Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (2023)

Hello again, it’s The 6 Million P Man here back after my review of the Yashica-D with another offering from my (not quite extensive but close enough) camera collection, another delight of the medium format variety, the Zenza Bronica S2A.Here’s what’s covered in this article:

A bit of history

Zenza Bronica first started making cameras in 1958 when Zenzaburo Yoshino (awesome name, yeah?) introduced his first 6×6 medium format SLR, the Bronica Z at the Philadelphia Camera Show.

He’d invested nearly all his company’s money into the design and manufacture of the body and had to outsource lenses from other well known Japanese manufacturers, notably Nikon (hence why my Bronica S2A came with a fantastically sharp 75mm Nikkor lens). It was this optical quality with paved the way for early success.

Bronica’s were well regarded for their affordability and quality in the relatively expensive world of medium format SLR’s and despite not being manufactured anymore – the brand name is owned by Tamron – they’re still widely used by professionals and amateurs alike.

Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (1)

The S2A was the successor to its earlier counterpart the S2 and most notably includes an updated gear advance mechanism which results in less jamming (something that both the S and S2 were known for). The main advance from the Bronica S and S2 was the introduction of a dedicated focusing helicoid integrated to the camera body.

This design was unique to the Bronica S2 and combined with the camera’s focal plane shutter, allowed the lenses to be incredibly compact when compared to Hasselblad, Rollei and other vendors 6×4.5, 6×6 and 6×7 offerings. Interestingly, some lenses came with their own additional helicoid to provide the extra bump needed for their focal length. Truly innovative!

The S2A was sold until around 1977, although it had been officially discontinued sometime before. I was lucky enough to pick up my copy in almost mint condition with the original box and instructions!

Stand-out features

A few of the features that Zenza Bronica deemed worthy of being printed in bold lettering on the very first page of the manual:

First, the Instant Return Automatic Mirror which is described as “an exclusive and original mechanism.” When you fire the shutter the mirror moves forward and down, rather than the usual upward of an SLR mirror and then returns automatically to the viewing position, apparently this makes it easier to use wide angle or deep seating lenses on the body and gives a brighter image in the viewing screen.

Second, it has an interchangeable film back magazine. The real reason many of us want to get into medium format is the ability to change out film half way and swap to something different, I imagine back in the day this was coveted as an amazing feature. I have two film backs for this, one I use for colour and one for black and white, see this was worthwhile them harping on about in the manual. You could also purchase a Polaroid film back, not that I have ever seen one.

Third, the lens selection. The manual makes a big song and dance about Nikkor lenses being available for the camera, although by the time the S2A was around they were also making their own Zenzanon lenses too. In fact, the selection of lenses available at the time of this camera’s release is genuinely quite impressive. There were at least ten lenses ranging from a wide angle 40mm (somewhere around 25mm in 35mm film terms), to a whopping great big 600mm lens (around 375mm in 35mm terms), covering all the major focal lengths in between.

True to their boast about the mirror allowing a deep seated lens, these lenses jut quite far into the body of the camera itself, giving them excellent stability and quite a compact size for the format.

Finally, the final big feature that Zenza Bronica like to emphasise in the manual is its ability to take either 120 or 220 format film, allowing the choice of 12 or 24 exposures. I’m sure this would’ve been a great feature back in the day, one camera with the ability to shoot multiple formats of film.

The S2A in basic use

So, how do you actually use this beast? The answer to that is, surprisingly easily.

Yes it’s a medium format camera and therefore you can’t just snap away like a sports photographer at 100 frames a second but neither is it particularly complicated to use either. Let’s go through setting up a shot:

(Video) Medium Format Film Photography With The Bronica S2A | The Japanese Hasselblad 500 C/M

Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (2)

First, you’ll want to load a film back with film. There’s a small selector dial on the bottom right of the film back for selecting 12 or 24 exposures, unless you’ve got a good old stock of expired 220 hanging around you’ll probably want to set that to 12.

Next, lift the small flap that allows you to place a piece of card underneath to remind you what film you’re shooting, underneath it a small switch marked “C” and “O” marked, take a guess what they stand for? Once you’ve opened the film back you squeeze together two little knobs to release the internals and attach the 120 film roll to the bottom.

Wind it around and feed it into the take-up spool at the top and clip this all back inside the film back before winding it along to the START arrow.

Close the back and attach it to the back of the camera. Now all you need to do is wind the advance crank until the numbers on the bottom of the film back reach “1” and the crank clicks: it’ll sound like you broke it but believe me that’s just it clicking into place. And there we go, you’ve loaded up the S2A.

