Kowa 66 (or just the 6) vs. Bronica S2a? Please recommend for a hobbyist.

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by bob_chong, Jun 13, 2001.

  1. I have read a ton of posts about both these cameras, and have read
    the stuff by Monoghan and Gonzales about both of these cameras, too.

    What I'm wondering is, can anyone provide me with a definite reason
    why I should get one versus the other? I am a hobbyist, a longtime
    35mm user looking to switch to MF fully. I've played around with
    Yashica TLR's and they have been fun, but I'd like to take the next
    step up (yet definitely stay under $500 for a full outfit).

    I like shooting landscapes and sometimes people. Most of what I
    shoot is "nature" type stuff, but city streets are also fun to
    shoot. I will never shoot professionally, so what I do is only for
    fun. Also, I go through spurts where I'll shoot lots of film and
    then not shoot again for a few months. (I'm just trying to make all
    info. available.)

    The way I see it, the advantage of the Bronica is the availability of
    relatively inexpensive lenses. Someday, I'll want more lenses, and
    that is attractive to me. However, I guess if the Kowa is superior,
    I'll just have to spend the extra dough on the lenses (they seem to
    cost twice as much or more than the lenses for the S2a).

    Thanks so much,

  2. I don't know much about the Kowa, I use a Bronica (EC; uses the same lenses as S2A). In Europe (I live in Holland) there are far more lenses and stuff for Bronica than for Kowa. One could get a Kowa with 55,85 and 150 lenses for just a bit more than a S2A with a 50, 75/80 and 135/150. Getting other lenses is not only more expensive but also almost impossible. The extension tubes for Bronica go here for $50 - $80 and are not rare. If you do nature you will like to have them (though the 80 has a nice minimum distance of about 60cm/2feet). A prism goes for around $100. Could you get one for Kowa?

    From what you write about your photography I think you can do without the faster sync speed (Bronica only getting you 1/40sec)and you wouldn't mind that the camera is a little bit loud. Don't know if the Kowa is superior, but the Bronica's are very nice to use, handheld and on tripod.

    So, I definitly don't want to say "don't go for the Kowa", just "going for the Bronica will fit your needs". Both camera's will get you in the beautiful world of MF. Enjoy!
  3. If you're not into lens-hacking, the single most important
    difference is the shutters. If you want to do fill-flash outdoors in
    sunlight you will need leaf shutter lenses, and that tips the
    balance towards Kowa.

    That said, the Bronica has several features which make it easy
    to fit other lenses (like, say, a view camera 150 for leaf-shuttered
    portraits) so if you don't mind a bit of machine shop wizardry
    most of the Kowa advantage disappears.

    I have a Kowa and haven't found it too hard to assemble a basic
    kit. Prisms and extension tubes are readily available and cheap
    enough if you shop around. The problem comes when you want
    rarer items like lenses outside the 55, 85, 150 standard three, or
    hens-teeth stuff like the tilt-shift bellows.

    As far as performance goes, my only complaint would be that the
    lenses are a bit prone to flare, but I'm not sure Bronica lenses for
    the S2a series are so much better.
  4. I've worked my way through 3 outfits to date.<br>My first MF SLR was a Pentacon six, bought new over 30 years ago. I gave it some very hard use, and it delivered the goods, in the form of very sharp, nice pictures. Then about 12 years ago it started to go wrong, and when it finally needed more time in repair than in use, I replaced it with a less-used P6TL, This one lasted about a year, and the one after that about 6 months. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that the P6 has had its day, and any remaining ones are on borrowed time.<br>Next, I bought a used Kowa ; a 6MM body with standard 85mm lens. I searched for quite a while before I found a clean 55 mm wideangle, and a bit longer before I came across a 150mm lens. I like to use wideangle lenses, and would love the Kowa 40mm, but they're very hard to come by; and that's the trouble, anything Kowa 6 is hard to come by.<br>The camera and it's system are still great, but you have to scratch around to find lenses or anything else.<br>I'm not a great fan of Bronica, since their cameras seem to have the heftiest mirror slap in the world, but the user base is much bigger than that of the Kowa 6, and building an S2A outfit will pose no problem.<br>My third system is now a Mamiya 645, with metering prism, and the amazing 35mm lens. The price asked for used Mamiya 645 gear isn't excessive either, if you buy privately.<br>I'm afraid the Kowa probably won't get much use from now on.
  5. I just want to second Pete and suggest looking at a Mamiya 645
    system (or Pentax if you don't need interchangable backs).
    Prices have dropped dramatically since the autofocus models
    were introduced, and in private sales a basic kit doesn't cost
    much more than Kowas and Bronicas.

    A system like this would give you modern(ish) lenses, TTL
    metering and flash, an upgrade path to state-of-the-art new
    equipment, and access to manufacturer-trained repair shops.
    For exotic and expensive focal lengths you can use Pentacon-6
    lenses with an adapter, or use the focal plane shutter to simplify

    I like my square negs, and am happy enough with my Kowa that
    I'll wait a while before upgrading, but were I starting from scratch
    the 645 SLRs would be more attractive these days.
  6. Bob: I've never owned an older Bronica (though my basic system now is a late-model Bronica GS-1), but I used one for a month or so some years back. Good optics, but overall not a really handy set-up for my purposes. Note that I'm not into what is described above as "lens hacking."

    On the other hand, I did own a nifty Kowa Six system (body, 55, 80, and 150, plus the T-2 extension tube and the "speed grip") for about four years. The optics were fine, but the mechanics of the system required more tenderness than some might prefer. For example, the gearing on the film advance/shutter cocking crank is legendary as a potential problem source -- the metal is relatively soft and the gears can be stripped by overeager cranking. Also, some of the components are stamped metal, which gives the unit a less-than-solid feel. But it worked like a champ. I upgraded to the GS-1 to get a wider range of lenses, really good metering, and its multi-format options.

    For landscape work, many people (I among them) prefer a rectangular format. This could be an important limitation on the utility of the Kowa for the applications you describe.///REB
  7. Thanks for the swift replies!

    I think I am leaning towards the Kowa for a couple reasons. The first is initial price. Secondly, I like the square format. So that rules out the Mamiya 645 (expensive and rectangular). I know that the M645 is not expensive for some people, but I am stretching my budget just to get a Kowa.

    I'll post after I get the camera and try it out.

    Thanks again,

  8. Before you make your purchase, you should know there is a 645 back (Back "E", if I am not mistaken) for the S2A, if that might be of interest to you. Normal S2A 12/24 backs (does the Kowa let you do both?--another possible consideration) usually run about $75. I don't have a 645 back, but I've usually seen them for about $145.

    The ready availability of cheap backs is a big advantage for the S2A system, if you might be interested in using the Zone system, or just being able to switch between a high-contrast and low-contrast color film or different film speeds at will.
  9. The Kowa Six permits you to switch between 120 and 220 simply by adjusting the pressure plate (note it does not have a removable back), but 6x6 is its only format.//REB

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