Julian Tanase Photography

My Minox journey continues…

Seagull 4A – the Chinese TLRouble

Seagull 4A – the Chinese TLRouble

This Seagull TLR, model 4A camera, came to be in my possession in the very early 2000’s, when I was looking to get into the medium format photography. I never really did, but the camera remained, and I do appreciate it every now and then with a bw film run through it. Prior to this, I acquired a Kodak 66 model II camera.

The Seagull TLR 4A is a twin lens reflex camera, appeared in 1968 and manufactured by a Chinese company named Shanghai Seagull Camera Ltd; it is considered the “poor man’s Rolleiflex”, although I never considered this to be true. Seagull is a camera of its own specifications, mechanisms and ways of operating it. True, it is designed to work like a TLR, but then again all TLR (or almost all) operate on the same principles.

What annoys me to no end is the focusing screen: while one can use the focus by judging the distance and confirming it on the distance scale dial situated on the left side of the camera, the focus can be easily achieved by looking at the focusing screen and rotate the dial to achieve. On bright sun or really good light, this is easily done. But on darker environments, such as evenings or dusk, the focusing screen is a dark and almost unusable affair.

Advance of the film is done in the classic TLR fashion, by cranking each frame. The crank is Rolleiflex-type, and the frames are advanced in a regular and exact manner, with the exposure counter registering them all.

This camera has a finder lens of 75mm/2.8 and a lens for taking the image of 75mm/3.5, with a focus at a minimum of 1 meter (3 feet, give or take). There is a 5-bladed shutter, with speeds from B to 1/300, set in a Haiou 31 mechanism. Apertures range from 3.5 to 22.

Release button (threaded) and the flash sync socket are to be found on the lower front plate, near the self timer.

Image wise? Well, the lens are on the soft side, but the bokeh is something I enjoy most of the times. Not a lens that could rival with those already on the altar of photography, but perfectly usable in the right conditions and only if one is aware of the limitations of this camera and its specs.

Other than that, the rest is pretty simple: open the back of the camera and load film in the usual manner for a 120 TLR camera, The back plate latch is similar to many of these cameras, with a round knurled dial rotated left or right, for “close” or “open”.

One thing I may add: the leatherette is peeling away and try as I might, it never stays put after I glue it. Got fed up with this, and I just enjoy the camera, without minding too much the rough appearance of it.