Sen K Photography

TLR Camera : What it is and how to use one

Readers who are millennials or older, would recognize this camera either because someone in their family owned it, or they may seen it in the movies.

This here, is what a TLR looks like.

A TLR Camera, Mumbai, India

A TLR is a twin lens reflex camera, where there are two lens, which help in taking the images. The lens above lets you view your subject and focus by rotating the ring, which in turn focuses the bottom lens. The major advantage a TLR has over other formats is that your image does not get shut out due to the mirror movement as with SLRs. You also get a lower than eye level perspective of the scene. On the downside, there is parallax error and the options to stop down to preview the photo will not be available.

Front view of a TLR Camera, Mumbai, India

Behind the bottom lens, sits the shutter, and your film.

Back view of a TLR Camera, Mumbai, India

You view your would be photo from the top of the camera.

A view through the viewfinder of a TLR camera, Mumbai, India

The basic functions available on the camera are similar to the ones we use today. It has shutter speeds and aperture values that can be set easily. A unique thing was the distance scale on the bottom lens, which may be featuring here for this specimen here is more of a pseudo TLR, since the focus is fixed.

So, in a pseudo TLR, how to achieve sharp focus?? Flip the camera to the other side and read the scale.

Table of depth of field on the back of the TLR camera, Mumbai, India

This scale gives the hyperfocal distances and the appropriate DOF based on the aperture and the distance from the subject. You read the details off the scale and dial them in, and voila! you have a sharp image. One thing to note is that the image formed in the viewfinder is laterally inverted. Takes a little time to get used to, but once you do, it is quite fun.

Some may say that it is too much work, I ll say it is an amazing learning experience. This specimen on the 1950s Elioflex 2 from the Italian Ferrania was a gift to a dear friend Tara (a calligraphy expert by the way) scrounged from Chor Bazaar of Mumbai.

Maybe I ll go get a film camera and try out some film photography, what say readers?? Let me know of your opinions in the comments below!

Cheers!!

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2 Replies to “TLR Camera : What it is and how to use one”

  1. This is of great help. Though you have explained it to me upfront, this link is a bookmark now haha. Thanks man for this article. You are awesome!!

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