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Zenza Bronica S2: Worth to buy for beginning medium format photography?


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I've found in a 2nd hand shop a used Zenza Bronica, equiped with a 75

mm zenza lens. The camera should be in good conditions. They asked me

350 Eu for it (it fits my budget).


1) Do you think is worth this money (assuming that it's working



2)since it's quite old, is it easy to find lenses and equipment for

this model on 2nd hand market (i live in italy).


3) Do you think it's a realiable camera?


Thank you!

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The S2A, which came out after the S2, utilized steel components in the advance system which were brass in the S2 and earlier models. I would be wary of possible advance system problems due to worn internal parts on an S2 or earlier Bronica, especially if it showed any anount of wear. Your problem will be finding a shop that can repair it if you were to run into advance problems due to stripped gears. Parts are rare to non-existent today.
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If you are not wedded to 6X6 format, you might consider a Mamiya 645. They will be newer and easier to repair should you need. Also, there are tons of them on eBay, KEH, and other sources, so finding lenses, prisms, and replacement parts is very easy. I don't know specifics about Italy, so you might have a different experience there.
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The camera is very old and was discontinued more than thirty years ago. Unless Bronica have been extremely popular in Italy I think you will have issues getting spares, repairs, and accessories. Its more of an enthusiasts camera really although there are good photographers here who use it (though they might have more than one of everything).


For that money or little more you can get a SQA/80mm S lens on e**y and whilst the camera may be little better there is a clearer route to spares/repairs and an upgrade path to the newest (last) generation of Bronica 6x6 cameras.

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That price is acceptable if the camera has had a CLA very recently. If not, lemme see, the Euro is about USD1.3 now, I got mine for a little under half that and then had a $100 some odd dollar CLA performed when the mirror mechanism started sticking.


I find the camera to be excellent, a real tank. It is not always easy to find equipment for it on eBay, but I managed to get a 135, 50 and an extra film back in a fairly short period of time, so it's not as though it's impossible either.


The big problems with it are that most of the people who know how to fix one of these are dead or retired--there is, I think, one man in the entire continental US who can fix them right now. So you may want to go with a SQ-Ai, because equipment is much more plentiful and the camera is less complicated mechanically.


As mentioned, the S2A has the steel gears instead of brass. Not all S2As are advertised as such: http://medfmt.8k.com/bronserialno.html may help you figure out what you have.

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  • 4 years later...
  • 8 years later...

I also want to try medium format and in my local shop (Berlin) I found Bronica S2, repaired and checked with Nikkor-P 2,8/75mm lenses. The price is 485 Eur, which also includes 1 year warranty. A consultant at the shop (who took care of the camera) recommended not to by from ebay cause often the items are faulty there...

They also had Pentax 645 (575 Eur) and Mamiya 645E (445 Eur), but I took a look at them and could not get the feeling of "the real" film camera: too much buttons gave me the feeling that I am using a digital camera. (Am I strange? :D)

Anyway... now I am thinking whether I should buy Bronica S2 that they have. Although I would probably prefer Bronica SQ, but I don't know where else could I buy it safely.

Do you think the price is worth the camera? What do you think about the camera itself?

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I owned an S2a kit for a while(5 lenses, 2 bodies, a few backs and inserts plus other odds and ends). It IS a good camera with some features that are unique to MF cameras of that price point, such as the instant return mirror and focal plane shutter.


I'm going to make several references to the Hasselblad 500 series in the below list, and I hope you'll forgive that. I consider it the benchmark 6x6 SLR, which is why I do that.


With that said, the system looks really great on paper but it has some big things that make me dislike it.


1. It's on the small side of 6x6 SLRs, and really closer in size to a Hasselblad 500/501/503 than an SQ camera(although the SQ series isn't that much larger).


2. Although it's small, it's a heavy beast of a camera. There's a lot going on in it, and that translates it into weighing a lot more than a 500. It is very solid feeling.


3. The amount of camera shake when firing the shutter is atrocious. I'm actually not sure if it comes more from the mirror or from the shutter, but you can feel it when you fire it-it's worse than a Mamiya RB67 or Pentax 67-I'd say it's easily the shakiest SLR(of any size) I've ever used.


4. In addition to the shake, it's a noisy beast. Even after taking the photo, you'll be rewarded with a few loud "clunks" when advancing the film.


5. The focal plane shutter is a blessing and a curse. It has a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000, which is better than you will find in a leaf shutter camera like an SQ or 500. At the same time, the sync speed is 1/30.


6. The S2 is known to have some weakness in the film advance mechanism. The S2a is supposed to be better in this respect.


