Bronica S2A worth buying

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by alex66, May 26, 2008.

  1. alex66

    alex66 Member

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    Right I have a Mamiya 645 with basic prism and a 55 on the way, But I have seen a couple of S2As at very nice prices and am wondering how good are they, I love the square format (also have a seagull tlr) so think this would be a useful addition. So have any of you got any advice.
     
  2. wclavey

    wclavey Member

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    I think it is a matter of personal likes & taste... after using a Mamiya C220/C3 for 25 years, I bought a used Bronica S2A kit (body, 3 film backs, 55mm, 80mm, 250mm, prism finder) and I have loved using it. I like the square format, too, and the S2A has made using that format much more flexible. I like the measure-twice-cut-once aspect of using the Mamiyas, and it is a lot like when I shoot 4x5, but the Bronica kit is great to grab and go - - it has become my default go-to kit. I had the body checked out and tuned up and the service has been great. But I think it comes down to how well the system works for you.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a fairly extensive S2a system, and I think the Nikkor optics are great (particularly the wide lenses for this system), and it offers some unique options, like a tilt-shift bellows system and switchable 12/24 backs. Right now, it's an excellent value.
     
  4. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    I bought new a Mamiya 645 system 30 years ago. I use it frequently and have only recently replaced the seals, otherwise it is as good as the day I got it. I have the 55, 80, 150, and 105-210 zoom lens. The zoom lens is the only used piece of equipment I have for that system. It's was a $50.00 bid on eBay, kind of a fluke, I wasn't excited about it and thought I wouldn't win. When it came it was one of those rare times when the product is really like new. I really like the 645, and the zoom lens is fantastic. I had never seriously used one but this one is sharp. It has the newer coating. The left hand grip is a must for handheld use, it's very comfortable consider getting one.

    Curt
     
  5. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    I can only speak for the Nikkor lenses and, as David mentioned, they're great. I have 3 Nikkor lenses and one Zenzanon lens, the 150/3.5, which is excellent, too. The Bronical EC-TL camera body is what I use and I use the system fairly frequently with no problems (knock on wood). If you're adventurous, the amount of lenses one can adapt to the Bronica focal plane shuttered cameras is amazing.

    As you've seen, alex66, prices for this system are low for what you're getting so give it a try. Perhaps you've already seen this, but, in case you haven't, here's a website with some Bronica info for you:
    http://nikomat.homeip.net/priv/camera/mednikkor/bronica/bronica-e.html

    Hope that helps. :smile:

    Marc
     
  6. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    I am using a Bronica S2A, and have several Nikkor and Bronica lenses. The camera is very nice and reliable. It can be used successfully hand held at quite long shutter speeds and the Nikkor and Zenzanon lenses are excellent. The backs are easy to load with a very handy 120/220 capability.

    The camera is very noisy, heavy and the built in screen is a little dim, but these are minor issues.

    It may be an issue that the camera is incredibly complicated. Many repairmen refuse even to look at it, so that can be a problem if something goes wrong.

    Trond
     
  7. mhulsman

    mhulsman Member

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    Lens adapt

    Marc,

    Can you mention some of the lenses you can adapt to this camera and how you did it.
    I also own an EC-TL with 80mm and 150mm.
    Would be nice to have more lenses for this camera.
     
  8. alex66

    alex66 Member

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    Thanks for the fast replies, I think Ill have to consider which version to go for.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It is fairly easy to adapt large format lenses to the Bronica helical using the 57x1mm screw mount thread. Bronica used to make a threaded disk like a lensboard that could be drilled so that photographers who had been using press cameras could easily adapt their press lenses to the Bronica, as long as they were of sufficient focal length (the flange to film distance is a little over 101mm, so you're generally safe with any lens longer than about 110mm).

    I've got a few adaptations. The simplest is a 25cm/4.5 Heliar, which had been previously adapted I think for Exacta, and it seems to be permanently fixed to this tube that slips right into a Bronica screw-mount extension tube. A little gaffer's tape to hold it in place, and it works.

    Frank Marshman made me a Canon FD-Bronica bayonet mount adapter so that I can use my FD lenses for macro on the Bronica, and I've got an FD-RMS adapter for lenses like the FD 35/2.8 Macrophoto and my 25mm Zeiss Luminar.

