Bronica ETRSi Medium Format Film Camera

Bronica ETRSi Medium Format Camera

Film Genesis : In the beginning

In the beginning, life was simple with traditional silver halide film, and cameras without a single computer chip in sight. Yes, there were slight complications such as which format is best - 35mm, medium format or large format, slide or print film. But, compared with the complications of going digital these are really only minor issues. Digital promised to revolutionised the way we take pictures forever and in some ways it has. Many think that traditional film has had its day, or has it?

Endless Digital Race :

Over the past several years, just like many photographers, I was really sucked in by digital, and was constantly up grading to the next best thing release with more mega pixels. However, digital has still quite away to go before it reaches the resolution of traditional film especially medium and large format. The question is how big are image file sizes going to get before that point is reached? In addition, the bigger the file size, the larger the computer you going to need. To keep up in the digital race costs money.

Taking a Step Backwards :

The answer for me was quite simple. Take a step backwards to a point where I was still enjoying photography. This meant a return to traditional film, which is now so out of fashion. However, I wanted to regain the real creative passion I had all those years ago, before digital started taking over my life. However, with the advancements in technology, I could combine the two, which would allow me to e-mail out images, or upload them on websites, by scanning the required transparencies on to the computer.

Dusting off Your Old Equipment :

I still had the medium format Bronica ETRSi gathering dust in the back of the cupboard. The camera hadn't seen the light of day for a least seven years, and I couldn't remember the last time it had a roll of film through it. A quick check of my records revealed it was actually January 2000 – was it really that long ago?

I was a little worried about the camera's condition. Once the initial dust layer was removed from the camera's exterior, an inspection was carried out inside to see if any mold or damp had attacked the camera's lens and workings. Much to my surprise, the Bronica was in good condition, and apart from a new battery, and of course some 120 film, it was ready for action.

Whoops : I Have Forgotten How To Use It

I sat with the Bronica ETRSi in my lap, while going over all the controls and levers, which was considerably less than most digital cameras. No microchips here, but it does have a battery, which simply powers a tiny light in the viewfinder to indicate how long the shutter is open – how refreshingly simple. It was at this point, I realised I had a slight problem. I had forgotten how to operate the camera, and the instruction manual had long since been lost two house moves ago.

Modern Technology to the Rescue :

The problem was compounded when I purchased some film. I couldn't remember which way around and on which spools the film went. Unlike traditional 35mm film models, on medium format cameras you have to manually load the film. In the past, I could do it with this with my eyes closed in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, somebody had very kindly published the entire Bronica ETRSi's instruction manual on the Internet.

Once I had the film loaded, I re-read the instructions and familiarised myself with all the controls once again. It was now time to venture back to the pre-digital age, where life seemed so much simpler. With a renewed passion, I was actually looking forward to going out and being creative with my camera.

Bronica ETRSi Medium Format Film Camera
Bronica ETRSi Medium Format Film Camera
Medium format film has be hand loaded on the spools first...
Medium format film has be hand loaded on the spools first...

Back In the Field:

So after a break of several years without using a traditional film camera, I was out creating images with a medium format camera once more. To be honest, it was a bit of a culture shock, and an adventure, as it was just like taking a brand new camera out for the first time. Instead of rushing around with a digital camera snapping away at anything and everything in auto mode, I now had to stop and think about the whole picture taking process.

Medium Format is No Lightweight :

To ensure a rock steady image, and to take the strain of my arms (the Bronica ETRSi is no lightweight), the Bronica was mounted on a tripod. On the first outing, I only took five pictures on Fuji Reala 100. Normally, I would have taken a couple of dozen of digital images on the same subject, most of which would end up in the computer's trash bin. The rest of the fifteen images were used up over the following week, and sent for development and printing.

It took nearly a week for them to return, which compared with the instant convenience of digital, seem like an age. Yet, on reflection, I enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for the prints to return to see if they had turned out correctly. Much to my relief, all but two turn out perfectly. The two failures were simply down to operator error, but I learn from my mistakes.

It was at this point I realised what I had been missing. Digital is in many ways quick and convenient with the capacity to produce great images with a bit of time and patience. More images equals even more time in front of the computer 'playing' with all those images. Using a traditional film medium format camera may take longer to take images, and you have to wait nearly a week to see the finished results. However, I didn't have to spend valuable hours in front of the computer doing post-production on the prints.

Conclusion :

The objective of this exercise was to see if returning to traditional film instead of digital, would decide whether or not I was going to totally abandon this format for ever and go totally digital, I soon realised I actually missed the traditional methods, and found it more enjoyable, more creative and even more relaxing. In addition, it freed up a lot of spare time, which was normally spent sitting in front of my computer sorting and adjusting hundreds of digital images. I now find myself leaving my digital kit at home and just taking my Bronica ETRSi out instead

In fact, I would recommended anybody to take a step backwards to see if there current direction is right for them, and you’re not swept along following the digital crowd. Sometimes modern time saving devices actually take up even more of our valuable time.

© David Lloyd-Jones 2010


Do you use Medium Format or are you planning to go retro? Let me know, leave a comment…

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Comments 5 comments

MickS profile image

MickS 5 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

Good little hub, David. My Bronica is even older than yours, it's the ETRS. One thing you forgot with the battery, if it's dead, you can still use the camera, as long as you remember that everything is at 1/500 shutter speed. I also use Reala 100 for colour negs, I use Provia 100 for trannies, and FP4+ for black and white, which I mainly shoot. I develop and print my own, either by scanning negs, or on my Durst 5x4 enlarger, cos I've also got a Sen Hao 5x4 field camera.

It is never a backward step, unless you're going from film to digital, film is skill and thought, digital is keep firing away until you get it right.


Brian Lucas 5 years ago

I have recently sold my Nikon F5 and bought a Bronica ETRSi. I have owned digital slr's but its always been film for me. Right now with the Bronica I am enjoying my photograhy so much.....


Brian Lucas 5 years ago

Cont...my biggest bugbear with digital is that every three months your camera ,which upon release was the most technically advanced,is now outdated and old hat. When you bought your camera it was capable of creating the most stunning.,awesome images but a fortnight later a model with five more mega-pixels has been released which creates images superior to your stunningly awsome ones.So time to get off the bus right here. I have no wish to be part of the megapixel race because I can get quality elsewhere and cheaper.When they bring out a fifty megapixel dslr for about £500 that's built to last,produces images akin to medium format film, I may just get back on the bus - but until then no chance...


Midnight Oil profile image

Midnight Oil 4 years ago from Isle of Man UK Author

Medium Format is No Lightweight - Bronica ETRSi Medium Format Camera


Miranjo 3 years ago

I too own bronica ETRSi....I was a wedding photographer for 14 years but gave it up about 7-8 years ago. Since film is rare to buy and I don't shoot much these days, it sits and collects dust. Not ready to part with it....it takes beautiful pics. Love it still

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