7. The optics are MOSTLY excellent, whether you're using Nikkors or later Zenzanons. The exception to this is the 13,5cm Nikkor, which was a 35mm lens designed for the SP rangefinder with a reflex housing and just happened to cover 6x6. I had two examples-one that came with my main outfit and one that came in a separate lot, and both were terrible. In addition, the lenses are lightweight since they dispense with a focusing helicoid and don't have a shutter in them. With that said, they are sort of awkwardly shaped. Make sure you get the rear caps-they look about like a small bathroom or medicine cup.


IMO, the price sounds quite high considering that I sold my entire outfit for around $400 USD.


The SQ series is a fair bit newer, and if you get an SQ-Ai you may luck into a camera that's only about 20 years old. The shutters are electronic and don't really go out of time. The only weak link that I've encountered in the system is the light seals in the film back, which likely will need to be replaced.


One of the issues with increasingly obscure cameras like the S2 is in parts availability and people who know how to work on them if something does break. As I mentioned above, these cameras have a LOT going on in them. When you press the shutter button, the mirror actually goes down rather than up as in most other SLRs. Because of that, there's also a blind that has to pop in place over the mirror. Even if you pay a higher initial price to buy into something like a Hasselblad, it's(relatively) easy to find someone to do at least basic service on them.


That's just my take on it. Like I said, I had one and I sold it. At one time, I had three 6x6 SLR systems(S2a, SQ-A, and 500C), and have consolidated to the Hasselblad.

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I believe the bronica SQ and gs-1 have better Optics than the S2.


With the exception of the 13.5cm I mentioned, the Nikkors are nothing to sneeze at. The Zenzanon PS optics are a bit more contrasty thanks to their better coatings, but I never saw much real world difference between the 75mm f/2.8 Nikkor-P lenses and 80mm f/2.8 Zenanon-P lenses.

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The S2a is a good camera, a work of art, really. But, that price is much too high for something that WILL break at once point, and may not be repairable.


If you really want to get into medium format, I’d suggest spending half that amount of money on a nice overhauled folding camera, and spend the rest of the money on film.

No, a folder isn’t as sexy as the Bronica, but it is way lighter (Bronica is HEAVY) and way more compact and much cheaper to buy, and easier to have repaired.

Wandering the planet with a Leica I, Leica IIIa, M4, Nikon Df, Ricoh GR3x, Fuji X100V, assorted lenses and old cameras.

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The S2 is a heavy metal relic. The mechanical racket when shot is nearly all post-exposure, mostly the reflex mirror. No parts and hard-to-find service. They're very complex mechanical cameras.Low-ish synch speed for flash. Had one for about a year before the gears stripped out. Paid peanuts for it and just pitched it post-mortem. Kept the excellent Nikkor lens. Yours is wildly over-priced.


Problem is: what remains that's affordable is a 6x6 SLR? I'd look hard at Bronica, especially the late model SQ-B. Stick to a WLF and get a hand-held meter. Not a back-breaker, weight-wise. Try to buy the newest MF gear you can afford. Research repair resources for whatever brand you choose, too.

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Wow, thanks a lot for so many replies on such a short time! All this time I was pondering options that i have... and now my dreams about shooting my first 120 roll next week are crashed :D


Yeah, I guess you all are right, the price is high indeed and I should not focus solely on that local shop's offer, but rather make a research on local repair shops and find cheaper options on ebay (having then more choice).

Honestly, if not the loud mirror sound, I would definitely buy this Bronica S2! I do like how it looks and feels. But I really want to at least have a chance to remain unnoticed when shooting (I just looked some videos about Mamiya C330, also available in that shop haha).


Try to buy the newest MF gear you can afford.

If the newest gear is what I think, then I don't really want to buy it, because as I mentioned above, I loose the sense that I am shooting on film with these cameras (e.g. pentax 645)... Or do you mean unused?


If you really want to get into medium format, I’d suggest spending half that amount of money on a nice overhauled folding camera

Could you please explain why exactly folding cameras? They do not attract me at all :)


Not generally a party pooper , BUT , this thread is 14 years old :) . Peter

Is that a problem? :)

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unnoticed when shooting (I just looked some videos about Mamiya C330, also available in that shop haha).


The Mamiya TLRs aren't exactly inconspicuous either-they're quite large as TLRs go.


By contrast, I've found that Rolleicords and the early Rolleiflex Automats often go unnoticed.


With that said, I've found that shooting with any kind of WLF can help make you a bit less conspicuous-people don't think you're pointing the camera at them.


My first MF SLR was an SQ-A. I had it delivered to work(as I usually do purchases from KEH) and when I was walking around with it most folks thought it was a movie camera.

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hooting with any kind of WLF can help make you a bit less conspicuous

totally agree!

