I was recently tempted to get into medium format more seriously and began around looking for the camera that would allow me to do so. I already had a Voigtlander Bessa 1 and a Lubitel 2, but the respective formats (6×9 for the Voigtlander and 6×6 for the Lubitel) only gave me a maximum of 8 or 12 shots per roll. Given my student status, I was looking for more shots/roll to get my money’s worth. This is why I started looking for a 6×4.5 medium format camera.

As I love the Waist Level Finder on my Lubitel, I immediately searched for either a Mamiya 645 or a Bronica 645 and when I saw a Bronica ETRSi camera on sale for only €60 online, my GAS levels tingled so much that I HAD to buy it right away! So here is a review of my first experience shooting this camera.

A Brief History of the Bronica ETRSi

For those of you who do not know Bronica or Zenza Bronica was a Japanese brand of professional medium format cameras. Their last camera – the RF645 rangefinder – was discontinued in 2005 and the brand was shortly shuttered by its owner Tamron shortly after.

The Bronica ETRSi is the last model of the Bronica ETR series which shoot 6×4.5cm pictures on 120/220 film. Fun fact about Bronica at the time: they had tried to partner up with Carl Zeiss and, what was later known as, Topcon for the optics before opting to produce their own optics.

This series was the first to have a leaf shutter system, it also has an electronic shutter ranging from 8s to 1/500s (there is also a 1/500s mechanical setting).

The ETRSi, which came out in 1989 and has the most features of the line, as it is the most modern edition: in these “new features,” we have the following: Mirror Lock-Up, TTL flash metering with OTF flash exposure and bulb mode.

For more information on the ETR models, check out Camera Wiki.

Unboxing the Bronica ETRSi

First of all, when I received the camera, I was surprised by its weight. At a whopping 1.5kg, the ETRSi is a sturdy camera! Of course, it had its wear and tear, but the camera was in excellent condition. As I always do when I get a new camera, I tested all the different aspects of the: aperture, shutter speed, mirror lock-up and multiple-exposure.

In trying to do so I discovered something particular: the film winder crank will continuously turn as long as there is no film loaded inside the camera. So, do not be surprised if it happens to you! After searching on the internet, I discovered the ETRSi can only be cranked when a film is loaded. However, for testing purposes, you can activate the multiple exposure switch, the winder will block, and you will be able to test the shutter properly.

Something neat about this camera is that the Bronica ETR series was very developed so you can find multiple viewfinders (Waist Level, integrated Light meter…) and multiple backs (120, 220, Polaroid…) on eBay.

Mine was shipped with the basic prism viewfinder and one 120 back. Of course, the prism can be removed to reveal a waist ever viewfinder. However, if you do not have the correct viewfinder you will have to use your hands to block the light and see clearly inside.

Another cool aspect is that Bronica is that there are many securities/fail-safes. For example, you cannot remove the lens if the mirror is not pulled back, you cannot remove the back without a dark slide correctly inserted, and as I already mentioned the crank will not stop without film correctly inserted.

The main event: shooting the beast!

This camera’s mirror is lowered when you crank the film lever to cock the shutter. When you release the shutter, it lifts up, without coming down until you crank once more. It may seem like nothing to you but I am used to cranking my film just right before shooting a shot, I could not do that with this camera. Indeed, if the shutter is not cranked and the mirror not pulled down then you cannot aim.

However, the Shutter lock is very conveniently placed, so you just need to get used to locking your shutter button after each shot if, like me, you are a bit clumsy and risk accidentally shooting an exposure.

Speaking of the shutter button, compared to the Mamiya 645, the Bronica ETRSi only has one shutter button located in front of the camera. I have to be honest when shooting street photography, you need to get used to holding the beast to shoot properly. In addition, I noticed a significant amount of movement when the mirror is released compared to what I am used to with my other cameras.

