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TLRs - is "Better" really better? Or Brand snobbery?
Old 06-18-2006   #1
Krosya
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TLRs - is "Better" really better? Or Brand snobbery?

Hello all,
I know - I'm sure this was discussed before. But I wanted to revisit this and see what everyone is thinking on this subject.
My question is - is "Better" brand in TLRs really better? Is it personal preference, or there is actual tangible proof and there is a reason to pay extra $$ to get a better quality photos. In other words - is Yashica always inferior to Rolleiflex? Or it is not so? For the more reasonable comparison, lets take similar models with same or similar lens design. Or Tessar versions. And there are many TLRs that use this lens design. I'm sure Planars/Xenotars will have edge on some things. But what about cameras in the same category?
I have some pictures here - and while they all have different "feel" - I'm hard pressed to decide which I like more.

So, any thoughts?
Comments?

BTW - I have a Rolleiflex with Tessar, which has a new costume on - so I call it Brownflex. - I just thought it would look different, so old and worn black leather was replaced by me. Not perfect, but ok for me.
George
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Old 06-18-2006   #2
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more "Brownflex" photos.
George
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File Type: jpg Brownflex-4.jpg (246.6 KB, 128 views)
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Old 06-18-2006   #3
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Well, and here is a Yashica Mat 124 . Not G. Just a 124, which I think is better anyway. Photos were takinen same day. Same Film. All scanned on an Epson Flatbed 2450 scanner. 600 dpi I think.
Some pictures from Brownflex were sharpened in PS. Ones from Yashica were not. No other adjustments other than size change to fit here.

George
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File Type: jpg Yachicab124.jpg (155.5 KB, 107 views)
File Type: jpg GYashica1.jpg (229.9 KB, 169 views)
File Type: jpg Gyashica2.jpg (234.3 KB, 93 views)
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Old 06-18-2006   #4
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I have found the term "better" results in a lot of discussion and brand preference. If you mean resolving power of the lens, lasting under heavy use, holds resell value, then you could choose one brand over another. I have had a Rolleiflex, a Yashica 124, and there is not a great deal of difference between that model and the G, and a Mamiya Sekor C330f. I departed with the Rollei when it would cost more to repair it than to replace it. The other two are fine and product great photos. I also hava Pentacon, SLR Mf, and use it. They produce different shades of the same image, better, I can't say. I like using the Pentacon best.
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Old 06-18-2006   #5
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My personal feeling is most differences between cameras-outside of durability and handling-are too darned small to make a real dfference in the photo. Bad MF beats good 35mm, of course.
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Old 06-18-2006   #6
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I have a Yashicamat 124 (not G) that I bought new in about 1971 or so. I've never been disappointed with the pictures it takes.

There is some static that the only difference with the "G" is gold soldering in the meter connections. OH, wow!! But it has plastic controls for speed/aperture, and mine has metal controls.

Being basically a 35mm user, I've never been terribly taken with the square format, but there are others who swear by it. Back in the days when I used to do my own developing and printing, the 8x10 paper required some cropping anyway. Nice camera.

I've never owned a Rollei, and I won't argue that they were probably superior, but does a Mercedes get you there faster than a Camry?
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Old 06-18-2006   #7
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A lot of variables, such as whether you're shooting wide open or stopped down. From f/8 downwards most TLR's are awfully good. I've used Yashicas and Rolleis and they're both capable of great images.

I did notice a difference when I added a Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar to my collection. The Planar was noticeably better wide open and was generally a little better throughout. The build quality of the 3.5F, which adds to the pleasure of using the cam, is akin to a Leica. Superb. Not essential, but aesthetically pleasing.

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Old 06-18-2006   #8
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The diference between the Rollei and Yashica pics above looks like a post processing issue to me.

You have two very fine TLR's, if you cannot tell the the difference in build quality between the Rollei and the Yashica, I don't know what to say. I have both the same cameras you have, the Rollei is built to a standard far superior, better materials, tighter tolerances, it is smoother to operate, feels "heftier" and the images snap into focus. The Yashica feels lighter, more plasticy, is louder when advancing film, etc. (it's still a great camera)

I also have a Ricohflex Dia L, it is built better than the Yashicas- same 4 element Tessar design and the images look very similar to the Yashica's. They are all great cameras, they all make amazing images and are a joy to use, I love all my TLRs.

If you are comparing the end result, the image, then the Tessars and all the copies will have a very similar look. Unless you are going to get expensive drum scans of each negative or extreme enlargements, you probably will not see a difference between them to the naked eye. Just enjoy using both of those excellent cameras you have, life is too short to fret about it.

Now if you want to talk Planar or Xenotar...

