A quest for a reasonably cheap TLR

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by M-88, Dec 25, 2018.

  1. M-88

    M-88 Member
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    Good day and Merry Christmas, apparently.

    I have a small task for my brain - to find a cheap and also a decent TLR camera for myself. "Cheap" means Under 100$. I've been doing some research and so far have found only a few of such cameras, which are:

    1. Yashica D and 124
    2. Minolta Autocord
    3. Rolleicord

    I have picked those since they don't have questionable quality, whether built or optical. Sadly if I want any of those in working condition with fungi-free glass I might not find them within designated budget. Maybe I overlooked some other cameras that qualify? Any advise is appreciated!

    P.S. Two things I'd like to mention just so we can stay in 120 Format TLR category and not consider other models:
    1. I want it to be 120 format specifically due to scarcity of "Type 127" film and not much improvement of 40x40 mm over 36x24 mm;
    2. I used to own Bronica and it was a wonderful machine but then I started acquiring its lenses and accessories which resulted in a rather heavy backpack and completely neglected my 35 mm gear. I don't want it to happen again so SLRs are off the table (also because of the price, of course). And I also wouldn't want a rangefinder with bellows and such.

    Thank you

    Mike
     
  2. BrianShaw

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    Hi Mike... Merry Christmas to you! I only have experience with Rolleicord and can vouch for it being great for your purposes. I bought mine for $100, but that was back in 1985 and I immediately put another $125 into it for a complete overhaul despite it being in virtually unused condition. But then I had more than a decade worth of reliability. I took that camera and a monopod all over the world. Lightweight... great quality... couldn’t ask for more. My suggestion, though, is that you triple your budget. It might not matter which dollar you are spending but only 100 of them might make this a very difficult task... especially if your wanting something reliable to use as apprised to something to just fiddle with. Good luck.
     
  3. OP
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    M-88

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    Thank you.

    The problem with me is that according to my country's legislation I have to pay 18% import tax for anything that is priced higher than 110$. Overhaul is not really a problem, I do CLA of my hardware on my own. But I surely want something more than just to toy with, or a shelf decoration (I already have a few of those represented in 35 mm format).
     
  4. Ian Grant

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    Well I've picked up a cheap Yashica 124 but by the time it had a CLA the price had almost doubled, however a £70 ($89) Rolleiflex Automat was a far better find with a superb Opton Tessar lens and no need of a CLA - bought at a Flea market.

    Most cheap bargain TLR's aren't as they have issues like sticky shutters.

    Ian
     
  5. OP
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    M-88

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    The only TLR on local market is Soviet "Lubitel". I'll have to pay twice as much as you had for Rolleiflex.
     
  6. guangong

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    My experience with the Autocord dates back to c.1961. Very good lens. Weakest part of camera is focusing lever. Can offer no advice about other cameras.
    Why go cheap? Of course there is the possibility of a lucky find, but gambling can be expensive. Why not postpone purchase, save up the cash and buy quality? Cheaper in the long run.
    Merry Christmas!
     
  7. Dan Daniel

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    All in all I think that the Yashica D is probably the best cheap TLR to get- simple mechanisms, easy to work on, not much to go wrong. Probably the cheapest 'real' TLR. If you are looking for a Yashica D, keep your eyes open for a model with the Yashinon lens, not the Yashikor lens. Sometimes they slip through auctions unremarked. The Yashikor is a fine lens, of course, but the Yashinon is 'finer,' if that makes sense.

    Rolleicords, good luck getting anything worth repairing under your price. But like the Yashica D, fairly straightforward cameras to overhaul.

    Autocords, if you are willing to do work yourself you might get in under your cap. Make certain that the focus knob is still there, not broken off. Probably best to get one with a working shutter up front. There are two ways that the shutter stops working. One is internal failure, not too common. The other is external, mainly dried lube mucking up the cocking mechanism. This is the more common problem and simply requires disassembly and cleaning. Wind mechanism is pretty solid on these cameras; the only problems I've seen is when someone decides that the answer to something not working is to crank it harder and harder until parts bend or such.