    The most ambitious adaptation I have for Bronica is a 500/5.5 Tele-Xenar which mounts by means of a custom machined tube made by SK Grimes to the Komura Universal Helical II for Bronica, and I've also got an extra extension tube for this helical for close focusing. The thread of this helical is larger than the standard Bronica helical, and the focusing distance is longer for long lenses. I think the whole project including the tube and the lens in barrel cost me around $500-600. The helical came with a Komura 300mm lens and also takes Komura 400mm and 500mm heads, but the price of the 300mm is only around $350, so even considering that, if you compare the cost of a comparable 500mm lens for Hasselblad or Rollei, it's a real bargain.
     
  10. wclavey

    wclavey Member

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    I have a B&L Rapid Rectilinear (~1913?, ~165mm) adapted for the Bronica by mounting the Ball bearing shutter in a Bronica body cap and then using the extension tubes to give me the approrpriate length... similar to the assembly that David described. It actually turns out to be one of my favorite lenses. It is about f/8 and I have a Series VI adapter I use on it with an ND filter or yellow Y1 or Y15 to keep the exposure in the range that I can shoot it wide open. I can remove the ball bearing shutter and mount another of my 4x5 lenses & shutters in it, but the RR is the best.
     
  11. mhulsman

    mhulsman Member

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    Thanks for the info.

    I have all 3 extension tubes, so it is worth to try other lenses.

    Mike.
     
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The full set has four extension tubes.
     
  13. jmxphoto

    jmxphoto Member

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    From what I understand, the Bronica S2's had a design flaw where certain gears in the "mess of gears" on the crank side would fail and need to be replaced on a more than normal basis. This comes from my Grandfather in law who fixes watches, clocks, and occassionally cameras. He's worked on S2's before and doesn't have a high opinion of them. Now the S2A supposedly fixed some of the problems, but I also read somewheres that they just used a stronger steel on the gears and they'll still wear out it just takes a little longer. Personally I have a SQ-A and have been very happy with it. FWIW if you're looking for an older 6x6 SLR, don't skip over the Kowa's.
     
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  15. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    I've heard and read several places that the problem with the S2, was that some gears would just break if winding the camera to hard. According to a statement from Bronica, the S2A introduced a overdrive protection, in addition to other improvements in the winding mechanism, to deal with the problem.
     
  16. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    I have an S2A, and it is an outstanding camera. It is extremely rugged, and the optics are the best you are likely to find. A slight quibble is that the prism finder (optional) is dark and hard to see through, especially if you wear glasses. The most important problem is its age. It is very difficult to find accessories for this camera now, and wear is likely to be taking its toll. I suspect service may also be a problem. I had to rebuild one of my film magazines myself (not a big problem). An advantage is that you can sometimes find pretty complete outfits at very low prices.

    I would not give up a working Mamaiya to get an S2A, but I would certainly buy one as another camera.
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The S2a has steel instead of brass gearing, an overwind clutch, and other improvements. That said, there are lots of S2's out there that haven't been handled by gorillas and should be fine as long as you don't force anything. Then again, S2a's are cheap, so there's no reason not to get one instead of an S2.
     
  18. larsco2002

    larsco2002 Member

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    I used to use the Bronica S2a....

    The Nikkor 75mm lens (standard) is an incredible performer. The S2 and S2a are virtually identical, but there is a weak gear in the transport mechanism of the S2, which was improved in the S2a. I had an S2 and S2a. I had the gear mod done on the S2 by Bald Mountain in Ca... this was years ago. The Zenzanon lens are also very good. I would still be using that kit... 2 bodies, 4 lenses, prism and film holders today, if it had not been stolen out of my car about ten years ago. Lock em up.

    I also agree with the comment on the Kowa system. I had a Kowa Six and a couple of lenses. I was always tempted to get the Kowa Super 66 with removable backs. Kowa glass is superb. The Kowa is a big camera however, so when the S2a's disappeared, I went to the SQ-A. The leaf shutter in all the Bronica lenses is a real plus, and the lens prices have come down enough that buying all your lenses with shutters is not as forbidding pricewise as when they were new. The Bronica, as a result of the in-lens shutters, does not suffer from the vertical shutter motion in the body. Using mirror lockup and the in-lens shutter with a cable release means NO camera induced shake.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2008
  19. BBonte

    BBonte Member

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    I have an EC TL, very satisfied. I am wondering to what extent these are weathersealed. Just used on the beach in Belgium during stormy weather.
     
