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B. Film Camera - Bronica ETRS and ETRSi

Discussion in 'User Reviews' started by Wheelu, Nov 13, 2008.

  1. Wheelu

    Wheelu Well-Known Member

    In recent years I have enjoyed the possession of a couple of Bronica 645 bodies, an ETRS and an ETRSi. For the newbies around, these cameras take 15 shots on a roll of 120 film, each negative measuring approximately 6x4.5 cms. For those who prefer square format, Bronica also made a slightly larger version of this camera that takes 12 6x6 negatives.

    The Bronica is a single lens reflex system camera whose format is copied from the Hasselblad. It's a bit like a Lego camera, you build it up from a set of building blocks to suit the situation. The main body of the camera houses the mirror mechanism, the lenses all have their own Seiko shutters which are electrically controlled from the body. There are separate cassettes or backs for conventional film or Polaroid, and you can change backs mid way through a film. You also get a choice of viewfinder, a waist level finder or a pentaprism for eye level viewing. At least two varieties of metered prism finder exist, one with just centre weighted metering and the other with both that and spot metering.

    The lens mounted shutters are flash synhronised up to the maximum speed of 1/500th second.

    The ETRS body is more robustly made than the ETRSi which incorporates more plastic components, but the ETRSi does have a mirror lock up feature.

    What's it like to use?

    The lenses are excellent. I don't have exotic glass to compare them with in this format, but I have tested them against my aged Rolleicord with a Schneider Xenar. The Bronica Zenzanon is streets better until you reach f11 when it is similar but still ahead, and it's not until you reach f16 when the results become indistinguishable.

    Beware however that the Seiko shutters do cause problems from time to time - and this is not limited to Bronica cameras, much more expensive marques also suffer. Buying secondhand you are best off with a guarantee, or at the very least, the ability to put a couple of films through before parting with your cash as shutter repairs are expensive.

    Light leaks around the dark slide slot of the film back are a common fault, but easy to fix.

    The cameras are about as ergonomic as a house brick. They are heavy to carry and horrible to hold. The view finders are OK however, the waist level finder is a tad brighter than the prism, but not anything like as convenient, particularly for vertical format shooting.

    If you want to use the mirror lock up you need to have degree in film photography, while how many people have changed the film back and forgotten to wind on, or attempted to take a once in lifetime shot with the dark slide in place?

    The long and flexible cable release that operates successfully with my Pentax cameras will not budge the Bronica shutter. A much shorter and stiffer bit of kit is needed.

    In short this is no point and shoot happy snap camera. It is a serious tool intended for dedicated professionals and ridiculously keen amateurs such as myself. :rolleyes:

    Did I mention that the camera only works at one speed if the battery is flat, a user friendly 1/500th! I once lugged my Bronica kit (three lenses, three backs, a body and two viewfinders) up the hillside at Whitby and beyond only to discover that the battery was flat. It does keep you fit.

    In a strange way I do enjoy using the Bronica, the results can be technically superb, while it is challenging, to say the least. ;)

    Here are a couple of shots: -


  2. nspur

    nspur Well-Known Member

    Thank you for that review! It's killed off any idea I had about buying into the Bronica ETRS system and left me enjoying my Mamiya C220 system (2 bodies, 5 lenses) which if anything are more difficult, heavier, older and less fashionable but nonetheless satisfying.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  3. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Despite what is said above, the Bronica is a perfectly acceptable professional tool. Anastasia Taylor-Lind took a Bronny to Iraqi Kurdistan I believe.