All this being said it takes a while to get used to shooting this beast of a camera. For those who have a bit more budget, a grip does exist making shooting the camera easier, and for the ones who don’t, you can always use the mirror lockup switch to reduce movement.

I have not yet tried to do multiple exposures, but the switch is right there beside the crank and it’s easy to change modes. Hopefully, on my next rolls, I will be more inspired, multiexposure-wise.

My first rolls

The first roll of film I put through the camera was a Kodak Portra 400 where I shot street photography in the streets of Dublin. I have since shot many more and here are a few of my favourites using Portra 400, ILFORD Delta 3200 Professional, Fuji Pro 400H, Fuji NEOPAN 100 ACROS, Rollei Infrared 400 and ILFORD HP5 PLUS!

Some examples for you below!

Final thoughts

I have really HAD A BLAST shooting this camera. Whether it be with the prism or without, it is just a fun camera to shoot. All the settings are easily accessible and that noise it makes when the mirror comes up is just amazing!

Many people told me that it was more of an indoor camera because of its bulkiness, however I love using it for my usual street and landscape photography. I find it very ergonomic. Indeed for some of my night photography, I managed to shoot at 1/60s second without a shutter release cable or tripod.

Altogether, I’ve shot this camera in many different situations, with and without a tripod, with or without a filter, for street, night, landscape and portrait photography, using infrared, black and white and color negative films and it has never disappointed me.

The next step will be shooting slide film with it, I doubt it will be much different but I am eager to try it out!

This camera is already the best 60€ I’ve spent in 2019! 😉

~ Maxime

Zenza Bronica ETRSi technical specifications

ManufacturerZenza Bronica
(Tokyo, Japan)
Camera nameBronica ETRS
Manufacture dates1988-2005
Camera typeSingle Lens Reflex
Film format(s)6x4.5 - 120 or 220 rollfilm. 15/30 exposures respectively with a 42.5x55.1mm negative size (1:1.29 aspect ratio).

35mm film, 70mm film and Polaroid film backs available
ViewfinderInterchangeable viewfinder system with 5 (five) options: Waist-Level, AE II prism (auto exposure), rotary viewfinder, prism finder and sports finder.

95% coverage with the standard 45° split-image rangefinder spot and microprism collar. Four optional screens as follows:

1) Matte center spot with full-area fresnel lens
2) Full-area matte plus vertical and horizontal grid
3) Microprism spot plus full-area fresnel
4) 45° split-image rangefinder plus full-area fresnel
ShutterSeiko #0 electronically controlled leaf shutter (in-lens)
8s - 1/500s
Fixed at 1/500s w/o battery
Multiple exposure switch
New bulb mode and mirror lock up function
LensesRanging from 30mm fisheye to 500mm. Full list (MC and ECII are updated versions, PE designations are for "final" lenses, which provided ½ aperture stops):

30mm f/3.5 PE fisheye
35mm f/3.5 PS fisheye
40mm f/4 MC
40mm f/4 PE
50mm f/2.8 MC
50mm f/2.8 PE
55mm f/4.5 PE Super Angulon Tilt shift
60mm f/2.8 PE
75mm f/2.8 MC
75mm f/2.8 EII
75mm f/2.8 EII (late)
75mm f/2.8 PE
100mm f/4 Macro PE
105mm f/3.5 MC
105mm f/4.5 Macro
135mm f4 PE
150mm f/3.5 MC
150mm f/4 MC
180mm f/4.5 MC
180mm f/4.5 PE
200mm f/4.5 MC
200mm f/4.5 PE
250mm f/5.6 MC
250mm f/5.6 PE
500mm f/8 EII
500mm /f8 PE
45-90mm f/4.5-9.6 PE
100-220mm f/4.8 PE
Accessories5x finders: Waist-Level, AE II prism (auto exposure), rotary viewfinder, prism finder (must be ordered at time of purchase)
MeteringOnly with AE II finder - TTL/OTF
FlashX-Sync PC connection up to 1/500 sec
TTL/OTF when connected to an SCA flash adapter
Power1x6v 4SR44 / 4LR44
Battery check button
Weight493g (body only)
1346g (with waist-level finder and 75mm kit lens)
Dimensions (appx)110x106x157mm (WxHxD) with kit lens and waist-level finder

Zenza Bronica ETRSi frequently asked questions

What is the Bronica ETRSi?

