Bronica S2/S2A maintenance tinkering ?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by antoniobravo, May 12, 2020.

  1. As an amateur, for 6x6 and 6x4.5 with removable backs I use Salyut (I have also Salyut-S and one Kiev-88). I ilke it because it has all I want:
    - compactness
    - fully manual
    - easy to find used bodies for parts
    - still quite some guys left for professional repairs in case of need
    - range of lenses
    - reasonably priced

    yet I am curious to try some other brand/model.
    fully manual, no electronic at all, and compactness are mandatory to me. So:
    because the size I won't buy Mamiya RB67.
    because insane prices for lenses I won't buy Hasselblad
    because insane prices of everything I won't buy Rolleiflex SL66, which seems to me the dream camera.

    the only fully mechanical compact 6x6's left that I am aware of are the Kowa Six but it's a rarity, and the Bronica S2/S2A

    my question is; how it feels to tinker with it when needed, which like with any mechanical camera, will happen.

    I tried to get an idea of the guts, and according to the pictures at the bottom of this page:
    Zenza Bronica
    it seems way more complex than a Salyut (Salyut is a hell of tricky to put together correctly adjusted but is simplier mechanically than what I see on that link. The S2 has more moving parts anyway because the cover for the flipped-down mirror, the blind for the viewfinder and the extra clutch for winding.
    Wondering how difficult it may be to fix problems.
    cameragary likes this.
  2. Very very difficult: the Bronica S2 series was one of the most convoluted medium format SLR designs ever sold. As far back as 25 years ago it was already considered "the repairman's nightmare", today the situation is dire. Few (if any) Bronica-trained techs remain active, and the S2 is about as far from a "casual DIY tinkerer" as you can get (compared to the S2, tearing down a Hasselblad is like playing with LEGO bricks).

    When it works, its a fairly reliable camera, esp if you stick with the final S2A variant which had improved gearing materials. While very complicated internally, examples that haven't been abused and are still working properly today generally remain operational for some considerable time. Given they aren't terribly expensive, and can accept many kinds of lenses, they can be appealing if in good working order. But you really do NOT want to buy a beater, defective S2 and try to repair it: this isn't a camera system amenable to that sort of game, unless you honestly have a "gift" for working on overly complex mechanisms. Some aspects of it are surprisingly easy to service (under-mirror foam pads aligning focus), others will braid your hair (overall alignment of the mirror, viewfinder roller blind, some shutter and advance issues, sluggish stop down, and the notorious focus screen drift).

    Note the S2 also fails at some of the other checkpoints on your list of desired qualities. Not compact in any sense: it is quite large and heavy for a 6x6 SLR, substantially larger and bulkier than the Salyut/Kiev or Hasselblad or Kowa. Its the LOUDEST camera in creation when fired, and has probably the absolute worst winding feel of any medium format camera (every single frame, it feels like you broke the thing). Waist level finder is not fully enclosed so you see reflections, standard screen is dim, prism finders are very dark. Spare bodies for parts can be hard to come by sometimes, other times very cheap and available.

    The Bronica + Nikkor lens line was extensive on paper, in reality today you will almost never find the best or more interesting lenses for much less than Hasselblad or Mamiya RZ pricing. Its is easy and cheap to get the 50mm f/3.5 Nikkor (meh optically, flare magnet), 75mm f/2.8 Nikkor (very good), 135mm f/3.5 Nikkor (often mediocre), 150mm f/3.5 Zenzanon (excellent) and 200mm f/4 Nikkor (dullsville). All the other (good) lenses are now rare and collectible: 40mm Nikkor, 50mm f/2.8 Nikkor, 80mm f/2.4 Zenzanon, 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Jena, 100mm, long teles. The Komura lenses are mostly poor: can be interesting if picked up at bargain prices but otherwise not worth the trouble. The optional macro bellows with rise and fall was interesting, but not so easy to find now.

    The Kowa Six is in the same boat as Bronica S2, only worse because its less reliable to begin with and potential repair woes are compounded by the trouble-prone mechanical leaf shutters in each lens. The Kowa cameras have nice bright viewfinders and many of the lenses are quite good, but lenses beyond the standard 55, 85 and 150 are impossible to find. Its actually very hard to beat the Ukrainian systems for versatility and selection of interesting, affordable lenses: most alternatives will have far fewer lens options, be more expensive, be less reliable, or all three drawbacks.

