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Bronica ETRS(i) or Mamiya M645?
Old 12-18-2012   #1
efix
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Bronica ETRS(i) or Mamiya M645?

The medium format bug has bitten me. Now I'm thinking of getting a 645 mf camera. I narrowed it down to the two above. Which one should I get? Or a totally different one? (I am aware the M645 doesn't have interchangeable backs.)

Looking forward to your input.
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Old 12-18-2012   #2
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In Germany, that is somewhat hard to decide - Bronica were reasonably well distributed here as well, so they aren't quite as rare and expensive as in some other countries (Mamiya were pretty much globally represented, while there are many white patches on the Bronica map).

In general, most of the M645 series (except for the 645super, which was a stinker) held up better than the ETRS - the non-interchangeable back ones in particular are hard to kill. And M645 and their lenses are more widespread, often younger and cheaper. But a good ETRS(i) is a excellent camera, and with its leaf shutters better suited to flash use.

Stay away from the M645super. And both with the ETRS(i) and M645pro(TL) carefully test the magazine linkages, and with the ETRS(i), also check the lens (shutter) linkage - wear and loss of reliability of the linkages are the most common issues with either camera. Beyond that, and with the plain old M645, the usual rules for buying a small format SLR apply...
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Old 12-18-2012   #3
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Thanks, sevo. In particular, I'm looking at a Mamiya M645 1000s now.
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Old 12-18-2012   #4
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What a coincidence Felix! I know Christian is on here as well.

As I mentioned to you via email, I never had trouble with my Bronica system, but I do agree that the M645 is a tough little bugger. I just never bought into them for the reason I mentioned to you, but if that doesn't bother you, I doubt you'll be disappointed. Keep an eye out for the 55mm f/2.8 and 80mm f/1.9
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Old 12-18-2012   #5
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Concur with the M645, have had mine since the mid '70's with no problems. Recently acquired a 645 Super kit. Backs are fine (less fussy than my Hasselblad's) and no light leaks. Can highly recommend both models.
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Old 12-18-2012   #6
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personally i think the lenses for the mamiya are better.

i have a bronica etr, because it was the cheapest option. i like the body, it is nice to handle. but i am not so happy with the lenses.
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Old 12-18-2012   #7
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Biggest difference is the leaf shutter in the Bronica vs the focal plane one in the Mamiya. But Mamiya did make some leaf shutter lenses for the 645 series. Not as smooth in usage as the rest and obviously not a large selection.

Over here Mamiya is a bit easier to find and also to get serviced. But keep in mind that service is often more expensive than just getting another second-hand one. That is probably valid for other cameras from that age.

I'm happy with my 645ProTL, 645J and 645Super...
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Old 12-18-2012   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter_wrote: View Post
personally i think the lenses for the mamiya are better.

i have a bronica etr, because it was the cheapest option. i like the body, it is nice to handle. but i am not so happy with the lenses.
Bronica started late into lens making, having depended on Nikon for two decades, and some of the early ETR lenses were none too exciting - but the later PE series lenses are quite up to Mamiya standards.
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Old 12-18-2012   #9
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The Bronica is a leaf shutter system. Pros - less vibration from the in-lens shutter and high speed daylight flash sync. Cons - possibly more maintenance issues with a shutter in every lens?
The Mamiya features a focal plane shutter and limited maximum flash sync speed. If the shutter speeds are accurate then they are accurate no matter which lens is mounted.
I no longer have either system but IIRC the Bronica mirror does not automatically return to the down position after the shutter is pressed, not until after the film is advanced and the shutter charged for the next shot. The Mamiya has an instant return mirror (and mirror slap). Their lenses are more compact than Bronica due to the lack of in-lens shutters.
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Old 12-18-2012   #10
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Less vibration from leaf shutters is a bit of a canard since a long time. Mirrors are very well dampened these days (and when the 645's were made). I have no problem using the 645ProTL at 1/15 with the 80mm. Most of the "slap" is the mirror returning but that isn't any issue at all as the photo is already taken and the film is advancing (I always use the motor).

