Zenza Bronica SQ-A, the Hasselblad on a budget?

Like most photographers on the planet I’d like to have a Hasselblad one day… Unfortunately Hasselblad’s are expensive, even older 500C’s that are banged up, still cost a pretty penny. The average price in Europe easily exceeds a €1000, which is money I don’t have…

In my quest to find a 6×6 camera, I looked into other options and discovered the Zenza Bronica SQ line of camera’s. The SQ line was one of the few competitors of Hasselblad on the market. Although the brand didn’t enjoy the same reputation, they we’re leading in the technology and pricing department!

A couple of weeks ago I finally found one at a good price and didn’t hesitate for a second! In that relatively short time my Zenza Bronica SQ-A has become my favorite system. Like’d to find out why?

SQ for square

Zenza Bronica released the SQ line of cameras to compete with Hasselblad, that’s why it’s heavily modeled after the 500 line of Hasselblad cameras. When Zenza Bronica released the first SQ camera, it grabbed headlines because of its technological advantages over the Hasselblad cameras! Zenza Bronica was known for pushing technological boundaries and really showed it off with the Zenza Bronica SQ-A.

The choice to create a 6×6 camera was a daring one. Hasselblad dominated the market and other competitors stayed away from the format

Modular and advances in technology make a great combination!

The focus of the company was creating solid cameras that used the latest technology available. Alongside the release of the Zenza Bronica SQ-A, the company released a couple of viewfinders, filmbacks and Polaroid backs.

A wide array of viewfinders

Especially the highly advanced viewfinders set the SQ line of cameras apart from their competitors. Many of the viewfinders incorporated a light meter in their design, which made them a lot easier to shoot. Some models even allowed automatic exposures, which made the camera a nice option for photographers of all levels. One model featured a lightmeter that allowed multiple ways of measuring and even included exposure compensation.

Different film backs for all formats

Zenze Bronica also had multiple film backs in different formats, this was something Hasselblad did offer, but at a much higher cost. I own the 120 film back for 6×6 shots and a 120 film back for 6×4.5. The fact that you can attach backs with different formats is a major bonus to me, since I like both formats for different occasions.

I love the speedgrip!

One of the most underrated things to switch on a camera is the grip, specifically a speed grip when it comes to Zenza Bronica. All of these medium format box SLR’s come with a film advance crank. It’s great when you need to save space when packing, but it isn’t the greatest thing when it comes to ergonomics.

Most brands offer some sort of motorized winder with a real grip, but I miss to advance the film manually… It’s part of the charm of an analog camera! Zenza Bronica decided to great the speed grip, with a manual film crank. It’s a great thing to have if you’re into portraits or like to lug your big camera around. It improves the handling without eating batteries like most of the motorized variants of other brands will do.

Beautiful line of PS lenses

Zenza Bronica released a line of completely overhauled lenses after a couple of years, this line was labeled PS. The Zenza Bronica SQ system is a well-kept secret and so are the PS lenses.

The line of PS lenses we’re produced in their new production site, for the occasion they overhauled the design of their predecessors. The new facility allowed them to use newer production techniques, better coatings and some other advantages.

Online there is some discussion about how much better the PS line is compared to the previous line of lenses. I’ve tried some focal lengths and the improvement in performance varies; Sharpness is better in general on the newer line of lenses, but some lenses perform better whilst other offer minor improvements. All new PS lenses perform significantly better in regard to color rendering, resistance to flaring and usability.

Overall the line of PS lenses does offer better performance for a slight increase in price, but most of these lenses can be found for less than $500. Compared to some Hasselblad lenses these are a steal and offer very good performance for the buck!

The magnificent PS lenses I own

When I bought the camera, it came with the 80mm 2.8 standard lens. It was the only lens I owned for the system for quite a while, but it didn’t bother me since it has great color rendition and sharpness. It’s a magnificent lens that can rival the Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad’s.

After a while I bought a second lens for the system. I got the 65mm 4.0, a rare lens to find since there aren’t many available. It’s a great lens with a comparable field of view to 35mm on full frame camera’s. The lens is sharp, has great color rendition and is lovely to handle.

Leaf shutter and an incredible sound!

Zenza Bronica decided to use leaf shutters for all of their cameras, to some this is a disadvantage due to lower shutter speed, to others it’s an advantage for the flash sync at all speeds.

I’ve always been fascinated by flash sync at all speeds, although I prefer to use continuous lights whenever possible.

One thing that makes the Bronica SQ-A stand out to me is its incredible sound. The soft sound of the shutter combined with the loud shutter slap gives me an eargasm every time I fire the shutter!

Is the Zenza Bronica SQ-A a great camera?

Time to summarize it all and give you guys a conclusion… I’ve had my Zenza Bronica SQ-A for a couple of months at this moment. I bought it with the intention to sell it with a profit, but after shooting one roll I really liked the camera…

One of the reasons why I really liked it, was the sound and feel of the camera! The camera feels solid and oozes quality. The sound of the shutter is amazing, gives it a unique character.

One of the things that isn’t that great is usability. You’ll need to read the manual to figure out how everything operates, since it isn’t always that obvious. Having said that, it isn’t rocket science either. Some things like long exposures are more complex, but general operations are clear.

I’m not the only fan of the underrated Bronica SQ-A! This review from Analog Insights gives you a complete walkthrough of the camera whilst pointing out the good and the bad!

If you find a Zenza Bronica SQ-A with a lens at a decent price, then don’t hesitate to get it! Overall it’s one of the most enjoyable cameras I’ve used, providing solid build quality, sharp optics and great results.

Does the Zenza Bronica SQ-A have a bulb mode?

Technically, it doesn’t have a bulb mode. Zenza Bronica has a timer mode that can be engaged by pulling a little screw/pin on the lens. Pulling the screw/pin enables you to open the shutter as long as you want, without using battery.

The SQ-Ai version that was released, after the SQ-A, features a dedicated bulb mode, which doesn’t require to pull the screw/pin on the lens.

What’s the fastest shutter speed?

All Zenza Bronica S and PS lenses have a maximum shutter speed of 1/500th because of its leaf shutter. Whilst it could be a downside on a bright day, it’s a big advantage in the studio!

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