    The Bronica S2, EC and EC/TL focal plane shutter camera system does have an individualistic charm many similar cameras lack, but on the whole is impractical to own and use in 2020 vs other more "pedestrian" options. Unfortunately, many of those that were once great bargains have now shot up quite a bit in price as interest in medium format film shooting has increased in recent years. If you shop carefully, you can still sometimes find an early metal-body Mamiya M645, M645J or M645 1000S for not much more than a Bronica S2. Those are very reliable bodies with electronic shutter, optional modern meter prisms and a really nice, affordable, extensive lens lineup. The leaf shutter ETR and SQ Bronicas that replaced the S2 (and were wildly more successful) are also a good bet, as the lenses use reliable electronic shutters and "exotics" like 40mm are commonly available/affordable.

    I know you prefer not to deal with electronics, but those in the Bronica ETR/SQ and Mamiya M645 are more dependable and far less trouble prone than the mechanics in most other systems. As a former owner of S2A and Kowa Six MM systems, and current owner of Hasselblad SLR and Mamiya TLR systems with mechanical leaf shutter lenses, I often envy the total lack of repair expenses my friends have with their electronic Mamiyas, Bronicas and Pentax. Theres a reason most medium format mfrs (except 'blad and Rolleiflex) went electronic ahead of most 35mm SLRs: it saves a lot of complexity and aggravation.
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
  3. Could not agree more with your Bronica S2 remarks ;) . The Etr and SQ are great bargains still . I'm a
    fancier of the Kowa cameras , if only because I was actually able to repair them and their lenses , It was
    a learning lesson of near biblical proportions , well for testing my patience anyways ! The Kowas have a
    unique (strange ? ) fit in the hand that may take some getting used to . Peter
    cameragary likes this.
  4. thanks for the detailed overview orsetto. Very helpful.
    So i'll stick with my Salyut bodies. About compactness it's because everywhere I travel, for a weekend or even for a walk in the city, I have a Salyut with me, in fact I am a bit addicted and have to force myself to use my other cameras once in a while.

    If I win the lottery I think I will treat myself with a Rolleiflex SL66 and a set of lenses... This camera has tilt and shift and lenses can be mounted in reverse.
    cameragary likes this.
  5. The two biggest problems with the Rolleiflex SL66 are similar to what plagues their TLRs: scarcity and collectibility driving the price-performance ratio to negative extremes. Availability of the SL66 system varies wildly from country to country (i.e., its almost vanished from North America aside from examples in "personal camera museums" that will never see the light of day or a roll of film again). When you do find one, the cost of a good SL66 body is astronomical for what you actually get: you're primarily paying for the status of owning a very clever, limited production, but essentially failed camera system. As a camera, there are plenty of cons to go along with its pluses: chief among them, its as clunky and awkward as a Mamiya RB67 but at triple the cost, twice the noise and none of the shutter, finder or film back versatility. Chunky and dense like a Bronica S2, while the tilting bellows trick isn't particularly useful without a tripod: not as travel-friendly as your Salyut-Kiev.

    Most accessories for the SL66 have disappeared into the collector vortex long ago, the film back can be quite problematic (and extra backs hard to find), the focal plane shutter perversely difficult to work on when it drifts (and it will). The lenses that can still be found are almost entirely first-generation clones of the early Zeiss Hasselblad C lenses (again, minus the versatile leaf shutters). While good for their time, lenses like the original 40mm and 50mm Distagon were significantly eclipsed by later floating element versions commonly found for Hasselblad and Rollei 6006 systems: with the SL66 you pay collector prices for outdated glass.

    Don't get me wrong: the Rolleiflex SL66 was a very interesting attempt by Rollei to counter the Hasselblad 500cm. Beautifully built and finished. During its era, the lens lines were comparable (in most cases identical), with the Rollei trading leaf shutter versatility for tilting bellows and faster top shutter speed vs Hasselblad. But Rollei badly misjudged the medium format market: nobody wanted or needed an exorbitantly priced focal plane shutter SLR with the same slow lenses as Hasselblad. At that price point, pros mostly needed leaf shutter lenses for flash versatility, with those on a budget willing to tolerate a focal plane shutter only if it allowed a much less expensive camera and lens system (and Bronica had already long filled that niche with the S2). The SL66 was a great idea whose time never came: the Hasselblad was too entrenched and dominant in 6x6. Pentax succeeded with a focal plane SLR around the same time, by using a larger 6x7 format in totally different form factor with faster lenses (followed a few years later by a successful Mamiya 645 format system and lastly by a Pentax 645).