Leaf shutters are a good deal quieter, that's a point that is still standing. And flash synchr is another strong point.
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Old 12-19-2012   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agphotography View Post
What a coincidence Felix! I know Christian is on here as well.

As I mentioned to you via email, I never had trouble with my Bronica system, but I do agree that the M645 is a tough little bugger. I just never bought into them for the reason I mentioned to you, but if that doesn't bother you, I doubt you'll be disappointed. Keep an eye out for the 55mm f/2.8 and 80mm f/1.9
No coincidence at all, Abram. I always bug the good folks of rff land with my gear related questions :-) I think I saw Christian around recently.
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Old 12-19-2012   #12
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So a lot of votes for the Mamiya I see. Flash doesn't play a huge role. And I'd prefer the focal plane shutter for its higher speed anyway.
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Old 12-19-2012   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkydog View Post
...IIRC the Bronica mirror does not automatically return to the down position after the shutter is pressed, not until after the film is advanced and the shutter charged for the next shot.
I can confirm this. I'd not used my ETRS for a while, so it took me by surprise. To mine I'd attached the AE-II prism, which adds metering and the ability to set aperture priority automatic exposure, and the speed grip, which for me improves the handling when you use the camera at eye level.
So when I took a picture and the viewfinder remained black, I was a bit confused until I realised that's how the Bronica works! No view through the viewfinder until you wind it on ready for the next shot!

I really should use it more often.
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Old 12-19-2012   #14
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I have ETRSi with a bunch of lenses (all PE series) and a few backs (even 135W), and it is very reliable, never stood me down, fun to use. I would recommend it.

I also have the hand grip, but dont use it ever, just doesnt fill right.
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Old 12-19-2012   #15
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A minor detail - the old M645 family have an extra top-mounted shutter-release button to the right of the focussing screen, which makes for a very smooth release when using a waist-level finder as it allows one to cradle the body securely in both hands without having to reach round the front.

The newer Mamiya 645s have only the front-mounted button which is a bugger to press smoothly due to the collar surrounding it. They really do benefit from the addition of one of the various add-on grips.
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Old 12-19-2012   #16
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Efix,

I agree with with Sevo said, as I had (2) Mamiya 645 1000S bodies that just wouldn't quit on me! I recently gave one of my complete Mamiya 645 system to my niece who lives in Berlin for her personal use. I had it overhaul for her by Bob Watkins and it included spare 120 & 220 inserts & case, 55mm2.8, 80mm2.8, and 150mm3.5 with assorted filters, flash handle and a Vivitar flash and of course a Tenba system bag to hold it.

You would also look into the Pentacon 6 to Mamiya 645 lens adapter that would allow you to use some of the wonderful P-6 mount optics such as CZJ, the Pentacon 500mm, and the assorted Kiev 60 optics of your choice.



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Originally Posted by efix View Post
Thanks, sevo. In particular, I'm looking at a Mamiya M645 1000s now.
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Old 12-19-2012   #17
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I have both the Bronica ETRSi and the Mamiya 645 Pro, with grips. I love the Mamiya better in every way, especially ergonomics. The Bronica has just never felt right to me.
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Old 12-19-2012   #18
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Not to derail you, but I have recently bought both the Contax 645 and Pentax 645N. While Contax is a hell of a camera, I am actually very well impressed with the Pentax. I have the 55/2.8, 75/2.8 and 150/3.5 lenses, plus I can use any lens I want from the P67 and Hasselblad V and F line with an adapter - in particular for the money, the 105/2.4 is a gem. The VF is brighter than in Contax, the focusing is very easy ( I use MF lenses only), and you can find extra inserts for little money. All these lenses are very nice wide open, with a pleasant bokeh, which not always makes part of the Mamiya philosophy - I believe the Bronica lenses are more similar.
This is with the P67 90/2.8:

MF20122801 by mfogiel, on Flickr
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Old 12-20-2012   #19
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mfogiel, I am sure both the Contax and Pentax systems are very good, however, the Mamiya and Bronica both fit my budget. Being a newbie to medium format, I'd rather not spend huge chunks of money on my first system :-)
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Old 12-20-2012   #20
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Quote:
Being a newbie to medium format, I'd rather not spend huge chunks of money on my first system :-)
Well, that can be a good thing but just as well a mistake. I reasoned the same way: looked hard at a Mamiya system but decided the risk was too much. Got a Kiev 60, spend more on lenses etc for it. Then switched to a Mamiya 645 and hardly use the Kiev 60 (and P6) anymore. Sometimes I wonder if that was worth it.

