WZFO Start-B - a medium format camera

general life photography TLR twin lens reflex wzfo start-b

Recently one of my best friends married, and I took the honor of being his best man. The wedding took place in a historical franconian castle. The pairs wish was that all the guests follow the theme “vintage”. This being a very broad theme, I decided to follow the rules and buy some ol fashioned clothes/a old fashioned suite, to be as appropriately dressed as possible. During my research I stumbled over some old footage, and eventually decided to actually purchase a old film camera. This spiked my interest in analog photography. So I bought a TLR camera.

WZFO Start-B - the camera of my choice

After conducting more research, I quickly figured out that there is a very active camera/analog photography market in and around Berlin. As there appears to be more demand in Berlin (therefore, increased prices on the second hand market) than in my hometown, some quick research showed that a local camera dealer (Ringfoto Wiesner) has a very broad assortment of old cameras that they sell via their eBay channel, or in their local shop. I stopped by the day before the wedding and was pleasantly surprised about the high quality of film camera consulting. The two shop owners (a marride couple) took their time to help me figure out which used camera I want. Considering that the price I paid for the camera was nothing compared to the time they spent consulting me, I felt like they don’t handle me as a customer that just leaves money there, but like a valuable member of a community of people that share the interest of analog photography. Not just being a random person to them, they helped me to find the correct camera. Turns out, it’s a WZFO Start-B.

TLR - Twin Lens Reflex Cameras

A Twin Lens Reflex camera isn’t a very common type of camera. I have yet to see someone taking a photo in public with such an interesting piece of camera equipment. One of the most known TLR Cameras are the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord, and/or the Seagull B-4 Cameras (Chinese replica of the Rolleiflex/Cord). While Rolleiflex and Rolleicord are just two different cameras with a significantly different price point, but from the same company (Rollei), my choice fell on the WZFO Start-B. Not that I would have had the choice, a Rolleicord or even a Rolleiflex would have been much to expensive for a wedding gimmick. But as my interest in analog photography increased significantly since I starte my research, I was dead set on buying a working piece of hardware, some 120 medium format film, and as the camera was functionally 100% working and optically in a mint shape (except for a bit of lens fungus), I decided to purchase it for only 20 €. With some film, an additional used flash, and polaroid films for another camera I was already having, I paid roughly 100 € for my first adventure in vintage analog photography with a TLR.

Double Lens Cameras have begun to appear in the 1870s, because a second lens allowed for focusing without having to swap a ground glass screen for a film plate after doing so. This led to decreased preparation time and higher precission.

The TLR Camera - as a product innovation - came into its own with the idea of using reflex mirrors, to mirror the lenses image into a searchfinder on the top side of the camera. The viewfinder is on top of the camera, so that the camera can be shot from waist level. Many people believe, that the inventor of the TLR is in fact Reinhold Heidecke (Former mechanic at Voigtländer & Sohn optics), who was one of the cofounders of Franke & Heidecke, which later became Rollei.

In 1951, 6 years after WWII, WZFO (Polish: Warszawskie Zakłady Fotooptyczne English: Warsaw Photo-Optical Works) was founded as the Warsaw Cine-Technical Works. They started to produce optical and photographic equipment. Being the first polish company producing mass produced cameras (namely the start series), starting with the Start Modell (1953-154), and continuing with their second incarnation - the Start-B, they produced exactly my camera. With a Emitar 75mm f3.5 lens and 1/15 to 1/250 shutterspeed.

120 Film for WZFO Star-B

I decided to try two drastically different films. One was a Kodak Portra 400 120 roll of film (color) and the second one was a Ilford FP4 black and white roll. I shot the Kodak Portra 400 first, beginning in the morning at my friends house. He was getting ready for the marriage and I was helping him, trying to calm his nervouseness but actually making things much worse. It was fun. I’m still waiting for the film results and will update this post as soon as I have some.

As this was a total blind test, and I haven’t had the chance to actually test it out before, I fear that the photos taken will be absolutely over, or underexposed, and blurry.

Loading Film

Loading the film is very easy. We need one empty film spool, and our unexposed film material. The unexposed film material gets loaded onto the lower part of the camera, and the film material gets spooled over onto the empty spool in the top part of the camera. The film gets exposure of light each time we release the shutter.