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Monday, 01 March 2021


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Ahh. The digital Rollei 3000. I've dreamed of one for ages.

It's a huge mystery to me why no-one makes a camera that can be braced against the body in live view. You're forced to hold the things away from you in as wobbly a way as possible. A screen on the top, with pop-up sunshade/viewing hood would solve that problem nicely, but you need to make the camera thicker.

I'm no expert on camera connectivity, but it seems that it wouldn't be so difficult for camera makers to make it so you can connect a phone to serve as a viewfinder. Probably you can already do this... I've never tried. The trick of course would be latency issues, so hopefully it could be wired-assuming wireless would be laggy.

From there to working up a little holder with a hood might not be so difficult, depending on the camera. Maybe a cold shoe mount. Could look awful weird, but could work if designed well.

Not for street use, but for tripod use, I have been experimenting using a hotshoe mounted field monitor. The theory being that for landscape photography it's important to have a large screen for composition. I've taken it on a couple of test runs and so far it is has worked pretty much as I had hoped.

I'd also like to see a square sensor (uncropped ) option. If nothing else, throwing away 33% of your pixels when shooting square is a waste.

Sounds good to me. I've always wanted a digital TLR. Tried using various mirrorless that way, and while it works, it's far from optimal. I would imagine if Sigma can come up with a camera like the FP, they can make your camera. An L mount "Johnston" box? Sign me up!


This is exactly what is driving me away from traditional photography. Big, bulky and expensive cameras.

Just for fun you could ask B&H to send you an InstantFlex TL70 to tinker with until Sigma comes around. B&H may have an issue with you gluing a handle to the side though. :-)

"I also daydream a raft of ideas for how to make the camera as simple as possible while also making it as effective as possible, but I won't go into those..."

Me too. My camera would be a camera, not a video recorder. That's why my first digital camera was a Nikon D700. No video, no clogged up menus with video functions, just a camera to take pictures with.

I never cease to be amazed by people that CAN shoot video because it exists, think they CAN without knowing how. Just watch any news program to see the vertical 9//16 aspect ratio submitted by people that don't know that they can turn the camera 90 degrees to conform to every T.V. and monitor.

I'm glad Zapruder was using a real movie camera and not a portrait oriented phone or we'd have even less information on what happened in Dallas.

Still photography is an art to be practiced and strived towards perfection as is videography... but they are different and should have their own tools.


Not exactly what you asked for. But pretty close.

Why not? Perhaps the best way forward for sales in the shrinking market is build something fun, engaging, and different to the crowd. Along with a (reasonably priced) B&W-only camera, someone should do it. Even if it was a limited edition it would be great marketing for a brand.

Back when I first got my Olympus E-PL1, I had the wonderful 17/2.8 lens and, because I despise having to chimp, the VF-3 electronic finder. It could be turned upward so that I could look down into it like my sweet old Rolliecord III. It did 1:1 aspect ratio and with monochrome jpg mode it was as close to a TLR as any digital I've used.

In the end though, I don't miss the TLR experience so much as I do using a Speed Graphic, handheld with the RF set for the classic Ektar 127/4.7 lens. I'd darn near do anything for digital that could recreate that experience.

I’ve been asking for some time why no one seems to have made that as a ‘frankenkamera’ from cobbling together the ‘bits’ of existing cameras, I would have thought it was simple to put the screen on top with a hood but the controls need adapting too.
People usually say “but there are plenty of cameras with flip-up screens that can be viewed from above”, which misses the point entirely.

I use the cheap version - a GX8 with the finder tilted up. In addition to the unobtrusiveness you mention, I prefer its lower point of view.

If you put one of these SmallHd monitors on top of your favorite digicam, would that work?

Since the (popular) dawn of digital imaging I’ve shared that exact daydream, though I don’t care who makes it. To keep it light and trim, like the Rollieflex (and before that, Yashicamat) that’s nearest and dearest to my heart, I’d also be fine with a fixed lens. Maybe something slightly wide (60mm MF-equiv?) with the option to crop to both standard (75-80mm) and moderate telephoto (100-120mm), in-camera—and with a RAW file reflecting said crop, not just some lame JPG accompanying file.