Next up is taking an actual photo.

The S2A has a nifty feature where the shutter cannot fire if the metal dark slide is left in place between the film back and camera. Great for making sure you don’t waste a ton of money shooting the inside of a camera bag by accident.

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When you’re ready to take a shot, take out your dark slide and pop up the waist level viewfinder.

Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (5)

Next, select the shutter speed using the dial on the left side of the body, set the aperture on the front of the lens, focus and there we go, snap away by pressing the shutter button, which is located on the front bottom of the camera.

Don’t be alarmed when the shutter fires, it really is meant to be that loud.

(Video) Bronica S2A in depth REVIEW and SHOOT, plus side by side with BRONICA S2

Wind on with the crank and get ready to take another shot.

It’s pretty basic and easy to use, as long as you don’t scare easily.

Sample images

Below are a selection of images I’ve taken with the camera, the colour samples are Kodak Ektar 100 or Fuji Pro 160S, the black and white is Ilford FP4+.

Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (6)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (7)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (8)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (9)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (10)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (11)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (12)
Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (13)


Before I get on to the reasons why I love this camera I’m going to point out its flaws. The camera’s weight is a big issue, well a massive issue. This baby is made entirely of metal, it’s the size of a toaster and it weighs in at (according to the manual) 1780 grams.

Now that’s a heavy piece of kit.

My model did come with a strap but I have to admit I have never used it. The one time I carried the camera around in anything other than a shoulder strapped camera bag it gave me some serious wrist pain. It’s not designed to be carried about like a point and shoot, a tripod is pretty essential when using it.

Second, the noise of that shutter. I’m not exaggerating when I say it sounds like Thor hitting his mighty hammer against the side of a mountain. Genuinely it’s like a thunderclap. If you are of a nervous disposition or have heart problems this camera isn’t for you. The noise and size also limits the type of photography you can do with this, sports and street are a big no no, you can hardly take a candid image when it sounds like you’ve fired a gun every time you take a photograph.

Here’s a truly awful quality video (apologies for this, I have an old Moto G and the sound quality isn’t great and really doesn’t do justice to the sound of the shutter but it’s here nonetheless!).

(Video) A review of the Bronica Zenza S2

Third, the price. Yes this is the big issue with any medium format camera. Remember me saying that Zenza Bronica’s were affordable for amateurs? They are of good quality for the price but cheap they are not. Mine was a steal at £250 but every Zenza Bronica I had been looking at before was going for upward of £350-£400. So, if you haven’t the pennies saved away in a big jar somewhere, you may not want to get one.


With the cons out of the way, it wouldn’t be fair to leave out this camera’s numerous pros. Number one of these is build quality. This thing is built like a tank and considering its size and weight, probably from the same materials too. It will last a lifetime. Mine looks almost brand new and is in perfect working order.

The photographs you can produce do not do it justice. These are professional, quality cameras built for the serious amateur market, no cheap plastic here.

The lenses are brilliant. You’d expect that, considering most of them were made by Nikon but they really are. I have a 75mm Nikkor F/2.8 (which provides around a 50mm equivalent focal length in 35mm terms) and it is beautifully sharp. The lens selection is, as I said earlier, quite impressive for a medium format system too. All major focal lengths are covered and the vast majority are no slower than F/4.

Having the ability to swap out film in the middle of a roll is invaluable. I hate the thought of wasting film (don’t we all?) and having two backs pre-loaded with different speeds should there be a change in weather, lighting or situation is just perfect for my needs. I know in the modern digital world that sounds stupid but, well I don’t want to shoot digital.

The Viewfinder is incredibly bright, sharp to look through, has a pop-up magnifier to make focus that much easier and is just an all-round pleasure to use. I also have the waist level finder but there are accessories available including two types of prism viewfinders, a magnifying hood and a TTL exposure meter viewfinder as well. There’s a sports finder available as well but we’ll ignore that as it’s just stupid for this type of camera.

Final thoughts

What really clinches it for me is just the pleasure of using a 45 year-old camera that just works: perfectly. I know you can say that a lot of film cameras just seem to last longer than their digital siblings but seriously, my S2A feels like I bought it yesterday.

I can see me using this for another 45 years and it still being in perfect working order. That is why I didn’t mind spending quite a bit of money on it. It’s an investment rather than a cost.

I can’t recommend this camera enough for landscape and portrait work, and if those are two styles you want to shoot, then getting into medium format with the Zenza Bronica S2A is a damn good place to start.