I checked KEH - and there only the body of Bronica SQ-Ai costs $160. So maybe my shop's price isn't that much after all...

I feel like I am trying to find a perfect camera, but it does not exist and I have to make compromises :) I really didn't think that MF photography is totally a different world! Silly me..o_O

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I think the price is too high. Plus you'll have to budget for a decent tripod, since hand-holding is almost certain to induce camera shake. Bronicas of that era go off like a trench mortar!


You won't be so impressed with the big, heavy bronny after you've dragged it and the necessary tripod around for a while.


Out of those 3 cameras, I'd choose the Pentax 645, but I'd haggle for a better price.


Don't touch the cheap and nasty M645E.

Edited by rodeo_joe|1
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"I feel like I am trying to find a perfect camera, but it does not exist"


- It does, but it doesn't take crappy film!


I shot film in formats from 35mm to 5"x4" for over 40 years. My first decent digital camera - a Canon 5D - immediately made everything other than 5"x4" redundant in terms of image quality and ease and economy of use.


That 5D was only 12 Megapixels, but still gave A3 prints equal to anything I could get from medium format. Todays DSLR and mirrorless cameras are only limited in image quality by the lens you can afford to fit to them.


If you just want quality images, then digital is the way.


Film? I think you really have to question your motives for wanting to use it.


Is it more real? Nah!

Does it give better quality? Nah!

Is it a pain in the arse to use? Yep!

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The big drawback of folders is that you only have one lens - you can't interchange them. But they have advantages too, such as their size. If you are a hobbyist (and I suspect you are) the S2 has a lot to offer but the price you have been offered seems high. Having said that, there are basically two marketplaces out there. One is photo shops with their overhead and reputation. These usually stand behind their products, have access to repair technicians, and want you to succeed. You have to pay for that but you also don't have to worry as much. The other marketplace is places like eBay. You pay less, get less, have few options for recourse, and are pretty much on your own. Some people migrate to the cheaper alternative while others appreciate the security of having a one on one relationship with the person they bought the equipment from. So by these standards, the price is a little high but not ridiculous if you are dealing with a long term shop with resources to offer you.
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Re the Bronica S2 system: I agree with the previous advice that the price is too high, and at this point in its history the S2 is most definitely NOT what it used to be ( a great entry-level 6x6 SLR)- it now firmly sits in the category of collector's shelf queen. A revolutionary and interesting system in its heyday, a bargain for MF film shooters til about ten years ago, but its earned its retirement on the display shelf: leave it there in peace.


I'd always wanted to own one, because it was the very first MF camera I ever saw or handled. When I was a kid, my best friends sister dated a real estate photographer who used one: like many other pros in the '70s, he chose it primarily for the immensely less expensive wide angle 40mm and 50mm lenses compared to other systems. Ten years ago eBay was flooded with decent S2 gear for sparrow-feed prices, and I finally picked up a complete S2A system. I had a lot of fun with it, especially scaring people with that earth-shattering shutter noise (there is no louder camera on the planet: none). But for actual day-to-day use in the "post-modern-film" era, it pales in comparison to the later Bronica ETR or SQA or the Hasselblad they copied or a Mamiya RB67. Even my Mamiya TLR system gets way more use. The S2 and S2A are too loud, too heavy, too clumsy, and the goofball Nikkor lenses too hard to handle unless you just keep the standard lens glued to the body. The Nikkors are mostly great performers, but the innovative cost-saving "heads-only, no mount or helicoid because that stays with the body" design is an ergonomic nightmare when changing lenses. Worth the trouble back when the cost of each Hassy lens could buy you a premium year-old used car, but not in today's much more diverse and affordable market.


Bronica S2 users also inevitably run up against the Achilles Heel of its otherwise very clever design: the woefully misconceived focusing screen hardware. It relies on a system of foam strips and tiny springs to orient it accurately, these always drift within a couple years (which earned the system an undeserved rep for crappy lenses, something Nikon was none too happy about). So the focusing accuracy is pretty much terrible with 90% of the S2 bodies you'll find today: restoring it is not as easy as some of the youTube tutorials makes it look, and alternative screens that fit properly have long ago vanished from availability. Coupled with the excruciatingly complex mirror/viewscreen blind mechanics that almost no camera tech under the age of 80 can repair, the system just isn't practical anymore as anything but a curio or collectible.


As far as wanting to shoot medium format "discreetly", in some ways that isn't really possible today. For one thing, virtually every medium format camera looks like a wildly-dated antique now: this alone attracts unwanted attention and curiosity. Some photographers turn this to advantage, engaging people in conversation and making a collaborative photo. But unnoticed grab shots of people behaving un-posed can be a challenge. For another, many MF cameras are as big and noisy as a motorized modern DSLR. This can be less obvious on a busy noisy urban street, but if someone is alert they will easily catch you out.


