Shooting 35mm in your medium format TLR camera

My mom found an old camera in storage and knew immediately what should be done with it: hand it to me for inspection and addition to the hobby rotation.

Medium and large format film is still alive, not necessarily alive and well, but they’re alive among a few pros and many hobbyists. Since most pros have long since switched to digital, that meant a lot of decent medium-format kits hit the used markets waiting to be snatched up by amateurs and enthusiasts. That along with the relative ease of developing at home (black and white anyway) meant that hipsters no longer needed to rely on Hipstamatic™ to make hip-looking photos.


The Yashica Mat 124 is by no means a professional camera. In it’s day it was already behind the times but fared reasonably well during it’s production run from 1970-1986. It was the last in Yashica’s TLR line so it already had a consumer base in line. The 124g featured a built-in light meter and the pressure plate allowed for 120 or 220 size rolls, giving you 12 or 24 exposures on 6x6cm frames. The 80mm lens gives you the field of view equivalent of around 52mm in typical “35mm full-frame” parlance, which is generally regarded as the standard focal length. So it’s a do it all type of camera during the tail end of the TLR era.

I’d wanted a TLR for years actually, and I was excited to have this thing dropped in my lap. I owned a Mamiya 645 Pro in college, and I really enjoyed it. But as college goes, I needed money for Milwaukee’s Best 36-packs so the camera had to go. I had been looking for an affordable excuse to get back into shooting film and this could be it, assuming the camera still worked.

I picked up a couple rolls of 120 film and took a chance. The manual is still available courtesy of some helpful internet archivists (bless you

For the test I figured I’d just drop the rolls off at Samy’s, tell them if the negatives don’t turn out then I wouldn’t be surprised and move on with my week. I got the rolls back and peeped the negs. The results were very pleasing to my eyeballs.

So now we get to the expensive part. Developing film isn’t THAT expensive, but there’s a bit of capital that must be plopped down to get started. You need all the developing supplies and most importantly in this new-fangled internets day and age, you need a scanner, and preferably a good one. The main advantage to shooting medium format AT ALL these days is the resolution advantage. I don’t think anyone can argue that 35mm was surpassed long ago by professional digital cameras. Medium format is on the fence depending on what kind of scanner you use and if celluloid is a look you fancy.

I had a tough decision to make regarding flatbeds (for affordable medium format scanning) or a dedicated scanner (far superior, but for anything larger than 35mm they get VERY expensive). That decision is fodder for a later post I suppose. The matter at hand is that 120 film isn’t dirt cheap like 35mm is, and you can develop more 35mm rolls in one tank than you can 120 rolls. Why can’t I somehow shoot 35mm in the Yashica to use up these old rolls I’ve got lying around?

Well the answer is, you can. Someone always beats you to every idea you’ll ever have, so never get your hopes up. That’s my motto. The magical part in question was created by someone and is suitable for 3D printing, which is exactly what I did.

PinholePrinted created a 3D model of the required adapter.

PinholePrinted created a 3D model of the required adapter.

There’s a nice post at DIY Photography that gave me the info I needed, namely that you can buy PinholePrinted’s 3D spool on and have it printed and shipped to your door.

Armed with this magical adapter to hold the 35mm roll in place, I was tasked with shooting more fun photos of kids!

The below shots were scanned on two different scanners, so you can use the comparison for two purposes. The difference in quality between a dedicated 35mm scanner and a flatbed, and the difference in framing between the typical 35mm frame and the full-width negative by 6cm.

The effect is pretty awesome. The downside of course is that you have to remember that you have 35mm loaded in the camera, and to remember that your vertical width is more narrow and you must frame accordingly. I REALLY want to shoot some landscape orientation photos like this, but do you know how hard it is to shoot with a TLR on it’s side? It’s hard.

The two scanners I used are an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed, and a Plustek Opticfilm 8200 Ai 35mm scanner. Hands-down the 8200 is the superior scanner, but to get the full 120 joy, you have to go flatbed or drop some major dough.

Tags:  , , , , , , ,