Bronica S2/S2A maintenance tinkering ?

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

  1. Here's the first-gen Zeiss 50mm Distagon on my Nikon D40, and the 40mm on my D700:

    Nikon D40 Hass 50ct.jpg

    Hass 40mm CT On Nikon D700 sm.jpg
  2. guess what, after spending the last 10 days hunting exhaustively for a SL66 kit with extra back, I was about to decide for one offering, but yesterday morning near me an ad popped up for a Bronica S2 set and few hours after it was mine :)
    Body, two 6x6 backs. wlf, 90 prism, loupe, lenses with caps and filters 50, 75, 105 with leaf, 135, 200 (with couple close-up lenses) , couple shades, pistol grip, the funny sport finder, polaroid back, strap:


    here with the 50mm f4 (the prism in an Arsenal/Salyut one)


    the seller had received the estate of a former pro, but himself had no clue about photography at all. He was puzzled by the sport finder, didn't know what it was: an antenna? a radar?


    with normal lens and prism, compared to a Salyut, the S2 is a bit bigger and 300g heavier, so no big deal.





    the "model A" 90-prism is bad, bad, bad, bad. Dark and too small eyepiece:


    so I hacked the Salyut one to fit on the S2.
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  3. Be careful of the helical focusing ring. I once picked up a very nice S2a with prism and 2 lenses for $200. I was doing my usual new camera testing from hand and tripod and under magnification noticed that the images were doubled. Tracked it down to the helical which had a little play in it that could just be detected. When the mirror came down and the camera started one way the inertia of the lens more or less kept it where it was. Result was a doubled image. Found that if I totally draped myself over the camera and lens and held on with a death grip I could control it but that was not the way I wanted to shoot.
    lance_blakeslee and cameragary like this.
  4. Congrats, antoniobravo! Thats a really cool complete kit: one could hardly ask for better when seeking an S2 setup. The scarce Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 and 105mm leaf shutter lenses alone were worth buying the entire outfit to acquire. The extra film back can be hard to find, so thats also a big plus, and the Polaroid back I've almost never seen. All in all a good deal, even if the camera body ends up needing some work (almost certainly the focus screen will, unless the prior owner already replaced the rotted foams with something more durable). Make sure the focus (esp near infinity) is accurate, shutter speeds good, lens stop down action not sluggish, film spacing OK, no fungus in lenses, and you should be able to have lots of square fun.

    Since this is apparently an S2 and not a later S2A, remember to be careful with the winding knob. Try to avoid using the foldout crank, but if you must go slow and steady with it, esp when pushing past the dreadful final resistance gap in the wind cycle.

    Brilliant idea to adapt the Soviet prism finder: I wanted to, but couldn't figure out how without a trip to a metalwork fabricator. The old Hassy NC2 45° (and its Soviet copy) are so much nicer than the huge, murky, squinty 90° Bronica prism.
    evan_dong|2 and cameragary like this.
  5. yes the 90° prism has surprised me. For the Soviet prism there's an easy hack....
    In order to have an idea I just unscrewed the mounting plate on boths, it's 4 screws on the Bronica, 7 on the Arsenal, and checked dimension:



    the bottom of the Arsenal is just ~1mm wider than the bottom of the Bronica, position the Bronica plate and duct tape, without covering the slits. It works. Duct tape adhesive is strong enough I can grab the S2 from the prism, but I won't do it normally it would comes off after repeated tractions.



    For a clean, nice and solid assembly, I'll get an extra Soviet prism, and an extra Bronica wlf in order to cannibalize the mount and either bore holes for the 4 screws of the Bronica plate, or for a permanent alternative, epoxy the mount. The screw removable assembly will require to tap 4 holes and find matching screws which indeed means rights tools or machinits.
    But then for the cheap price one can have a Soviet prism, I'll just epoxy glue permanently the S2 plate with an added tin metal ribbon around as reinforcement (epoxy becomes brittle with time)

    I may also just look after buying a 45° Bronica prism, but they seem very uncommon, while the Soviet ones are everywhere.
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  6. Getting back to that Soviet fisheye lens for a moment, is that a 180-degree lens?

    And BTW, one of my favorite photographers, Max Pam from Australia, uses an SL66.
  7. on the Salyut, no, it's a Vega-12 , 90mm, which was the normal lens coming with the late Salyut version, then Salyut-S, before Arsenal switched to the Volna-3 with the Kiev-88, (renamed Arsat 80 after soviet time). But i took the shot when the collapsible rubber hood was screwed on it. Here I put by the side another Salyut body I have, with my Zodiak-8, which is the 180-d fisheye, then renamed Arsat-30 in independent Ukraine:


    and I remove the rubber hood of the Vega-12:


    not at all the same beast....