    If we're gonna play "lottery fantasy", I'd say go for a Hasselblad 200 series camera instead: same form factor as your Kiev/Salyut, but with incredible built-in metering even with waist level finder, and a limited but superb set of benchmark modern fast Zeiss glass (50mm f/2.8, 110mm f/2, 150mm f/2.8, 250mm f/4) plus compatibility with the entire range of leaf-shutter 'blad lenses and accessories. You could always still buy the Rolleflex SL66 for your personal studio and select macro work, using something more travel-appropriate in the field. ;)
  6. again, enlightening summary about the Rollei SL66. I didn't know the story. Well this one it seems more about a market failure than technical issues. The great thing for us in forums like this is that savvy pros like you can cast an instructive light and help make a decision

    when I was looking at few dedicated photographic stores in Germany, and also of course en Ebay, prices for a basic kit body+back+wvf+Planar are similar than for Hasselblad 500 and available lenses cheaper in SL66 than in Hasselblad. Average price for a base kit is around 1000€.
    Indeed there are few backs and prisms, but when spotted, sold for lesser that the average Hasselblad back.
    Right now in Poland on Allegro a kit body+wvf+back+Planar + Sonnar 150, Sonnar 250, Distagon 40, prism, TTL magnifying hood for 11.000 zloty.:
    Duży zestaw Rolleiflex SL66 - Kup teraz za: 11000,00 zł - Warszawa - Allegro Lokalnie

    that listing is interesting, it comes with the 40mm Distagon, and the wide-angle lenses seem to be really expensive, in Hasselblad or Rollei.
    And fisheye: 30mm Distagon costs at least 10x the price of a Zodiak-8 bought in Russia (~8000 rubles). Now, worshipers of Zeiss name can go on singing with mystical and religious tones the praises of Zeiss glass and bow in the direction of Oberkochen as much as they want, there's no way a Distagon 30mm can be 10x times better than a Zodiak-8. At this point such price makes no sense, yet that's the norm with the Hasselblad despite the swedish bodies being as common around as Coca-Cola. I don't use very often the 30mm but it happens once in while it spend the day and few rolls on one of my Salyut body.

    On travel I use a travel friendly tripod, so the tilt capability of SL66 is a good point. Bigger body than the Hasselblad/Salyut but smaller than a Mamiya RB67.
    I guess I have decided what will be my next 6x6, after I will feel I have exhausted the potential of all my Arsenal/Kiev lenses and knowing the limitation about the 30mm lens

    I may also buy first a body sold defective for parts, so I could play with the inner mechanism.

    I didn't mention an important point: I am an amateur not a pro.
    The few photos I take indoors I use B, no flash, I don't make a living with confirmations, weddings, models, press or whatever. I meter with an old Sverdlovsk or a Leningrad, I don't need the best possible Zeiss glass, I don't have a studio :). Yet a do macro once in a while so the reverse mounting of SL66 is a good feature too. The scope of nowaday amateurs is different of the pros who used these cameras back in the time.

    After I became fed up with digital, i kept a Canon 5D rarely used and my mobile phone, and otherwise everything else is mechanical, so I won't break my promise of no electronic, with a Hasselblad 200 or 2000. These are electrically powered shutter curtains. If I break my promise I would be for the Bronica GS-1 probably.
    evan_dong|2 and cameragary like this.
  7. As I mentioned, the availability/price issue with the Rolleiflex SL66 system varies wildly depending on your location. Fantasy kits like the one you pictured (i.e. includes the 40mm? Seriously? Who's selling it, Willy Wonka?), offered at reasonable prices, are unusual in any country, but the basic kit with body. wlf, back and 80 Planar is more common in Asia and some parts of Europe than in USA/Canada and some other parts of Europe. In places where they're common, individual owner-sellers are more likely, at more practical pricing. Last time I checked in USA a couple months ago, basic kits were going for $1500 + shipping from overseas dealers, with few or no stateside owner-sellers, and thats a hard "no" unless you have money to completely burn.

    The SL66 is more complex and peculiar internally than a leaf shutter Hasselblad, Mamiya RB67 or Bronica SQ, or focal-plane Pentax 67 or Mamiya M645. As a system with vestigial market share in its day (and current active usage hovering near zero), few techs were factory trained in its repair, and most of those are either dead or have wait lists extending into next century. If you don't mind a gamble, it is still possible to find cheapish local repair for a Rollei TLR, but SL66 repairs are the exclusive province of the one famous Rollei guru left in each country. The lenses might be vastly simpler mechanically than their Hasselblad twins, but the SL66 body and back are an order of magnitude more fussy. So before jumping on an SL66 deal, make sure you can lock down a good service technician within your borders. Like any camera designed in Germany, being "mechanical" offers minimal (if any) reliability or servicing advantage over Japanese electronic-shuttered medium format cameras. The mystique of German (or Swiss) mechanics evaporates fairly quickly after you see your first eye-popping repair invoice. Chances are any SL66 you find at a low price will have sat unused for decades: get it overhauled to avoid future problems.