The 'digital mirrorless TLR' sounds like a fantastic idea. Hasselblad's 907X is surprisingly close, except for the square sensor and top-down viewfinder arrangement. The new sensor would likely be the most difficult part, since no one makes a large square format sensor right now, but its a problem easily solved by a nearly-limitless R&D budget... A Foveon sensor might be a step too far, however! Maintaining the ability to change backs, if not complete component modularity for future upgrades, would be the holy grail of photographic hardware.

As unrealistic as that all seems, perhaps the changes in the camera market may open the door for such designs. Now that unit sales of any particular model are not required to number in the 10's of millions or fit within one of many narrowly-defined price brackets, manufacturers should be able to consider ideas that will sell in much lower volumes to highly enthusiastic photographers. The opposite side of that coin is that low volume also means high prices (in other words, sustainable margins). The Fuji GFX series is an encouraging "niche camera" success story that other manufacturers may follow as the traditional camera market continues to shrink. Leica, Hasselblad, Phase One, and others have operated on the low-volume, high-margin model for quite some time, although it is debatable if any of the big manufacturers could successfully shrink their operations enough to make it work.

Mike, doesn’t the tilted LCD on a modern mirrorless camera give you a TLR style viewfinder? Maybe we just need a mode to flip the image upside down?

You know what we need? Cameras should allow firmware plugins. Then we can install our own an upside-down plugin and other goodies. Very often it’s the last 10% of the usability/handling that frustrates us. We just need small tweaks here and there. Eg. My current need is zone focusing. My camera doesn’t do it and resets the focus when it powers off. It’s frustrating. Its a software/firmware issue.

(I’m too young to actually use a TLR in my life. My first camera was an Nikon FM2.) ;-)

Doesn't this camera seem to be heading in that direction?


Finally, after all these years, one of your cockamamie ideas makes my knees weak. Oh sweet dreams are made of this.

Perhaps the Fuji X-Pro3 would give you a bit of what you want while you wait for the full serve. The flip down LCD screen works quite well for waist level shooting and, unlike flip up screens which place the screen level with the top of the camera where it can be exposed to impinging light and have visibility decreased, the flip down screen is placed at the bottom of the camera where it is shielded from impinging light by the camera body at the front and your body at the back forming a rudimentary hood. Since it's a Fuji you could also utilise your existing lenses.

The X-Pro 3 excited, and probably still excites, vehemently different views with its screen when it was released. It's also the first Fuji camera I've owned, having bought mine in December after a decade with Olympus micro four thirds cameras. I had reservations about the screen but I've come to really appreciate it. And I'm also looking forward to getting the new mark 2 version of the Fuji XF 27mm lens (41 mm full frame equivalent) when it's released in a few weeks.

I’ve thought along similar lines but for different reasons. When people have complained about the bulk of dslrs, they seem to forget that film slrs only had a door behind the film, wheras with digital, the sensor is thicker than film, then there are circuit boards and then a screen, all stuck behind it, so of course it will be thicker. So as a result of chasing the slim film profile, we’ve got a bunch of new mirrorless lens mounts.

Like you suggest, move the screen to the top, you minimise the backside bloat and can keep a classic slr mount. A top screen could work with the waist level finder as you wished or add a clip on prism to give an eye level finder. Either way, you are actually saving costs because you only need one screen, not a screen plus evf.

Not sure why we never saw something like this - were the designers too stuck in there niches or perhaps they did sketch something up but it just never got beyond the drawing board.

Fully agree with you on the "look down at VF" technique when street photographing. Those cameras with fold out and rotatable screens naturally does a good job.

It does sound like the Fp camera is just one or two attachments away, though sans Foveon right now. That little thing is one or two attachments from anything of course; I shouldn't be surprised if one has a Mars rover attached to it right now!

"Because it was my observation over the years that pointing a camera with an eyelevel finder at strangers in public drew their attention, but pointing a camera using a waist-level finder, while looking down at the camera held in my hands, did not."

I realize that this is a fantasy. But I'm having a hard time seeing where it is better in this one particular way than flipping the LCD on the back of my cameras horizontal. Even trickier are the cameras with Twist and Shout LCDs, where the direction I'm looking may be unrelated to the direction the camera is pointing.

OTOH, I have a great many street photos of people taken with long lenses, camera at eye level, from Brooklyn to Bhutan. Out of them all, I can clearly see two where the subject realized what was going on, and one maybe. The HC-B short FL model is not the only way . . .

