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My Yashicaflex twin lens reflex camera has reached the end of the road now that the shutter release has failed. Given the problems of film availability and processing it hardly seems worthwhile fixing.

But I am in love with the waist level style of photography that the twin lens reflex made possible. I have always thought this was ideal for candid street photography. I have searched for digital equivalents and there seem to be none.

However a number of compact cameras have flip out LCD screens that can tilt into the horizontal position.

So I want to know whether anybody has used this feature to practice waist level photography and whether this is really a practical alternative to the twin lens reflex cameras of yesteryear.

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What exactly is this waist photography? Attaching the camera on the waist? any hints? –  TheIndependentAquarius Apr 7 '12 at 13:58
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waist-level_finder. There is no "viewfinder", the image is projected 90 degrees so it is viewed from the top of the camera –  Matt Giesbrecht Apr 7 '12 at 15:07
    
@MattGiesbrecht That's very enlightening, thanks. –  TheIndependentAquarius Apr 7 '12 at 15:45

8 Answers 8

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I use the flip out screen and Live View mode on my Nikon D5000 all the time for just this purpose. Autofocus isn't quite as effective in Live View so I usually use manual, but it works just fine.

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Thanks, that is a useful recommendation. –  labnut Apr 9 '11 at 10:12
    
I also regularly use the flip/tilt screen on my Sony NEX 5R for this purpose. Its motion range allows for it to be facing up and in the middle of the top of the camera, just like a waist level finder. –  JoséNunoFerreira Dec 4 '13 at 15:09

I've used a canon powershot N and added a rectangular piece of wood (8X6x5,5cm) changing this camera into a Rolleiflex lookalike.

enter image description here New I've added a level on top for better composing Although there are cheaper levels the black finish makes it look good. I've also replaced the plastic wrapping around the thread with a metal casing.

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For me this change works very well.

  • Handling improves radically.
  • My fingers surround the shutter ring easily without losing stability.
  • By having the LCD screen turned up constantly, it's much easier making compositions.
  • It's also inconspicuous when photographing people.

The Powershot goes for €200 at the moment in the Netherlands making it a cheap waist-level camera.

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I'm having trouble imaging how a block of wood could change a powershot into a rolleiflex lookalike, but I am intrigued. Could you post a photo of your camera? –  mattdm Nov 14 '13 at 20:27
    
I've added a photo of my camera at my account –  Paul Richters Nov 21 '13 at 18:19
    
Wow, great idea, good work! I suppose the shutter button is on the side of camera, joined with wood by the lever? –  Petr Újezdský Dec 6 '13 at 20:46
    
The Canon Powershot N doesn't have a shutter button. Instead it has a shutter ring. By moving the outer ring up or down focussing and shooting is achieved. The inner ring is for zooming. –  Paul Richters Dec 8 '13 at 18:22

Hmm... this maybe out of the price range you're looking at, but I'm not sure if it isn't too far from where a working Yashicaflex is these days. :) If what you really are looking for is a digital top view camera, then there are certainly some options available in the medium format space... like putting a digital back on a hassleblad V series.

Another option, if you don't mind an addon accessory, is to combine this unit (or similar) with just about any modern dSLR with live view. I've seen someone use that sort of like a waist level TLR. They basically had that mounted on the neckstrap so they could look down at it and still work the camera normally.

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That link does not seem to work. (ipv6.google.com seems suspiciously like it may only work on ipv6 equipped networks.) –  jrista Apr 8 '11 at 23:13
    
Your Hasselblad suggestion would certainly work but the size of the budget and the size of the box put it out of contention. The Apture product is very interesting but it lacks the HDMI interface which my camera needs and it has a three hour battery life. –  labnut Apr 9 '11 at 8:08
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The T3i / 600D is the entry-level DSLR from Canon. It's basically a 550D with a tilt-LCD screen. Being entry level, it'll be reasonably priced. –  nchpmn Apr 9 '11 at 9:07
    
A Sony A58 is at entry level pricing and has 90° tiltable LCD with phase detect autofocus and HDMI interface. The T3i/600D uses contrast detect AF when rear LCD is in use. –  Esa Paulasto Aug 28 '13 at 11:42

With digitals you wouldn't really need a special camera. Autofocus, bracket your exposure to the extent the camera permits and use a field of view somewhat wider than what you are actually aiming for. You can line it up by eyeball well enough and then crop the result to deal with the imperfect aim.