    The marque had, until recently at least, long been a mainstay of students breaking into the medium format arena.
  4. Wheelu

    Wheelu Well-Known Member

    Indeed, and it was probably the choice of the semi-professional wedding photographer prior to the likes of the Canon 5D. There's no denying that it can take super photos, but, compared to a 35mm film, or D SLR it is relatively difficult to master, and there is a certain attraction in that. I suspect that the Hasselblad and Rollei equivalents were similar in terms of usage.
  5. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    Remembering your point about 15 exposures/film yesterday, I mentioned this to a vendor of what looked like a fair priced externally mint ETRSi at the Potters Bar camera fair yesterday. He assured me it took 16 on, so I left it with him.
  6. Rhys

    Rhys Sasquatch

    I thought 6x4.5 did take 16 shots on 120? 6x6 is 12 on 120 and 6x7 is 10 on 120
    Unless bronnies are different?
  7. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    6x4.5 is 16 on 120 if the camera allows you to wind on using the numbers on the backing paper, but the relative un-sophistication of some of the "auto" wind-on mechanisms of MF bodies is that they limit themselves to 15 on.
  8. Benchmark

    Benchmark Well-Known Member

    The Mamiya 645 is limited to 15 exposures on a roll of 120, or 30 on 220.
  9. Wheelu

    Wheelu Well-Known Member

    15 it is, with big gaps between the negatives :rolleyes:
  10. Benchmark

    Benchmark Well-Known Member

    Yes, but 16 would be a very tight squeeze I think.
  11. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    The Rolleicord or Rolleiflex T 16-on kit manages it, as the name suggests. ;)

    My Mamiya M645 doesn't, though.
  12. Ted645

    Ted645 New Member

    I have just got a bronica etrsi with the 75mm pe lens. The only problem is, is that it can't focus on objects further away than about 2m. The focus wheel stops at infinity. I read the manual and the only thing it could be is that it says never use the aperture tester thingy while changing the aperture. Pls help.
  13. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    A few points:
    -I agree on the build quality deterioration. Not mentioned is the change to the focus screen and slight difference in the focus distance with later prisms. While I could still focus my SQa (15yr old at time) with my lengthening eyesight, it was hopeless on the ETRSi that I had just bought. Nuisance.
    -Never had a problem with light leaks.
    -"The lenses are excellent" - yes, the current ones are better than their predecessors and they were a distinct improvement over their predecessors. You can find good original lenses but you have to possibly try several of a given focal length. In general terms, the lenses surpassed Zeiss at the time of the SQa, which forced Hasselblad to do a little catch up.
    -15 on 120 is seriously annoying for wedding photographers! It's down to the gearing on the cameras><magazines. Hasselbald did 16-on magazines. A Repairer 'conversation' indicated that little can be done.
    -Am not sure about weight v. Hasselblad, etc., would have to spend time researching, but I never had a problem handholding the SQa. Obviously ETRs, of any vintage, really need a prism for easy vertical use, whereupon a wind on grip would be a sensible addition. The weight has gone up but the camera becomes more like a 35mm SLR & handling is almost as good. {Except you cannot operate the multi-exposure lever with the grip in place and fat fingers.}
    -There may be a 'hack' to get 16-on using the M/E lever for 'frame 16' in order to cock the shutter after starting the film slightly early for frame 1 when loading a magazine. Good luck!
    -Try holding the cable release so it is 'loosely straight': I found this works with a robust 24" cable release. Don't use cheapo, feeble, C/Rs: you'll end up replacing them monthly!
    -The Bronica company made no effort to help its system owners into the digital era. There was/is an adaptor plate for the 6x6 cameras to take some PhaseOne backs. New, it cost ... wait for it ... nearly £2000 and that was over ten years ago. They were nice people though! Met the firm's Guv'nor at Photokina one year.

    Finally, "It is a serious tool intended for dedicated professionals and ridiculously keen amateurs such as myself. :rolleyes:". No. It is not. I disagree most profoundly and deeply. If you want to shoot a variety of films and/or film speeds, and use wideangle and telephoto lenses at relatively low cost, especially if you bought your outfit before now, Bronica is the system camera for everyone and anyone prepared to carry it. Gear is starting to become scarcer (except for Polaroid backs and220 magazines!), and prices are slowly increasing.

