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How good are Chinese Seagull TLR's?

  1. I'd like to know how sharp the optic is and the camera's reliability, Anyone?
  2. The glass is sharp enough but it failed with a couple months of owning one... Won't wind or fire now

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  3. I have an older one, all Chinese characters and metal construction. Shot a roll with it and had a scratch running down the length of the film - that's not necessarily a camera flaw, just a one-off. My main issue was the shutter speeds 1/30th and below were out.
    Not really sure of the optics - they seemed OK but I doubt they'll get mistaken for a Rollei any time...maybe like an older Tashica, I guess?
    A fun camera to try out.
  4. ya get what you pay for.
  5. Bought one new about 15 years ago. It was the top of the line model with the wind crank. The lens was VERY sharp. Unfortunately, the shutter release broke after 6 rolls of film and the cost of repair was more than I paid for it new. I would not buy one again.
  6. > Bought one new about 15 years ago. It was the top of the line model with the wind crank. The lens was VERY sharp. Unfortunately, the shutter release broke after 6 rolls of film and the cost of repair was more than I paid for it new. I would not buy one again.

    I had a similar experience. Go for a Rolleicord.
  7. I lived in China for a few years back in the late 90's. I've tried a few. Older and newer. Will never buy another. One the shutter blew open and pieces flew across the room. Another the gearing froze up. They are garbage. Buy a good used Rolleicord.
  8. Or a Yashicamat. :smile:
  9. I own a Seagull 4-a and I travelled with it all around the Balkans.

    The lens is ok and I never had a problem with the camera (except some troubles focusing, but I have that with most cameras) , unfortunately I seem to be the only one.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  10. I have no experience w/ the TLRs, but once owned one of the Seagull folders. Like everyone says, it had a great lens, and the folders have an ingenious film mask for 6x6 and 6x4.5, but the build quality was truly crap. I sold it after one roll, and the new buyer wasn't pleased w/ it either.

    If you want cheap and good image quality, my recommendation would be for an old Argoflex E model TLR that shoots 620 and 120 film. Their shutters go up to 1/200, and the 3 element lens takes wonderful photos. Mine cost $20 on Etsy a year or two ago, and after I cleaned off the shutter blades to get the speeds up it has been a fine little camera. They're also small and light (Bakelite bodies). The Ricohflex TLRs are OK too, but most models have shutters that only run to 1/100, and they are heavy for their somewhat small size. Or, spend about $50 to $80 for an older Rolleicord and you step up quite a bit in terms of build quality. The Triotar is one of the truly great TLR lenses for portraits.

    Here's a few from my Argoflex, using the appropriately cheap Chinese Shanghai GP3 film. I'm not at all happy w/ this particular developer, and the lighting was awful for the portrait (nearly all the light was coming from the window in the back), but the developer may work better when I get the hang of it. First two are in Freestyle Legacy L110, the last two in Rodinal at 1:25.

    aa2 cropped.jpg


    argo 6.jpg

    argo 1.jpg
  11. I will also recommend a Rolleicord...
  12. I've got an early 1990's Seagull 4A-103 TLR that I bought new from Porters. I actually really like it, as it gives a really nice effect to out of focus areas, and I find the little levers easier to read than the windowed dials on my Yashica (though it leaves the gears more prone to gunk) . I also find focusing it to be easier than my Yashica 12. I wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on one for under $50 if it is working, but I'm not sure I'd trust an as-is one from the "bay." [​IMG]
  13. Who WILL CLA these things?
  14. I had two. The first one had the lens panel way out of alignment, so I got my money back. The second one was quite recent, and worked ok. I sold it quite quickly because I didn't like the viewing arrangement. It didn't have a fresnel screen, and it was difficult in any light conditions to see what was in frame. I can't recall the model number, but it was not the top of the range. I also had a Lubitel 166 which is poor quality plastic, but is cheap and gave me better pictures than the Seagull.
  15. Or an Autocord...
  16. Hey, when they work they're fine. The lenses are great. But I wouldn't pay $20 for one (as I did for two others) because they go on you within a year or two or sooner. Get something with decent build quality so you have a reliable camera.
  17. I bought one of the first Seagull TLRs to arrive in Kansas City in the 1970s. It seemed to function when new. A few years later, before ever being loaded with film, the shutter quit.
  18. I've had a couple of them, both the top of the range modes, great lenses, very sharp, but the build quality of the cameras I rate as just above junk status, when they do work they are fine, trouble is you could not depend upon them working, so you always need to take a back up when out as they always went wrong, you would be far better off getting a Rolleicord or even better you can find Rolleiflex Automats in good working condition but perhaps not cosmitically great, for not that much, I got an automat 4 working perfectly for just £75 (GBP) and they are great workhorses and will outlast any seagull
  19. Wrong question, it should be "how bad are Chinese Seagull TLR's" :smile:
  20. The 4A-103 ,-105 and -107 have a 3 element lens, the -109 has a 4 element lens. My 4A-103 has a split image screen, crank wind and flash sync. The good spec is tempting if you know a good repair guy as I do, he says they are not difficult to repair.
    Generally I shoot landscapes at f11 or f16 where the 3 element lens is satisfactory or good. Here's a 4A-103 video:
    The 4B is a basic version with red window film counter and knob wind.
    I believe they still sell refurbished ones at the Shanghai Camera Museum,(almost) still in production.
  21. Aren't these the kinds of plastic things you used to get for free inside Cracker Jacks boxes?
  22. It's made in China, I rest my case.
  23. I see where you're coming from on that. However there was a time when people said the same thing about things made in Taiwan, and before that Japan. A lot more QC these days on many Chinese-made products, and better all the time. That said not with these cameras though...
  24. Some very good stuff is now made in China - also plenty of junk, and plenty of "well it really is good enough for this purpose" stuff.