    The lenses are a mixed bag: the wides very outdated compared to Hasselblad which got upgraded in the 80s, and they waste the advantage of focal plane shutter by being the exact same compromised leaf shutter optical formula used in the Hasselblad (which is why the Rollei 40mm is stupid gigantic and heavy, and the 50mm mediocre with a bad 2/3 out zone and mushy corners). Re the 30mm fisheye: pretty much nobody ever bought the Hasselblad or Rollei version after the excellent Soviet lens became available. They picked up a Kiev body and fisheye instead for a fraction of the cost and very similar performance. The Kiev body may not have been as reliable, but for the occasional use a fisheye gets it was fine. Some dedicated fisheye fotogs even had the Soviet lens adapted for the later Hasselblad focal plane 2000/200 bodies (or the older 1000f). The superb Zeiss 100mm f/3.5 was only available for Hasselblad, it is the one lens in the lineup that has no SL66 version.

    The SL66 macro 120 is the older, slower 5.6 version which is no picnic to focus and compose thru with bellows extended. Sharp lens, one of Zeiss' vintage classics, but kind of a bear to use. The later faster f/4.0 revision is much more common in Hasselblad mount than SL66. IIRC, the reverse mounting trick is not across the board: some of the SL66 lenses can do this, some can't. 6x6 "macro" is a peculiar beast in any event: I can get down to 1:1 with the standard-mounted 55mm wide angle lens on my Mamiya C200 TLR, and I doubt anyone could distinguish the results from that vs a reversed Planar on the SL66. YMMV. The handling can also be a bit odd: the SL66 was designed to attract Rollei's existing wide base of TLR owners, so it has the same love-it-or-hate-it, left-hand-only focus knob.

    Long story short: the SL66 today is an indulgence in history one buys if they can afford it, but not the best choice for a primary 6x6 system. A case can be made for the nosebleed purchase and repair costs of the Rolleiflex TLRs, or even the overblown electronic Rollei 6006 SLR system, due to their singular uniqueness. The SL66 not so much: cover the Rollei name tag, and its a larger heavier more-awkward crippled Hasselblad with a marginally-useful tilting lens mount and slightly better macro capability. Its appeal is almost entirely in its legend: purchase with your eyes open at practical pricing, and it can be fun to own. But the bellows, tilt and reverse features will rarely add up to significantly more versatility than you already have with your existing Salyut/Kiev body + optional bellows.

    Not that practicality ever stops any of us ;). Theres no earthly reason for me to own three separate medium format systems (Hasselblad SLR, Mamiya TLR, and Mamiya Press rangefinder), plus be in the market to replace the Mamiya RB67 system I regret selling to fund the Hasselblad some years ago. The heart wants what it wants: as long as it doesn't take food out of anyone's mouth, splurge! :)
  8. After this last couple of months , I could do with a little less food :D . Peter
    cameragary likes this.
  9. A few remarks about what Orsetto said above.
    Apart from the suggestion that SL66 prices are "astronomical" (they're really not) and that they are near impossible to repair (ditto):
    The thing about the lenses being outdated is a bit of a misrepresenation too.

    The Rollei 50 mm wide, for instance, is the same as the pre-FLE Hasselblad version, yes. So not the latest one.
    But saying that it is "mediocre with a bad 2/3 out zone and mushy corners" is simply not true. It is a quite good lens, and the FLE-version, though a slight improvement in the corners, really is not that much better. If the old one was mediocre, the new one is too. But neither are. You can use the non-FLE version without having to worry about anything.

    The old 40 mm is big, yes. But a very good lens.

    And so is the Zeiss 30 mm fisheye.
    Which was not denied. What i will deny, however, is that the Arsat/Zodiak version (and i do have a couple, used on 6x6 and large format. For fun) is "excellent". It is not. Soft. Low contrast and low resolution. Prone to flare. A gimmick, at most. Fun, yes. But not suited for professional use.

