Daily Archives: August 24th, 2012

History of the TLR camera

Reporter (Image)
It’s called “Double Camera”.
Really, two cameras are put in one.
The Root of TLR camera

It is said that the root of TLR camera is such a two-store-house camera as shown in the left figure.
This is the camera called “Reporter” manufactured in London in 1872 which is about one hundred thirty years ago.
In those days, it took unbelievable time to take one shot with a primitive camera as you had to locate subject through the focusing screen, focus it, slide in the film, pull off the dark slide, and release the shutter. And also taking unstable subject on a picture was extraordinary hard. Then, this camera was developed to make a breakthrough in some of those condition – omit the procedures of “slide in the film” and “pull of the dark slide”.
Although Reporter had not incorporated the mirror yet, it wasn’t long before the camera took its shape into a general TLR camera. 

Cloud Camera (Image)
This is so-called the prototype of TLR camera.
Cloud Camera

Around 1880, a staff of the meteorological observatory near London came up with the idea to build the mirror inside the camera to take a picture of cloud. That was when the camera employed the mirror in it for the first time.
Well, it is certainly effective because you just see forward to catch cloud above in the focusing screen.
This camera, therefore, was called “Cloud Camera”.
On this camera, two lenses were coupled with gear in the middle which syncronized the lense’ movement with the other, and the image on the focsuing screen standed up thanks to the mirror (before that, the image was up side down). This have been thought the direct root of TLR camera now.
But, there were still problems. One of them was that the camera was big, and not practical for that reason. And also, it was not for close photography because of parallax. 

Twin-Lens Graphics (Image)
Sophisticated body associated with Graflex!
TLR camera in America

Around 1840, Daguerreotype had started to be manufactured in New York. Then, as the large-size TLR camera appeared in Europe, it was exported to America little by little, and around 1900, manufacturing was started there, too.
Twin-Lens Graphics Special, released in 1901, looked like a TLR camera, but it was not exactly Reflex camera, for the focusing screen was put on the camera back. On Twin-Lens Graphics, location of the focusing screen was changed for the camera to be a TLR.
In addition, Twin-Lens Graphics was a forerunner to the Graflex SLR camera. 

via History of the TLR camera 1.

Perhaps this is the largest TLR in the world

GOWLAND CAMERAS Gowlandflex, Gowland Aerial and Pocket View Cameras. Large Format 4×5 8×10 and Medium Format View Cameras from Peter Gowland.


PG-8x10 flex2


Perhaps this is the largest TLR in the world

Gowlandflex, Mother Of All TLRs

History of Gowland Cameras. Periodic updates about the camera making creations of Peter Gowland.

The famous 8×10 Gowlandflex, shown above and affectionately known as “The Beast”. At nearly three feet tall, it was not very practical for most kinds of shooting. Seven were made and sold. The last one sold in 2005. On the right is a Rollei copy to show scale.

Owning a Gowlandflex puts you in an exclusive club whose members include the most famous portrait and glamour photographers of both this century and the 20th century. Annie Liebovitz, Josef Karsh,Dennis Manarchy, John Huet, Arthur Grace, David Raccuglia, Arthur Elgort, and Mark Laita all use or used Gowlandflexes. Any Gowlandflex TLR camera found is likely to be a rare collector’s item in the near future.

There are hundreds of Gowland camerasworking today, and hundreds more hiding somewhere, perhaps in an attic or the back room of a camera store. Peter sold at least 600 Gowlandflex twin lens 4×5 cameras alone.

Many large organizations have used or continue to use Gowland cameras. The FBI, Army, Navy, Polaroid, Eastman Kodak, and Playboy all owned and may still own Gowland cameras today.

Because Peter keeps everything in his life as simple as possible, he made and continues to make all of his cameras with simplicity in mind. No gadgets to break, no frills to fumble with, and no reading required to use them.

“I can’t help it. I like to work in the shop. I don’t think many people are interested in film cameras anymore. I do notice that people who do contact printing purchase my 5×7 cameras more lately.

I need to sell all of the cameras so that I can relax more with my wife”

In this world of computers, waiting hours on hold and searching endlessly for someone who knows about their own product, you’ll find that Peter still answers the phone himself quite often. Peter’s cameras are still made the old fashioned way – with care, passion and a personal enjoyment for making things.

You can see a lot of history related to Peter on this site, but please remember that Peter is not history. In a couple more years, the cameras will be all sold out here. If you get one, you’ll have many years to make history yourself and explore the rich creative art of photography.


Peter’s Notes about the Gowland SLR

I have designed around 30 cameras, but never one with a reflex shutter. My 4×5 Graflex had a large mirror, that had to move up, before the large focal shutter could expose the film. Even at fast shutter speeds, there was time delay, that made it impossible to record action, like a horse jumping over a fence. By the time the the shutter worked, the horse was on the ground.

If one wanted to use strobe or flash, one had to use a 5th sec. to give the mirror time to “move out of the way” allowing the shutter to drop down. The large mirror had to move up, and the large rear shutter had to move down. Slow and heavy parts. I asked myself, why not use a thin 2″ mirror, set at 45 degrees next to the lens, and move from left to right, with a faster shutter speed, around 1/50 second?

In using the Gowland SLR, the image passes through the lens to a small mirror shutter, is reflected up to larger mirror and back to ground glass, when the shutter is released, the small mirror moves right, allowing image to pass through the three shutter parts back to film. During this 1/50th part of a second, flash contact is made, center shutter part moves to the right, closing the opening. When both top shutter parts are moved to left for re-cocking, light cannot pass through lower opening.

With this unique design, it is necessary to keep the lens and small mirror close together. Rather than moving the lens for focusing, the ground glass and film are moved as one.

The camera is built around a 240-250mm lens. Film movement of 4 inches permits close focus of three feet to infinity. For special close work a shorter lens might be used. For example, 210mm can be used from two feet to eight-and-a-half feet. Longer lenses, providing they are telephoto, can also be used. 360mm Tele-Xenar gives large head portraits with focus range of five and-a-half feet to twenty-four feet. When top shutter parts are moved back, with knob on left side, shutter is ready for the next shot.