Here's a pic from a Rollei with a Planar:
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Old 06-18-2006   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd.Hanz
Now if you want to talk Planar or Xenotar...
Xenotar, by far, because it starts with an X and sounds cool
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Old 06-18-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd.Hanz
Now if you want to talk Planar or Xenotar...
Oh yeah. The Xenotar gives you a nice "sharp" image, but the bokeh is just...err...well, to me it's disappointing. The Xenar, on the other hand, has a delicious bokeh. It flares like a 'roid on a Chile Poblano dipped in Habanero sauce, but it's a beauty; and cheaper than the Rolleiflex with a Tessar.

Now, the older the Rolleiflex, the dimmer the screen (unless it has already been replaced). The newer ones are ok.

But overall, "better being really better" is a truthism that is as real as one's perception. As long as you're happy with your gear, that's what's best.
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Old 06-18-2006   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabrielma
It flares like a 'roid on a Chile Poblano dipped in Habanero sauce, but it's a beauty; and cheaper than the Rolleiflex with a Tessar.
Gabriel:

Great, thanks for putting that image in my head !!!

I agree that the Xenar is an exceptionally fine lens. I love my Rolleicords. But as you already know, lots of other TLRs are also very fine and equally stellar. My Diacord is much cheaper, yet performs equally to the Xenar.

The Xenotar I own is a magnitude better made, sharper and more impressive than the Xenars. But it by no means blows the Xenars out of the water.

In the final analysis, as long as your TLRs are competent (and most are, certainly yours are), the remaining magic is with the photographer
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Old 06-18-2006   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabrielma
It flares like a 'roid on a Chile Poblano dipped in Habanero sauce
Classic, classic....can I borrow that?

Todd
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Old 06-18-2006   #13
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I am used to Planar lenses for many years, but last year I added a Rolleilfex Automat with the Tessar lens. It offers a nice alternative for photography. The Tessar can do things better than the Planar in some cases and the Planar does better in other cases. It depends how you want to take a photo. Overall, the Planar and the Xenotar lenses are hard to beat for sharpness and contrast. Gabriel brings up Bokeh ... this needs to be explored.
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Old 06-18-2006   #14
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There are 2 aspects to consider when comparing these 2 cameras: lens type, and body build quality.

The better Yashinon lens of the Yashica is similar in design (number of elements) to the Tessar and Xenar lens of the Rollei. The Planar and Xenotar lenses available on the Pollei are more complex designs with more elements that allow better performance wide open and towards the corners.

As Todd has already explained, the Rollei has a higher level of build quality. Some people can feel the difference and some cannot. It is like the difference in build quality between a Leica M3 and a Bessa RxA. Not only were the 2 cameras built to a different price point, the older Leica M3 and the Rolleiflex were also built in a different time, when quality was held in greater regard by manufacturers than it is today. We've become much more accepting of the "disposable" mentality (some would say the good enough because it's cheap Walmart mentality) than people living in the 1940's and 50's.

As to which camera takes better pictures: that depends totally on the photographer operating the camera. They are both capable enough cameras that their technology is not a limit to the photographer's ability.

The interesting aspect to this discussion IMO, is the ability of some people to feel the difference in build quality in some cameras, and that some people don't. Unfortunately, those who don't, sometimes criticise those who can, calling them stupid for wasting their money on an expensive (Leica) camera when brand X is just as good in their estimation. Also unfortunately, some people who can feel the difference sometimes become snobbish about it.
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Old 06-18-2006   #15
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The snobbish part is eveident with many luxury items in life, Frank.
To many, this is main reason for getting that "item".
The old Rolleiflex TLR cameras are built in way that is difficult to improve upon, and the latest Rolleiflex TLR models have shown that they are not built better than the ones built in the 1950's. I depend on my Rolleiflex to work and work without a fault, and I expect sharpness from the lens. When holding a Rolleilfex, it really is like holding a Leica M, with respect to "security", "precision", "no nonsense" feeling. Such cameras are the Rolls Royce models of cameras made.
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Old 06-18-2006   #16
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Good - many opinions already.
To comment on some - I too can tell the difference in mechanical quality of Rolleiflex vs. Yashica, yet while pleasing, what matters to me more - is the final image. However, I do prefer to use some cameras over others, just because it's more enjoyable to hold/use it. My Voigtlander Bessa RF 6x9 comes to mind. Well, what about other TLRs? Voightlander, Zeiss, Kallowflex, Minolta, etc - any comments on those? What about their lenses, their built quality? Would be interesting to hear from users of those. AND - if you have photos to support your opinions - please post them too.
George
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Old 06-18-2006   #17
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Quote:
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The snobbish part is eveident with many luxury items in life
That is why I raise my pinky with every bite out of my double bacon whopper -- it's a luxury I indulge in once a month.
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Old 06-18-2006   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd.Hanz
Classic, classic....can I borrow that?
No problem. I have a twisted sense of "humour" sometimes.
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Old 06-18-2006   #19
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This thread maybe better located in another part of the forum but here goes,

