A new contender for my money

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by szrimaging, Sep 1, 2010.

  1. So, I was all set to buy a new setup from KEH.com, and that setup was to be a Mamiya RB67. But, after looking, I am curious about the Broncia SQ. My upper budget for the system (with one lens) is $500. The remaining money I have is to be spent on film, processing, and a scanner. The other requirements are waist level finder, changeable lenses, negative at least 6x6 or larger, and 120 film.
    That said, the Broncia SQ seems to be lighter and more compact than the RB67, which would help it for field use.
    Opinions? Just trying to talk this out before I settle on one of the two systems, and some of you out there have great experience with one or both.
  2. The RB67 is a monster to hand-hold. You really need a tripod. But the bellows focusing comes in handy to get up close to your subject. And it is still in production, so one would think that parts might be more available.
  3. If you've never held an RB67 I encourage you to do so before you buy it. Being a Hasselblad guy I remember the first time I saw an RB and I was shocked at how huge it was. Like Benny said...definitely a tripod camera. At least "most" are going to think so.
  4. Don't have anywhere near me to hold one. Closest I can think of is Norman in Kalamazoo, and that is about 4 hours away. Sucks living in Northern Michigan sometimes. Have to mail order all equipment, or at least wait till I head to Chicago.
  5. The RB67 is indeed a Beast, but mounted on a tripod and used for portraits in a studio it is a thing of wonder and joy. For general use, especially in the field, a smaller package like the Bronica SQ or a Hasselblad is much more portable and easier to use handheld even though most of us use them on a tripod also if shooting slower than about 1/125.
  6. Bronica SQ series is a very nice system. I owned a couple of SQAi bodies and a few lenses. I would have kept it, but opted for a Pentax 645N system to help me keep up with my daughter (autofocus, more advanced metering and a little smaller). Some really nice lenses, high flash sync speeds, available Brightscreen focusing screens (if you like). IT addresses your need for 6x6 negatives and it also has some other interesting film backs, it has a 135W back, takes 35mm film and the negative area is close to a Xpan (but, with many more lens options). With the correct adapter, you can mount a digital back to it as well.
    I think I am starting to talk myself into looking at this system again...
    Need the Bronica services? http://kohscamera.com/ have Tamron/Bronica trained technicians and I believe they purchased all the remaining parts from Tamron/Bronica USA. Fast turnarounds for repairs.
    I have handled the RB/RZ line and it is quite big relative to the Bronica SQ, although it feels reasonable compared to my Fuji GX680 - a true monster of a camera system. The Bronica SQAi felt easier to use (for me at least) than the Mamiya RB/RZ.
  7. If you want something really big (negative size), take a look at something slightly bigger than the Mamiya RB - the Fuji GX680. It has tilt and shift movements built into the bodies (apart from the IIIS I think) and the lenses are amazing. It is bigger then the RB, but it gives you the following film format options - 6x8, 6x7, 6x6, and I think even 6x4.5
    Harder to find than the RB, but the tilt and shift movements are amazing.
  8. The SQs have electrical components, correct? I actually have a bit of a love of all mechanical, and hand meter, so am not worried about loosing the metering abilities.
    With that said, would an SQ-B be viable, or should I go for the SQ-A or SQ-Ai? As far as I can tell the only disadvantage to the B was the loss of TTL and metering, which, like I said, doesn't concern me.
    The one biggest advantage to the RB being those bellows, which makes it tough to give up the idea of it. How much does using an extension tube on the SQ degrade image quality? Or is the resolution of the lenses enough that it doesn't?
  9. Yuri, thanks for all the info! Didn't know anyone was still supporting the Bronica gear.
  10. The RB67 will provide a negative with almost 2x the area of the Bronica if you are printing rectangle. The Bronica 6x6 square becomes 4.5x6 compared to the RB's 6x7. The trade-off is size and weight.
  11. I don't have a problem printing square. Just custom cut mattes and I'm all good.
    The aim of this camera is more personal/artistic work, not commercial. If it were commercial than the rectangular format would be more of an issue.
  12. Don't dismiss cameras in 645 format. Unless you print squares, your 6x6 and a 645 will be the same. But the 645 cameras carry easier.
  13. dlw