    As with any old camera, watch for lens condition. Seems lots of people liked to wipe their lenses with sandpaper or something back in the '50s and '60s. The past is a foreign country, eh?
     
  8. jnantz

    jnantz Advertiser Advertiser
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    hi mike
    some lubitels are very nice cameras !
    i had one years ago and was sad when
    i damaged it beyond repair ..
     
  9. mgb74

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    You can always "get lucky" with a purchase, but as a matter of course I would argue that the likelihood of getting - for $100 or less - a Rolleicord or Autocord that requires just a CLA (no parts) is slim. Chances are much better with the various Yashicas. Especially the earlier ones like the D and the 12. I'm assuming you would find parts availability difficult.

    A Mamiya C22 or C220 with the earlier Seikosha shutter might be a possibility. The C22/220 is lighter (and cheaper) than the C33/330, but still may be too heavy for your needs.

    A friend is getting surprisingly good results with a Seagull TLR.

    An option that is often overlooked are the later models of the Graflex and Ciro-flex TLRs. Basic, viewfinders a bit dim, but decent enough lenses that would be relatively simple to CLA. But certainly not a Rolleicord or Autocord.
     
  10. OP
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    M-88

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    Well, because knowing myself I'll end up with either Rolleiflex 3.5, or hop on to a different camera and get Mamiya RZ67. And I need neither of those, because let's face it - I'm just an amateur.

    Thank you, that's a great input right there! I will do a research of Yashinon versus Yashikor. And other information is useful as well, I indeed stumbled upon a few Autocords with broken focusing knob (makes me think - couldn't I replace it with anything else? I'm quite able in small things).

    Really? Those things are dime a dozen over here, although older (metal) samples Lubitel-1 and Lubitel-2 are hard to find

    I was considering Mamiyas, but they are larger and clunkier than the rest. And thanks for the rest of the info as well!
     
  11. Cholentpot

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    I'm happy with my Lubitel 2. It's got all the bells and whistles, sometimes you get lucky off of ebay. It's even got a flocked interior!
     
  12. Martin Rickards

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    You might also consider the Meopta Flexaret from Czechoslovakia..
     
  13. Dan Daniel

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    The Yashikor is a three element lens, like a Zeiss Triotar. At wide apertures it is known to go all swirly and such. Stopped down, it performs very closely to the Yashinon. Which is a Tessar-type design, 4 elements, three groups.

    Yes, fixing a broken knob on an Autocord can be done. The main problem is that the metal used in the focus lever is a strange cast iron-type of soft metal that falls apart like putty once it is bent in any fashion. I haven't tried machining it in any way. And then there are the Autocords where the knob is broken off but the lever is still movable. See, knobs break for two reasons. One, the common reason, is that the grease in the focus mechanism gums up, and people think the solution is to push harder and harder on the focus lever knob, which snaps off from the pressure. The other way the knob is broken off is that if the knob is in the center position, the back opening up will press against it. In this case the lever may still move, and you can get a finger tip on the nub of metal to focus.

    Just to warn you, it is also possible for the focus lever to break internally on the ring that connects to the focus helical. So the lever will rotate but no focusing will happen.

    For your info, here's a photo of an Autocord focus helical and lever with a broken knob (and broken ring with set screws, a possible breakdown I discussed). I have my solution which is to machine a new lever from aluminum and bolt it directly to the helical. But there are many other ways to solve this issue.

    Instagram Link
     
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  15. OP
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    M-88

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    Looks a tad boxy. But don't they all?

    Do not tempt me, there's no way I'm touching any soviet tin can ever again :errm:

    I think I know which metal you are talking about. I had toy cars made of that when I was a kid. They are all gone thanks to 'metal fatigue'. IIRC it was a mix of Zinc, Aluminum and Copper. And thanks for enlightening me about the lenses. Tessar is my favourite scheme from old fashioned lenses.
     
