Seagul 4A 105 And 4A 107 TLR Cameras

4A-107G Limited Collector's Edition. The focusing hood (right) has an open frame sports finder plus a pop-up magnifier.

If you've been wondering about which medium format cameras would be a good choice for students and other struggling photographers, the answer today would indeed be one of the Seagull twin lens reflex models imported by Phoenix Corporation.

Seagull TLRs have been around for a long time in various forms, but the new 4A series includes some nice touches. One is a rapid wind crank that advances the film when turned forward and cocks the shutter when rotated backward. Also, once the start arrow on a loaded roll is lined up with reference marks in the body, the advance system automatically stops at the first frame and displays it, and subsequent numbers, via a mechanical counter. Unlike the knob-operated film winding of previous models, this design prevents accidental double exposures and does away with the need to line up frame numbers in a red window on the camera back.

Optics
Viewing and focusing are done on a screen with a built-in Fresnel lens and split-image center spot. The viewed image, the same size as that produced on film, is seen right-side-up but reversed left-to-right because of the physics involved, but you soon get used to it. Both models use a three-element 75mm f/2.8 viewing lens for a bright image, but the coarseness of the screen makes focusing on fine detail somewhat difficult and the pop-up magnifier all the more appreciated. While this is a camera review and not a photo lesson, I must point out that an advantage of any TLR is continuous viewing--unlike an SLR, the viewfinder does not black out at the moment of exposure.
The 75mm lens of either Seagull is the perfect focal length for general photography with the 6x6cm format.
Photos © 2001, Tom Fuller, All Rights Reserved

Aperture/Shutter Speed Range
The taking lens separates the 4A-105 and 4A-107, the former having a 75mm f/3.5 three-element, three-group offering, with the latter sporting a new four-element, three-group Tessar-type design of the same focal length and speed. Both have leaf shutters with speeds of 1-1/300 sec, plus bulb, and continuously adjustable apertures to f/22. In my tests the 4A-107 produced images of slightly higher contrast than the 4A-105, although the performance of the "old" lens was by no means disappointing. Both cameras provide X-synchronization at all speeds, and feature a PC connector, side-mounted hot shoe, cable release socket, and 10-sec self-timer. The 4A-107 is equipped with a shutter release lock.

I just couldn't resist the colors of this shop, and the 4A-105 did them justice. The optical performance of both Seagull models more than makes up for any mechanical and/or finish vexations. Shutter speeds on both models are remarkably accurate.

Multi-Exposure & Parallax
A multiple-exposure button disengages film advance while allowing the shutter to be recocked with the winding crank for as many exposures as desired on a single frame. The front panel of the viewing hood folds down, covering the focusing screen, to create an open-frame sports finder. A particularly nice feature of these very affordable cameras is the automatic parallax correction vane that progressively covers the focusing screen, indicating the area at the top of the image will be excluded--and the estimated amount of the image bottom that will be included--when the lens is focused on a near subject.

Both models worked well overall, but remember that the low price is made possible partly by abbreviated quality control. One had a misaligned back locking lever that needed help from my thumb with each film change, and another had a focusing scale that did not agree with visual focus. However, my real gripe is the need for hard-to-find 34.5mm filters. While adapter rings can be used to step-up the lens to accept, say, 49mm filters, they will block the shutter and aperture scales, and be annoyingly visible in the viewfinder. A simpler approach is to carefully hold a filter in front of the lens, but not touching it, during exposure.

This delightful little restaurant was a natural for the square format. A big advantage of roll film for students is that contact prints will be large enough for accurate evaluation.

The Seagull line has long been respected for its impressive optical performance, and the 4A-105 and 4A-107 continue this tradition. Those wanting to keep cost to an absolute minimum should consider the basic Seagull 4B (not received in time for this review), minus the rapid wind crank and a few other niceties, or, going in the opposite direction, the 4A-107G Limited Collector's Edition with handsome gold-plated trim. All are viable choices for anyone interested in trying the 6x6cm format without breaking the bank.

For more information, contact Phoenix Corporation of America at (516) 764-5890; fax: (516) 764-5970; www.phoenixcorp.com.

Technical Specifications
Camera Type: Fully manual twin lens reflex, producing 12 56x56mm images on 120 film
Taking Lens: Coated three-element (4A-105) or four-element (4A-107) 75mm f/3.5
Viewing Lens: Coated three-element 75mm f/2.8
Viewing And Focusing: Folding waist-level viewfinder with Fresnel screen and split-image center spot; pop-up magnifier
Shutter: Between-the-lens leaf shutter, speeds of 1-1/300 sec plus bulb, built-in self-timer
Film Advance: Self-storing rapid wind crank, automatic stop at first frame
Flash: X-synchronization at all speeds, PC socket plus hot shoe
Dimensions And Weight: 5.5x3.75x4"; 2 lbs, 6 oz
Warranty: One year, parts and labor
Price (Including Lens Cap And Neckstrap): 4A-105, $329.95; 4A-107, $359.95; 4A-107G, $399.95; 4B, $229.95

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