I Built My First TLR

A few months back I bought a cute little kit to build my own TLR.

For those of you who don’t know what a TLR is, the letters themselves stand for Twin-Lens Reflex and they’re a type of camera that have two lenses. Mine looks a little something like this:

TLR Instagram
I’m only a little bit sorry that this is both taken on a phone and Instagramed

They work very differently to SLRs and that’s because of the two lenses. While an SLR uses one lens for you to look through and take the photo, a TLR uses a different lens for each function but connects the two so they’re both focusing on the same distance. This isn’t at all as complicated as it sounds.

One lens is connected to the shutter and has the film running behind it so when the shutter opens it is used to take the photo. This lens is connected to the lens above it and thanks to the two lenses having little cog-like rings around them, when you move one (to focus) the other moves as well. The top lens is then connected to a mirror which then projects the image of what it’s seeing onto a little matte screen at the top of the camera.

Here’s a very simple diagram which probably explains it better than I do:

TLR Diagram
I didn’t make this, but I got it from this website which explains the lovely world of TLRs much better than I do: NelsonTan.com

Anyway, most TLRs use medium format film, usually 120, but my is cute and little and made of plastic, a toy camera version of a TLR, so just a bit of fun really, but it produces some adorable images. Mine takes 35mm making it really convenient to use and change the film for it.

The real downside to mine is the lack of control over the settings; it has a set aperture and shutter speed (which is completely understandable) of f/9 and 1/100 and that can be a little limiting at times. Still it’s very fun to use and here are a few photos:

TLR photo of flowers
Distortion is fun.

Park, Penistone, South Yorkshire

Double Exposure of Christmas lights in Sheffield
Double Exposure of Christmas lights in Sheffield

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So these are my favourite shots from my first role of film through my TLR and I definitely can’t wait to play with it again and put another roll through.

If you’ve never used a TLR before – get yourself one and give it a try. They’re a lot of fun to use and because of how you have to hold the camera it makes shooting from the hip an obvious method which gives you a different perspective on things and can be great for street photography.

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