    I have the project to hack a Zodiak-8 on a S2 helical. The S2 register distance is 101,7mm, the Salyut is Hasselblad-1600/1000 82,1mm, so 19,6mm for the Zodiak into the S2 body, it seems the proturing will not hit the mirror, but I didn't yet take exact measurements and the S2 mirror flips down not up, so all good. The task will be to place the helical S2 mount correctly on the lens, and see if the diaphragm can still be operated, otherwise hack this too. Not easy but worth to be tried.

    the Zodiak-8 is really good and my only option for some architecture close-ups and some urban landscape. The fisheye curvature isn't too much and can be somewhat straighten in software.
    Otherwise it's fun to play with. For instance, here I am sitting across the table and took the shot almost point and shoot:


    here also a on the spot point and shot, despite strong difficult sun:


    the light artifact in the corners, strong on the top right, is caused by a protective filter I have on when I use it as a walk lens. I made it with plexiglass and clear silicone seal. It gives the vignetting, but I am quite maniac about protecting this huge glass:


    the SL66 will be my next acquisition hopefully
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  8. the price of a Zodiak-8 these days go from 5000 to 10.000 rubles, depending if it comes with the colored filters set (part of the optical path, one, clear, is on the last back element by default) and case.Зодиак

    so no big deal to get an additional cheap one, and an extra S2 helical, and tinker with it. In fact the helical only may cost me the price of the lens it seems... On Ebay I see Distagon 30mm for SL66 at twenty times the price :confused:
  9. I'll raise you in the weird-looking and 'why would you do that?' stakes.

    Here's my M645-fit 50mm Mamiya-Sekor shift lens fitted to my D800:
    Why would you do that?
    Well, it's a shift lens for a start, and the degree of shift offered far exceeds anything native to Nikon.

    Also the IQ is pretty good, without too much colour fringing unless you exceed the recommended shift limits.

    Plus it looks cool - weird, but cool.

    Otherwise there are far too many designed-for-35mm fifties and near fifty lenses to choose from without raiding the MF cupboard.
  10. W-a-y smaller, and a LOT more practical applications than the 40mm Distagon-C, rodeo_joe! ;)

    I never actually shot the 40mm Zeiss on my Nikon: too huge and no advantage to PQ over any other alternatives. I did, however, really like the results from my silver 50mm Distagon-C T* on Nikon and Sony 24x36 digital: something about the way it drew the image, colors, etc. If I didn't already own the 50, I never would have bought one to lug around on a Nikon: I imagine one could obtain similar results from a much smaller, purpose-built F-mount Zeiss ZF2 lens.

    Tho perhaps not: whatever pleases me in the 50 Distagon Nikon images might be exclusive to pleasant aberrations in that old 'blad design. The better-corrected FX-format ZF2 series might have most of the "Zeiss Look" but maybe not the exact same end result. Eventually I traded the old silver lens for the improved Hassy CF-FLE floating element version, which I gather is quite popular today on 24x36 Canon-Nikon-Sony digital when mounted to a shift adapter.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
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  11. A local auction cataloque has thrown up 3 old bayonet mount Voigtlander 50mm lenses. An Ultron and two Septons.

    There's a huge temptation to put in a bid so that I could adapt them to a mirrorless body. But so many projects, so little time....
    cameragary and orsetto like this.
  12. Wish I had seen this thread earlier, but contrary to assumed belief, there is still one option for Bronica repair... not long ago (2019), I reached out to Frank Marshman, even though I believed he'd retired from the Bronica repair business. I had acquired a broken 'S' model that I thought would be cool if it could be brought back to life. Turns out, he was still working on them (he says as long as he has enough "donor" cameras, he'll keep doing it) and it was returned to me good as new. He can be reached at, .

    And as long as 75mm or wider lenses are used with shutter speeds at least 1/125, handholding is not an issue; much of the mirror vibration occurs post-exposure.


    Bronica S, 75/2.8 Nikkor-P, Velvia 100, August 2019
  13. it has been some little while I wasn't visitng, and well in the meantime I tried to keep slowly making myself a list of available repairmen. So good to know this Frank Marshman is still active. Myself I look more for Japan (it's a japanese camera...) and Europe, and there are few addresses online in french, spanish, polish, russian, german that I have to check (ask, get answers).