My fantasies are less grandious.

1. Get rid of the GX9 tilting EVF (that you loved so much on the GX7.) Despised, evil things.

2. Oly, let the original, film OMs go, and move the on/off switch from it's stupid location that requires letting go of the lens or body to a location operable with right hand finger or thumb!

3. Panasonic, look at others and realize we need a physical, IR or wired remote release, not just WiFi. (Sony gets special marks for the RX10 IV, with a place on the shutter button for old, mechanical releases that screw in.)

4. Whatever other annoyances that a year spent at home has made me forget.

5. Panny figures out a way to make a 1.4x TC for their Leica 100-400 zoom.

6. Some Deity goes back in time and forces all makers of zoom lenses to have them zoom the same way to direction of turning of the ring.

I have been wishing for something like that for as long as I have been shooting digital. There was a digit TLR Rollie at one time but it was a miniature thing with I think only a 4 or5 MP sensor and it was outrageously expensive for what it was IMO. Mostly a novelty. You can occasionally buy one used. https://tinyurl.com/s74nyr8

Hi Mike,
You will find the waist-level finder with the GFX50R works beautifully for street work.
From time to time, working as an event photographer, with a waist-level positioned 50R and LCD screen folded down to horizontal makes for a really nice old-school working vibe.
Walking through a group of people with a wide-angle lens at waist level in plain sight is so much better than the intimidating camera-in-their face or the crouched down, eye-to-the-viewfinder urban-commando stance.
That said, I'm not one for holding a camera up in front of me – iPhone style – to frame a scene using the LCD when the viewfinder will show me perfectly well all of the photo's frame within all of my visual 'frame'.

I can make that camera for you.
I would buy an old used yashica twin lens for $139.00 offered on Etsy.
I would Velcro a used iPhone 12 on the front and a used iPhone X max on the top for a viewfinder by cutting a slit in the shade device and sliding it in. Total cost under $1,500.
But I would strongly recommend merely mounting a right angle mirror lens on an iPhone 12 max that would allow you to look down at your image of the street scene. Total cost $9.95 if you already have an IPhone.

The Hasselblad 907X isn't that different from what you describe. Also, remember this thing?: https://www.dpreview.com/articles/8803788805/rolleiminidigi

Mike, I've been making sketches of a similar camera design for quite a while, though I approached it from a slightly different direction, as follows:

Just about every digital camera with a viewfinder is either styled like a rangefinder, or like an SLR. That means that they all handle in much the same way, and are best at some tasks but not so good at others.

So a camera that's fully part of a (let's say) DSLR system with the same lens mount, but with a layout similar to the one you describe would greatly increase the versatility of the system. Having a choice of optical or electronic viewfinders within one system would also be good.

My design would also have a screen with a hood above the, er, mirrorless box, though the hood would be detachable. The format would be rectangular, (APS-C) and the screen could hinge up at the back and also rotate; for waist level shots in portrait format, the camera hangs down from the hand and the screen is turned to face upwards.

An eye level viewfinder, a hot shoe, and maybe a pop up flash would all live under the screen. There'd be a fixed grip on the right of the camera, with room for a full sized battery. The whole thing would be about the same size as a compact 35mm SLR, but with a grip.

It would indeed be great for street photography, but I like the waist level viewpoint because it drops the horizon line down, as well as being unobtrusive.

I often fantasized about a “perfect” digital camera that had a removable back that held the sensor. With this camera, you simply swapped backs to get more or less pixels.

I've been considering building out a camera rig like this based on the Sigma fp. There's probably a way to use an external monitor to get the waist level finder, but I haven't yet found a way to cobble it all together and have it be just as usable as a normal camera. This post might just push me over the edge into trying the project.

The two itches I want to scratch are for squares and monochrome. I know hoping for a return to FF+ square sensors is not productive. And mono-only cameras are just too far out of my financial resources. Currently I have m43 equipment and a Ricoh GR (original version).

I don't see laying out cash any time soon to scratch those itches, but I certainly understand and share your wish.


7. a.m. I woke up. So did the dogs. Fed them while having an espresso. Took a shower, daydreaming. 6x6 Foveon sensor would be great, i fantasized.
Later in the studio on the couch with an Ipad. Reading TOP... WHAT?

