About to Pull the Trigger on a Bronica SQ-Ai

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by tron_, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Hello:

    I have been shooting 35mm SLR cameras for years now and I really want to make the jump to MF. I almost bought a Mamiya 645 off of here but have come across the Bronica SQ-Ai which really appeals to me (mostly because it is so much cheaper than the Mamiya).

    I was wondering if someone could recommend me a good wide angle lens for the Bronica and wether you think it is a good camera for a MF beginner as myself. I know Mamiya glass is fantastic and they really do not make a bad lens, but I have not heard much about Bronica glass and would like to pick up a wide and a standard for an SQ-Ai.

    Thanks!
     
  2. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I have its slightly older brother, the SQ-A and I enjoy working with it. I think for real world use, the lenses are as good as any. There is a 50 mm f/3.5 which I have and also a 40 mm which I don't have (and is fairly rare and pricey). The 80 mm f/2.8 is a "normal" lens. The PS series lenses are typically newer than the earlier S series. The PS is arguably better as it has 1/2 stop detents, newer coatings, and will typically be of more recent manufacture. Light seals in the backs (film magazines) are the Achilles heel, but can be DIY repaired. These cameras were a less expensive alternative to Hasselblad and used much by wedding photographers, so some may have had a hard life, that's the only possible downside. I had some weirdness with the first SQ-A body I got, but since such bodies ran around 100 USD, that was remedied by replacement.

    I believe the Ai offers some TTL metering with appropriate flashes and is slightly more "electronic" -- uses a electrical cable release instead of mechanical and has a different winding crank which affects a few accessory compatibilities. But for a basic body with waist level finder, they're all pretty much the same.

    (Up one level in that PBase hierarchy will link to some of what I've done with my Bronica.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2012
  3. andrew.roos

    andrew.roos Member

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    Just note that the 40mm lens takes 95mm filters, which may be an issue if you shoot landscapes. One of the reasons I went with the ETRSi is that all the lenses, including the 40mm, take the same 62mm filters.
     
  4. eggsovereasy

    eggsovereasy Member

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    The S version of the 50mm has a 67mm filter ring which is what the vast majority of SQ lenses use (the PS 50 has 77mm filter rings). As far as I can remember only the fisheye, 40mm, PS 50mm, and 110mm f/4.5 macro don't have 67mm filter rings.

    I use a standard mechanical cable release with my Ai.
     
  5. CGW

    CGW Member

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    There's also the SQ-B--a budget version of the Ai. Although lacking the electronics to run metered finders and motor drives, it is newer and sold for less as kit than SQ-Ai separates. I like the 65mm PS for a moderate wide angle. 120 backs tend to be pricey but 220 backs can be used with 120 film. It's a durable, light, and easy handling MF system and really the only recent 6x6 SLR alternative to Hasselblad.
     
  6. flatulent1

    flatulent1 Subscriber

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    Every couple of years I get an itch for a square format with WLF for walking around. Usually for an SQ-AI, sometimes for a Rollei SL66. The last couple of times I priced the Bronica I was surprised how much I'd have to lay out for a kit, and gave up the idea. Eventually I bought myself another Mamiya 645 Pro, WLF, crank, and 55mm lens, and content myself with not shooting vertical; I can always crop.
     
  7. CGW

    CGW Member

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    That's why I was grateful to snag an SQ-B kit+speed winder+hood for very little. 120 backs and WLFs alone are extortionately priced. The scarce close-focus teles like the 135mm and 180mm are even worse, as is the 110/4.5 macro.
     
  8. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    That's true about the filters, the PS series is less consistent in filter sizing. The 110 mm 4.5 1:1 macro, which I also have, uses 72 mm. I've ended up with several filter sets; had I known where I was headed, I might have gone with one large set and step-up rings. The PS 50 mm uses a 77 mm, but has very low tolerance for stuff stacked on the front at that diameter.


    Apparently I was mis-informed about the release; I confess it seemed odd the Ai couldn't use a mechanical release, but I thought I had read that. My hands-on experience to date is with its older sibling.

    Someone upthread mentioned the 65 mm. I also have one of those and that could be a possible compromise in place of a 50 and an 80, a sort of wide normal. Though I admit to going with the 80 when I drop down to one lens (it's f/2.8, vs f/4 for the 65, for one thing). I haven't gone for the longer lenses, (so far).
     
  9. kelvinleung

    kelvinleung Member

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    have been using a SQ-A for over a year. traded it with my friend who used to do wedding in the 80s. The picture quality is really up to the standard of Carl Zeiss lens. The build is very robust, after years of heavy usage it's still very reliable. Whereas my Hassy 501 got jammed occasionally. I think the Bronica is a great system so the price is actually going up in ebay. The only drawback I see comparing to Mamiya / Hassy is service. Harder to find service man for Bronica nowadays.
     
  10. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Thanks for the replies everyone, is the only difference between the SQ-Ai and the SQ-B that the SQ-B does not have the electronics for a motor drive along with the electronics needed to run a metered prism?

    Because I remember finding a great video series about the SQ-Ai on YouTube a few weeks ago and he mentioned the differences between the SQ-Ai and the SQ-B but I cannot remember and I would go back to look but I am at work all day :sad:

    I thought I remember the SQ-B having a slower maximum shutter speed as well?
     
  11. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Also, thanks a TON for all the replies!
     
  12. David Henderson

    David Henderson Member

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    I used a Bronica SQ-Ai professionally for landscape/urban work for a dozen years and can recommend that camera. You do need to understand though that MF cameras were never made in the volume that modern slrs reach and that some form of attention- whether a service or the occasional need for repair- isn't unusual. The very low price of the equipment means that for some people a problem leads to replacement rather than repair (its often cheaper) and the substandard component finds its way onto an auction site. So who you buy it from and the extent to which they offer some form of warranty or refund is really quite important.

    WRT lens/filter thread issues discussed above- there is a 50S which does take 67mm filters. Unlike the longer lenses, there isn't a lot of difference between the 50S/PS in image quality, and the former will not let most people down. I used one for the entire time I used Bronica and you would not tell from my slides which were taken with the 50S. On the 110, a great lens btw there is an older version (though still PS) that takes the 67mm filters. It is cheaper and easier to find than the f4.5 version which focuses more closely. The lens I'm talking about focuses to c 2 feet and gives 1:4 magnification. So you can build a comprehensive lens system around 67mm filter threads.

    Make sure also that what you buy includes the manual wind-on lever ( scarce and expensive used) as well as any Speedgrip included. Having said that the Speedgrip is a very desirable accessory as it makes handling much easier. Both is best. Finally think before you buy about how you're going to meter. Bronicas meters are OK but very unsophisticated by comparison to recent 35mm or dslr. A lot of users -including this one- preferred to use a handheld meter.