Bronica SQ 6x6 camera

Yesterday the Bronica SQ 6x6 camera that I ordered arrived and I have begun familiarizing myself with it. Overall, I am extremely happy with this camera and while I am sure that similar offerings from Mamiya or Pentax are just as good, in my opinion, this is a phenomenally good camera.

The one I have has some extra parts that improve it greatly. Namely: a speed grip and a metered prism viewfinder. The grip and viewfinder allow it to be held like more or less like a conventional SLR, and the ergonomics of it are excellent. It is not very heavy, or at least doesn’t seem that way to me, though a weaker person might have difficulty with it. To me, handling it is pretty much the same as any standard camera.

The Bronica SQ system is meant to be modular, meaning that its basic components can be taken apart very easily and interchanged with each other. This is convenient if you want to use lots of different configurations, but I don’t see any reason to use anything other than what it has now. Like almost all medium-format cameras, the 80mm lens is manual-focus only, and there is a focusing screen that aids in doing this - a circle in the center of the view is divided into smaller sections and one must adjust the focus so that the outer part of the circle is as clear as the inner part - when out of focus, it has a strange stippled effect that gets more and more pronunced the more out of focus it gets. It’s hard to explain, but using it is actually an intiutive process.

I have taken several shots which demonstrate the clarity and color that the camera is capable of. There is nothing interesting about the picture, but it shows off the quality. Here’s one, scaled down significantly from the original file (over 5,000 pixels square) scanned at 3200 dpi. Notice this cropped version, which even at a significant enlargement, still looks very smooth and clear and all of the shadows and highlights of the leaves are preserved. (I know there are some scratches and dust and stuff on the negative…I didn’t feel like removing them, as I was in a hurry to scan the images, but my scanning software has a very effective dust-removal feature.)

Keep in mind I have not remotely mastered the manual focusing of this camera yet, and so these images could be even sharper.

True to life colors can be produced using Kodak Ektar film, I find, requiring very little post-processing after scanned. This film is my primary film for 35mm photography and seems to look just as good in 120 size.

In summary: I think medium format film kills any digital SLR, and I would recommend this specific camera to anyone who wants to take advantage of this. I realize the vast majority of people are happy with the way their digital photos look, but after using 120 film, I am never, ever going back.

Nice camera, glad you like it! I like Bronnies, and thinking in the 6x6 square format. It really is interesting compositionally to compose in that aspect ratio. I actually like using those cameras without the prism viewfinder–just looking top-down–as they make for good street photography cameras. You can be a lot more inconspicuous looking down into the camera at hip level and pointing it in any direction than holding it in your face. Good colors on the Ektar.

(I personally prefer digital in terms of quality for most work, but whatever tool fits the job and whatever inspires you.)

I never would have thought of that. You are absolutely right. That is a damn good idea. I am going to try that.

I take lots of pictures of street scenes and interesting looking people and sometimes I don’t want the knowledge that someone is being photographed to interfere with whatever they were naturally doing. I take many shots surrepetitiously. This great shot, which I took at the county fair a few days ago, would never have worked if the subjects knew I was photographing them.

That’s a great shot and I agree with the sentiment, but - what’s the legality of photographing subjects who don’t know you’re photographing them? I’ve read accounts of a photographer needing to get “model release” forms of this kind of random scenes-of-life shot. Probably has to do with whether or not you’re selling the pics, maybe?

Absolutely. Even the little flip-down screen on my D5000 works wonders for candid shots. People assume you’re reviewing and deleting pictures. Works great at parties.

This is a rundown of the law. Basically, (although read the article for the nuances) if somebody is in a public space, you have a right to take their photo. Now, what you can do with the photo is another question. You can’t use it for “commerical purposes” without a model release. You can, however, sell it to a newspaper, magazine, etc., and they are in the clear if they run it in an editorial context. So, for example, Argent’s photo at the fair would be fine for, say, Newsweek or Time to run to accompany an article, but without a release, you would not be able to sell to an ad agency, for example.

I used to have an SQAI. It’s a nice camera although a bit heavy to carry on extended outings.

A MAJOR weakness of this system is that the lenses have relatively poor close focusing ability. Not just that they don’t do macro, but for example the 150mm (and 80mm IIRC) cannot make a head and shoulders portrait. If you are shooting subjects other than landscapes, you might want to invest in a short extension tube or in one of the macro lenses.

As to superiority of 120 film over digital, it is highly debatable. Color negative film has a big advantage in dynamic range over digital. Detail is fairly comparable between medium format negatives and a full frame DSLR, but IMHO the top end lenses on a modern DSLR are sharper. OTOH, we are comparing $300 of used Bronica kit to at least $3000 of DSLR kit.

I have several 4x5 cameras, an ETRSi, and an EOS 5D2. Generally the DSLR comes out for covering events, travel, and everyday snapshots. The film cameras are for fun and for artistic photos. I do some darkroom printing, so obviously any photos for that purpose are going to be film.

For street photography with a waist-level finder, TLRs are the ideal. For one thing, they are much much more quiet. A TLR shutter makes a tiny click as opposed to the “clap” the Bronica mirror makes. It is also less obvious which way a TLR is pointing.

If you are already shooting 120 and this kind of shooting interests you, consider grabbing an old Yashica TLR.