12 Frames with the Bronica ETRSi

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Bronica ETRSi & Kodak Gold 200

As my love for analogue photography has developed, so has my appetite for more cameras. I’d been on the hunt for a medium format camera for quite a while. I’d found some on Facebook Marketplace that seemed better value than those on eBay and other online retailers, but I never quite found the one.

Until one evening, while browsing Marketplace, I saw it: a Bronica ETRSi, with a 75mm f/2.8 lens, complete with lens cap and strap, linked to a pawnbroker website called Cash Generator.

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According to the site, its condition was graded as B, but it looked in good condition from the pictures. And best of all, it was only £300, including delivery. This was the camera I’d be waiting for. The problem was that I had a bid on another Bronica on Salesroom, which ended the following day.

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But this was too good to miss, so I took the risk, bought the ETRSi, and hoped I’d get outbid on the other to avoid ending up with (and paying for) two Bronicas. Thankfully, it paid off, and I’d say it was an absolute steal because when it turned up, it looked like it had never been used. There was not a scratch, mark, or fungus growth to be seen. It even had a 14-day return policy.

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The return policy was handy because the camera wasn’t film tested. It functioned correctly, and I was confident it was working, but to confirm, I went to pick up some Kodak Gold 200, the same film I used on my Canon AV-1, to put through and test it. My purchases didn’t end there, but I’ll come back to that shortly.

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One thing that has always interested me about photography is depth of field. It’s a beautiful thing that helps to deliver imagery that the eye can’t typically see, using only physics and some clever engineering and manufacturing. It’s a fascinating theory that I got my head around early in my professional career. I shoot almost exclusively wide open and choose lenses that offer wider apertures to complement my style of photography.

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One of the driving factors for buying another camera was the supposed depth of field medium format has to offer. This is what I tell Stacey, anyway. This, of course, is a ridiculous reason to buy a medium format camera, and it really just boils down to ownership of a hoard of cameras, which I’m sure some of you can relate to. Ridiculous because I’m not sure the difference between shooting at f/1.4 on a full frame camera would produce a shallower depth of field than f/2.8 on medium format.

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However, shooting digital medium format is beyond the limits of my bank balance, so film was the next best thing, or the best thing, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.

On a serious note, though, I was researching the difference in depth of field between formats and read that a full frame camera has around one stop shallower depth of field compared to an APS-C camera on comparable focal lengths at the same apertures. I did the maths and worked out that full frame is roughly 2.33x bigger squared area than APS-C, and the ETRSi is 3.1x bigger than full frame.

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So, theoretically, it would have 1.5 stops shallower depth of field than 35mm if the relationship between full frame and medium format is the same as that of full frame and APS-C. I have yet to test this, but now I have access to an APS-C, full frame, and medium format camera, all at similar aspect ratios and focal lengths; I may bother to test it. Anyway, back to the Bronie because this maths has blown my mind, and I realise I may be totally wrong about what I’ve just said.

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The Bronica ETRSi has a maximum shutter speed of 1/500 sec – not ideal in bright light to enable shooting at the 75mm lens’ widest aperture of f/2.8, which is a must after saying I like to shoot at the widest aperture possible. My next buy will be a set of neutral density filters so I can shoot at the aperture I want to.

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With all the AI imagery and content on Instagram doing the rounds that I can’t trust is real, the Bronica helps restore my faith in this craft and my abilities. The camera is totally manual. Sidenote – cue my next buy – a light meter. I opted for a Sekonic L-308S Flashmate. I’m familiar with them from my training days at the Defence School of Photography when using studio flash, so it seemed like a no-brainer.

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Because it’s totally manual, every part of the process needs human input. From the exposure reading and subsequent exposure settings, the focus, to the procedure to set the camera up ready to take a picture by unlocking the shutter release, winding the film on and removing the dark slide – there’s a lot to consider before you even release the shutter.

And then the subject is the wrong way around when you’re composing your shot because it’s a waist-level viewfinder with only a mirror, and I have no prism viewfinder for it (yet). Lots for my brain to compute before I’ve even pressed the shutter release! My relationship with this camera is far more intimate than any other camera I have ever operated, and it gives me great pleasure to use it. And thankfully, the pictures turned out OK. Until the next roll…

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