~ Ed

Zenza Bronica S2A technical specifications

Camera nameBronica S2A
Camera typeSingle Lens Reflex
Format6x6 - 120/220 rollfilm
6x4.5 - 120/220 rollfilm
ManufacturerZenza Bronica
Manufacture dates1965-74 (unconfirmed)
Viewfinder coverage100%
ShutterCloth Focal plane (vertical travel)
B, 1 sec - 1/2000 sec
LensesRanging from 40mm wide-angle to 600mm. 10+ in total
AccessoriesTTL Pentaprism
Waist Level Viewfinder
Focusing chimney
Pistol grip
MeteringWith TTL prism only
FlashFocal plane and X-Sync PC connection
Body only:
100mm x 100mm x 140mm (W x D x H)

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(Video) Bronica S2A Review

About the author

Camera review: Zenza Bronica S2A (14)

Ed Worthington

Enthusiast of the analogue photography variety with a mild obsession with Italy, its history, culture and football. I'm also really bad at speaking Italian.

Click to see Ed Worthington's full profile, links and other articles, and please make sure you also check out their website here.

(Video) Bronica S2A Review and Photos


What is the difference between a Bronica S2 and S2A? ›

The Bronica S2A was released in 1969 and is the successor of the S2. It specifications and outer appearance are nearly identical to those of the S2. The main difference is an improved film advance gear mechanism, reputed to result in fewer jams.

What year is the Bronica S2? ›

Bronica C2, introduced May 1965; production discontinued September 1972. Bronica S2, introduced July 1965, S2A (introduced 1969), S2A type 2 (introduced 1972); production discontinued September 1977.

What kind of film does the Bronica S2 use? ›

All Bronica S-series cameras shoot 6cm x 6cm images on 120 or 220 format roll film using a top down focusing screen. Most commonly found with a waist level finder, eye level prism viewfinders were available as well.

What are the shutter speeds on a Bronica SQ? ›

Focusing Helical focusing system built into each lens; angle of focusing 171 degrees for standard lens. Shutter Electronically controlled SEIKO #0 between-lens leaf shutter; shutter speeds 8 sec. to 1/500 sec.; without intermediate settings; mechanical control 1/500 sec- ond; with shutter release lock.

What are the different versions of Zenza Bronica? ›

Zenza Bronica ETRS

ETRS is in two versions: Early metal version with locking front lens release. Later "plastic" ETRS with the lens release on the left side of the camera.

When did the Bronica S2A release? ›

The Bronica S2A, SLR released by Bronica in 1969, is the successor of the Bronica S2. It is a focal-plane shutter camera – meaning that the shutter is in the camera body – not a leaf shutter in the lens as found on the Kowa Six.

Can you use 120 film in a Bronica 220 back? ›

You can run 120 film through an SQ-A 220 back just fine.

How many shots does a Bronica ETRS take? ›

My Agfa Record III produces 6x9cm images (8 per roll) and the Hasselblad, 6x6cm (12 per roll) but the Bronica ETRS uses the 6×4.5cm format, giving 15 photographs from a roll of 120 film.

When did the Nikon S2 release? ›

After 9 years of research, the S2 was released in December of 1954 — 8 months following the debut of the Leica M3. Its useful, high-performance camera body and the already-popular Nikkor lens helped make the S2 one of the most highly regarded cameras in the world.

What camera does filmmakers use? ›

All Reviews
ProductRelease YearStudio Video
Sony α7 IV20219.3
Canon EOS R6 Mark II20229.2
Canon EOS R720229.0
Panasonic LUMIX DC-S520209.0
11 more rows
May 4, 2023

Can I use a digital filter on a film camera? ›

Yes, it's the same. If your film camera's exposure meter works through the lens (TTL) it will compensate automatically for the light loss. If not, you will have to compensate the exposure by using a longer shutter time or wider aperture. What kind of film camera is it?

What is the best shutter speed to shoot? ›

It's my experience that many portrait photographers prefer using faster shutter speeds when taking portrait photos. While 1/125 sec should suffice depending on the lighting conditions, a safe starting point would be 1/250 sec or faster.

What shutter speed is best? ›

As a general rule of thumb, when trying to avoid any motion blur in portraiture, we'd recommend setting your shutter to 1/125th of a second at a minimum speed, and adjusting your ISO and aperture settings to accommodate for further light. Shutter speed of approximately 1/250 second.

What is the best shutter rate? ›

A good rule of thumb for capturing video — even outside of live sports — is to ensure your shutter speed is double your frame rate. So if you're filming at 30 fps, you'll want your camera's shutter speed set to 1/60th. At the preferred 60 fps, the best shutter speed for sports should be set to 1/120th, and so on.