Ricohflex Dia "L":
Solid build, heavy, all metal construction, smooth focus (duo lever action), Tessar quality 4 element lens, decent focusing screen, knob film advance, capable of really creamy bokeh and "separation" or "3D effect":

Todd
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Old 06-18-2006   #20
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I can't add to the comments on which is better that others have already made. I can say that sometimes you have to disassemble something to see the differences in built quality between two items. Cameras I don't take apart but I have seen obvious manufacturing short cuts taken on post WWII rifles as compared to pre WWII rifles of the same manufacturer. Outwardly you could not reaaly tell and they both functioned the same. I have a Minolta Autocord that gives fine results but again cannot compare it to a Rollie as I do not own one. For me the bragging rights would go to the Rollie in similar condition to the Automat but the output may not be much different in my hands. For $65 I will stick with the Autocord for now.

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Old 06-18-2006   #21
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There are, essentially, two types of "snob"; high-brow and low-brow for want of better terms. The high-brow snob will only accept owning the very best and the more it costs, the better as cost often defines "taste". In the world of the high-brow snob, "best" is most frequently determined by the opinions of others because the high-brow has neither the experience nor desire to make that determination himself. It's more important to own the "best" than it is to know how to use it properly. The high-brow will always be contemptuous of those who own "lesser", second-best items. I view people who will only own Leica or Nikon or Hasselblad or Rollei etc. and who look down on anyone who owns anything else as belonging to this group.

The lowbrow snob, OTOH, often finds himself unable to afford the more expensive brands and has to settle for less expensive alternatives. It's a fact that the less expensive equipment in the hands of a competent operator will often produce results on a par with the most expensive gear in the hands of a novice or less talented individual. It's then easy for the lowbrow to rationalize that they don't really need the expensive brands because their gear is just as good. This then leads to sneering at the highbrow with as much contempt as the highbrow has for them and their "cheap" inferior stuff.

The arguments about "best" will rage until doomsday and the two sides will be no closer to agreement than we are today. The snobs at both ends will still be with us as they have since time began.

I've owned a new Yashica 124 and I've owned an older Rolleiflex. Both took great pictures and I was happy with either. I could tell a difference in the build quality but didn't need to worry as the use I gave them wasn't heavy enough to matter. I have Vivitar lenses that are nearly 40 years old and that I bought new. They still take a fine picture but, if subjected to heavy daily use, they wouldn't last as well as a Leica, Nikon or Pentax lens. It's often the mechanical quality that makes the real difference.

There are a lot of people on the RFF who don't fit into either camp but simply enjoy their equipment regardless of it's brand. Happily, these people make up the great majority of our members and may they always remain so.

Walker
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Old 06-18-2006   #22
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Good picture of the three glasses, Todd, but what is the hazy horizontal light band above them? Windows, I thought, but those do not extend beyond buildings.

In India, up to the 1960s anyway, most serious photography was done with TLRs. Rolleiflexes were expensive, so there weren't many of them. There were a great many Yashicamats. For reasons that are beyond me, there were few Rolleicords. I used a R'cord (model not known, but 3.5 Xenar, only M sync. and Compur Rapid shutter), and its results were no different from those of the Yashicas. The R'flexes, on the other hand, shone when we went beyond 20" by 30" or so. They were also marginally quicker to handle. The superiority of their lenses was a plus point, another being quality of construction such that it was uncommon for one of them to break down or give trouble. Since most prints made were 10" by 8" or smaller, though, they just did not make economic sense.
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Old 06-18-2006   #23
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Perhaps I'm the "no brow" snob. I like "good things", regardless of brand. The cheaper the price, the better. I only look down on my wallet, which fails me with my every whim.
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Old 06-18-2006   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd.Hanz
This thread maybe better located in another part of the forum but here goes,

Ricohflex Dia "L":
Solid build, heavy, all metal construction, smooth focus (duo lever action), Tessar quality 4 element lens, decent focusing screen, knob film advance, capable of really creamy bokeh and "separation" or "3D effect":

Todd

Wow. Nice photos. I really like the bokeh. And sharpness is great too. Was it wide open?
Impressive.
George
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Old 06-18-2006   #25
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Walker, I agree with your description of snob types and also agree that RFF is very lucky to have few if any of either type!
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