Bronica S2a - still a good camera?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Slixtiesix, Dec 12, 2009.

  1. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Hi folks,
    a friend of mine is searching for an MF camera at the moment. Rollei SLRs and Hasselblad are out of budget, so we came about the mentioned Bronica.
    He is a big fan of Nikon so I thought he might like the Nikkors :wink: Some of them have really fast apertures for an MF lens, like 150/3,5 or 200/4. (He likes to shoot wide open)
    I´m still uncertain whether this is a good camera or not. They are selling on Ebay quite cheaply and the lenses seems to sell for next to nothing.
    Pictures I´ve looked at at Flickr seemed to be razor sharp and had a wonderful bokeh, but how about the mechanical reliability? Are the lenses multicoated?
    Which focal lenghts were available and which lenses will fit?

    Please be so kind to help me,
    regards, Benjamin
     
  2. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    Like any old camera, it will probably be a good idea to send it out for a CLA. This was/is a good system.

    I have a friend with one, he hasn't had a hitch with it, and as you already know it is capable of excellent results.

    Mike
     
  3. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    Here's a link to some good info on early Bronica cameras. Unfortunately the lens pages are in Japanese, but the Nikkors are listed.
     
  4. el wacho

    el wacho Member

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    i shoot one ( and alternate with a rollei sl66) and they are a great camera with superb optics. has a more solid-build feel to it compared to the rollei with no issues with matching the back's state with the body's state ( rollei is a little pedantic in this regard ). most of the nikkor optics have more aperture blades than the zeiss optics.
     
  5. whlogan

    whlogan Subscriber

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    I've been using them for many years.... carried a Bronica C around Vietnam in for about a year and it worked great. Came home and traded it for an EC, which was shortly upgraded to an EC-TL which lasted til I went 4x5. Now I use an S2A I got from Jimmy at KOH's cameras. I love them. they're noisy and bulky, but they work. Jimmy can also fix them right, too. Good choice in my view. Good luck finding a 40mm! Never force one!
    Logan
     
  6. el wacho

    el wacho Member

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    to add to the previous poster's comments... you should never force any camera but if you had to the s2a is one of the cameras you could. the wind mechanism has a sort of slip clutch that protects the gears from overwinding. never believed it till i accidently confirmed what i had read. the bronica s, s2 and c don't have this.
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I would love to get one myself....I have a friend who loves his, and they seem well built. If the lenses look anything like the early single-coated Nikon F lenses, I am getting one for sure. Those are my favorite lenses ever.

    P.S. Do they have mirror lockup (or pre-release)?
     
  8. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    They are great cameras. I used one for a number of years but finally sold it due to repeated problems with the backs and the scarcity of parts. I also found the lens not to be as constrasty as the Zeiss lenses I went to.
     
  9. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I once owned an S2A and used it trouble free for 19 years at which time I used it in trade for Hasselblad. Much to my delight I received what I had originally payed for it. Both the Nikkor and Fujinon lenses were very sharp.
     
  10. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    The other lenses were Zenzanon not Fujinon -- sorry.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a pretty extensive S2a system and recommend it, particularly if you like having options like ultrawide or long lenses which are really expensive with many other systems, or if you want to use the Zone system and own five backs, which are mostly switchable between 120 and 220 (there was also an earlier 120 only back, but you don't see these so often). Another interesting feature is the availability of a macro bellows with full view camera movements for tabletop work or just when you want the speed of rack and pinion focusing, and it is very easy to adapt large format lenses to the old Bronicas, if you like to do that sort of thing.
     
  12. wclavey

    wclavey Member

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    I will second what everyone has said... I have an S2A, bought used about 4 years ago, with all the Nikkor lenses except one, 3 film backs, the prism finder and 3 'hacked' lenses (2 LF and one origin unknown). I sent it out for a CLA shortly after getting it (Jimmy Kohs in NY) and it has served me well. Probably the only other 2 things I would consider getting, at some point, are the bellows (as David mentioned) and the chimney finder - - the prism isn't that great but having the completely enclosed focus screen is really helpful down here in the bright TX sun. If you get one, you might also want to consider getting a newer, brighter ground glass - - an easy upgrade for about $25.
     
  13. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    I have a relatively large S2A system, with a mixture of Zenzanon and Nikkor lenses, and I am very pleased with the results I get from it. Of the lenses I have, I use the Zenzanon 100mm 2.8 and Nikkor 50mm 2.8 the most, followed by the Zenzanon 150mm 3.5.

    A very useful feature of the system is that it can focus very closely with normal and wide-angle lenses. On the ultra-wide-angle side, I have the Nikkor 40mm, but it isn't as sharp as the other lenses I have. The backs are also very nice, are easy to load, and you don't have to worry about the camera and back being in sync or not.