    Mamiya TLR system is great and so are Hasselblads. Now that last one, there's a camera with quirks & niggles, too. The Mamiya TLRs are weak on the lens system available and the quality of the widest lens. The Mamiya 645 possibly, probably, had the best lenses and best range of all 645s but, BUT, (splutter :mad:) non-interchangeable magazines. It is now a respected digital platform. Hasselblad are abandoning the V system, so Bronica is a really great buy in that the gear remains relatively plentiful & cheap and can be cannabilised for spares. Hasselblad has more 'connotations' and so will become more collectable and rare, more quickly than its competitors.

    Don't forget Pentax. Haven't got time now but I may veer the Thread slightly (sorry, wheelu) and write some on third-party experience with Pentax 645 and 6x7. Then there's Fuji. :rolleyes::):cool:
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
  14. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    I have Bronica ETRC - that's the one with non detachable back - that does 16 on 120 film. Obviously not relevant to this thread though
  15. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on reviving a thread from 2008.

    The lens should focus freely. It sounds faulty. Where did you get it?

    I suppose you mean the stop down button. For depth of field assessment you can close the lens down to its taking aperture. It wouldn't be clever to change the aperture while holding the button but I can't see how anyone would.
  16. hotwenxynt

    hotwenxynt In the Stop Bath

    I have just sold a Nikon D700 to get back into medium format. I have always prefered 120 format because it slows you down and makes you think about what you are about to record.

    The camera does take some getting used to but once mastered it becomes 2nd nature. The quality of the lenses says it all, although the 40mm F4 does show obvious barrel distortion of straight edges. I have had to slightly modify my exposure and development to enable me to print on Multigrade at G2. The lenses do show a high contrast which meant a good deal of burning in to deal with highlights and dodging for the shadows. Colour neg images handle this and just show more 'punch'. (if only 120 film were a bit cheaper)

    The bulk and weight takes some getting used to after the more recent plastic body shell offerings of late, but the normal waist level view finder makes for a very steady 'gun platform' to fire off at as low as 1/15 second and still get a sharp image .It took a while for me to get used to the mirror up facility but once that was done I then had to realy listen intently to her the shutter 'fire' - it is so quiet.

    As for the 15 on/16 on facility the backs only count up to 15 so there is no getting away from it - so 15 it is!
  17. hotwenxynt

    hotwenxynt In the Stop Bath

    It sound to me as if at some time the lens has been stripped down for a repair/clean and re-assembled incorrectly. A good number of lenses are manufactured with multi-start thread machining and if the focussing part is screwed with the threads out of kilter that will make the focussing incorrect and limit the focussing travel.
  18. neilt3

    neilt3 Well-Known Member

    I also shoot with a Bronica ETRSi set up , along with some TLR's .
    I have looked into a digital back for it , out of curiosity , more than an intention of buying one though .

    An adapter is available to accept any of the Hasselblad-V mount digital backs .
    Quite reasonable priced compared to the £2000 one you saw !
    A lot of money for whats really just a machined alloy plate ..........


    If I ever come across a digital back at a price I'm prepared to pay , I'll pick one up .
  19. neilt3

    neilt3 Well-Known Member

    It sounds like yours has been dismantled and put back together wrong .

    At first I thought your lens might have still had a 14mm extension tube still attached by the previous owner .
    So I've just checked mine . With a 14mm extension tube attached to the 75mm lens , set to infinity , the maximum focus distance is approx 1 meter away . Not 2 meters .

    As a long shot , is the focus screen inserted correctly ?
    Is it a genuine Bronica part ? If it's something that's been bodged up , it might not be seated at the right position and what you see on the screen isn't what the film see's .
    Though I doubt that it would make such a large difference that you can only seem to focus at 2 meter away .
  20. IvorCamera

    IvorCamera In the Stop Bath

    I had a Bronica S2a, I nearly upgraded it to a ETRS,but when the salesman was demonstrating the camera to me it had a pin that you pulled out for some operating reason and it broke in his hands! I never upgraded but carried on using the S2a for some time afterwards.....

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