The Seagull GC-105 is a medium format Chinese made twin lens reflex that belongs to the long running (60+ years!) Seagull 4 TLR family. The original Seagull 4 was introduced in 1964 and is actually a re-branded version (“Seagull” itself is just a brand name) of the Shanghai TLR which dates back even further to 1959. Both the Shanghai and Seagull 4 TLRs are low cost (thus lower price) Rolleiflex copies and to be precise, they resemble more to a Rolleicord because of their knob film advance. The GC-105 above in the photo is a “modern” export version member but the word “modern” only applies to its age, not its technology since all Seagull 4 family TLRs stays pretty much the same as the original Seagull 4. For example, except for the flagship 4A-109/GC-109, they all have max. shutter speed at 1/300 seconds and a sliding lever on the right of the taking lens to speed adjustment. Although new Seagull TLRs (including this GC-105) were still being sold in 2010, their entries are no longer displayed on the Seagull official website and many online dealers are out of stock as of October 2011, leading me to believe that their production had finally been stopped.
Being a twin lens reflex, the Seagull GC-105 has two lenses, a viewing lens and a taking lens. The taking lens, named SA-99, is a 75mm f3.5 with a 3 elements-3 groups optical design (see photo above). Not much more can be found about the actual optical formula but I think it should either be a Cooke Triplet or a close derivative of it. The viewing lens is a faster f2.8 which makes focusing a bit easier because of the brighter image it gives. Although a 3 element design is of no match with more sophisticated formulas like the Tessar and the Sonnar at larger apretures, it should still give satisfactory results when stopped down. Moreoever, combined with the much larger area (6x6cm) of the medium format film, this Seagull TLR should easily out-perform many high-end 35mm format lenses given the same type of film is used.
Now, let us look at features other then the lens. The GC-105 has its focusing knob on the left side of the body with a pretty unique built-in depth-of-field scale (see photo above). On the same side of the body, a hotshoe is provided in addition to the PC-sync terminal at the front. However, I believe a flash bracket will be more practical for a TLR camera due to the horizontal placement of the flash.
For the viewfinder, the GC-105 uses a waist-level finder just like most other TLRs and its hood is of one piece quick pop-up style. The focusing screen is a piece of ground glass with split-prism aid at the center (see photo above) and a magnifier attached to the front of the finder hood can be flipped up for more precise focusing. A “sport finder” (a simple peep-hole finder) is also provided by flipping down the center part of the front piece of the hood.
As of film loading and transport, the GC-105 uses a mechanism similar to the Rolleiflex and the Yashicamat. This design greatly reduces the overall dimensions of the camera, making the GC-105 and similar TLRs the smallest medium format cameras beside the folders.
Tracing the Family Tree…
Having a production run of more than 60 years, the Seagull 4 TLR family consists of a total of 10 members, not including export versions and special editions. To better comprehend the GC-105 described above, I think it is essential to also have an overview of each cameras in the Seagull 4 family. Thus, after some intensive reading on the Internet, I gathered some bits and pieces to form the summary below:
- 4: right-hand knob advance, 75mm f3.5 taking lens (optical design?), f2.8 viewing lens, manual cocking shutter with max. speed 1/300 seconds, silver color lens assembly, focusing knob with built-in depth-of-field scale.
- 4A: the “4” with improved right-hand crank advance, shutter cocking built into the film advance mechanism, black color lens assembly with silver lens rims.
- 4A-103: the 4A wih hotshoe in addition to the PC-sync terminal, 75mm f3.5 taking lens (3 elements-3 groups), split-prism focusing aid in addition to plain ground glass, improved one piece pop-up mechanism on the waist level finder.
- 4A-105/GC-105: the 4A-103 “modernized” with more plastic and a much less sophisticated/elegant neck strap.
- 4A-107/GC-107: the 4A-105 with a 4 elements-3 groups 75mm f3.5 lens, there is also a red/gold special edition.
- 4A-109/GC-109: flag-ship model, max. shutter speed 1/500 seconds, improved 4 element-4 groups 75mm f3.5 taking lens, Yashicamat style knobs for adjusting shutter speed and apreture instead of sliding levers, shutter speed and apreture displayed on top of the viewing lens right in front of the viewfinder.
- 4B: the “4” with a slower/darker f3.5 viewing lens, a simpler depth-of-field scale on the body (instead of built into the focusing knob), the “cheaper” 4A-105/GC-105 style neck strap, silver color lens assembly.
- 4B-1: the 4B with an one piece pop-up style hood and hotshoe, dual format shooting: 6×6 and 6×4.5 (with supplied mask), black color lens assembly with silver lens rims.
- 4C: 35mm format shooting added to the 4B-1, silver color lens assembly.
- 4D: no information was found but this model is listed/mentioned on several sources.
- GC-104: the 4B-1 with the older two piece style hood of the 4B, an export version.
About This Seagull GC-105…
Special thanks to a friend of mine who lent me this nice little Chinese TLR for a short afternoon shooting session. He bought this GC-105 brand new online after seeing me shooting with my Mamiya C330s. The red tape on the viewing lens is his “modification” for covering up a crack on the lens assembly. Just like many other people, it is this economical Seagull TLR that led him into the world of medium format photography.
Status: Returned to Owner