    Zach, I've never used the 6x6 Bronica, but have used the 6x4.5. The Bronica is quite nice and is capable of producing very nice sharp negs. That said, I really like the RB67. I bought one a couple of years ago after MF prices dropped to a point where they became more affordable. Unlike the Bronica, the RB is completely battery independent and the 6x7 negs are a thing of beauty. Yes, the RB is heavy and can be difficult for handheld use, but not impossible. They are better used on tripods, but then, what camera isn't? If you choose the Bronica, I'm sure it will give satisfactory results. I was happy with the one I used. But if you're looking for something that will blow you away, the 6x7 neg will do it. Really, the only thing that beats it is LF and that's a whole nuther subject. Cheers.
  14. David, thanks for the input. I am not 100% against a tripod only solution, as it will be used with more "composed" shots. But lighter is usually better.
    And just to be a smart alec, wouldn't a 6x9 neg beat a 6x7? Just saying. No harm meant.
  15. dlw


    Zach, you are correct, sir. A 6x9 neg from a camera with the quality of lenses comparable to the ones on the Bronica, Mamiya, or Hassy would indeed beat the 6x7. They would cost some fancy quid though. No harm done. Cheers.
  16. I have hand-held the RB out in the field, but I only do this with the prism finder and the left-hand grip. Unless you have big hands and strong forearms, using the WLF without the grip is very tiring.
  17. my first venture into the world of 120/220 film cameras was a "Mamiya 645 Pro", and what a sweet heart ! Got a metering eyelevel prism and Mamiya bracket handle off eBay and it was even better. Also got an RB67 off ebay and what a beast. It is definately a tripod queen.
    Along with the other fine 6x4.5 cameras mentioned, consider the Mamiya 645 Pro or newer as a starter.
  18. Zach, I have never handled a 6x7, but have the Bronica SQ-Ai. My only other MF reference are TLRs like Rolleicord and Ikoflex, which are much more hand-holdable. If you get the Bronica, be sure to get the hand-grip with it, as it is quite unwieldly to hand-hold without it. With the hand-grip the Bronica balances quite nicely, but I still wouldn't call it a light package.
    As far as those prefering the 6x7 for rectangular prints, I would like to understand something. If you print full-frame, the difference between a 6x6 square versus a 6x7 rectangle isn't a whole lot. But if you are cropping to standard ratios, and since 6:7 isn't a standard print ratio (2:3, 4:5, etc) then you still have to crop a 6x7 as well. Admittedly, it is going to be bigger than the crop from 6x6, but is it really that much of a difference to be "blown away" versus "ho hum"?
    By the way, the SQ-Ai does support a 6x4.5 back as well. Alternativey, there is the Bronica GS-1, which gets you all the options 6x7, 6x6, and 6x4.5 by trading a bit bigger size, and slower lenses.
  19. I went from a Bronica ETRS to an RB67. I think that if I had bought a SQ instead of the ETRS I would have kept it and not gone for the RB67 but the ETRS was all I could afford at the time.
    I do like the Mamiya though - especially the rotating back which makes it very easy to use handheld with the waist level finder (and the left hand grip).
  20. Zach,
    Not to sidestep your question, but have you considered the Mamiya TLR's? Based on your requirements, it seems to fit the bill and you can get it for fairly cheap. For WLF it will certainly be more handholdable than anything anyone has mentioned so far.
    Getting back to your question, I have never used the Bronica but was considering getting into that system myself. In the end, I felt like there were simply more parts and accessories for the Mamiya RB/RZ system, so I ended up going that route. I have handheld the RB67 before, and while it's certainly not as convenient as a 35mm camera, I didn't feel like it was too heavy/bulky for me to get the shot I wanted. In fact, the heavy weight helps quite a bit with camera shake.
  21. The SQ-B will be fine for you, from the looks of it. Later you'll know if the RB/RZ is your type of camera. The SQ's are light and inexpensive. Even lighter and slightly smaller is the ETR series, and the lenses are cheaper.
    I would never recommend an RB/RZ starting out unless the user was going to just do studio type work.
  22. Well, seems to be a good split on the two systems, guess that is what I get for asking about two well developed cameras.
    I am beginning to think the SQ might be the better value just by size, but that 6x7 negative is probably a bit more versitile.
    As for the TLRs, never used one. Every camera I have used I look directly through the lens (Minolta and Nikon SLRs, view cameras), so the idea of looking through a lens that is above the actual lens I shoot with kind of weirds me out. I was looking at them out of curiosity, but am unsure if I can bring myself to buy one. Same deal with range finders. The idea of no mirror is very appealing though.
    Des the SQ do a mirror lockup or mirror then shutter trigger? My understanding from the RB was you triggered the two separately. Or am I wrong on that also? Just trying to avoid mirror slap vibrations if possible.
  23. The SQ-A, SQ-Ai and SQ-B do have mirror lockup. It is actually a pre-release, meaning the MLU lever starts the cycle then halts it once the mirror is up, and the shutter release will release the rest of the cycle. It's functionally basically the same as a true mirror lock up like those on many 35mm SLR's.
    Look at this:

    The SQ guide gives the history of the SQ series.
    You can also read about the 6x7 GS-1 and about the ETR series, and some other nice info.