The most discreet MF cameras are the fixed-lens compact TLRs like Rollei and Yashica, followed by the folders. The folders are more obvious, because you hold them up to your face, but they're silent and fast (with practice you can grab a shot with no one catching you). The small TLRs are also silent, and many people don't register them as cameras when you aim with their waist-level finders. BUT: they look positively baroque to anyone under 50, and attract attention on that score (especially the blinged-out Rolleiflex, which everyone under 30 is indoctrinated to worship in Hipster 101). The Yashicamat TLRs are mostly black and much less "look at ME", but prices have shot up to a ludicrous average of $400 (the 124G was a near-dispoable camera that Yashica couldn't give away for $99 new up thru the 1980s, and it still sold used for peanuts until 2008, when desperate hipsters hit on them as a Rollei alternative (if you want a TLR bad enough, $350 for a mint Yashica is still way less than the $1500 asked for similar Rolleis).


The most reliable, no-fuss, reasonably-priced TLR you can buy right now is a Mamiya C220. Patient hunting can land you one with an 80mm 2.8 or 100mm 3.5 for under $200. But they're larger, clumsier and a bit noisier than a Rolleiflex or Yashica (the trade-off for their interchangeable lenses and built-in close focusing bellows). Alternatives like Minolta Diacord had great lenses, but are rapidly escalating in price and have fatal design flaws like focus levers that snap off and can't be replaced. Even the farcical bargain-basement Chinese Seagull TLR, made of cardboard and and held together with a gluestick, has shot way up in price due to every hipster requiring a TLR around his/her neck as jewelry. If you can handle the slightly larger size and weight, Mamiya C220 is the way to go (in a pinch, its also great for beating muggers unconscious).

Edited by orsetto
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I guess I hadn't tracked Rollei prices too closely. My first MF camera was a really nice Rollecord Va, and I won it for I think a shade under $100 on an Ebay snipe. I paid about $125 for a Rolleiflex Automat IV not too much later(which needed a service-amazingly enough I got it apart, managed to set the film start mechanism correctly, and it still works perfectly now). I've owned a few others over the years, but bought a cosmetically nice(and working fine) Automat IV after I tripped over it(literally) in the local camera shop for $150 last year.
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There are bargain Rolleis to be found. of course, but "bargain" is a relative term and elusive unless you really have more than half a clue of what you're shopping for and exactly what to do if it turns out to be even more problematic than you gambled on. "Cheap" Rolleis often follow the pattern of "cheap" Hasselblads: older than Moses early versions with opaque screens and some combination of dodgy shutters, funky glass and/or frame spacing issues. There can be lots of life left in a half-dead Rollei, and dedicated photographers well-versed in fading Rolleis can work around issues that would stop a newbie cold. Jay Leno can pull to the shoulder and coax his sputtering 1962 Triumph with a toothpick and some chewing gum, but Joe Average would get a migraine (so should think twice before bidding on one of unknown provenance). Receiving a faulty Rollei kinda sucks the joy and anticipation out of owning one: it is advisable to pad one's budget for an overhaul, or look for a Rollei that's had a verifiable recent servicing. A properly-serviced Automat is a better deal than a random, more glamorous model with no documented history. Any camera ever made with a Zeiss or Schneider leaf-shutter lens has the potential to break your heart (and your piggy bank): shop wisely.
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A consultant at the shop (who took care of the camera) recommended not to by from ebay cause often the items are faulty there...


Frankly, with such advice, and such prices.... I would not return at that shop. Many ebay shops have a return policy, just keep an eye open for seller reputation, and buying on eBay works well enough.


I don't have a truckload of experience with MF gear, but my only entry in this field is a nice starter camera: a Yashica D. Cheap, light, silent, discreet, and mine so far is perfectly reliable too. No metering, no thrills camera; optically probably not the best, but it doesn't disappoint either. And I paid less than a fifth of what that shop is trying to make you pay for a camera.

It is true that prices for TLRs on eBay are relatively high, but with patience you will find this model for less than $100.

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Stay away from the S2 for several reasons, It was last produced in 1968 and might have light leaks. The gears were not as strong as the S2A 1969-1976. The lens provided is not coated. Look for a P-C or H-C Nikkor. Lastly, for the price your looking at you can get a Bronica S2A which is a better camera. Brighter viewfinder, newer and probably in better condition, lighter and handles better, higher flash synch. 1/500 vs 1/40. Also a larger variety of lenses that are easier to find.

Lastly, the newer the Bronica the easier and cheaper it is to service.

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