CCR Review 54 – Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 54 – Zenza Bronica ETRS

I have a love/hate relationship with Bronica cameras. If you listen to the Classic Camera Revival Podcast, I railed against the Bronica SQ-Am in episode 22, and I gave away my SQ-Ai because of ergonomic issues I had with the camera. But putting all that aside I went into shooting the ETRS with an open mind and discovered a rather fun camera. When it comes to 645 cameras, the ETRS is the real underdog while the Mamiya m645 and to a lesser extent the Pentax 645 get most of the glory. Which to people looking to crack into medium format the ETR line of cameras offers you the most bang for your buck if you’re just getting started. Big thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning out this beauty for review.

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Dirt

  • Make: Zenza Bronica
  • Model: ETRS
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: Multiple (Back Dependent), 6cm x 4.5cm
  • Lens: Interchangable, Bronica ETR Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1979

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Good
The strongest aspect of this camera is that it is a system camera, you can change, adapt, and modify the camera into whatever configuration is most comfortable for you and your shooting style. Another plus to it being a system camera if a part breaks, you just have to buy that one section and put all your parts back on it. The configuration I was shooting in was one that was most familiar to me, with an eye-level finder and grip. Of course, the camera operates just as well with no grip and a waist level finder if you’re used to shooting with the SQ-A or Hasselblad cameras. And for volume shooting the camera is great, you get 15 shots per roll, and interchangeable magazines allow you to load up a handful of magazines in the morning and go out shooting without needing to sit down and reload after each roll. And don’t sneeze at the optical quality either the ETR line of lenses are beautiful. Combine all these with being an often unnoticed camera line means you can build up a decent kit without having to break the bank.

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Bad
The trouble with being an underdog system is getting the system repaired. When Roger (may he rest in peace) was operating his storefront in Hamilton, you couldn’t even darken his doorstep with a Bronica. These cameras are hard to get fixed and do rely on electronics to operate and battery power. At least in the case of the ETRS the battery door is better designed that the SQ line of cameras, but the battery is not a common one. Best bet is to carry some spares if you’re out on a big trip in an area where there aren’t any specialty stores.

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Lowdown
While Bronica does not remain my first choice overall, I can see the draw of the ETR line of cameras. These are inexpensive cameras and if all you want is to shoot in the 6×4.5 format go for it. Just make sure like any electronic based vintage camera that you know it works before you pay for it. Just know that with the ETR line you will be stuck with the 6×4.5 format, if you want more image versatility, pick up an SQ-A body. You get the same quality of optics, and with appropriate backs, you can shoot 6×6 and 6×4.5 with ease. If you do go with the ETR line of cameras, make sure that you get a kit that is setup the way you like it. System cameras are unique creatures, they are amazing with no grip and a waist level finder or eye-level finder and a grip, but start swapping stuff out and you’ll run into ergonomic problems.

All Photos taken in Downtown Milton, Ontario, Canada
Zenza Bronica ETRS – Zenanon-PE 1:2.8 f=75mm – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (stock) 9:30 @ 20C

4 Replies to “CCR Review 54 – Zenza Bronica ETRS”

  1. Just read your commentary on the Bronica ETRS. I own an ETRSi and I bought it about five years ago, after careful consideration of what was available. I came to the conclusion that the ETR-series was the only way to go for the serious 645 photographer on a budget. Why? Because the ETR system is the only one that offers both leaf shutters and interchangeable backs. So to me it is the only truly serious, professional-grade 6×4.5cm camera. Plus, the ETRSi offers mirror lock-up and TTL flash metering with the Metz SCA 300 module and compatible flashes. So, I elected to go with the ETRSi — more for the mirror lock-up than the TTL flash capability, to be honest.

    When I bought my ETRSi, it came with the plain, non-metered prism, a 120 and a 220 back, a 75mm normal lens, and had no Speed Grip. I quickly remedied the Speed Grip Issue (to me, the Speed Grip is NOT an option) and later on bought an AE-II metered prism for mine. I also went ahead and bought an SCA-300 TTL flash module for it and a Metz CT-45 flash. My outfit now also has the 40mm and 150mm lenses, in addition to the 75mm and an assortment of backs. One of the great things about Bronica’s “obscurity” is I was able to put together this outfit for less than $500. Try that with a Mariya or a Pentax 645.

    A couple of comments, if I may, about what you wrote:

    The ETR/S/Si is not hard to get fixed. You just might have to mail it off. I’m fortunate in that I live in an area where there are two competent repair facilities that cater to both professionals and older film cameras as well as the modern digital stuff. The shop I use has a fast turn-around time and very reasonable prices. For folks not as fortunate as me, I recommend KEH, but I’m sure there are others.

    The battery that the ETR/S/Si uses is not really what I’d call obscure or hard to find. It is the same 6v battery used in Canon’s A-series, Canon’s New F-1, a few Nikkormats, and the Pentax 6×7, among others, I’m sure. Hmmm , I wonder — I bet you could probably stack up four A76’s — you know, the ones used in most manual-focus Nikons like the FE and FM? — and fit them in a pinch. I dunno, the PX-28 used to be as common as dirt, but maybe now that the most recent camera to use one has been out of production for a couple of decades, popularity has begun to fade. It’s still easily available, though, and given that the ETR/S/Si is a battery dependent camera, a spare should always be carried anyway.

    Hey, I really like your photos. You’ve done a good job of showing what this great little camera is capable of. Keep shooting film!

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