Bronica cameras first appeared in 1958, when the company's founder, Zenzaburo Yoshino, introduced a camera of his own design, the Bronica Z rollfilm camera, at the Philadelphia Camera Show. The name "Zenza Bronica" is reputedly derived from Zenzaburo Brownie Camera. The Bronica Z and successor Bronicas, using large-coverage, high-quality Nikkor lenses, became instant successes.
Bronica later introduced lenses of its own manufacture with its later camera designs. Zenza Bronica Ltd. was eventually acquired by the lens manufacturer Tamron. Zenzaburo Yoshino died in 1988.
Tamron discontinued the brand's single-lens reflex models (SQ, ETR and GS) in October 2004, sales having suffered from the lack of a digital back and loss of market share to DSLRs, particularly for the wedding photography business which had previously been a heavy user of medium format but switched quickly to digital for its workflow benefits. Bronica's last model, the RF645 rangefinder camera, was discontinued in October 2005.
Bronicas were workhorse cameras for wedding and portrait photographers for many years. Secondhand Bronica cameras are still widely used by professional and serious amateur photographers, in no small part due to superior image quality of 6x4.5, 6x6 and 6x7cm roll film over smaller film and digital sensor formats.
Bronica SLR cameras employed a modular design: The major components of the camera—lens, body, film back and viewfinder—were separate and interchangeable.
From its start, Bronica introduced a number of medium format SLRs with focal plane shutter, which used Nikkor lenses from Nikon, until this line was discontinued with the introduction of the SQ. These included Model Z (1958), D (1961) S (1961), C (1964), C2 (1965), S2 (1965), S2a (1969), EC (1972), S2a Type 2 (1972), EC-TL (1975), EC-TL Type 2 (1978), and EC-TL II (1980).
Notably, the EC was the first medium format SLR with an electronically controlled shutter, while the EC-TL was the first medium format camera with automatic exposure. The range of Nikkor lenses for these remarkable cameras reached from 30 mm (fisheye) to 1200 mm and comprised about 30 lenses. Lenses from Sankyo Kohki Komura, Zeiss Jena, and Bronica itself were available, as well as a wide range of accessories, including different film magazines, bellows, and viewfinders.
- ETR: Introduced January 1976. Advanced, compact, modular electronic 6x4.5 cm SLR camera system with a vast array of finders, backs, and other accessories. Seventeen lenses with leaf shutters were made for the system from a fisheye, to four different zooms, to a 500mm super telephoto, to a unique 55mm tilt shift lens.
- ETR-C: Introduced October 1977. Identical to ETR models except film magazine cannot be removed from film back.
- ETR-S: Introduced January 1979. Improved version of ETR with an extra contact to support auto-exposure mode with the metered prism finder AE-II and later AE-III.
- ETR-S: A modification introduced July 1982. Unnamed change to original ETR-S model. This version is sometimes referred to as the "plastic" body ETR-S and back, for the change in the side panels of the body and backs to polycarbonate. Lens release located on left side of body, backs released using two independent tabs.
- ETR-Si: Introduced October 1989. Improved version of ETR-S with mirror lock-up capability. Capable of through-the-lens off-the-filmplane (TTL-OTF) flash exposure. Significantly improved back design (Ei) with locking darkslide.
- SQ: Introduced October 1980 as a replacement for the increasingly bulky Nikkor-based cameras. Modular 6x6cm square format SLR camera system with leaf shutter.
- SQ-A: Introduced January 1982. The SQ-A was a refinement of the SQ. The contact pin array for the viewfinder was increased from six to ten gold contacts, allowing for auto metering capability with the AE finder S. Also, a mirror lock-up lever was added. The backs were modified slightly, with the ISO dial for the original backs having white and orange numerals, and the new with silver. The darkslide was changed to the locking style; to lock required both the new grey handle slide and the new silver numeral ISO dial back. All accessories for SQ cameras fit the SQ-A, however the AE finder cannot physically mount on the SQ; a safety defeat pin prevents attachment.
- SQ-Am: Introduced January 1983. "Motorized only" version of SQ-A body. Uses six additional AA batteries.
- SQ-Ai: Introduced October 1990. Added the following functionality to the SQ-A. Ability to add the motor drive SQ-i and off the film (TTL-OTF) metering with select flash guns. These changes required the addition of a circuit board which also required the battery compartment to be "flattened." The single 6v cell was replaced with four 1.5 volt "button" cells. A bulb 'B' setting was added to the shutter speed selector. The film back was also modified again with the introduction of the SQ-Ai, relocating the ISO dial to the rear of the back (rather than on top) to allow the speed setting to be seen better with a prism attached. Exposure compensation control was also added to the new SQI film back, with the ISO range extended to 6400.
- SQ-B: Introduced February 1996, the SQ-B was a low cost, entry-level camera that was based on the SQ-A with many of the advanced features removed.
- GS-1: Introduced 1982. Lightweight, electronically controlled, modular SLR 6x7cm camera system, with four interchangeable viewfinders, speed grip, and optional backs for Polaroid, 6x4.5 cm, 6x6cm, and 6x7cm rollfilm. 120 and 220 size film backs available in 6x4.5, 6x6 and 6x7cm. A 35mm back was listed in the camera's marketing materials, but never materialized. Dedicated Flash (G1). The GS-1 uses "PG"-series lenses in a variety of focal lengths: 50 mm, 65 mm, 80mm, 100 mm, 110 mm macro, 150mm, 200 mm, 250 mm, and 500 mm.
- RF645: Introduced 2000. Extremely light and compact 6x4.5 cm coupled rangefinder camera system with four interchangeable leaf shutter lenses: 45 mm, 65 mm, 100 mm and 135 mm. The 135mm Tele Lens soon was discontinued due to calibration problems of the rangefinder-system. Dedicated flash (RF20) and special polarizer kit.
- http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ioS6FwirpAoJ:medfmt.8k.com/bronname.html&hl=en&strip=1 Origin of the Bronica Name by Mr. Taketeru Yoshitake
- http://nikomat.org/priv/camera/mednikkor/bronica/bronica-e.html Bronica History
- Press Release: Bronica Medium Format Business Terminated
- http://www.tamron-usa.com/bronica/sq_guide.asp Tamron Bronica Learning Center SQ Guide
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Zenza Bronica cameras.|
- Bronica S2a pictures by luis triguez
- Bronica Users Group (BUG) at the Yahoo Groups site
- Bronica instruction manuals and accessories English, PDF
- Tamron SQ-Ai User Manual English, PDF