My Bronica S2A Camera
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Bronica S2A Camera

The Bronica S2A is an amazing camera, sort of a "poor man's Hasselblad" though actually superior to the classic 'Blad in some ways. It's a highly elaborate 6 x 6 cm (2 1/4" x 2 1/4") medium format SLR, with interchangeable backs and an interchangeable lens mount.

The stock lenses are Nikkors. I own the 75 mm "normal" lens, which is super sharp, also a 50 mm wide angle (shown) and a 135 mm which is not a great performer. All three of these Nikkors are f3.5.

The helical focus mount is removeable, and can be replaced by a very nifty bellows unit. The bellows permits extreme close-up work, and also features tilts and shifts like those of a view camera. A photographer who understands the Scheimpflug Principle can play nifty games with the focus, as well as correcting perspective distortion. The Nikkor 75 mm and 50 mm lenses intrude fairly far into the focus mount, so they impose a bit of a mechanical limit on the lens motion.

I had a 127 mm Kodak Ektar lens in a leaf shutter, which I mounted on a Bronica body cap. With this, I was able to do lots of maniuplation, because the lens didn't intrude into the bellows, and it had plenty of coverage, as it was intended for 4 x 5 use. (This lens originally came with a 4 x 5 Graphic press camera.)

The Bronica interchangeable backs were much nicer than those of the Hasselblad system. Much easier to load, and very nicely interlocked, so that you could install or remove the back at any time, whether the shutter was cocked or not, whether the film had been advanced or not.

The Bronica also has a two-part mirror. The lower part swings downward, and the upper part swings upward. This not only permits the use of deep-set lenses, but also means that the "mirror shock" of the two mirrors is in opposite directions, so a mirror lock-up is not needed.

The S2A has its drawbacks as well, however. It is probably the loudest still camera ever made, so forget any stealthy applications! Also, they're not terribly reliable, and they're quite mechanically complicated. I got this one cheap 'cause it was broken, and most camera repairmen were afraid to tackle this model.

Another drawback is that the large focal-plane shutter imposes a very slow synch speed, 1/30 if I recall correctly. This pretty much preculdes the use of fill-flash (an area where the Hasselblad shines, due to its Compur leaf shutter.)

I had a prism finder for this camera as well, but it was hopelessly dark and weighed a ton, so I never much used it. Actually, for a square-format camera, a waist level finder is generally preferable in any case.

[ January 6, 2014: Jaka Jejcic sends the following comments:

In case you are interested in maintaining correct information, these are the details I wanted you to know:
- The Bronica S2A doesn’t have a two-part mirror, that would be the Bronica EC. S2A has a single mirror sliding down.
- The camera pictured is not an S2A, but an S2
- About reliability - the S2A was (and still) is extremely reliable, it is the S2 that has trouble in that area.
- The 75mm Nikkor-P lens is f2.8 and not 3.5 as stated in the article

Kind regards,
Jaka Jejcic]

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