The Bronica ETRS is a medium format SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera released by Zenza Bronica in December 1988. It was the company’s sixth and final 6×4.5 format camera and was based on the second revision of the ETRS. Main improvements over the previous model were the introduction of new TTL/OTF flash metering, a new mirror lock-up feature, improved body design (for ergonomics and easier lens changing) and locking dark slides.

When was the Bronica ETRS released?

The Bronica ETRS was released in December 1988 and was discontinued in December 2004 after a 16-year production run. It was the sixth and final 6×4.5 format medium format film SLR made by the company. The complete timeline of this series is as follows:

Bronica ETR released March 1976
Bronica ETRC released November 1977
Bronica ETRS released October 1978
Bronica ETR-C released October 1978
Bronica ETRS (second revision) released ~May 1984
Bronica ETRSi released in December 1988

What is Zenza Bronica?

Zenza Bronica (ゼンザブロニカ – Zenza buronika), also known simply as “Bronica” was a Japanese company founded by Zenzaburō Yoshino.

What is a 6×4.5 format lens equivalent to on 35mm film?

At approximately 56×41.5mm in size, 6×4.5 medium format negatives have a surface area ~2.6 times that of full-frame 35mm film. This translates to a 0.62x crop factor which loosely translated means that the “standard” lens for the format (75mm) will give you the same field of view as a 45mm lens on full-frame 35mm film. Here are some other focal length equivalents rounded to the nearest whole number:

A 6×4.5 format 30mm lens = an 18mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 40mm lens = a 28mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 50mm lens = a 31mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 75mm lens = a 46mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 100mm lens = a 62mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 135mm lens = a 84mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 150mm lens = a 93mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 180mm lens = a 112mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 200mm lens = a 124mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 250mm lens = a 155mm lens on full-frame 35mm film
A 6×4.5 format 600mm lens = a 375mm lens on full-frame 35mm film

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About the author

Avatar - Maxime Evangelista

Maxime Evangelista

Maxime Evangelista, wanabee Photographer. I picked up my first camera about 10 years ago, through experimenting and research my love for this art kept growing! First I started with an automatic digital camera then started using manual settings and lastly going...

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  1. The lenses on these cameras are second to none. I liked the shots from my S2 more than my ‘blad. Sold the camera though because the shutter/mirror slap sounded like a gun. People across the street would look to see what the noise was about. Hopefully they tamed that somewhat on your ETRSi. Love your shots. You work well w/ the camera.

    1. Mine was just a bit more than that earlier this month + shipping from Japan. It’s been rough out there.

  2. Thanks for the review Evangelista and welcome to the club! I have the ETRSi for about a year now and even though I’m happy I cannot claim that I have tame the beast entirely. For example despite its many security/fail-safes, the other day I accidentally openned the film back and ruined an almost entirely exposed roll of FujiPro400. Apparently the camera prevents you for removing the back without a slider when there’s film inside but it doesn’t do so when you try to open the back. I agree with you that triggering the shutter causes a significant amount of movement and this also happen when using the grip shutter release. It requires a deep press of the release button and this apparently introduces some shake. I bought the camere to be used both handheld (for street shots) and with the tripod but after the first rolls I decided to use it on tripod all the more often just to play safe. Great pics by the way however some of your people’s shots seem to me a bit soft. Not sure if they are not perfectly focused or blurred by the release shake. I’m refering specifically to the photos titled “photoshoot”, “Spleen” and “stranger”. Still it might be my wrong impression. Enjoy your camera, definitely it’s a capable machine to yield excellent images.