    Trond
     
  14. Joe Grodis

    Joe Grodis Member

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    I've always been a big Bronica fan. The S2 is a very nice camera but for a daily user you may want to look at a Bronica ETR. The ETR tends to be cheaper, more reliable, and there's still a lot of lenses, backs and such on the market. The S2 is more of a collectors item these days and accessories can be pricey and rare. I use the Bronica-S and treat it like the rare gem it is. ETR's are more common and are(for now at least) easily replaced. KEH has ETR bodies for under $100 USD.
     
  15. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    I don't think I agree with that, a S2(A) is a very usable camera, and most of the accessories are not that difficult to get. The old Bronicas have features that you won't find on more modern Bronicas, such as a focal plane shutter and an instant return mirror. The latter a very useful feature when using the camera hand held.

    On the other hand, the S2A cameras are getting old, and the SQ and ETR series of cameras will for many be a better choice.

    Trond
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree that Bronica accessories are in general astonishingly cheap. The only real exceptions I think are long Nikkor teles. When I acquired most of my S2a kit maybe 10-12 years ago it was all pretty affordable, and part of the reason I've kept it even though I'm shooting more large format these days, is that it isn't really worth the trouble of selling it, because prices are even lower than they were then.

    Trond, I'm surprised that you find the Nikkor 40mm soft. Mine isn't, and I'd venture that it's as sharp or sharper than either of the two Nikkor 50mm lenses (a late 2.8 and earlier 3.5) I've had. It could just be sample variation, or maybe it's been dropped at some point in its history, but an ultrawide is more likely to reveal focus issues with the camera than longer lenses, so it's worth rechecking the foam that holds down (or when it gets old pulls up) the focusing screen, which you've probably looked at in the past, and if that doesn't improve things, then the registration of the focusing helical, mirror alignment, and back issues like registration and film flatness.

    That raises another point for the original poster. Earlier Bronicas all develop a focus problem that is easy to fix, and it is worth fixing this on any older Bronica that hasn't been serviced recently before even using the camera, though you might run a careful focus test with film to be sure before taking a screwdriver to the camera.

    Remove the finder by lifting the tab on the front, and you'll see that the focusing screen is held down by a metal frame that is usually held in place with four screws. There is light sealing neoprene foam under this frame that presses down on the focusing screen, which should be matte-side down and resting on rails that hold it in registration with the focal plane, and there may be shims adjusting it. If you remove the focusing screen to clean in, which is a good idea, be careful not to lose track of any shims, which may or may not be there. The fresnel lens sits in a well under the focusing screen, and I believe it is usually face up, but if you decide to remove and clean it as well, note its position, so you can put it back the same way.

    The neoprene foam deteriorates eventually and becomes sticky and pulls up on the focusing screen, instead of pushing it down, and pulls the groundglass out of registration. After cleaning the screen and the frame of old foam, you can replace it with the same type of foam that is used for light seals on camera backs, or you can cut up an old neoprene mouse pad and use the foam in the same way, attaching it with contact cement, or you can follow the recommendation of Sam Sherman, an guru on a few of the old Bronica lists, who used Moleskin (the kind that you put on blisters available in the foot care section of your local pharmacy) for this purpose, since it doesn't get gooey like neoprene. I've done this, and it works pretty well. If you remove the frame initially and find that there is already moleskin there instead of gooey neoprene, you can assume that the previous owner has already made this modification and put the frame back and test the focus with film to be sure everything is okay.
     
  17. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    I find that it gets noticeably softer towards the edges/corners. I suppose it's quite possible that my lens is a bad example, as I've only heard good things about it. My 50mm is much sharper.

    Trond
     
  18. rphenning

    rphenning Member

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    I used to have the S2A. The gears ground because the person who gave it to me didn't know much about it and probably tried to force something that shouldn't have been forced....but the images it gave me were beautiful. Now all I have left is the Nikkor 50 2.8.
     
  19. Canon Eye

    Canon Eye Member

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    I have both the EC and EC-TL with three lenses and both cameras are excellent to work with. 6X6 is my favorite of the medium formats. There are still repair services in Atlanta and Virginia that do excellent work if needed...all I've ever needed was a CLA just to be sure it was working OK.
     
  20. Uncle Goose

    Uncle Goose Member

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    I would take an ETRSi or a SQAi, both are the newest types of Bronica. While the older types may function pretty well they are getting old and parts can be difficult to locate and repair might be impossible in some cases due this fact. The ETRSi and SQAi are both great performers and there are still plenty of parts available, some even new old stock and the prices are not insane high if you stick with a standard outfit.