What happened to Zenza Bronica? ›

Tamron, a large Japanese lens manufacturer and a supplier of lens elements, eventually acquired Zenza Bronica Ltd. Zenzaburo Yoshino died in 1988. The Bronica GS-1 was discontinued in 2002.

What is the difference between the Bronica C and S? ›

The Bronica C was released in 1964 as a budget version of the more sophisticated model S. The main difference is that the C doesn't have a removable film back. This camera has a focal plane shutter and one unique thing is the lens.

What is an ENG style camera? ›

Electronic news-gathering (ENG) cameras replaced the 16mm film cameras for TV news production from the 1970s onwards because the cost of shooting on film was significantly more than shooting on a reusable tape.

What is the difference between Bronica ETRS and ETRSi? ›

The Bronica ETRSi is based on the second revision of the ETRS. It has a number of new and improved features. New features include mirror lockup switch located near the film winding crank. TTL flash metering with OTF flash exposure feature.

When was ae1 made? ›

Introduced in April 1976, the AE-1 was a very successful camera worldwide. When the AE-1 came out, TTL manual-metering models (including the Canon FTb and FTb-N) were still the mainstream in the 35mm SLR market. Auto-exposure models were still at the very top end of the SLR market.

When was Bronica GS 1 made? ›

Introduced in March 1983, the Bronica GS-1 in 6×7 cm format was the largest SLR produced by the company and the first medium format camera with TTL flash metering.

How many 6x6 photos can you put on 120 film? ›

A roll of 120 film has 10-15 shots, depending on the size you're shooting. With the 645 size, you have 15 shots per roll; with 6 x 6, you have 12 shots; and with 67, you only have 10 shots.

Can you load 120 film in daylight? ›

120 film gives a better resolution quality than 35mm and since the film comes in rolls like 35mm film, you can load them just as easily in daylight.

What is the shelf life of 120 film? ›

Much like food, film has an expiry date. Thankfully, it doesn't go mouldy like a block of cheese or curdle like milk! But it does have a limited shelf life. A roll of film usually has an expiration date of two years after the date of manufacture.

How much does the Zenza Bronica S2A weigh? ›

Zenza Bronica S2A technical specifications
Camera nameBronica S2A
FlashFocal plane and X-Sync PC connection
Dimensions (appx)Body only: 100mm x 100mm x 140mm (W x D x H)
9 more rows
Jun 23, 2017

What aspect ratio is Bronica? ›

This gives an aspect ratio of 1:1.3 – 35 mm cameras are 1:1.5 as are most digital cameras and full frame 120 cameras.

How many shots of Hasselblad? ›

The classic Hasselblad square format gives 12 photos per roll of 120 film.

How much is a Nikon S2 worth? ›

Nikon: Nikon S2
Body only$280-300$700-800
With lens$480-500$1200-1300
Estimate value accuracy:

Does Nikon S2 have light meter? ›

The S2 (like most of the older rangefinders) is a completely mechanical and manual camera. There's no battery and no light meter. I've since bought an old Gossen Lunasix (a handheld light meter), but for my first trip I simply brought my trusted FE2 (a 1983 Nikon SLR body).

What is Nikon oldest camera? ›

Less than two years after the completion of blueprints in September of 1946, the first Nikon camera, the Nikon Model I, was launched in March of 1948.

What camera are most movies shot on? ›

Some of the most used professional digital movie cameras include:
  • Arri Alexa.
  • Blackmagic URSA.
  • Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras.
  • Canon Cinema EOS.
  • Panavision Genesis.
  • Panasonic VariCam.
  • Red Epic.
  • Red Scarlet.

Do professional photographers still use film cameras? ›

As more people buy up available cameras, the prices for some camera models have steadily increased by 25-50% year-over-year. And while hobbyists have been the primary enthusiasts of film photography, more portrait and wedding photographers are now offering film photography as part of their packages.

What kind of camera does Christopher Nolan use? ›

Nolan is known for shooting on 70 mm film, and is credited for popularising the use of IMAX 70mm cameras in contemporary cinema.

Which is better mirrorless or DSLR? ›

The DSLR offers a wider selection of interchangeable lenses, longer battery life, and better low-light shooting thanks to the optical viewfinder. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras are lighter, more portable, offer better video quality even in lower-end models, and can shoot more images at faster shutter speeds.

