Twin lens reflex or TLR cameras have separate lenses for viewing the scene (viewing lens) and exposing the film (taking lens), usually of differing quality but generally designed to give you as close a sense of the final image as possible. The image from the viewing lens reflects by mirror onto a ground glass with the image reversed left-right. The taking lens is incorporated into the leaf shutter mechanism much like on a bellows camera. Film formats are generally 620 (US), 120 (European) or 127, though the famed (and rare) Zeiss Ikon Contaflex TLR is 35mm. Some have available kits to accept 35mm, such as some Rolleiflex, Ricohflex, and Flexaret models. Quality in TLRs also ranges from plastic ‘toy’ cameras such as the Kodak brownie Reflex and Argus Argoflex 75 to the world-class and still-popular Rolleiflex.
Box cameras are just that, a box with a mirror viewfinder, a simple shutter of one or two speeds, and a chamber inside to hold the film. Some later designs improved the box shape into more sophisticated cameras but they are still essentially box cameras at heart, like the Agfa Clack (aka Weekender).
If you have information to add or would like to ask questions about these cameras, their use or care, or even just want to say ‘hey’, feel free to email me, I always enjoy hearing from you!
TLR & Box Camera Sample Image Gallery
- Pacific Rim Camera Photo Pages has encyclopedic info on various classics
- The Living Images Virtual Camera Museum has nice pics and descriptions
- You can get lost in the Medium Format Cameras Library Page for days – it’s a treasure trove
- Guide to Classic Cameras
- Classsic Camera Profiles
- Classic Camera Manuals Page is a lifesaver
- Another great page of classic camera manuals from F and S Mariott
- A primer to mentally calculating exposure (you’ll need it with these)