I promise I’m not a gear head, just had to acknowledge my last couple of posts have been about camera gear. And for the record I don’t think there is anything wrong with being into gear, when I need something that works for me I tend to do an exhaustive amount of research when looking for a camera. If you happen to be looking at a more affordable entry into the 6x7 format hopefully this is helpful to read. Obviously most people that are super into gear and want to shoot medium format aren’t looking for a Bronica. They might be looking more into Mamiya, Hasselblad, or Rollei. So this might not be for you.
When it came down to choosing a camera I was looking at a Mamiya RZ67, Pentax 67, and the Bronica GS-1. Why get another 6x7 when I have a Mamiya 7? I do love my Mamiya 7 but it is not a camera for portraiture or getting close to subjects and the rangefinder still completely freaks me out if I’m being honest. For me the Mamiya 7 works great for landscape and environmental portraits, but I was really missing out on getting closer to my subjects and using depth of field as a creative choice.
This might be dumb but my main reason for choosing the Bronica was that it was the lightest of the three camera bodies. I already knew I would be lugging this thing around so weight was a factor for me. The GS-1 is designed to be a studio camera and not a travel camera. I had a really difficult time deciding which one to go with, especially since the Pentax 67 is just the perfect camera for portraiture when paired with the 100mm lens...that quality was hard to beat. The Mamiya RZ67 has a rotating back so if you want to switch to shooting vertically, all you do is rotate the back in one second and you don’t need to rotate that heavy camera. I would have decided differently if the lens quality was really noticeable between the three but they all produce gorgeous results so I went with the Bronica.
I’ve had this camera for a little under a year now so here it goes:
Lenses: The Zenzazon PG lens quality is amazing, I started out with the 100mm f3.5 and bought a 65mm f4 (my focal length of choice)
Modular system: you can buy different film backs, swap out viewfinders (I have both the waist level finder and the eye prism), and I also bought the speedgrip.
Use: Super easy to use and quick to focus especially when using the prism. I still like using a waist level finder but it does slow me down and forget it if I want to take a vertical shot. Since I take a lot of vertical shots the prism works best for me (note there is not auto focus on the lenses).
Focus: It’s so easy to see what you are going to get in real life, I never miss a shot.
Speedgrip: this grip accessory really helps having something to hold onto when carrying the camera around. It also makes it easy to compose frames from horizontal to vertical. I dig that you can wind the film from the grip too.
Price: Not gonna lie, I was totally lured in by the Bronica because of its affordability. Especially since I already own the Mamiya 7 I wasn’t looking to spend a lot. I bought a body, 100mm 3.5 lens, 65mm f4 lens, film backs, prism, waist level finder, and speedgrip for $400. I used both Craigslist and Ebay and really lucked out. Looking at Ebay you can get a body, lens, prism, film back for around $600. It’s a great way to get into the 6x7 format.
Weight: It’s a beast to carry around, especially when travelling, but it’s the lightest system between the Pentax 67 and Mamiya RZ67.
Tripod: If you want to shoot below 1/125 make sure you have a tripod (an extra thing to carry around).
Please enjoy some photographs from this camera: