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Zenza Bronica ETRSi Review for Landscape Photography

Bronica ETRS front view with waist level finder

The iconic Bronica ETRSi is a beautiful, modular, affordable and relatively portable medium format film camera.

Unlike other well known camera brands that carry a collecter’s price, the Bronica instead holds a more functional and affordable cult appeal.

What this camera offers is a smaller, portable medium format film system that can be built to suit you and delivers incredible imagery with the smaller 645 image crop.

But there’s more reasons why I (and others) love this camera system.

In this article, I’m going to share my experience, the pros and cons, and also how I feel it stacks up as a medium format landscape photography camera.

Table of Contents

Using the ETRSI

This camera has been responsible for some of my favourite images (gallery below) and this is purely due to one thing — the waist level finder.

The lens selection, image resolution and image format are all really nice and I learned to appreciate and prefer the 645 format for both framing and capturing more images per roll.

When hiking in remote country for days the portability and weight cost for a flexible medium format system is also unmatched.

Bronica ETRS side photo with lens and waist level finder open

Using this camera day to day for a number of years with the big, bright, gorgeous waist level finder really made me fall in love.

The body is perfectly sized to fit in the palm of two hands making it very comfortable and natural to use from the waist.

If shooting with the eye-finder a large comfortable grip is available to make one handed shooting possible (but heavy), so two hands are still preferred.

The focus screen is crisp and the depth of field preview is a joy to use.

The ability to change out film backs mid roll is ingenious. By sliding in the dark slide, you can safely store your roll of film half exposed between projects or swap between film stocks on location.

The camera breaks down quickly and easily into body, lens and backs (even mid-roll) which means it fits into even the smaller camera bags designed for mirrorless or DSLR cameras.

The Bronica ETRSi is solely responsible for me ditching digital cameras for three years simply because I loved shooting with this camera so much.

Sample Image Gallery

This camera was a staple in my pack for three years and has been through bushfires, water crossings, mountain hikes and more. Here are some images from a few years shooting with my Bronica ETRSi.

Bronica ETRSi Features

Below is a list of the major features of the ETRSi and some examples of where I think these features really come in handy as a landscape photographer.

1. Interchangeable Lenses

  • Wide Range: Capture vast landscapes with the 40mm f/4 (equivalent to 24mm on full-frame), all the way up to 500mm f/8 (equivalent to 300mm).

This may seem common for SLRs today, but there are only a handful of medium format film cameras with interchangeable lens systems.

The majority of medium format cameras developed in the 1980s and earlier had fixed integrated lenses to keep weight and costs down.

The Bronica ETR lens range is appropriately regarded as high quality, sharp, affordable and reliable. These are readily available and cover a good range of focal lengths.

2. 645 Format

  • Larger Negative: Compared to 35mm, it offers finer detail, smoother transitions, and less grain, especially in enlargements.
  • Landscape Format: A large 4:3 ratio offers a more traditional landscape orientation and can capture more images per roll than a traditional square 6×6 format.

The larger medium format film far exceeds the printing, cropping and resolution of modern full frame digital cameras or 35mm film. Medium format film is calculated to be equivalent to 400MP when converted to digital.

What this means as a landscape photographer is that printing large landscapes for exhibitions or showcasing intricate detail is unmatched.

This also allows a lot more flexibility in cropping, and the landscape orientation and shorter frame height of 645 gives you more shots per roll so film becomes a bit more economical.

C41 120 color film developed and drying

3. Waist Level Finder

  • Brighter Viewing: Ideal for composing in brighter or darker scenes with natural light.
  • Extra Large Window: Easier to assess the entire scene and compose balanced shots.

When composing large intricate landscapes the ability to see your frame in a big, bright viewfinder makes it superior to small viewfinder windows or, with digital, having to refer back to the preview screen after each shot.

Focus and depth of field is clearly defined and easier to see for all subject matter and once you start you’ll fall in love with framing in the waist level finder.

Looking through the waist level viewfinder on the Bronica ETRSi

4. Mirror Lockup

  • Reduces Vibration: Minimizes blur during long exposures for capturing still water reflections, star trails, or smooth waterfalls.

I ended up using this feature often for seascapes, long exposures and astrophotography.

The mirror lockup is quick and easy to set, and combined with a cable shutter release it removed any vibration from the mechanical shutter to provide clean, sharp images.

5. Construction & Modularity

  • Durable: Built to handle dusty hikes, cold mountain mornings, or occasional bumps.
  • Small & Simple: Small boxy design, fits nicely in the hands with or without gloves.
  • Modular: Change and build your own Bronica setup to suit your preferences and subject.
Bronica ETRS body only with finder, back and lens removed

Packing the ETRSi on location is not a worry for landscape photographers with this camera’s rugged construction able to withstand challenging environments like deserts, beaches, or high-altitude landscapes.

Nearly everything is changeable (and cleanable) at any time.

Lenses, film backs, viewfinders, winders and handles, focus screens — all are interchangeable whether you’re part way through a roll or not.

I’ve carried my camera through extreme weather, rugged terrain and everything in-between and have never had to worry, it’s a true workhorse.

6. Multi Exposure Capability

  • Creative Overlays: Combine multiple exposures for surreal effects like blending day and night or creating dreamlike landscapes.

Admittedly this isn’t something I’ve used very often outside of tests.

Setting the multi exposure dial allows you to shoot and wind the shutter, but will prevent the film behind wound to the next frame.

So if you’re planning to shoot some experimental imagery or timelapse star trails this would be ideal.

7. Interchangeable Film Backs

  • True Flexibility: Change film stock between locations or projects.

This is a game changer for landscape photographers who shoot film.

Some of our projects can last years between location visits or months between seasons, but we still have other images and projects to work on.

Now instead of wasting a half shot roll of film, or being forced to use the wrong film stock you can simply change your film back and shoot with what you like.

You don’t need to complete a roll before changing, slide in the dark slide and your film back is removeable and light proof to be replaced with another loaded with a different stock.

A Quick History: Bronica ETRS

In 1976, the Bronica ETR (Electronic, TTL-metering, Reflex) entered the market, marking a significant shift for the Japanese camera maker.

Previously reliant on Nikon for lenses, Bronica had designed their own leaf-shutter system and a vast array of optics for the ETR.

This compact, modular 645 medium format camera system offered interchangeable lenses, waist-level and eye-level viewfinders, and multiple film backs, giving photographers incredible flexibility.

By 1988, the ETRSi arrived, building upon the legacy with mirror lock-up and an improved film back design.

The Bronica ETRS and ETRSi retains a cult like following. Its reputation for excellent image quality, modularity, and durability continues to attract photographers seeking an analog experience and exceptional imagery.

While cameras like the ETRSi are no longer in production, the used marketplace means you can find pre loved bodies and components for a good price so you can embark on your own creative journey with this versatile medium format system.

Bronica ETRS front photo with lens and waist level finder

Loved By Others

The Bronica ETRSi has earned a loyal following among landscape photographers.

Today, the Bronica community  is a small and passionate group of photographers who are willing to offer their time and expertise to help people new to the camera or experiment with their images.

While technology has evolved, the ETRSi’s combination of image quality, durability, and unique features continues to inspire photographers seeking to capture the beauty of the natural world.

Who is Jeremy?

I’m an Australian photographer exploring wilderness, ritual, and identity through still imagery.

On YouTube

Follow my photography, curiosities and hiking on my YouTube channel.

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