    I know people who have worked closely with Chinese manufacturing and the Chinese are definitely capable of producing quite good stuff.

    Check most any consumer electronics these days and just try to buy something that is NOT made in China. Even the Japanese brands generally are. Occasionally you can find something made in Malaysia or South Korea but Chinese stuff predominates (and is generally fine if QC is overseen by a Japanese or South Korean company that commissioned it.)
  25. I was recently given an older Seagull TLR from a relative who lives in China. I have not had a chance to shoot with it yet, but I believe it is a 4B-1, with the manual red window film advance and a mask for 6x4.5. It has a metal body and is very heavy. To me, it seems like a quite robust and solidly constructed camera, although pretty much everything I've read about Seagulls would seem to indicate the opposite! I wonder if the reliability issues are limited to the newer models being sold today? Or maybe this one will fall apart once I actually attempt to use it :laugh:
  26. My experiences is mostly with 3-4 examples of older ones when I lived in China between 1996 to 2001. I tried some of the newer ones as well, the older ones feel more robust and may be. None of that matters when the shutter on every one I've used has gone out on me within 3-18 months. Much better used options for often cheaper, ones which are worth fixing, repairing or getting a CLA as they will last. I've gotten decent Rolliecords for $50-75 USD.
  27. My Seagull 4A-103A has worked perfectly for more than ten years and hundreds of rolls of film; that is after its second rebuild on my repair bench. Inside components are strong and often crudely finished but work reliably when tweaked, bent, filed, and judiciously lubricated. My impression is that the basic design is good but the cameras are assembled by people who work in a hurry and don't check what they did. Conjecturing further I suspect the Shanghai factory operated in a command economy where they had to turn out so many units a month irrespective of customer demand or whether some cameras don't work straight out of the box!
  28. Along with iPhones, Mac Book Pro's, Airbus A320's, C919 jet aircraft, the LEAP-X1C jet engine, Nikon DSLR's and Lenses, etc..etc...etc.....All made in China.

    In the '70s they said "It's made in Japan, I rest my case."
    In the '80s they said, "it's made in Korea, I rest my case."

    Some people never learn.
  29. Ok, I take it back. I'd be willing to buy another Seagull TLR. But only one of Maris'.
  30. Is that the same China Clive that was highly advanced scientific, cultured and mercantile society when we in Britain were occupied by the Roman legions living in mud huts with our animals and painting our faces with woad, it's a cardinal error to underestimate the opposition by dismissing them out of hand.
  31. :laugh:

    Yeah, the same China that was printing 5 or 6 hundred years before Gutenberg.
  32. Wow. You have become to Seagull what Arax were to Arsenal. Good on you, but that's rather a high bar, if one is required to have the time, skills, tools, and maybe spares to do that in order to make a useful Seagull. It should scare off most of the rest of us.

  33. Argentician, you are right. The Seagull TLR is not for people who expect trouble free operation. Mine was so cheap new ($140!) that I had nothing to lose by opening and repairing the mechanism when it failed. Today the TLR that gets the most use here is a Mamiya C330S, a camera which is at least two classes above in mechanical excellence.
  34. Late 90s, they were available through Freestyle for less than $50 each. Bought four to introduce photo class to medium format.
    Unpacked the boxes which were sealed in clear plastic - yellow sand from the factory floor in the boxes. The lenses were sharp enough but they didn't last long.