    And you know about the "superb" 100 mm lens: it is that indeed, superb. But it actually only outperforms the humble 80 mm (available for Rollei) at infinity, and only then when used wide open. Get closer, or stop down, and the 80 mm shows itself to be even more superb. The 100 mm is an outstanding lens for aerial mapping photography, with very low distortion (which remains low when used at close distances and stopped down).
    Another thing about it (but that is more subjective) is that the 100 mm focal length (though it helped the designer to free himself from restrictions posed by the camera it was to go on) is just a tiny bit too long. Yes, you can argue that any focal length lens is an universal lens, suited for any subject, as long as the photographer is at the right distance for subject and focal lens. But in practice, this is not so. Focal lengths suit typical situations, i.e. situations that will have the photographer at a certain distance to the subject to be able to capture the situation. Lenses in this particular range are most useful for subjects relatively close to the photographer. The 60 mm (short end of this range) is the most versatile tool for this type of subject, and the 80 mm, though still good, is already getting a bit long. The 100 mm is definitely forcing the photographer to step back too far, removes him from the scenes too often. And it is too short for the next sort of typical subject, for which (in the Zeiss Rollei/Hasselblad range) the 120 mm marks the short boundary.

    The difference between the old and the new 120 mm makro Planar is only in the maximum aperture (and that difference is due to the restrictive mount the old version was put in, not the optical design). I am used to impossibly dark viewfinders, aerial image/parallax focusing, and all that. And there isn't that much of a difference between f/5.6 and f/4 when it comes to focusing. Not even in the macro range.

    Reverse mounting is, well...
    The thing is that it is done to keep the ratio of conjugate distances such that the lens used is able to perform at its best. Most lenses perform best when the lens to subject distance is much greater than the lens to image distance. i.e. at infinity down to, say, a meter. In high magnification photography (past 1:1), the situation reverses and the lens to subject distance is much smaller than the lens to image distance.
    The thing however is that the ratio never gets as great as in normal photography the lenses are designed for. At, say, 1 m subject distance - quite close already - the ratio (for medium format lenses) will be in the order of 10:1 up to 15:1. If a lens would perform well at that distance (and most will already begin to struggle, performing best at much, much higher ratios), reversed it should perform also reasonably well at magnifications beyond 10x. That is not (!) the type of work people typically do when reversing a normal or wide angle lens on a camera for close ups. And when you are indeed after such magnifications, you really should use other lenses made for that type of work.
    So the choice is between using a lens mounted normally in a situation where the ratio is not optimal, or using a lens reversed in a situation where the ratio is not optimal. Will it help much, if at all?
    It will when using a (large format) copy lens, that is made for close up work when going beyond the 1:1 mark. But not using 'normal' lenses, such as the ones typically used, and the ones discussed here.

    Re Rollei and 'do not touch'. Maybe the SLX qualifies. The 6008 are (much?) better (though the proprietary battery will cause problems).
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
    cameragary likes this.
  10. To address the original question:

    I owned a reasonably nice and complete FP Bronica outfit for about a year. I actually a lot of nice stuff for it-I had an S2A body, a C(which is a stripped-down camera with a non-removable back and a 1/500 top speed), 50mm, 2x75mm, 135mm, 150mm, and 200mm. I also had a full set of extension tubes and the good tilt/shift bellows.

    Truth be told, I never got on that well with it. The high available shutter speeds made it tempting to try handholding, but the shutter induces so much vibration that sharp results are difficult(by contrast, I can reliably hand hold a Hasselblad or RB67 down to 1/60th with a normal lens, and can even manage close to that with my Pentax 67 if I do everything right). If this hasn't already been hammered home enough, the thing is ear-splitting loud, and the cacophony is drawn out.

    I was glad mine worked. If you watch it operate, you'll realize what a mechanical nightmare it is. Rather than using a conventional swing-up mirror, Bronica opted to have the mirror fall down to the bottom of the box. While in theory this is simpler, in a conventional SLR, having the mirror swing up and over the focus screen accomplishes a couple of things in addition to getting out of the optical path-it covers the focusing screen to prevent light from "bleeding" in, and also makes sure light doesn't bounce around the mirror box off the mirror. To get around these problems, the Bronicas have a couple of silk curtains that have come out to cover the mirror and focusing screen. Then, since Bronica insisted on an instant return mirror, all of that has to reset itself. That's a lot both to happen during shutter activation, and also to have to "reset" during the film advance.

    The later Bronicas-including the ubiquitous ETR and SQ series-are excellent. The relatively uncommon GS-1, which is the same basic form factor scaled up to 6x7- seems well liked also by those who have them.

    I listed my S2A outfit on Ebay the day after I brought my Hasselblad home from the store because it just had too many downsides and I never used it. In retrospect, I should have sold it individually as it seems a crime that I only got $400 for all I listed above. The Hasselblad gets used constantly.

