Week 19. Zenza Bronica
A week of such promise and excitement, I have doubled up a few previous weeks with the social media fun of FP4party, this has now transformed into TMaxparty so a move from Ilford to Kodak. I have shot a couple of their 400asa with mixed results but optimism and the sight of the Bronica gave me renewed hope. The Bronie – medium format big SLR system, basically a central body with a huge array of options surrounding it with a few of those open to me for this week. The camera checked, I loaded the detachable 120 back with TMAX 400. 220/35mm/Polaroid are also available. I had the one lens but there are others as with any SLR but this one was an F2.8 75mm Zenzanon EII. I chose to fit a speed grip with advance lever and shutter release which would gave me a more traditional SLR setup coupled with the prism finder!
Roll 1 – Monday arrived and just awful weather! Nothing doing… Tuesday repeat… ditto Wednesday! Its worth noting I also have a 35mm TMAX 100 loaded in my Pentax to run at the same time so pressure to shoot was mounting. Thursday was as dull as dishwater but dry so I set about trying to shoot things without sky but still having something interesting in it, a yellow and orange filter on hand to squeeze anything out of the grey skies. I plucked up courage to request a few portraits from strangers and we got through the roll. I was spot metering as there is no on board meter and the aperture ring of f2.8 to 22 and shutter knob - 8sec to 1/500th are all full manual which is beautifully simple. When you trigger that shutter the mirror retracts with a sound striking fear into small children and attracting the attention of all around not already admiring its behemoth good looks. Fear not though I successfully hand held at 1/60th with ease!
Roll 2 – Sticking with the Kodak theme I loaded a Portra 160nc, a little out of date from 2012 but should be like new. I switched to the little crank advance arm and moved to a familiar waist level viewer. The frame sizes of 4.5x6cms with this set up would and did prove much harder to use in portrait. Friday/Saturday were just impossible with weather and work but a productive Sunday saw the roll off easily shooting on and around Plymouth Hoe and Barbican with a Polarizer to help. I tried playing with depth of field, angles comfort zones etc. to test myself and the camera.
Thoughts? Loved it! BWs I got good exposures and the set up while heavy gave me lots of options. I felt good carrying it around and heaving its mass up to my eye gave me a feeling of gravitas. The Portra pics are coming through the scanner right now and look pretty good but for a bit of glare here and there as I used a hood far to short really – lesson learned!
The best way I can put this is if wifey told me I had to get rid of all my cameras and have just one then the Bronica would be a serious contender, but I would need both viewing options. With the flexibility of multiple film backs for 120/35mm and swapping out mixed emulsions as and when needed I could overlook the weight and limited 1/500th max shutter speed…a lovely, lovely camera but somewhat out of my budget!
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