I like 'em a lot for shooting hand held. They are convenient, and give an improvement in print sharpness over 35mm. In well-lit situations, they are a way to act as if you were shooting small format while getting sharper results. Due to lens speed and minimum hand holdable shutter speeds, I feel that 35mm is superior below a certain level of light. Shooting 220 in my Mamiya M645 feels a lot like shooting 35, especially with the right hand motor grip. They allow the use of fast films with smaller grain than you'd get with 35mm. I most use them when I want to use fast film for whatever reason, but also want less grain than with 35mm. versus square format, I like not having a square and getting more shots on the roll sometimes. The killer tool is the Hassy with a 645 back, as it allows so much versatility, but I don't want to pay for it, or the lifetime of buying expensive stuff for it when the results I get from the Mamiya exceed my criteria already. For a camera of the Hassy style, I use my RZ. I would have a hard time not having the RZ and M645 in exchange for having a Hassy, but maybe I would do it, if it was a nice enough Hassy kit that I got in the end, and for a good enough price......It'd have to be damned cheap, though.
Late to the discussion but after 20+ years I have no regrets of choosing the Bronica ETRS system. It can be configured to meet almost anyone's style. Can be light and simple to fully provisioned and most anything in between. Pop on the waist level finder and pull off everything else and it is a lightweight (well, relatively) carry around or add the speed grip and metered prism and you have a camera that is around the weight of a totl 35mm though larger. Add a motor drive and you need not spend money at a gym. The later models though are lighter and better for walking around. Want a camera for vacation but not wanting to blow the budget on 120, pop off the 120 back and pop on the 35N back. Want to do landscape, pop on the 35W back.
Lens are sharp and though there are 3 versions, the original MC, the PE and PEII, the big differenences are only a bit more contrast and the 1/2 stop clicks on the later lens. Look at the inventory of lenses available across the 3 generations and you are well covered incuding several zooms and a shift lens. Extension tubes, a bellows, extenders and something like 5 different finders and the list goes on.
When the line was in production you could feel like akid in a candy store and having a American Express Gold Card was about the only way to satisfy the hunger. Today, the going prices for really good pieces is I think one of the biggest bargains out there. I can put together a basic system for not much more than a Yashica FX3.
As for durability, at least for me I've had no problems what so ever. Any camera can have shutter issues with time but as each lens has its own leaf shutter even if one freezes up all is not lost. The battery is current production, a PX28 so no issue with mercury conversions. The earlier bodies have more metal to being all metal but even the last ETRSi body with the most plastic is a brick in build. A number of companies are supporting repairs and I suspect repairs will not be a problem for many years to come.
If I had a gripe about the system, it is that the company tried to make it all things to all persons and offered such a variety of options and accessories that it could be scary. I have envisioned the committee for development and design sitting in the room and no one agreeing on what it should be so to get the project moving they simply made modules so each committee person was satisfied.
Towards the end of Bronica's life, the system did fail to keep up and was somewhat conservative in improvements. On the other hand, the series was truly universal across the board. Nothing was obsoleted by a newer model. This loss of competitiveness is not as important today as when the series was in production.
In the final analysis I've learned that how a camera feels in the hand and the emotion it creates in the owner is as important and probably more so than the technology under the hood. If these criteria are not met then the desire to photograph does not rise to a passion. As the Bronica can be configured in so many ways, take some time and try different layouts to see if any create that passion.
- 2F/2F -
I pretty much agree on the 35 mm having the edge for low light. Actually the reason why I will be getting soon a fixed lens RF (Canonet QL17 or KOnica S3 or similar)
- BrianL -
You are correct about your timing, but we still do appreciate your opinion on the Bronica. Should I ever feel the need to add a MF SLR camera it would be on the list.
I will be adding more (also in color) to my flick in the near future (after I get my scanner calibration right)
I love that second picture!
I started with a Yashicamat. Pretty happy with the pics; then about a year ago I got a Mamiya Rb6X7 Pro S; 2 bodies, 4 backs , 6 'C' lenses and an Extension Tube. That change my opportunities. In the meantime I got a Rolleicord and a Rolleiflex 1958 with a Planar 1:3.5. I use them all, for different purposes. Trying to get a good Folder.
Okay, BrianL talking about Bronica confused me for a moment there. ;)
I'm on the 6x6 side of the brand. My only 6x4.5 camera is a folder - the Zenobia.
Great monkey portrait, you could put so many different captions with that one, very well captured.
The original posting was related to the 645 format and camera. I the MF realm I've used up through 6x9 but for me anything larger than 6x6 is too large as a walk around and handhold shooter. Even 6x6 and 645 I tend to use a tripod for about 90% of my shooting. I do like the Rolleiflex as a walk around but most other 6x6s including the SQ I find a bit too cumbersome. The 645 ETR is so flexible with the ability to go from a simple light SLR to a loaded tank in both 120 and 35mm wass the answer for me as I am not into having multiple systems or at least that is what I tell my wife.
I can also recommend the ETRSi. Great system and fantastic optics.