With an old film P&S I used to do this so inconspicuously that nobody could tell I did it--even people who knew what I was going to do. Composition was of course terrible and I lost a few shots to failing to judge nearby obstructions properly (I was normally walking while taking the shot) but at least 90% contained the desired image somewhere on the frame.

Of course this isn't going to work too well for a zoom shot but you rarely need to be inconspicuous with a zoom lens. I did do it once with a SLR with a lens zoomed to it's stop at 100mm. The camera was sitting on a table. That one I blew the exposure on--my target was centered but it was a lot darker than the surround and I didn't compensate enough.

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This also comes in handy for wildlife photography. Trying to hold a camera's long zoom-lens up to your eye for long periods of time while following a bird in high tree-branches, one that's hopping from branch to branch, can become an arm-and-neck-muscle-exhausting experience. But if I use an articulated LCD viewfinder and hang the camera down to chest or belly-level I can follow that bird for hours if need be until I get just the right shots. If most of your photography will involve daylight levels, don't hesitate to use any of the smaller sensor superzoom and compact cameras that have an articulated LCD feature. Their image quality has been rivaling and even beating DSLRs for years, contrary to the opinions of those who are only trying to blindly justify the expense of their DSLR camera gear. Some even rival the image quality of medium-format sized sensors in Hasselblads. Even when that compact camera is handheld and the Hasselblad is on a sturdy tripod while using cable-release, delayed shutter, and mirror-lockup to remove all vibration. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/kidding.shtml If your photography involves longer focal-lengths in lower light levels, then superzoom cameras still win because they can have much larger apertures at the longer focal-lengths than any DSLR glass.

Some further uses for an articulated LCD that go far beyond the old uses for waist-level viewfinders:

Close-quarters Architectural or Spelunking Photography -- Swing out the LCD and hold the camera's back to a house or cave wall to gain further FOV.

Industrial and Machinery Photography - Holding the camera at an arm's length deep inside some machinery while still being able to view the LCD.

Nature Photography - Use "pole photography" techniques. When the camera is mounted to a long pole you can photograph subjects less invasively, or in situations where the species cannot be disturbed at all.

Landscape Photography - When on a train passing over a trestled canyon, hold the camera at arms-length out the window to get shots rivaling those taken by helicopter or plane.

Event Photography - Holding the camera above the heads of a crowd.

Macro Photography - The instances where this feature can be employed are limitless. Especially for subjects low to the ground or at ground-level.

To describe but a few.

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If money is no object, the superzoom vs. SLR lens aperture argument doesn't check out. One can buy 800m f/5.6, 600mm f/4, or 400mm f/2.8 SLR lenses. This outclasses any superzoom I am aware of. However, that comes at the cost of a small car — it's true that at less specialized price-brackets, the superzooms may have an edge. (Still, the Sigma "Bigma" lens has an aperture of f/6.3 at 500mm, which is similar to most superzooms.) And, unlike the Canon G series and its rivals, the superzooms aren't typically racking up the image-quality praise. With camera gear, there's always a compromise. –  mattdm Apr 12 '11 at 20:32

I think the practice of it in itself is the enjoyable part. Is it practical for general photography? Probably not if you compare it with the act of taking a picture with a standard camera. That perhaps feels more natural...you hold the camera up to your eye and look through it.

Is it practical for waist level photography? Probably yes, because you can get a view of what you're seeing.

Digital photography is also quite practical as a whole because you can see what you've taken straight away, no matter how you hold the camera.

I enjoy using film cameras, I don't have a twin lens reflex one yet, but I've got a Kodak Retina and a 2a folding brownie. I'm finishing a roll of film in the Retina and moving onto the 1925 folding brownie next.

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Ive bought a holga 120 twin lens reflex camera,the two lenses are not linked at all but the top lens serves as a good veiw finder,my model has the classic plastic lens ,there are ones with glass lenses available ,also a 35 mm model is available too,

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But not exactly digital. :) –  mattdm Apr 7 '12 at 12:38

I have never used a twin lens reflex, so I can't really compare. But I've been waist-shooting since my first digital camera (a Sony DSC F55) and this is not only practical, to me it is essential: I shoot a lot of portraits and it is the best way to catch candid shots without a telephoto lens.

Nowadays I use a Sony NEX with a ROKKOR 50 1.4, the focus peaking is really usable at waist height but I often bring the camera closer when Im using shallower depths of field. My only quibble with the NEX is the shutter noise that makes it less sneaky. But still, when they hear it, it is already too late.

So any camera with a flip screen should work, just make sure the size/resolution/luminosity of the screen works for you. My only advice: try it. Borrow a flip screen camera and get a feel for it.

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