My New Old Flame: Zenza Bronica S2A


My Diana introduced me to the Mid-format. I liked it that much that I tended to buy another 6×6 camera. I recently found my Bronica S2A in a local camera Store. Since then we learn to know each other better…

Since changing back to analogue photography last year I got more and more into Medium Format.
This is at one hand caused by my lovely Diana F+ “Tokyo Rising” and on the other hand by that lovely square shots they produce. As I am a record collector as well, the square picture format is very familiar to me.

After buying an old mid-format slide projector I decided to upgrade my set with a camera that would provide crisp slides (If you ever shot 6×6 slides you know why). A co-worker of mine brought his Hasselblad 500 c one day and I was like… BAM! Cube fever got me!

I searched the Web for an affordable 500c — but failed.

Then, one day, I was roaming the next big city near my place and saw her in the window of a small camera shop. I did not know her, just saw that “Zenza” plate, all that chrome and fell in love instantly.

It was a Zenza Bronica S2A, built 1969 with a Nikkor 75mm lens — and she was in an amazing shape. A camera made of stainless steel, that reminded me of an old Ford Thunderbird or alike. My heart said yes, my mind said no. I spent another week doing researches on her, finding out if she was right for me, because there are many different stories out there depending on her reliability.

Home is where the heart is as the old folks say, so I returned to the shop to release her from her deep sleep.

To my surprise, I got the camery fully boxed, a yellow filter, Lens Shades, and the original leather strap was still untouched in the back of the box. Also, the focus was perfect (a common problem with the S2A is a deranged screen)!

As my fridge always contains a few rolls of 120 film, I unlocked and loaded my “Broni” and headed out to my designated Test Area: “Phönix West”.

It has been late already and I underestimated how light hungry she is, so most of the shots got underexposed, but I managed to get some usable slides. Underexposure of the film leads to strange behaviour with my S2A: The black corners I already learned to love from Diana turned into black “stripes” above and beyond the object.

Credits: smu

I was a bit disappointed, but willing to give it another try. The second roll went better, but still underexposed. I depended fully on my light meter what turned out to be a failure. Outside a vintage car show I was able to catch a few good shots, but when shooting indoors it went all too mushy.
But I noticed that grade of detail this old lady would be able to offer me, if I would just spend more time with her. I also liked the colours and the contrast, giving me that vintage B-Movie looks.

Credits: smu

Next mission was Paris, France. On the trails of the Post-it wars. Bad light situations out there, so “Broni” came out just for some shots. The rest of the Roll was used for some night shots. And there it was: The whole Spectrum from Lo-Fi to ultra crisp high contrast mid-format power.

Credits: smu

The slides are just amazing when projected on a wall! I love my Broni, even though I still need to know her better…

Here are just a few Tips on the Bronica S2A:

  • Watch out for the Nikkor Lenses, they are good performers but have to be in perfect shape.
  • Do NOT blindly depend on your Light Meter! Especially when using stuff like Teleconverters, you have to remember to go down a few F stops!
  • When buying one, check if the screen is deranged. That is a common problem with the S2A. If it is deranged, you will not be able to focus properly! But there are some Manuals out there that tell you how to fix it.
  • It is an old, loud, and heavy camera. Built like a tank. Not the right one for Wildlife pictures.
  • Take your time:

- Time to know your camera.
- Time to take the shots. She feels well on a tripod ;)

  • Other equipment is available at good prices.
  • An extra magazine for swapping different filmtypes (b/w or colour) or fast reloading is recommended.
  • If you chose to buy one, you will own one of the most beautiful cameras ever built!

written by smu on 2011-11-17 #gear #medium-format #review #slr #6x6 #lomography #bronica #user-review #zenza #s2a


  1. welland
    welland ·

    Such a good looking camera! Your shots are great too.

  2. simonh82
    simonh82 ·

    Some really nice pictures. Slides don't look as bad under exposed as colour negatives, the colours just look more saturated which looks good to me.

    Could the dark bands be a shutter problem? Is the S2A a leaf shutter or focal plane? If it is focal plane then it could be the shutter curtains getting out of sync and under exposing a band along the top.

  3. smu
    smu ·

    Thanks. @simonh82: Was my first thought, but by now it seems not to be the shutter. It is a focal plane shutter, so this seems to be sensible! But I made several Pictures at the same speed by now and some pictures have it, some don't. I'm not sure if it depends on the available light at the top and bottom. My guess at the Moment is, that if there are dark areas at the top or bottom, it somehow results in extreme contrast. Don't know. I'm going to do a test series with the same object at different speeds to outgun a shutter issue to be sure...

  4. jawatembak
    jawatembak ·

    I e n v y Y O U !

  5. plasticpopsicle
    plasticpopsicle ·

    Beautiful camera and photos! Good thing you found her and decided to get her. I love how the night photos are so crisp and sharp!

  6. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    As you are able to afford it, get your Bronica CLA'ed. The stripes look like intermittant, uneven shutter curtain travel. This would be the result of old, sticky grease from age. From the look of it, with a good clean, lube, and adjust with new, modern grease, you would have a new camera. These were very good, and pro fashion photographers made their living with them. Enjoy.

  7. alexintheskywithdiamonds
    alexintheskywithdiamonds ·

    Yes, my two first rolls was underexposed too... You're right about not relying on the light meter !!

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