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First Bronica ETRsi shooting experience

This post describes my ETRsi shooting experiences from the last few days when I've been out taking pictures with my new (to me) Bronica ETRsi medium format SLR. I thought, since this is the first time I've used a camera in this class, I would record my experiences in a post.

Bronica ETRsi Shooting experiences

As I said in my initial post, the Bronica ETRsi is not a simple camera to set up and use when you first encounter it, especially when you come to it from a modern auto exposure digital camera. Although I have experience of film, both historically from my youth and also more recently from building and using my vintage camera collection, it's still a bit of a sea-change to get used to.

I created a checklist of actions to take prior to releasing the shutter:

  • Advance film, so the mirror is down, and the image can be composed.
  • Take a meter reading using a hand held meter.
  • Set the aperture and shutter speed combination to get the effect you want.
  • Remove the dark slide.
  • Make sure the camera is switched on.
  • Focus and compose the image.
  • Take exposure.

Even with this list, I still ended up several times pressing the shutter and finding I'd missed a step because I haven't yet memorised the list. However, although with practice I'm sure I'll get used to it, it is never going to be as quick or spontaneous an experience as it is with a digital or for that matter one of my more modern 35 mm cameras.

To meter the exposure, I used my modern Gossen Digipro F exposure meter. This is the first time I've used it in anger to judge exposure, so prior to using it I calibrated it by taking some measurements and applying them to my Ricoh GXR in manual mode. By doing this, I discovered that the Digipro under exposes by about 2 stops, which was a bit worrying. To calibrate, I set the ISO to 100 rather than the 400 of the HP5 film I had loaded in the camera, but I need to investigate why the readings are so far out.

For the most part, I used the waist level finder on the Bronica ETRsi to compose shots. Because this doesn't have a prism which corrects the image, it takes a while to get used to moving the camera the 'wrong' way to change the composition.

I was particularly confused when taking a portrait orientation picture, spending what seemed like 5 minutes moving the camera in 3 dimensions to get the horizon level and the sun in the correct position - I'll only know how that worked out once I've developed the film!

Bronica ETRsi with WLF, grip and 75mm lens used on my first shooting experience
ETRsi with WLF, grip and 75mm lens

Another thing I worked out when using the waist level finder is that when the integrated magnifier is in place, it's important to get very close to it to magnify the image.

Initially I tried to use it from the normal distance I use the WLF from and found it almost impossible to get a clear view. Just by chance I happened to look through the magnifier when I had my eye close to it and suddenly discovered that it gives a very clear and magnified view of the whole scene.

Once I worked that out, it made precise focus much easier and also explained the number of shots I've seen on Flickr with people holding the finder up to their eye!

As with all film photography, the exposure range on offer is less than it would be with digital because you can't change the speed of the film, but that is just something you get used to. Of course, if I can get some more film backs that will ease the problem because then I will be able to change the speed of the film mid-roll. I'm hoping to get a couple of extra backs, but they are quite expensive at about £50 each.

Something I wanted to do with the first film I put through this camera was to make sure for each picture I had a proper recording of the exposure settings I'd used and a note of the conditions etc. I found a phone app on the Google Play Store called 'FilmTag for Analog Photography' which I used to record information about each picture. This was good, allowing me to easily record the aperture, shutter speed, make a note and also record the location and take a quick phone pic as well. Only after I'd completed the film did I find that I couldn't export the data to use when scanning the film.

I've subsequently found a much more sophisticated app called Exif4film (which, once I saw it, I had a feeling I may have used it before) which looks like it will do a better job.

Overall, it's been an interesting experience using the Bronica ETRsi, and I'm looking forward to the results when I develop the film. I'm hoping to do that tomorrow morning, so once I have the scans I'll post the results.

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