Seagull 4BI: 6×6 TLR from Shanghai Seagull Camera Co.

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Seagull 4BI with serial number. Over 20 million cameras were built by the Shanghai Seagull Camera Co.

China’s Shanghai Seagull Camera Co. has produced over 20 million cameras since its inception in 1958. The line includes high-quality models on a par with well-known and highly rated comparable cameras produced in Japan, Germany, and the United States.

“The product line of Seagull includes TLR cameras, SLR cameras, folding cameras, CCD and SLR camera lenses, large-format cameras, film, night vision scopes, and angle viewfinders” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seagull_Camera). The cameras “usually use basic, time-tested mechanical designs that require no batteries.” Full manual controls provide the photographer with flexible options.

Many of the Seagull models are hard to find. The Lomography company was the distributor for some models; however a recent search suggests they are no longer selling them. In an undated posting with a review of the TLR, they wrote, “Based on the iconic Rolleiflex Twin-Lens Reflex camera, the Seagull TLR offers excellent quality at an affordable price” (https://www.lomography.com/magazine/1475-seagull-twin-lens-reflex-camera-staff-review).

They noted that the TLR was “patterned after the Rolleiflex TLR cameras by Franke & Heidecke, heralded as the finest series of its kind.” As with all TLR cameras, the image is reversed when you look through the top-down viewer. “If you swing your camera to the right, your image moves to the left!”

After the Shanghai 4 sold well in China, the Seagull 4 was created for export. “Along with its’ successors, the Seagull-4 was widely appreciated by enthusiasts who want to enjoy inexpensive medium photography of excellent quality.”

In its sales pitch, Lomography stated, “The current Seagull TLR cameras that you see today offer the functionality of the original 1964 Seagull-4 model, while giving you added features such as a PC flash attachment, improved optics, and increased shutter speed.” The 4A-1 included Tessar-type lenses.

A PHSNE member’s collection includes the Seagull 4BI Haion (Lomography identifies the models as 4A-1 and 4B-1, but BI—with a capital I, not number 1– is clearly marked on the camera as shown under photo). Numerous searches turned up very little information about this specific model, a 75mm F3.5 lens TLR medium format 6×6 using 120 film.

“Seagull 4B and 4B-1 are simplified models of 4A. The 4B-1 may take 645 formats. The focus screen of 4B-1 is Fresnel lens achieving bright viewing. Unlike the 4A, the original lenses for 4B and 4B-1 are [Cooke triplet]. As some Chinese vendors are selling what are said to be Tessar lens components for upgrading old cameras, one may come up with 4B-1 featuring four-element lenses.”

Seagull also produced a digital twin lens reflex camera, the CM9. “Not strictly a Digital Twin Lens Reflex camera, the CM9 has a built-in projector, making it more of a digital camera styled like a DTLR. It has top 2.4inch screen and a 4.3inch rear touch screen as well as a 600 shot battery life. A remote shutter release is included, which can be neatly stored inside the camera. (https://www.ephotozine.com/article/seagull-launch-cm9-digital-twin-lens-reflex-camera–28385).

In 2012 Seagull opened the Shanghai Museum of Old Camera Manufacturing featuring its extensive line of products and focusing particularly on the Seagull 4A series, probably its best known and most-widely sold models.

PHSNE members who own Seagull cameras, or who have taken pictures with them, are invited to share additional information as well as photos of the cameras. Responses will be printed in the newsletter or posted on the PHSNE website.

Seagull-4 BI

Closeup of Seagull-4 BI taking lens and maker’s nameplate.

 

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Coming Up

May 1 – Philip Pressel & the Hexagon KH-9 Spy Satellite Stereo Camera

June 5 – Vladimir Khazan on the Exakta


A Big Thank You

To everyone who participated in the years’ Photographica 89!

Get ready for 2023: PHSNE’s 50th year and Photographica 90

Dealers contact show manager John Dockery through the