Sign me up too. I love my Rollei because of the waist level finder. Looking through any eye level finder isn't the same. Your brain has to "cut out" a part of the scene to make it a picture and isn't always successful. Somehow, it's already a picture on the ground glass, simply because it's not part of the scene.

I've given up on finding such a thing, but flipping the screen to horizontal on my Olympus OM_D EM-5, selecting square format, and adding a magnifier hood gets usefully close.

And whilst we are dreaming, how about a round sensor. After all, lenses project a circular image. A selector knob could be used to select common aspect ratios (and anything in between) in both portrait and landscape orientation and bring up the image in the EVF. This would enable the maximum area of the sensor to be used in all cases.JPEGs would have the crop applied, RAW would be the full sensor data.

Definitely down with this idea. I think about it whenever I handle my buddy's Hasselblad 500.

This made my fantasy spin:

Taken from https://tinhte.vn/thread/do-chiec-canon-powershot-n-thanh-may-anh-waist-level-theo-phong-cach-co-dien.2414796/ - could not find the original post.

I am with you on your camera idea Mike and I would love a 50R if I could afford it together with the necessary lenses. I have a Minolta Autocord TLR and hope to try it on the streets as soon as we are allowed.I will look forward to your review. Ben, that's a good idea. You can use a phone as a viewfinder on my Fuji x-t3 but the app for the phone is awful. Most of the time you would be doing battle with getting it connected. I might rig something to try it though.

TLR = Twin Lens Reflex, no?

[Correct. --Mike]

Minox made a digital’TLR’ for a while, a miniature Rolleiflex copy. It was cute, but basically crap. Square format with an lcd screen on top under the folding hood. I bought it in Japan and soon after sold it to a woman photographer who probably used it more as jewellery. A good one would be nice.

I always fell right in line with the Hasselblad format. Use on a tripod with a "stove pipe" finder, or just the actual pop up hood. Hand held with a prism and grip. This would be the easiest thing to make with a modern EVF format, only the screen facing up! The "alleged" medium format sensor would be great, and "settable" for any aspect ratio, with enough pixels to set it for vertical without tilting the camera sideways.

Why is everybody writing about TLR? Because Hasselblad, Bronica, Optika, new Rolleifledx are NOT TLRs -- they all are SLRs. TLR stands for Twin Lens Reflex as found on the original Rolleiflex or Mamiya. They had two lenses, a viewing and a taking lens.
What TOP shows and talks about is a waist-level SLR.

I'll jump on the digital TLR bandwagon, since I've been entertaining the same fantasy for some time.
In fact, I've chosen the sensor size, 30mm x 30mm. This square sensor has a diagonal of 42.42mm and the full frame 24 x 36 sensor's diagonal is 43.26mm, nearly identical.
So, existing full frame lens designs will cover this new format very nicely!

Well, I've been quite happy so far - still early innings, of course - with the Fuji GFX 50S and their EVF-TL1 EVF Tilt Adapter, which mounts on the hot shoe and can be used all the way from straight back to straight upright, as well as about 45 degrees to each side. With the back screen flipped horizontal for rough composition and then the eyepiece for critical viewing, it's pretty fabulous. It also is a big help when hand-holding, enabling me to brace the camera with my elbows to my sides. It's not cheap, alas, but it was one of the reasons I opened for the 50S rather than the R. And of course one can also select b/w and square format!

The Fuji X-Pro-3 with its fold-down screen near the bottom approximately fits your criteria. You can set the capture ratio to square. The fact that so many of the fraud-tographers on various digital review sites despise it means that the concept has a lot of merit for serious workers.

The digital back on the 907X is made to fit on any V-series Hasselblad. Except for the non-square sensor, Bob's your uncle.

You could flip out the rear screen of your X-H1. Different embodiment but the same functionality.

And...there's a "control grip" already attached.


Rollei Hy6? Not sure if it is still available from DHW.

For people considering cobbling stuff :-) — most serious modern bodies have HDMI output of what's on the EVF. Usually with a menu option for whether the overlay info is included or just the image. (This is how you can use an external uncompressed video recorder to get uncompressed 4k video off many bodies for example; the write rate to the built-in card slots won't support anything near uncompressed 4k, but the HDMI will and an external recorder, which these days may even cost less than the body, can record that fast.)