Maybe you should try to borrow one or more of those cameras first?
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Re: Mamiya leaf shutter lenses....
Old 12-20-2012   #21
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Re: Mamiya leaf shutter lenses....

The leaf shutter lenses for the Mamiya 645 require a dual cable shutter release that is very hard to find. You set the camera body for 1/8 second and set the lens for the desired shutter speed. Without the special cable, the leaf shutter lens is pretty useless. I have one... have never used it and can't sell it. The dual cable release must actuate the two shutters, body and lens, at the same time.

Re: lens quality, I never found the Bronica Zenza lenses any lesser quality than the Mamiya Sekor. The Bronica ETRsi camera is much lighter than the early M645 cameras and a bit smaller.

There seems to be a bit more inventory in the market for Bronica, but I shot both systems for some time, and ended up favoring the Bronica system. Flash synch was a major decision point. Effectively there is not a real leaf shutter option for Mamiya, unless you have the special, near non existant cable.

There is one other point favoring the Bronica. If you can find one, and if you step up on price, there is a 35mm panoramic back for the Bronica ETR series. It runs the film horizontally for a 24X56 pano, much like the Hasselblad/Fuji 35mm pano. I would again buy a Bronica ETR series if I had one of those backs, since I now do a lot of Pano. However, I won't pony up $2000 for the Hassy/Fuji 35mm pano camera.

I see the Bronica 135W film back 3-4 times a year, for around $300-400.
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Old 12-20-2012   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuzano View Post
The leaf shutter lenses for the Mamiya 645 require a dual cable shutter release that is very hard to find.
No. It is a bit more complex than that - the oldest and most widespread, the 70/2.8, does not need a separate release, it is triggered by the aperture actuator. But it needs to be manually cocked by twisting the front ring, and the camera has to be set to 1/8 or slower to let the leaf shutter have precedence.

IIRC there also was a later series of maybe two or three leaf shutter lenses that are intended to be cocked and released through a umbilical cord connection to the second generation of ProTL motor drives (which, see below, seem to fall back to the behaviour of the 70mm on older cameras), and similar lenses for the M645 AFD. The latter are not supposed to work in any other configuration, the described might be a workaround to run them all-manual nonetheless.

Last edited by sevo : 12-20-2012 at 12:16. Reason: facts corrected
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Old 12-20-2012   #23
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I do have a 55mm leaf shutter lens for my camera. It works fine without a dual release and without the umbilical cord.

You can use it manually, by cocking it with the ring at the front of the lens and then it works automatically if you put the camera slower than 1/8s as it is actuated by the diaphragm lever. If you use the umbilical cord with the WG401 (?) grip, then the cocking is motorised and powered by the grip.

If you need a dual release, Pentacon made one to be used when you do macro with and inverted lens. They had an adaptor ring that actuated the diaphragm.
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Old 12-20-2012   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanik View Post
I do have a 55mm leaf shutter lens for my camera. It works fine without a dual release and without the umbilical cord.
Good to hear. That ought to mean that only the AF series lenses are incompatible.
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Old 12-20-2012   #25
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I have used the ETRSi with five lenses for more than two years as my main camera. I love the build quality of the camera and the rendering of the lenses. It is a great system. But the one 24x54 back I tried turned out to be not that reliable.
Do you prefer very fast lenses or focal plane shutter? Buy one of the Mamiya 645's. Otherwise you can't go wrong with the Bronica.
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