Medium Format, Modular, and Underappreciated: The Zenza Bronica ETRSi

As the film photography world is hurdling forward, increasing in popularity seemingly day by day, the hunt for an affordable medium format camera is getting more and more difficult. This may be the last great option for 645 film photography. 

In this video, Karin Majoka does a breakdown of the Zenza Bronica ETRSi, the youngest of the Bronica ETR system. I don't personally have any firsthand experience with the ETRSi, but I have friends with Zenza Bronica cameras, and they love them. This particular camera has my favorite and arguably "must-need" feature: interchangeable backs. The ability to change your film from one shot to the next is an underrated feature for a film camera. The older siblings of the ETRSi lack what I would consider is one of the most important additional considerations, mirror lock-up mode; however, it did manage to make it onto the ETRSi. 

If you've been on the prowl for a medium format camera, you'll know that prices have been getting higher and higher, with many of the more popular options now crossing the threshold of being "too expensive" for many people. As far as I see it, this is where the Zenza Bronica ETR system steps in. It can still be had for much less than its Mamiya or Pentax counterparts while still boasting many of the same features. 

Do you have any experience with Zenza Bronica cameras or more specifically, the ETR system? What were your thoughts?

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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I've had my Bronica system for quite sometime, a gift from my grandmother, and it's a truly under-rated camera. It is easily on par with Mamiya, but far more durable. The downside has always been, you will have to purchase everything you want to use as the rental houses don't support the brand.

I had this system pre digital, it made me loads of money, it has leaf lenses to 1/500th lots of different film backs and was a brilliant workhorse for me... I recently bought one again just to put some old 120 film through it again.
Didn’t have Hasselblad kudos but the lenses were easier to use, the motor grip was much better and it just kept working, one tip I’ll share is to try to buy the later lenses, they had better coatings and better quality control..

The video by Karen M was seemingly like: Paul Taylor's done a year before. Paul's videos are informative and very detailed.

They're cheaper than Hasselblads!

(Somebody had to say it)

No, please dont tell people to buy Bronicas before i got a third body as spare and the macro ^^

Mamiya RZ and Cinestill 800T is the way to go people, and after all 645 isnt THAT big :)

I loved my ETRSi with a digital back a world beater......

You could adapt a digital back on your Etrsi ?

Great cameras - the lenses cost several thousand dollars in the 1970s - and well worth the money. I bought mine for about $300 each. Great thing with Bronica is that I usually get six good pix from a roll of 12 (or indeed 36 on a Leica). The slow operation makes for better and more reflective photos with lovely tonal quality in monochrome.

These Bronicas were never really appreciated like they deserved, back then and...well...even now. The lenses are excellent and I'm NOT going to compare them to their counterparts. That would presume that they are of lesser quality which they absolutely are NOT. They stand out extremely well on their own. I just wish they would have received the appreciation they truly deserve.

Please, please, please stop telling people just how good the Bronica ETRSi is you’re pushing prices up and making it harder for me to collect all the accessories for the two of mine.

Had an ETR and ETRS with 40mm and 105mm Zenzanon lenses. The 105 on the ETR was a great portraiture setup. Still have it, but don't use it as much as I should.

I have the same exact gear. Bought the 40mm for 70 euros. And it's a killer.
I don't use it as often as I'd like to, and I prefer the square format, but I definitely can't sell it.

I purchased a Zenzanon to Canon EF adapter awhile back. Mount the 105 to my 5D mklll and get pretty nice results.

Sounds good ! I'll check if it exists for Nikon.