufactured, the Contaflex TLR was the most elaborate, featuring removable backs and interchangeable lenses. The Swiss-manufactured Tessina is the tiniest TLR camera, which uses perforated 35mm film creating 1421mm images.

updated article Sep 28, 2011

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