    The comparisons with the ubiquitous Hasselblad 500 are like comparing apples and pears, this Bronicas have the shutter mechanism in the body, while Hasselblad they just transferred the complexity to the lens and shutter makers ie. Compur and Zeiss; the 500 is a dark cubic chamber with a lens mount and a winding mechanism, well what an achievement, ha! ... The more I read about it the more it appears the first Bronica Z/D was an engineering marvel.

    congratulations with your Bronica S. I bought my S2 end May and after now 3 months of use, I love it. I guess it got some bad fame back in the time from careless professionals, the kind of guys who if they drive a regular manual car would kill an engine and gearbox in no time, at which point give them a Lada or a Volvo it would make no difference.

    so I want to buy another body, but after quite some time spent gathering docs, I'd like to buy an S, because the focusing by the right-side knob instead of the front removable helicoid. Shinsaku Hiura from Japan has a great site and couple videos on Youtube, like this one comparing the S and S2:

    the problem is that these S models are extremely scarce :(

    scarcity also in the current offering of lenses besides the 40, 50, 75,100, 105, 135, 150, 200 by Nikon and bit of Zenzanon itself.
    scarcity in 6x4.5 backs, spotted three in the last three months, two on Ebay, one on Avito and other bidders where faster than me.
    I look of course on Ebay, but also locally for Norway on Finn, for Poland on Allegro, for Russia on Avito, for yet some more of Europe on dutch-based Catawiki, for Japan Yahoo has become little as it seems most offerings end on Ebay, there are some occasional other stores like the Finns of Kameratori, and whatever small brick and mortar shop here and there. For instance I am thinking of a 40mm lens, and for the last 3 months I saw around only the big Nikkor-D, and found only ONE smaller Zenzanon 40mm at a shop in London, but it was part of a base S2a kit (camera, back, viewfinder) sold for 500£ (Zenza Bronica S2 + Zenzanon 40mm f4 + 6x6 back. Excellent condition. SOLD – Camera City) add postage and import tax+fee in Norway and it became a hefty price. Had been cheaper to flight early morning from Oslo to Stansted, buy/pick the camera at the shop downtown, flight back to Oslo in the evening, but there was covid-19...

    my feeling too, handholding is fine.
    The S2 body is chunkier than the regular Hasselblad cubic standard (I have been using Salyut for years, same form factor) but ergonomics is good unless maybe for small hands. The chunkier volume may give the impression it's heavier, and because the helicoid is on the body for most lenses, it is indeed, but then lenses are very light, so all in all no problem.

    recently I used it often at 1/30s and 1/60s.

    here the 75mm @f2.8 1/30, Portra-160 ( the cemetery of Trondheims cathedral and I found this stone ironic, guy cremated in Stockholm, but then buried in Trondheim, text in transitional mix of swedish (ö) and danish (æ) script of the time...) :

    the Nikkor-50 f.28 @f8 1/60:


    recently playing with BW Fomapan iso400, here the 75mm @f2.8 1/30:


    these Bronica lense can focus a quite short distance.
    Nikkor-50 f2.8, close-up late evening, @f2.8 1/60:


    here almost on the windows glass of a book store, late evening, Zenzanon 75mm @f4 1/30:
    allancobb likes this.
  14. Thanks for the video link and great pics, an apt reflection on its capabilities. Having owned both the S and the S2, I too prefer the side-focusing of the S. With the S, one has to be extra careful in winding forward in that there's no overrun clutch to overcome, so it's easily possible to strip internal gears if unaware of this.

    Enjoy and good luck!
  15. Frank also told us in Bronica Users Group that the EC TL II is the most serviceable in Bronica FP cameras. It has only one board with 4-5 capacitors, some IC and other components. I also read from a japanese repairman that most of the problems are with the aging soldering joints and it can be fixed easily. For the EC and EC TL, recently a user has upgraded his reverse engineering of the shutter board and now the shutter problem can be fixed. So unless the shutter solenoid is kaputt, it is possible to fix it.
    The S2 S2a is a nightmare though, which I ran as fast as I could from to the EC TL.
  16. You're going to love this , just today I dropped in at Beau Photo in Vancouver and saw 2 Kowa Six 2's and a Kowa Six ,
    all in good working order :) . Pity I didn't see these 1/2 year ago . Peter
  17. I'm not ever intending to go farther than my "wonderful" Ossis in medium format. but I thought a repeat of a label made for these beasts might be appreciated, since it applies to almost any of these 6x6 or so cameras:
    (the 'fumes' warning is more for East Bloc cameras)
    Since, regardless of the verbal content, my main "joy" here was the camera p o r n, here is mine own contribution:
    Pentacon 6TL & lenses 2.jpg
    The camera is really quite nice, when it works and you have loaded the film carefully. The Zeiss Jena lenses, however, are still excellent and I use them with adapters on many of my small format cameras. Even the Soviet Mir 45mm is decent.
    from left to right, 180mm Sonnar Olympia, 80mm Biometar (on camera), 120mm Biometar, and the Mir in the back.
  18. Actually, I misremembered -- that is the much superior Flektogon
  19. Quality control as only the former USSR can deliver , I got rid of my Flektogon ( it was really awful ) and replaced it
    with (guess what ? ) the 45mm MIR and couldn't be happier , go figure :) . Peter
    evan_dong|2 likes this.

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