    When I wanted "something different" earlier this year, I went down the Pentax 67 route. You won't find many arguments about the Pentax optics(especially lenses like the 105mm f/2.4, which I have) or quality of the system, but its handling and things like the slow sync speed are common. I took to mine right away, and it nicely complements my Hasselblad system. Even though it's big and bulky, I find it a lot more amenable to field work than the RB67 system I sold to pay for it. That's a route worth considering at least from my perspective, and there's something special about seeing those big 6x7 transparencies.
    cameragary and peter_fowler like this.
  11. Horses for courses.

    We're talking about a specific situation here, where OP is particularly intrigued by the SL66 for its alleged superiority in near-macro work vs his existing camera or other alternatives. While the SL66 is indeed somewhat more convenient in some respects (primarily due to built-in bellows extension ala Mamiya RB/RZ/TLR), once yo get past that into the larger system all is not peaches and cream. You might find you require extension tubes: these are confusing to purchase because Rollei supplied several lookalike variations with quite different functionality (most sellers have no clue which version they have, and only an SL66 savant can identify whats what from the average listing photo).

    The original 50mm Distagon was nice when introduced, but does have some compromises that would not make it first choice of anyone for exacting near macro work. Its a fine landscape lens as long as you aren't super-picky, but if you blow things up or scan and pixel-peep the edges/corners can be disappointing and the 2/3 out of step with center/edges until you stop down quite a lot. Even then, the field curvature can bite, as typical with older wides, which can be problematic in situations where the subject can't conceal it (complex architecture, super closeups). As it happens, I had a very nice example of late silver 50mm C T* lens that I liked very much for its overall rendering, but it required more careful use than I would have preferred. When prices dropped steeply on the more fluid, better floating element version, I was happy to trade up (as were legions of others).

    Zeiss didn't upgrade that lens just because they were bored and needed a project to occupy themselves: the old 50mm really began to show its age after the decade newer, obviously better 60mm was re-introduced to the lineup. My intent is not to bash the old 50mm: its a fine lens within its limitations, and can be an excellent bargain at todays prices. But at least in Hasselblad mount you have the option to choose the superior floating-element 50mm update for just slightly higher cost today, which is better suited to close work. With the SL66, there is no choice: its the older version or nothing, and that older 50mm offers absolutely no advantage for close work (whatever camera you manage to mount it on). There were a couple of updated lenses offered when the late, scarce meterized SL66E appeared, like a floating element 40mm, faster 120mm f/4 makro and the 60mm, but they're hard to find and rather more expensive than the Hassy equivalents. The 50mm for SL66 was never updated, unfortunately.

    Identical to the Hasselblad version, in good and bad points. A remarkable performer for the time it was designed, and some aspects (like reasonably flat field and low distortion) hold up well even today. From a practical standpoint, however, it has dated badly: I owned one for awhile in Hasselblad guise, loved it, but gave it up after a few months because it was hopeless to use except in very specific circumstances. The lens is enormous and extremely front heavy, like having a 3-lb crystal ball hanging off the front of your camera. The huge front element is a flare magnet: get the HFT multi-coated version at minimum. The hood and huge B104 filters are rare and insanely expensive.

    In terms significant to OP, it is definitely not optimized for close in work: Zeiss installed a focus limiter in the Hassy version to remind you to stop way down at closer distances. To be fair, the later floating element 40s are hardly perfect either (higher distortion, etc): just more user-friendly with better flare resistance, more practical filters & hoods and improved closeup correction.
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
    cameragary likes this.
  12. The answer then is a very short one: do not even consider using retrofocus wide angle lenses for macrophotography (near or true).
    Was the OP, or anyone else doing that?

    We were talking something else too, Orsetto. And i'll repeat it very briefly: in your (renewed) dismissal of these lenses you do them an injustice, and misinform people who read what you write. Old they may be, but these lenses are nowhere near that bad as you make them out to be. Your semi-historic analysis and description of how, why and when Zeiss did what to what lens lacks any factual underpinning, and is indeed not correct.

    Do you have personal experience using a Rollei SL66 or SLE66?
  13. Gotta love the collaboration between Rollei and Hasselblad for what they will manufacture and what they won't.

    In 1957, an agreement between Reinhold Heidecke, inventor of the Rolleiflex TLR, and Victor Hasselblad, inventor of the Hasselblad SLR, was reached to ensure that Rollei would not manufacture SLR cameras, and Hasselblad would not manufacture TLR cameras. However, the rapid adoption of SLRs during the 1960s meant that Rollei risked falling behind in this market, at the same time that demand for its TLRs was decreasing. In 1964 plans were made to create a new, technologically advanced SLR to be introduced at the 1966 photokina festival. - Wiki

    Research is essential regardless of what is in message boards

    Here's a good site on Rollei SL66s' explaining a few things ...
    Link ... Rolleiflex SL 66 Single Lens Reflex cameras
  14. Windy explanations aside, the FP Bronicas are non-starters in 2020: no service, no parts, no comparison with later 645/6x6 models. Steer clear of relics, however "holy" they seem in worshipful forums. Get the newest MF gear you can afford and look into back-up bodies if the price is right.Choose a format before becoming brand-obsessed.
    peter_fowler likes this.
  15. Good advise.

