Lately, I have a slight fascination with Twin Lens Reflex Cameras. There is something decidedly old school about them, and as far as objects go, they are some of the most beautiful pieces of machinery you could lay your eyes on. The manner in which they function is novel, because you hold the camera at waist level and look through the square viewfinder that sits on top of the camera. It changes your whole perspective on what you see, and how you see it. Traditionally, TLRs were made for medium format film, and they take beautiful, bright, square-shaped photos. However, recently, the TLR has been re-imagined by a few companies hoping to capitalize on the market for nontraditional cameras. Superheadz and the Lomographic Society dreamed up fantastic TLRs with interesting style, while Rollei and Seagull kept it more traditional. Interestingly, the trend with all the companies was to create a model in bright red, which is my favorite color. Usually, when something is thought to be special, the first colors you’d think of making it are in gold, silver, or black, but I like the way that red makes these cameras announce that you’ve arrived.
The Superheadz camera, Blackbird Fly, utilizes standard 35mm film, enabling processing at a much lower cost than medium format 120 film, and if you wish to take square photos on the film you can do so (at the cost of including the sprockets in the shot!).
The Holga TLR introduced by the Lomographic Society uses traditional 120 film and uses the standard plastic lens and body construction the company is known for—providing lo-fi images with psychedelic saturation.
Rollei’s entrant is actually a small wonder. Eschewing film entirely, it houses a 3 megapixel sensor and an LCD viewfinder on top. Its construction is solid, and its diminutive size ensures that you want to carry it around with you at all times, especially when you can actually crank the handle to take your next photo!
Finally, we have the Limited Edition Red and Gold Seagull TLR (Pictured at the top!). Clad in the traditional colors of the Chinese Empire, this Seagull is so beautiful I bought it on sight in the West Village. Next to its all-black and silver siblings, it seemed almost unfair how gorgeous it was. When I took it out of its silk-lined box I knew that I had something special and unique. I have savored slowly taking photos with it, because the cost of the film and processing is slightly outrageous, and also because there is no instant visual feedback once I’ve taken a shot. Scary. I am almost finished with my first roll of black and white 120 film, and I will post scans from the first batch as soon as I can. I am so excited about the possibilities and the scale of the images I’ll be able to produce! Best of all, I have gotten into a film photography class at NYU, so I will be able to practice and learn with the prettiest camera in all the land.