And there are many small HDMI screens of various sorts available, either as cobbling parts (look at the Raspberry Pi world for that) or as modern "video assist" in the film industry or whatever. So you can build your viewfinder wherever you want. You might be able to use a USB dongle to bring the HDMI into the PI and augment it with some overlay data NOT over the image (using the rectangular shape of all HDMI monitors), even; though I worry about lag in that situation. But for the slow on-tripod work some people talk about the lag might not even matter; use the viewfinder to set up, then look directly by eye at the subject to decide when to trigger the capture!

If the LCD hood is the most important thing, just buy one of the bazillions of aftermarket hoods available. I get that holding the camera slightly away from your body isn’t ideal, but you can always glue a little block of wood to the back of your 907X, like that cool Powershot N monstrosity.

So are we calling anything with a waist-level finder TLR? What are we calling twin-lens reflex cameras with eye-level finders then?

I spent a while a few years ago talking to the nice guy ( can't remember his name, but had a lovely conversation) who owns megavision about the possibility of adapting one of his monochrome backs to a mamiya c330. Maybe in a vertical orientation! The upshot was ”sure, bring money”.

Sadly my spell as a paper millionaire was very short-lived, but the idea seems like a good one. A baby RB Graflex (or a mamiya rb) would make an interesting host as well.

You know what I would settle for? An updated Sony DSC-R1.

Pretty much perfect except for being a little fragile, and really slow.
Great NYC street photo camera though.

Make a little wooden box with a piece of wood shaped like a smartphone cross section stood off from the inner surface of the back, and having a hole in the front. Screw a protective case for a smartphone onto the top of the box. Clamp a Sony QX30 to the inside of the box and put a smartphone into the case screwed onto the top. You could get an inexpensive bluetooth remote control for the phone.

Of course, you won't have the beauty of looking at the world through a medium format lens, but combining portability and affordability in capturing the image from an MF lens is still a film job.

Why not just use back came with 907x on a Hessy ...

Or cheaper and came later "I'm back" using TLR: https://petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2019/07/imback6.jpg

As many people have pointed out, you can get something that is functionally exactly that, a dozen different ways. Except it will record truer color, and you will be able to make bigger prints from it than you could from medium-format film.

And you will have to exercise some discipline to avoid using features that will be present that you may not want.

That seems to be the only downside.

When you mentioned how waist level finders don't set people off as much, leaving them unsuspecting that they are the subject, many moons ago I remember a Hasselblad photographer taking it a step further - he would look in a direction 90 degrees from where lens was pointed and attached a big lens shade to camera to match that orientation. So folks often would look in that same direction as he was getting a good profile shot.

"was my observation over the years that pointing a camera with an eyelevel finder at strangers in public drew their attention, but pointing a camera using a waist-level finder, while looking down at the camera held in my hands, did not."

Exactly. That's one reason I much prefer using a flip out screen over an EVF. Also the distance gives a better overview over composition.

Eolake Stobblehouse

The camera you envision is something that could be extremely useful to a fairly significant number of professional and "serious" photographers. The fact that it's not made and will not likely be made is perhaps a symptom of what's been wrong with the camera industry for decades, and what has likely caused the collapse Mike recently wrote about in another post.

The big camera makers got addicted to selling to the masses. Plastic fantastic bodies and lenses with more and more pixels crammed into small sensors. Making gear become "obsolete" 18 months after it comes out. The problem with new buyers in the photography market is that perhaps more than in almost every other field I can think of, the newbies don't know what they want. Three years ago, they all were buying the latest Canon Rebel or Nikon D3xxx with slow kit zooms. Now they're all buying mirror-less with newer slow kit zooms.

Probably 97% of the new buyers never get interested in photography. They either sell the stuff or put it away, and bring out the "good camera" or "big camera" on holidays.

Meanwhile the professionals and the enthusiasts who have figured out what they want and need find out that it's often not made. The camera makers can't afford to make a few nice primes for a tiny percentage of their customers when the real money is being made by batch producing cheap gear in China.

There are lens hoods for cameras with fixed rear LCDs. I may see if I can find one I can hack into a removable one for a flippable screen.
I recently bought a Z6II which I am really liking and use the flip screen as a waist level finder,but I can see the benefit of a hood when the sun reappears.

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