Often abbreviated TLR.

A kind of camera construction that has two seperate lens built into the body, usually one right above the other.

The bottom lens is almost always of superior quality and is used to expose the film. The top lens sends light to a mirror which is reflected to a viewfinder above. Typically someone using a TLR looks straight down into the camera from above, which is why the name waist level camera or waist level viewing is sometimes applied.

Because the light from the lens is reflected through a mirror, the image is halfway corrected. While a lens normally "sees" the world upside down and backwards, you'll simply see it backwards. Think this is frightening? Well, it's not really... you'd be surprised how quickly you get used to.

That is, of course, if you're not taking pictures of anything moving all that quickly. In that case, even after using a TLR for years you tend to pan the camera the wrong way sometimes - it makes you feel silly.

But I'll wager no one will notice. Besides the fact that they're whisper quiet, incredibly reliable and super cheap, the best part about using a TLR is no one notices them ever. Wanna photograph people while walking down the street, in the subway, on a plane, etc, etc up close and personal without them looking at the camera? Get a TLR. It's uncanny how often people ignore them because you're not holding it up to your eye. We associate cameras with vision and vision with your face. Cut out the latter part of the equation and you get completely ignored. Plus they look as much like an alarm clock from the 60s as they do a camera.


Baffo's warning isn't so much of a warning as honest to god truth - you should be ashamed of that itty bitty baby negative. And you don't need to load up some Velvia to see the truth of that - a black and white contact sheet of the worst film with the sloppiest development on the most ghetto paper will tell you that. And you can get excellent used Hasselblad systems for much cheaper than five grand. Gimme a /msg - i'm very happy to support your new medium format/large format addiction. I'll even give you your first roll for free - that's the kinda pusher I am.
A Twin Lens Reflex is a great way to try Medium Format photography, and see if you like it.
Since these cameras used to be really popular, now you can find reasonably good models used and in good conditions for less than what a crappy SLR would cost new .

Of course, they are interesting only if you would like a larger negative (or slide) than what you can ever get with a 135 camera.

One word of warning, though: don't ever shoot Velvia just to give it a try. Because, you know what will happen ? You will drop that 6x6 Velvia on the lightbox, and then you will start poring over it with a loupe. Then you will realize how incredibly big that slide is. You will get lost into the detail. Tonality will reveal itself to you.
You will stop respecting your 135 SLR. After a while, you will start saying: "after all $5000 dollars for a beginner Hasselblad system is not that expensive".

You are WARNED.

Oh yes, the changeover from 35mm photography to medium format/6x6 (as in cm) photography is an amazing experience. The level of detail is ASTOUNDING.

The very first thing I noticed about printing from a 6x6 negative is the incredibly fine grain of the filmstock. I blew up a small portion of a 6x6 cm negative to a huge 22x28 inch print, and only then did I see granularity in the print. For comparison's sake, I looked at the 5x7's I printed from my 35mm filmstock, and was startled to discover that the grain from a print of an entire negative onto that tiny rectangle of paper was actually larger than that of the huge blowup I had just printed.

It's the thinness of the plastic emulsion sheet that allows medium format film to be so fine grained. it's about 1/3 as thick as stock 35mm (by my eyeball guess). Therefore, the silver halide grains embedded in the emulsion substrate, which react to the light from the lens to create the negative, are much, much smaller to fit inside it.

I have a small collection of medium format cameras, from my first Yashica TLR's to my crowning jewel, a brand new Hasselblad SLR. I was a bit leery at first of switching over from my trusty Nikon 35mm, but now that I've done it, I've never looked back.

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