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Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by chip j, May 26, 2013.
I'm concerned about reliability and where to get service, Also, how are the lenses? Yhanks, Chip
I can't say anything about servicing because may camera has never needed it, but the lenses are top quality. You are probably thinking about comparisons with the Big 'H' brand, but having used both I can't say I find an awful lot of difference in the results.
I've got an SQ-A with 50, 80 and 150mm lenses, and can't say that I have any complaints about their images. OK, sometimes I think the Zeiss Planar on the 500C/M has a bit more depth to the image, but really, for the most part the Bronica lenses are just fine. And I do like the handling with the Action Grip or whatever it is called, with the thumb wind for the film advance -- the grip make the camera easier to hold steady, especially when it's glued to your eye. I can recommend the cameras.
This is a great camera system. As someone mentioned, the grip is fantastic and Hassy offers nothing like it. Lenses are good too, the 80mm is a fantastic lens. Don't be concerned about comparability to Hassy lenses, the SQ lenses are so close you may only notice a difference if you shot into the sun, or shot wide open etc. If you want super sharp lenses in MF you go with a rangefinder anyway. You can't go wrong with the SQ if you don't mind an SLR.
My SQa is my daily driver. I have the standard 80 and a 50, which is the lens I use most often. I get tack sharp images. I use Fuji Acros and Provia 100 films. Get a couple extra 120 film backs, but don't bother with the 22 film backs, they don't advance properly with 129 film. Enjoy!
I suspect the cost of a replacement part would more often be less than the cost of having it serviced. There are plenty of SQ cameras, lenses, backs and finders out there, so you won't run out of supply anytime soon. Buy from a reputable source, such as KEH which will also get you a 6 month warranty.
I used to own an S2a and the EC. The earlier Bronica cameras used a focal plane shutter. With the SQ, Bronica copied the Hasselblad and used leaf shutter lenses.
The fit and finish of the Bronica isn't quite as nice as the Blad but is a lot less expensive. The lenses are comparable in real life shooting. If you saw a bunch of 11x14's mixed on a table made with the Bronica and the Blad, you wouldn't know what was shot with which camera. The only negative that I have ever heard about them is that the film backs are the weak part of the system as far as reliability. Now you need to understand that I read this on the internet and I don't really know how true this is. Of course as cheap as they are, you can afford to replace the film backs if they wear out.
Koh's Camera in New York are the experts in Bronica cameras. In my experience, Jimmy Koh is a great guy to deal with. If you have any technical questions you can contact them.
Second the comment about Jimmy Koh. A super person and a fine Bronica Technician. He will tell you what he's got; what shape it's in; how much and so on and its fair. Good outfit. I trust them.
I think the merits of the Bronica SQ are greatly exaggerated. The 80mm PS lens is superb in B&W but every other lens I found lackluster, especially for color photography. The color rendition looks very dated to me, similar to what cheap off-brand DSLR lenses look like today. The 180mm PS lens was the second best among the ones I tested (PS50, PS65, PS80, S105, PS150, PS180, PS250) but other than those two, I would certainly rather go for a Mamiya C or Bronica S instead, if you need to stay in the same price range.
The older Bronica S has a fantastic lineup in the Nikkor OC 50mm f2.8, Zenzanon 100mm f2.8 and Zenzanon MC 150mm f3.5. If you need the higher speed sync of leaf shutter lenses, I'd suggest going for Hassy and be done with it.
Last I checked the web site, Jimmy had retired from camera repair.
Bronica is a terrific system. I've owned mine for about 17 years and rarely had any trouble. All modern lenses are top notch. Pixel peeping won't reveal any significant difference.
Thanks much. I do have ac330 w/6 lenses & a Paramender 2, so maybe I'll stay put.
Another note on Jimmy Koh, he did excellent work on two of my bodies over the years.
Unfortunately though for us, if you'll check his website, kohscamera.com, you'll see he has retired from the repair business.
You sure have that right, our loss.
I sincerely wish Jimmy the best and a long, long, long retirement!
OK, I'm not going to pull any punches - I have been using a SQAi for the last few years and I have had my fair share of issues:
80mm lens - variable shutter speeds/sticking shutter when set to 1/500
150mm lens - short on the flash circuit. Started out as firing the flash out of sync, ended up not firing flash at all
Intermittent Scratches on the film
Now here is the cruncher - The SQ series were used by professionals and I would say that the majority have had a decent, if not hard, life. They are working cameras, not shelf queens.
And now here is the best bit - the camera's are totally serviceable. Yes, there are experts such as Jim Koh, but there are also many other camera technicians who can adequately service these camera's. Yes, I do have issues, but I also acknowledge that a good CLA will probably resolve the lot.
My biggest concern is that the second hand market has all but dried up - KEH have a fraction of the stock they did a few years ago. The Evil Auction site seems to only have ridiculous 'Buy It Now' listings.
The main comparison that I have is obviously with the 'blad range - Value for money, the SQ series beats these hands down.
The Bronica lenses are great. The 80, shot open, does something lovely (not talking to the scientific lens-test crowd, here) and almost magical.
There are a lot of junk cameras out there now from old wedding shops, etc. I've bought 6 or 8 used SQs over the last 12 or 15 years, keeping my main cameras for tripod work and carrying the others when I'm hiking or whatever. Often the film mags are loose or worn down from years on the motor drive. One way to limit your exposure is to stick to SQ-Ais, which weren't made very long, and make sure you get a really tight camera.
