The Twin Lens Re­flex

Camera - - BACK TO BASICS -

There have been no dig­i­tal ver­sions, but twin lens re­flex (TLR) film cam­eras date back to the ear­li­est days of pho­tog­ra­phy and be­came a very pop­u­lar de­sign for around four decades from the 1920s. The leg­endary Rollei­flex TLRs, first in­tro­duced in 1928, was ar­guably the most suc­cess­ful model range, sur­viv­ing un­til the end of the 20th cen­tury and widely used by both am­a­teurs and pro­fes­sion­als. Most used roll­film al­though there were a hand­ful of 35mm mod­els.

As the name sug­gests, the TLR has two lenses ar­ranged in­line one above the other. The top lens is used for viewfind­ing, via a re­flex mir­ror, and the bot­tom lens takes the pic­ture. Be­cause these two roles are sep­a­rated, the re­flex mir­ror can be fixed which made these cam­eras less com­plex to man­u­fac­ture and qui­eter in their op­er­a­tion. Typ­i­cally, a TLR has a waistlevel viewfinder (which you look down into), but some pro­fes­sional-level mod­els could be fit­ted with eye­level find­ers. Most TLRs had fixed lenses, but Mamiya of­fered in­ter­change­able lens mod­els (which were ob­vi­ously fit­ted with twin lens sets).

To­day only a few diehard en­thu­si­asts still use roll­film TLRs, but they re­main pop­u­lar as col­lectible clas­sic cam­eras, es­pe­cially the nu­mer­ous mod­els of Rollei­flex.

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