    Also go to

    They are very knowledgeable on Bronica and can CLA and repair them.
  24. Also, a review here on photo.net: http://www.photo.net/equipment/bronica/sq-ai
  25. dlw


    Zach, the way I use to lock up the mirror and then release the shutter on my RB is I put a normal cable release into the port on the lens, then push the shutter release on the body. That locks up the mirror only, then push the button on the cable release to trip the shutter. So, yes it is a two part process, but it works well. They also market a dual cable release, but really it's totally unnecessary. If you haven't used a TLR, you might want to check them out. I have a Rolleiflex which I really love. I first started out with a Yashica I borrowed from a friend and was impressed by the results. They take some getting used to, and you either like them or not, but they're light, have large negatives, and usually pretty sharp lenses. A lot of people crop the 6x6 negatives to what equals 6x4.5, but I like the square format the way it is. If I want rectangle negs, I go for the RB or my 4x5. Cheers.
  26. Guys, thanks for all the info! I knew there was a reason I loved this site.
    I am going back and forth in my head on the whole square vs. rectangle debate. Really, if I don't print square, then the 6x6 makes less sense. I think that is what it will all boil down to. Tough decision....
  27. For easy and happy hand-held MF, I'd avoid an RB, a Hasselblad, or other modular TTL designs. They're just too awkward and bulky to be used without a tripod. The same can be said of the big Pentax SLR although I know some users who would disagree. Instead, I'd go for one of the RF designs, which are very easy to handle and have no mirror-slap. The last time I looked the Mamiya 7, which offers changeable lenses, was still in production. The fixed-lens Fuji 6x7 and 6x9 RFs are history, but nice ones can be had for around $700 from KEH. The Fuji lenses are terrific.
    I have a Fuji 6x9 with a 90mm lens, and I love using it. For some reason, however, I keep going back to my ancient Rolleiflex 3.5F with prism finder. The 6x6 format gets getting used to, I suppose, but it does make it easy to frame the image. The camera is as light as a feather, dead quiet, and takes beautiful pictures -- the Zeiss TLR taking lens is flat-out better than its larger, more complex Hasselblad TTL equivalent.
  28. Zach, just to add my two pence worth - the SQB doesn't have a 'B' setting and the standard lens supplied with this model didn't have a timer switch, so the longest exposure you could do was 8 seconds. For that reason I would recommend the SQAi model.
    BTW, the SQ series do all have a 'proper' mirror lock up ie. one that locks the mirror up permanently unless released. Having said that, mirror lock up and pre release are more or less the same thing from a practical viewpoint.
  29. Lenses with the T/A switch can be used with the SQ-B to make time exposures; as David said, the 80mm "B" lens supplied originally with the camera lacks the T/A switch.
    BTW, the original SQ camera did not have mirror lockup. The other SQ-series cameras did.
  30. MYTHBUSTERS: Medium Format Edition
    1) "6x9 beats 6x7"-- MAYBE, if you're intending to make photos in the traditional 35mm aspect ratio of 2:3. But why? One of my main motivations to consider medium format is to leave the historical accident of 2:3 for the artsier pastures of 6x4.5. That's very close. IIRC, to the Golden Mean, a time-honored proportion that dates back to the ancient Greeks. This 4:3 proportion also fits common US frame sizes better. Both 6x9 and 6x7 have to be cropped to reach this, so it's a wash.
    2) (paraphrase) "You need a revolving back"- FALSE, because any good 645 is a comfortable hold in vertical orientation. For tripod use, my Pentax 645 beats the others by having two tripod sockets. If you mount two quick-releases, like my Bogens, rotating the camera is as easy as revolving a back.
    Other than that, it's a well-informed discussion. I considered the Bronica 645 cameras when I saw one available at a good price. I'd be more concerned about repair and parts availability than with Pentax or Mamiya, though. Also, the Bronica wide angle lens I sampled had terrible barrel distortion.
  31. Strange, I've never seen the slightest amount of barrel distortion from either of my Bronica wide angle lenses - I'm beginning to think it's all a myth.

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