Are two lenses better than one?

My mint condition Seagull 4B-I TLR

My mint condition Seagull 4B-I TLR

Well, as I go on holiday tomorrow down to the Gower Peninsula, I thought that I’d post a very quick blog before I go and soak up some of that lovely south Wales sunshine (I hope!) and leave you to your own devices for a week or so.

Now I’m not one for broad sweeping definitive and ill considered statements, so I thought I’d address a nice simple question, are two lenses better than one?

Specifically, Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) vs. Single Lens Reflex (SLR).

Discuss…

 

So far I’ve put two rolls of film through the Seagull. This camera came to me in mint condition with only one film ever put through it, and that was still in the camera! Apparently, this was bought new in the 1960s and never used, unfortunately, the film that was in it had degraded so much that there were no pictures on it at all, just fog.

I have to say, I’m not sure why it wasn’t used, the viewfinder ( a 6×6 square of ground glass with a magnifier) is beautifully bright, clear and easy to focus with, as long as it’s light. Of course, the first film I shot with this was in the dark, in a club, of several bands… Got some wonderful multiple exposures but this was before I’d found the magnifier, so I wasn’t having a brilliant time focusing… A few examples of that film are below, some shots of Salford band Trojan Horse, one of Rapid Pig, and one from outside the gig of a dude with an awesome afro…

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The second film that I shot was a little more varied and in situations with considerably more light! These shots cam out very sharp indeed in the focused zone, and gorgeously smooth in the fall away to distance. Take a look at the shots below for film number 2…

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So, are two lenses better than one? In short, I really can’t answer that.

The quality of picture is so different from medium format to 35mm film that it kind of renders my observations irrelevant as I’ve never shot a medium format SLR (anyone have a spare?…). The depth of field that you can get when using wide apertures on medium format is so beautifully narrow and the out of focus areas so smooth, the colour that the Portra Pro 160 imparts to the images are all just stunning and not really something I can compare to 35mm or digital in any meaningful way.

At the end of the day, a TLR is just a slightly different way of taking the photos, it seems to be the format that you use that makes the difference, be it digital or analog. Each to their own.

Now, if someone would just give me a Hasselblad or a Bronica, I could start making proper comparisons…

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