5 Frames… With a new-to-me Seagull 4A-109 TLR (Kodak Portra 400 / 120 Format / EI 400) – by Randy Saint-Louis

Written by and published on

Using a new-to-you camera is always a challenge; this was a specific challenge for me since I had never held a Twin Lens Reflex camera before this one. And, in terms of Seagull TLR’s, this Seagull 4A-109 with its SA-99 75mm f/3.5 lens is also rare. My biggest challenge wasn’t using the TLR itself, it was worrying if the Seagull’s reputation was accurate.

The Chinese camera manufacturer has a history of making copies of cameras that end up being…unreliable. This specific camera is a Rolleiflex/Yashica Mat copy that’s more recent than either of those models, and this specific model is less seen on auction sites, so I pounced on it as an impulse buy.


My Seagull 4A-109 TLR, Randy Saint-Louis

While the lenses are fine and the usability of their cameras match or even exceed others in their weight class, the cameras eventually lock up and become unusable on a whim, depending on who you ask. This specific camera had its leaf shutter stuck in place when I tried to test it without film in it. Luckily, all the shutter needed was to be opened up and hit with a bit of lighter fluid and it was working well at all speeds as I shot this roll of Portra.

After the camera was working fine, the experience of using a TLR was the second hurdle I had to get over. The weirdest thing was not looking through a reversed finder, because of what I ended up shooting, but dealing with a waist level perspective.

I ended up fidgeting a lot to try and get the composition I wanted as close as I wanted it but doing that with the camera in an unnatural position for me was harder than I expected. It took much longer than shooting with a medium format SLR or Rangefinder.

When it comes to the photos they came out better than I thought they would. All of them show what the camera is capable of when it works as intended; it’s able render color well and gives adequate sharpness for a normal medium format camera. I used it to take photos of buildings and structures in my neighborhood as I’ve been doing throughout the pandemic to test it. Bringing it around everywhere while walking and riding around in my city felt as normal as bringing around a folding rangefinder and it took well to the type of subjects I was shooting.

In this case, the experience of using it just comes with all the other stuff I had to do to make it work this time, but I’m glad I was able to get it to work for me. Being able to say I revived a camera and made cool images with it is a boss thing to say.

~ Randy


Want to submit your own 5 Frames...?

Go right ahead, submissions are open! Get your 5 frames featured on by submitting your 350+ word article by either using this Google form or by sending an email via the contact link at the top of the page.

This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

Share your knowledge, story or project

At the heart of EMULSIVE is the concept of helping promote the transfer of knowledge across the film photography community. You can support this goal by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.

If you like what you're reading you can also help this personal passion project by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and giving as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.


More related reading

My Suzuki Optical Co. Press Van and Asahi Kogaku Takumar f/3.5 75mm, Frédéric Schneider

5 Frames… On a Suzuki Optical Co. Press Van with expired Fuji NEOPAN 100 ACROS (120 Format / EI 100 / Asahi Kogaku Takumar f/3.5 75mm) – by Frédéric Schneider

The Suzuki Optical Co. Press Van is a rare but typical Japanese rangefinder built from 1953 to 1954. It is a mechanical beauty, the first ... Read more5 Frames… On a Suzuki Optical Co. Press Van with expired Fuji NEOPAN 100 ACROS (120 Format / EI 100 / Asahi Kogaku Takumar f/3.5 75mm) – by…
Previous

Consumer motion picture ECN-2 film developer kits from QWD Lab: info and Q&A

5 Frames… Around Hamilton on Kodak Portra 400 (35mm Format / EI 200 / Nikon FM2n) – by Timothy John Low

Next

Join the discussion