  20. alinCiortea

    alinCiortea Member

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    I also share the opinion that the S2a is a beautiful beast. It is loud, it is heavy and you need to turn the crank four times (with a very weird 'clank' at the end), but it's seems to have a soul of its own.

    I'd like to know if Kiev 88 focusing screens (such as this one) can be fitted in the S2a (and if they need to be modified, what would this require). The stock ground glass is a bit dim and I found myself staring to tears at times (although my sight is rather good).

    I apologize if I'm hijacking the thread but seeing David active here I thought I could get some answers that might be of interest for other S2a owners or pretenders :smile:
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've adapted a Kiev TTL Spot prism to the S2a, so I suspect that a Kiev focusing screen might be about the right size, but you might have to cut it down a bit. One question is where the focus plane is in the screen. In the S2a, there is a plastic fresnel lens facing upward that rests in a well below the focus plane, and then the groundglass sits on rails, matte side down, and this is where the focus plane is. There are springs pressing up on the groundglass, and there is a frame with polyurethane foam pressing down on the groundglass. When this foam deteriorates, you have a focus problem, but that's another story (an easy fix, but it seems to happen to all old Bronicas).

    So, if the Kiev screen has the groundglass surface on the bottom and the fresnel lens on top and if it is large enough to sit on the rails that support the groundglass (perhaps after cutting it down slightly), then it could work. If the fresnel is on the bottom, though, then you would have to do something like cutting a rabbet all the way around the groundglass, so that the matte surface inside this one-piece groundglass/fresnel screen would be in the right plane.
     
  22. alinCiortea

    alinCiortea Member

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    I know about the focusing issue (even had started a thread about this here on APUG) and I've solved mine after getting the camera but I can't find any technical details about the Kiev screen, aside it's dimensions (56x56 - not sure they are correct though). I've read something on photo.net about adapting such a screen on the S2a, but the author only mentioned it required a little hacking, whatever that means (the thread was started back in 2000)
     
  23. Nick Merritt

    Nick Merritt Member

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    Weighing in a little late here. I really like the S2A. I got one very cheap on eBay a couple of years ago, sort of a Frankenbronny -- black back, chrome body, grey leather WLF (from an S2, probably), and a Zenzanon 80/2.4. I paid a little over $125. But it's rugged and handles well, and just looks totally cool. I love the chrome trim work, and the way the normal lens seats so deeply in the body. The lenses are great, whether they're the Nikkors, Zenzanons or Komuras -- I have a 50 Komura that is excellent.

    I do realize these are quite complicated cameras, but there are repairers out there -- Koh's Camera in New York is a specialist, I believe. If you find one in good shape, I wouldn't hesitate.
     
  24. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Bronica cameras that were made prior to the S2a had a bad reputation for reliablity. The 40mm,500mm, 75mm, 135mm and 200mm Nikkors were quite nice. I have a problem remembering if there was a 105mm Nikkor. Actually, I have a problem remembering what I had for lunch.
     
  25. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There is a Nikkor 105mm/3.5 leaf shutter lens for the S2, S2a, EC and EC-TL, a tessar type like the 135mm.
     
  26. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    One of the problems with the Bronica S cameras is that they are complicated.
    They do alot things at once and so there are alot of things to go wrong.

    The bronica S, S2, and S2A's mirror slides on a track down and forward. Blinds cover the mirror on the bottom and the focus screen on the top. The roller-blind shutter fires. Then the blinds and mirror return to the original position automatically. Alot of these things are driven on strings. The spring required to do all of this work required alot of tension and thus the gears were prone to wear.

    I really liked the S that I had but it didnt last. On the S you focus using the knob on the side. The S2 and S2a changed from a rack-and-pinion focus to a helical focus. That means that you have to use the (Rather large) ring around the lens to focus. This is quite a pain but is improved alot if you can find one of the lever attachments.

    The S series cameras are also considerably more bulky than a hasselblad.

    I havent used an SQ myself but they are highly rated by most.