Skip to content

COLUMN: Shooting with a TLR film camera

This past week I purchased a 1955 Rolleiflex TLR and decided to put a roll of film through it

By John Enman

I recently read an article written by a California High School Student. Shauna Hong wrote, “In recent years, the collecting of vintage cameras has once again grown in appeal. The revival of the overall “vintage look” circulates in mainstream fashion, architecture and even cameras. Even with their seemingly counter intuitive, more complex and traditional techniques, some see it as a form of gaining knowledge about the past and appreciating the historical usage of “timeless” photographic techniques.”

I have admitted several times that I am not that interested in shooting film, But after my last article on old 1934 magazines I quoted, “William has selected an automatic 2 ¼ X 2 ¼ twin-lens reflex camera. It’s short focal length and extreme depth of field permit freedom of movement.” That and Hong’s article I got me thinking about my days of using film cameras.

This past week I purchased a 1955 Rolleiflex TLR and decided to put a roll of film through it.

The Rolleiflex is a two-lens camera, (Twin Lens Reflex -TLR). It differs from a Single Lens Reflex camera (SLR or DSLR now days) in several ways. It’s important to note that the two lenses are not identical twin lenses. The top lens is the “viewing” lens that the photographer uses when looking through the viewfinder. The bottom lens is the “taking” lens that exposes the film. The photographer looks down through a waist level viewfinder instead of holding the camera up to the eye.

The road was finally open between Chase and Sorrento so I made the trip to Salmon Arm and brought the Rolleiflex camera. (I talked Jo into going) Jo and I wandered the Salmon Arm Warf while I shot with the camera. She got to be my model when she wasn’t running around taking her own pictures.

I used medium format film cameras for years and I think I owned three or four TLRs, But I never got a chance to shoot with a Rollieflex. Gosh, after all these years it took the whole roll of film to get comfortable using that waist level camera. And for those of us that are used to shooting an almost unlimited amount of photos - being limited to twelve shots is painful. However, There is nothing like the experience of using a wonderfully designed, fully mechanical camera.

I have to agree with the photographer who wrote, ”The tactile experience of using the TLR is remarkable. I will say that this 67-year-old bit of technology does exactly what it’s supposed to, with minimal fuss and at a remarkable level of quality. I expect I’ll put another roll or two thought this camera and for a short time join all those that like the nostalgia of using cameras from the past.

Stay safe and be creative. These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at or

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

Read more