Is Mirrorless better than DSLR for video? ›

For most people who want to shoot good quality video, a mirrorless camera is the best option. They're good for shallow focus and low light, while being smaller and lighter than a DSLR. I'd look for one with image stabilisation, microphone and headphone sockets, and an eye-level viewfinder.

What lenses should a filmmaker have? ›

Standard. Focal length: Full-frame around 50mm; APS-C around 35mm; MFT 20-25mm. These lenses offer natural-looking perspective. They're good for two-shots of people, and mid shots (hips to head) but they give slight distortion if you use them for closeups.

Can film look better than digital? ›

Film is better at capturing subtle details and color contrasts, especially between black and white. Lower initial costs. Traditional film cameras are generally cheaper than digital cameras. No fear of your camera losing power.

What filter makes photos look like film? ›

The HSL panel (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) is one of the best color adjustment options in Lightroom, and it's a massive part of making your photos look like they came straight from a film camera. There's no perfect level of adjustment here, as it will depend on the kind of image you want to create.

Are UV filters necessary for film cameras? ›

In the case of film photography, it's absolutely imperative that you use a UV filter, because film is extremely sensitive to UV rays. But if you're using a digital camera, is it so important?

What ISO should my camera be at? ›

100 or 200 is the best ISO for a sunny day or bright setting with lots of light. 400 ISO for cloudy days or indoor shots. 800 ISO for indoors without an external light. 1600+ ISO for low light situations.

What is the rule of thumb for shutter speed? ›

As a rule of thumb, your shutter speed needs to be double (or more) than the lens focal length. So, for example, if using a 50mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/100th sec or faster. If shooting with a 75mm lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/150th sec.

What aperture should I use? ›

If you want a large depth of field, you need a small aperture. If you want a shallow depth of field, you need a large aperture. That's the general rule. Using an aperture like f/1.4 or f/2 will give you a very shallow depth of field.

Which ISO is best? ›

ISO 9001 and related standards — Quality management

The ISO 9000 family contains the world's best-known quality management standard for companies and organizations of any size.

What is the best camera aperture? ›

Best camera settings in photography
  • Aperture: f/1.8-f/5.6 in low light or for a narrower depth of field, and f/8-f/16 for a wider DoF.
  • Shutter Speed: From 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second depending on the scene.
  • ISO: 100-3200 in entry-level cameras, and 100-6400 in more advanced cameras.

Is ISO 800 brighter or darker than ISO 200? ›

ISO 800 is half as sensitive to light as ISO 1600. A low ISO value (e.g. 100 or 200) means low sensitivity to light. This is exactly what's needed in bright conditions in order to avoid overly-exposed photos. A high ISO value (e.g. 800, 1600 or higher) means a high sensitivity to light.

What is the safest shutter speed? ›

Traditionally, the reciprocal of the effective focal length is a good guide to a safe handheld shutter speed. With a 100mm lens on a full-frame camera, that means using a shutter speed that's at least 1/100 or 1/125sec to ensure that images are sharp.

What is a realistic shutter speed? ›

The film industry has a rule of thumb often used to achieve natural-looking motion blur in video content called the 180° Shutter Rule. The 180° Shutter Rule states that your shutter speed should be set to 1/frame rate x 2. So at a frame rate of 24 fps, the correct shutter speed is 1/48 sec.

What is the most common shutter speed? ›

The average camera speed is usually 1/60. Speeds slower than this are hard to manage as they almost always lead to blurry photographs. The most common shutter speed settings available on cameras are usually 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8 etc.

What size negative for bronica 135W? ›

In my opinion, the 135W film back is reason enough to get a Bronica ETR-Si. With this back, you can shoot 35mm film and you end up with a 24mm X 54mm negative.

What is the difference between Hasselblad 500c and the Bronica sq? ›

The Hasselblad 500 c/m is an all-mechanical camera that does not require a battery. The Bronica SQ-Ai has an electronically coupled body, lens, back and finder, with an electronic Seiko shutter in the lens. It uses batteries, but they are only used to power the shutter (and the optional ae finder).

What does CH mean in photography? ›

Your camera may have just a C (Continuous) or CL (Continuous low) and CH (Continuous high). The differences between CL and CH are often a few more frames per second continuous shooting when CH is selected than you'll get when CL is selected.


1. Bronica S2A Video Manual 1 of 3: Overview
(David Hancock)
3. Bronica S2 | Most affordable Medium format film camera
(life of EPH)
4. Bronica S2A Video Manual 2 of 3: Operation
(David Hancock)
5. Bronica S2A Video Manual 3 of 3: The Lens System
(David Hancock)
6. Bronica S2A or Bronica S2? How to tell the difference


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