I got my extra SQ-Am body from a dealer in good condition for the price of 10 Films. No need for CLAs with this prices... Since I have this body I use it most of the time (have 2 SQ-A also). also found a mint S 8/500 for 200 Euro recently, the advantage of the SQ sytem is that you can find a lot of cheap acessories (bellows,mhand grip, prism finder, Screens) and lenses...
I ended up selling my 503cx to go with an etrsi outfit. I would have gone with an sq but I don't print square, and while I enjoy composing on a square screen it's just a waste when I end up cropping it down to 6x4.5 anyhow. I'm sort of backwards, I hated my hassy. I found a million reasons to just hate the system. Now that I have a bronica, i'm finding that I hate it just as much.. Buyer/Seller remorse. Try unlearning how to use a hasselblad, it's freaking impossible. Nothing else feels the same.
I don't know if the SQ back system is like the ETRS system, but the etrs system sucks. The backs have things sticking out that I know i'm going to break at some point. They don't fit into the body well at all, at least not on mine. With a hasselblad, you don't force anything. You don't need to. With this etrsi, I have to smack the back into the body. People whine about loading film into a hasselblad back? This bronica insert is so freaking fiddly..
Don't let all of my negative comments turn you off from what you want, my perfect camera doesn't exist.
Heck, in the end one of the major reasons was that bronica has 'normal strap lugs with a hole in them'. $50 for a camera strap?! With this I can tie some rope on two d-rings from home depot and be on my way.
My experiences exactly with the PS lenses. The high resolution I prefer and fine microdetail just isn't there. The most recent Mamiya RB and RZ lenses are in another league than the Bronica PS series. (That extra 20 to 30 lp/ml of resolution with the mamiya lenses over the Bronica PS series is noticeable when you do your own printing.)
I swithched and haven't looked back.
You may agree with sveamarcus, but personally I think there is a world of difference between 'testing' a lens and actually using a lens. I wouldn't dream of recommending, or criticising, something I hadn't used over a period of time. 'Testing' in my book is contrived comment, it doesn't relate to the world outside the camera shop window in most cases. He may have used a lab, or a sharp brick wall, but I'd take seriously the person that had lugged it up a mountain and had a genuine feeling for if it was worth the effort.
I once owned perhaps one of the most extensive Bronica SQai/PS system possible. Actually I should have said: "used the lenses, was not overly impresses during actual usage, then extensively tested the lenses for confirmation/explaination."
Having said that the color contrast of these Bronica PS lenses was outstanding.
You're making a lot of assumptions about me. By testing, I meant owning. Rather than using straw man arguments or ad hominems, why not discuss the topic at hand.
I looked intensely at the SQ system, but after a lot of soul searching realized I could just pack lunch for a month or so and afford a hasselblad instead.
I have ETR, SQ and GS-1 series cameras and lenses. The early 150/4 MC for the ETRs is supposed to be a weak performer but I like mine. In the SQ series I have the 150/4 PS and the earlier 150/3.5 S. Both are very good. The PS has better coating so in difficult lighting situations more care must be taken with the S. The 50/3.5 PS is very sharp. I don't see a big difference between the 80/2.8 S and the 80/2.8 PS. They are both very good. I have the 105/3.5 lenses for the ETRs and the SQs. Both are good but the main benefit is that they allow closer focusing for portraits. When Bronica went to the P series of lenses both were discontinued. Lately I have been shooting more with the GS-1s. I am using the 50, 65, 100 and 150 lenses. I wish they had closer focusing but they are all very good. The GS-1 seems easier to use hand held than other 6X7 SLRs. There are plenty of good lenses for 35mm use. There is also good 35mm film to go with them. The main advantage of a medium format camera/lens is that you don't have to enlarge as much. To make a minimally cropped 11X14 from a 35mm negative you have to enlarge 11X. The same size print from a 6X7 negative only has to be enlarged 5X. There are lenses for 35mm cameras which are sharper than those for medium format cameras but they are not more than twice as sharp. Even with Ektar 100 you will see a difference between enlarging the film 11X and enlarging it 5X. Cropping down to 6X4.5 from a square negative will make me enlarge just more than 6X to get the same 11X14. It all comes down to how large a print you need to make. Bronica GS-1 equipment is much less expensive than Hasselblad 6X6 equipment. Last week I got a GS-1 body with no crank or focusing screen but with the battery door for $17.16. I put on all of the necessary parts and the camera works as it should. I just bought a second GS-1 plain prism finder for $50. Now I have two working GS-1s. A third body needs a little work. With a GS-1 and a roll of Ektar 100 I can make prints as large as I like. I have been lucky because most of the Bronica equipment I have bought works well. When do I use the SQ cameras? Mostly when I want to carry something light: SQ-A body, 80/2.8, crank, waist level finder and back. I have a Speed Grip and prism finders for my SQ cameras but when I know I will be shooting verticals and using the oblong format I use an ETR or GS-1. I consider Bronicas the best bargain in used medium format SLR cameras.
I don't know about modern Bronicas, but the last time I used one I thought I may need earplugs when pressing the shutter.