  16. Paul Howell

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    I have both versions of the D as well as a 124G, the Yashikor stopped down to F8 or 11 is sharp, while the Yashinion is sharp at 3.5. The 124G will advance faster with the crank and not having to cock the shutter. The D is good multiple exposures and weights in a little less than the 124G. The meter on my 124 is dead, when it was working it was accurate as my other wide angle reflective meters. The 124 took both 120 and 220 film, the back has a pressure plate that can be adjusted for either, not that it matters as 220 is not readily available, not sure if even being made.

    Although larger and heavier, a Mamyia 220 is worth considering, not limited to an 80mm and the Mamyia 80mm is a 2.8, at one time I had a C330 and like the 105 as my normal lenes.
     
  17. GRHazelton

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    I own both an AutoCord and a YashicaMat. Both are excellent; the Rokkor and the Yashinon are Tessar formula. I find the focus system on the AiutoCord more convenient that that of the Yashica, You might also consider the Ricohflex cameras. My Brother had one, it was stolen. The Riconar is a triplet, the D and G usually have a Tessar formula. I used my Brother's camera occasionally, pleasant! Auto film stop, manual shutter cocking, the twin focus levers are excellent. See this: https://www.filmshooterscollective....f-the-humble-ricoh-diacord-howard-sandler-8-3
     
  18. Cholentpot

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    I'm pretty happy with m'tin can. It's made out of Bakelite though...

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Jim Jones

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    Any of the Yashica TLRs in good condition with the Yashinon lens should be capable of fine quality photographs. In the distant past I've owned models D, 635, and Yashica-Mat. Eventually all their shutters quit working, perhaps more from being unused than from their occasional use. However, that's better than the early Chinese made Seagull TLR, which quit working before I ever put film in it.
     
  20. OP
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    M-88

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    It's a great camera, undoubtedly versatile and probably a professional grade tool, which I won't be able to use at full extent. Not to mention tht C330 weights around as much as my Bronica ETR used to. Of course I'll keep an eye out for it, just in case if it shows up at a bargain price.

    Maybe I'm not looking for it properly, but all Ricohflexes (including a Super one) seem to have Anastigmat lenses, which should be a three element lens. Is there one with four element lens?

    You should visit Georgia then, we have a few metal ones with a nameplate in Cyrilic.

    Even the Sun will stop working eventually, nothing wrong with that. So far Yashica seems to be a good option. If I could only find one with Yashinon.
     
  21. MattKing

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    WRT the Mamiya C220, it is a bit lighter than the C330.
    The form factor of a TLR makes it in some ways a bit "smaller" than your Bronica.
    The Mamiya TLRs really shine if you have at least two lenses. A body plus two or three lenses fits in a much smaller bag than just about any other interchangeable lens medium format option.
     
  22. OP
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    M-88

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    And we're back to multi-lens heavyweights again. I think a decent C220 with two lenses might cost just as much as Bronica ETR-S (again) or Mamiya 645. And to be honest, bellows scare me. I know they are easy to service and repair, but I've had a sad accident with Agfa Karat a few years ago.
     
  23. abruzzi

    abruzzi Member

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    A few months ago I talked myself out of a super cheap deal on a Mamiya C (the original C) and two lenses for $130 in the classified here. I did that because I saw pictures of a C330 next to a Rolleiflex, and realized how huge it was. It wasn’t until a while later that I discovered that the C330 (and C33 and C3 I guess) we’re larger than the other Mamiya C generation TLRs. I know the C220 is still bigger than a Rollei, Yashica, or Minolta TLR, but I haven’t been able to find any side by side photos to get a sense of how much bigger.
     
  24. hsandler

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    Ricoh Diacord L or later model Gs have four element Rikenon lenses and are right up there with the others in optical quality and build quality. Focus ergonomics is superior.
     
  25. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The most simple anastigmat lens is the Cooke triplet. But nearly all more complex lenses are anastigmats too.
     
  26. OP
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    M-88

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    Ah so that's how I should have searched. I was searching for a mere 'Ricohflex'.

    I can see where you're going. "An anastigmat is a photographic lens completely corrected for spherical aberration, coma and astigmatism".
     
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