    I don't think brands mean much these days with film cameras getting long in the tooth. The test of time is sorting out the still reliable from the potential junk. 6X9 is my priority preference therefore there's quite a few old Zeiss folders and Mamiya Press cameras on my shelves to choose from. In 6x4.5 I have the really exceptional Bronica ETRSi, it's a work of camera engineering art and very reliable. The OP said "No Electrics" though, shame, it's one electric camera I don't mind owning, with the motor hand grip, it's a beautiful camera to use IMO. That's three brands so far and I take no notice of those names, it's how reliable they are and what they can do for me out in the field.
    cameragary likes this.
  16. This thread has taken quite a detour, it should probably be renamed. Since I've used all of the discussed, I'll wade in.

    Zeiss 50/4 Distagon - my experience is that there is no difference between the CF and CFE lens at 10ft to infinity, but at closer range, the FLE has less coma and field curvature, and since an off-center fore-ground focus is common in wide angle compositions, that makes the CFE "better". But I still use the CF.

    Zeiss 120/5.6-4 S-Planar - I do not know why the Rollei version was f/5.6, as the optics was clearly f/4, same as the later Hasselbald CF version. I speculate (MY speculation) is that Rollei was using the same line of optics that Hasselblad had for years, and at that time, the S-planer in Hasselblad livery was limited to f/5.6 by the Compur shutter opening, hence they did not want to give Rollei an advantage with the same identical optic. It would have been "bad optics".

    Reverse mount Rollei optics: In practice, the reverse mounted Planar 80mm works just as well as the 120mm S-Planar, plus your viewfinder was brighter. The SL66 I had access to was usually mounted to a copy stand with the 80mm reverse mounted. I do not recall ever reverse mounting any of the other optics. Except for fun.

    Rollei SL66 - I don't own one currently, but if I came across one at a reasonable price, I would acquire it. It is bigger and heavier than a Hasselblad, and twice the pain to service. A late local service technician liked working on Hasselblads, Rollei TLRs, etc..., but hated working on the SL66 - because it would take more than 2x as long to work on, but it was difficult to charge 2x the price to work on them. But they are reliably well made, so they should not need a lot of service.

    Back on track with the Thread title.

    Bronica S: Like the Rollei SL66, they take a long time to service, but are well made. However, age is affecting them. Besides the standard foam replacements & rubberize curtains cracks, the rubber bumpers have hardened, and that results in higher shock when spring loaded parts hit their stops. This accelerates fatigue in parts that have a lot of cycles in the 60+ years of use. ie: I've had the mirror cage crack where the silk strap pulls it down. This is similar to the Hasselblad baffles cracking because the rubber brake disk has hardened/worn.

    Of the Bronica S-series, I like the original S the best - lighter, TLR like focus knob, mirror per-release, better cable release location. But it's unlikely to find one in working order, and I estimate I'd have to put close to 100hrs into the one I have to get it working well (it needs silk curtain replacements on both the viewfinder and shutter!, among other things). But if you like restoring these thing and taking pictures with them... In practice, I use an S2a, because it's working,

    If you are interested in repair and restoring these thing, which it sounds like form your initial post, then by all means. But as always with these things, there will be more to it than you think.

    If you want a camera to take pictures, then I'd agree with Kmac, stay away. If you want to tinker with it, then go ahead.
    cameragary and peter_fowler like this.
  17. Yes, tho not nearly as much or as recent as Hasselblad, which I've personally owned for many years. I used to borrow an SL66 occasionally from the studio I worked in, but that was quite some decades ago. Beautifully made camera, with some very nice focus screens: the studio used it mostly for product work with the 120mm S-Planar. The camera (still reasonably young then) was seldom problematic, but we often had mechanical issues with the backs.

    The lenses were twins of Hasselblad designs, minus the leaf shutter, so my (or anyones) deeper experience with the Hasselblad equivalents certainly apply to the SL66. I will not argue my experiences vs yours: there is no point, everyone has different needs. But this is a forum where various people report their personal experiences: mine are as valid or irrelevant as anyone elses, and OPs are free to consider or dismiss them as they see fit. You seem to feel any reasonable discussion of lens issues to be risible: fair enough, but others can see I'm discussing grey areas (not saying "don't buy this lens!").

