TLR cameras are slightly similar to the more famous SLR or DSLR cameras that have been around for quite a while. These cameras were designed to work with a single, large, non-moving mirror that reflected light straight up after passing through the camera’s lens – even though these little fellas have not one, but two, lenses attached to them. This peculiarity makes them extremely odd-looking and curious indeed.
The twin-lens system has a purpose. The lower lens takes the picture, and the upper lens serves as the viewing lens. The optics are roughly the same in terms of focal length, but only the lower lens has an aperture system inside it. Due to this deployment, the camera allows the photographer to keep watching the scene after pressing the shutter button since the mirror doesn't need to flip up to expose the film to light, similar to how rangefinder cameras allow the photographer to continue watching the scene after pressing the shutter button. For an unknown reason, this way of taking pictures has been critical in street photography, maybe after the famous “decisive moment” approach from Henri Cartier-Bresson.
The previously described arrangement of elements in the camera, and its way of working, invite the photographer to use it at a waist level – although this is not the only way to frame an image, as you can see in this image where I am making a shot in a pretty curious way.
Last year, I had a chance to actually use a Medium Format camera, thanks to the TLR system. For ages, I have been dreaming of having one of these cameras, so on my birthday in 2016 I decided to give myself a little treat and bought this camera. I've never had one of these precious tools in my hands; therefore, the test run was a pretty curious ride. I watched a lot of videos that explained how to load and unload the film, and also into how to expose a shot, so I felt pretty comfortable with the logic of the camera. One of the most curious things was the archaic way the medium format film was packed. I found it simple and straightforward.