A Tale of Two TLRs

What follows is a test of two TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) cameras, but first a little background information.

I already own 2 TLR’s. – When one started to have problems with the shutter mechanism I switched to my second camera and soon after it too was having shutter problems, knowing that it might be difficult to get either repaired due to parts no longer being available I started looking out for a replacement. I found a Chinese made Seagull WWSC for sale at a very reasonable price, so I purchased it. Then a couple of weeks later I was browsing a local junk shop when I spotted in the corner of a display cabinet another TLR make and model not clear, I asked to take a look, it turned out to be an early Yashica C. The camera was very reasonably priced and the shutter appeared to be working ok, so I purchased it. I did not feel it was fair to leave it laying forlorn in the cabinet any longer – that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!

The obvious question is. What do you do when you have 2 new (to you) TLR cameras? The answer is to take them out for a side by side test!

For the purpose of the test both cameras were loaded with Rollei RPX 400 black and white film, all exposures were measured using a Lunasix light meter, apertures were set identically on both cameras and shutter speeds set accordingly. Both cameras were tripod mounted to eliminate the chance of camera shake and to enable identical photographs to be taken.


                                                     Seagull WWSC                                                                                                         Yashica C

Year of manufacture            Approx 1996                                                                                                              1956

Film format                              120 roll film                                                                                                              120 roll film

Number of exposures         12 – 6×6 frames                                                                                                         12 – 6×6 frames

Film advance                          Lever wind                                                                                                                  Wind wheel with safety button

Viewing lens                          Haiou 75mm f2.8 – 3 elements in 3 groups                                                          Yashikor 80mm f3.5  – 3 elements in 3 groups

Taking lens                            Haiou 75mm f3.5 –  3 elements in 3 groups                                                          Yashikor 80mm f3.5  – 3 elements in 3 groups

Focus range                          1 metre to infinity                                                                                                       1 metre to infinity

Shutter                                Between lens leaf shutter – B, 1 to 1/300th second                                                 Between lens leaf shutter – B, 1 to 1/300th second

Shutter  actuation           Auto cocked via film advance                                                                                     Shutter cocked via separate lever

Focus                                 Flip up hood with magnifier, ground glass screen with fresnel split                    Flip up hood with magnifier and ground glass screen

Focus mechanism           Front standard focus via wheel                                                                                   Front standard focus via wheel

Flash Synch                      At all shutter speeds/X +M / PC socket                                                                       At all shutter speeds/X +M / PC socket


Loading the cameras

The Seagull and Yashica cameras are both loaded the same way – that is that the unexposed film is placed in the lower chamber, the leader is fed onto an empty film spool in the upper chamber, the film is then advanced until the start indicator on the film lines up with the two dots on the back of the camera (see photo). The film back is now closed and locked with the wheel on the base of the camera and now the film is advanced via the wind crank in the case of the Seagull and the wheel in the case of the Yashica C. Reversing the Seagull’s crank lever cocks the camera shutter, the Yashica C shutter is set with a small lever around the lens – with the Yashica it is essential to set the shutter speed prior to cocking the shutter.

Film start markers

The cameras in use

Both cameras a similar in operation – they have a pop up hoods with spring loaded magnifier to aid focus, the magnifier is utilised by pressing the centre of the hood, the magnifier then unlatches and flips up so it is above the focussing screen, once you have done with it just press it back into the hood where it will lock back into place. The Seagull has its focus wheel on the left side of the body, whilst the Yashica focus wheel is located on the right hand side. Aperture settings are adjusted via a lever and in both cases the range goes from f3.5 through to f22. Shutter speeds are likewise changed with a lever on the opposite side to the aperture scale, whilst the Seagull shutter speeds are from B, 1 ½, ¼, 1/8, 1/16, 1/30, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/300, the Yashica having an older generation Copal shutter its speeds range from B, 1, ½, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/300. Since most negative film has a degree of latitude the variation between the cameras is not an issue, it may however cause a problem with less tolerant transparency film.

For those wishing to use a lens hood or filter, it is worth noting that the Seagull has a screw thread mount of 34mm, whilst the Yashica uses a more common mount found most other TLRs that being a Bayonet 1 mount.

I noticed that focusing with the Seagull is a little easier due to the split prism centre spot in the focusing screen, but at the same time that the focus wheel

The Results

Since both the Seagull and Yashica have a similar optical setup, admittedly with a 5mm difference between focal length, the results were quite close. Neither lens was super sharp at full aperture, usable but only just, major improvements were seen by f8 and gained a little more sharpness by f11, nothing more was gained by stopping down to f22. Vignetting was well controlled on both lenses, not causing serious issues at any aperture. The only major difference between the two cameras was that the lens on the Seagull showed  slightly better control of flare, this is due to the fact that the Haiou lens is multi coated rather than the single coating on the Yashicor lens.

Seagull WWSC                                                                                        Yashica C

Seagull WWSC                                                                                                      Yashica C


Either camera will give acceptable results, the lenses are not ‘state of the art’ sharp enough to provide a 30cm square print without too much trouble.

The Seagull WWSC is suspected by many to have been built on old Japanese TLR tooling, the shutter has more than a passing resemblance to an early Copal shutter. Added to this the build quality is good but not stunning The WWSC is said to be the export quality of the Seagull 4a model. Putting a precise age on the WWSC is difficult due to the myriad of Seagull models released with little information on production dates.

My Yashica C has definitely seen better days, but in saying that it is still a well built robust camera.

Which camera would I recommend? Simple answer if you can find either one in good working order then both will give good results, just remember treat them carefully, set the shutter speed before cocking the shutter on the Yashica C and all will be ok