    All vintage lenses entail some degree of compromise, it is up to the individual photographer to decide whether the input of other owners is of any significance to their own use case. Some of this can involve non-optical considerations: i.e. while much better than average for a 1967 retrofocus wide, the original 40mm can be quite clumsy (in Hassy mount it should perhaps have had a tripod collar, hanging it off the bellows rail of an SL66 is not something I'd relish). The very large diameter front element can be extremely difficult in some light, and accessories are scarce/expensive. Optical performance is subjective to the photographer, of course: the old 40mm holds up decently, but I am hardly alone in having some reservations with the original 50mm. You have had this "old 50mm vs CLE update" debate countless times with other photographers in other p-net threads going back 20 years, so it can't be news to you that some decidedly prefer the FLE, esp for the close work this thread centers on.

    The older 50 can be superb when deployed with experience and awareness of its performance envelope: thousands of wonderful photos posted attest to that. I still miss my silver C copy, which often got re-purposed adapted to 24x36 digital the last couple years I owned it. The center crop of the smaller sensor (vs 6x6 film) perfectly exploited the best aspects of the design, so much that it was worth carrying a 50mm lens triple the size/weight and twice as slow as a standard 50mm Nikkor. But on 6x6 film, performance outside the center was an issue with certain subjects depending on distance/aperture. When I acquired the updated FLE version, those issues disappeared, and I never have to overthink/overplan my shots with it. Close up to infinity, at all apertures, its consistent for me.

    Of course, newer lenses bring their own compromises: while more consistent for more uses, the FLE trades away a little bit of the "magic" the original version had. The balancing act between improved correction and pleasant rendering is difficult, which is why some of us maintain collections of older glass even in the high-res digital era: there are many cases where the overall presentation of a lens overpowers any perceived flaws. One woman's "intolerable LoCA" is anothers "buttery bokeh". Technically, the later 50mm FLE has several significant improvements at both near and far distance. But the older 50mm Distagon coupled with an SL66 (or Hasselblad) might work magic for i.e. botanical work, depending on the photographer's vision and composition. Remarking that the newer lens should technically be better in certain areas should not be construed as saying "the older lens is terrible", just that having or not having the option of the newer lens might be a significant factor in the camera system.

    Returning to the Bronica S2 lenses, you have some very similar considerations. There were three different 50mm wides: Nikkor f/3.5, Nikkor f/2.8, Komura f/3.5. In theory, the bottom-flipping Bronica mirror allowed a less-retrofocal more-optimal design, but the early Nikkor f/3.5 doesn't really impress close in: the lens extends deep into the body and is quite short externally, but it all adds up to "meh" performance, not least because of the huge front element flaring away. The later Nikkor f/2.8 was noticeably better, and some were multicoated, making it the more usable consistent choice. The Komura had performance that could charitably be described as "interesting". Does relaying this info in a forum post mean I'm saying "only buy the excellent Nikkor f/2.8 version and don't even think of touching the others"?

    Not at all: other factors always come into play. For one thing, the Nikkor f/2.8 turns up for sale maybe once a year if you're lucky, and is larger/heavier/more expensive than the Nikkor f/3.5 (which is easily found anytime at a good price). The older lens is more pleasant to handle, and is capable of good results as long as you stay aware of its quirks. Not so different from the Rollei/Hasselblad old vs new 50mm decision. Even the rather poor Komura has its adherents: it draws in a particularly vintage dreamy way that can't be replicated with either Nikkor (winter BW landscapes are the Komura's forte). So each would have their use case, depending on budget, photographer and subject. Highlighting one of the three as techinically "best" does not utterly invalidate the other two choices: it just provides additional context.
    cameragary and ben_hutcherson like this.
  18. Seriously, what is your problem? Do you have to drop in here and crap on every thread where you don't like how the INFORMATIVE content is presented? I'm sick of seeing this crap from you, which you do with regularity.
    cameragary likes this.
  19. Perhaps a good moment to break up my walls of text with some pics of the cameras/lenses.

    This was my S2A with 50mm f/3.5 Nikkor:

    Bronica S2A Blk 50 Nikkor Hood.jpg
  20. This is the first-gen Zeiss 40mm f/4 Distagon on my Hasselblad 500cm, the Rolleiflex SL66 version is the same size and design but has no shutter controls or focus ring. As you can see, its a huge lens resembling a crystal ball in a brass cup: tricky enough on the 'blad, I can imagine how it handles on the SL66 hanging off a moving bellows:

    Hass 40mm CT Mint 12sm.jpg

Share This Page