In March I met with Twitter/Flickr buddy, Simon Kidd, who was trying to clear some space in his house by reducing the amount of cameras he had (his impressive camera collection can be found here). One of those was a Bronica S2A and I had wanted one for a long time, so I naturally jumped on the opportunity.
The Bronica S2A is a medium format camera from around 1969. It has a focal plane shutter rather than a leaf shutter, and lenses made by Nikon and Zenza Bronica which gives you quite a few choices in what you can have. With this giveaway, I got a Nikkor 75mm f2.8 lens, a Zenzanon 150mm F3.5 lens, an additional back, and a Bronica green filter.
I was warned of its problems beforehand, and it did have a few - it didn't focus properly and the shutter was a little sticky but I had nothing to lose. I had not planned to invest in medium format for a while but this allowed me to sort it over time.
To see what I was dealing with I loaded it up with film the next day and headed out for a day shooting. The shutter was indeed a little sticky, but the biggest issue was the focusing. When focusing at infinity, it was very obviously out of focus in the viewfinder.
The shutter was a simple fix, it was all in the technique. When you cock the shutter it will sometimes refuse to fire but if you roll the shutter wheel back and the forward again, nine times out of ten, it will fire perfectly. The focusing was a bit more tricky. When you focused at infinity the viewfinder would appear out of focus, but the photograph would be fine. When focusing closer, the viewfinder would be perfect but the photograph would appear out - the picture above was focused on the light but it actually focused behind the arch.
I bought a light seal kit from Bryan McCansh at Camera Repair Materials based in Worthing, UK. He had a kit for £10.00 that would be enough to sort this and every camera I own if I wanted. I did, so I order a few other parts from him too, all for under £15.00. The only thing I needed next was some lighter fluid to breakdown the glue, cotton buds to apply it and something to help remove the old tacky light seals - an unused Chinese takeaway chopstick. Perfect.
With all the escaping glue removed from the body, you can see how the viewfinder works and why it went out of focus. The Fresnel lens sits on the metals arms within the two chrome bars. The ground glass then sits on top of the Fresnel and and rests on the chrome bars...except it doesn't...the metal arms cause the fresnel and ground glass to sit too high and it is only once the frame is screwed into place that this happens and keeping it all tight and in place. Because the seals had perished, the metals arms were causing the viewfinder to sit too high and out of focus. The final thing to do was to reassemble the viewfinder and remove any sticky marks left from Dymo labels which I had removed from the body .
It was ready just in time for our trip to Bath so it was an ideal time to test it along side my 35mm but I actually ended up shooting four rolls of film through it, two Ilford FP4+ and two Kodak Portra 400. It was a gamble I shouldn't have taken but one that paid off with images that were in focus. It was sorted.
The medium format bug has bitten, I've shot more 120 film this year than 35mm between the Holga pinhole and now this. I carried it around Bath like a small child - which made my wife nervous - and it attracted a lot of attention from various people who once shot film and have since moved away. I enjoyed this method of shooting, but what I actually want to do is head out to a location with it mounted on a tripod and fire a few rolls. With that in mind, I'm sure you'll see more of the results from this camera from now on.