Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Zenza Bronica EC-TL


It's a good way to start with, to look at its parts: film back, body with WLF, focusing helicoid and lens.

All together now:


This camera was the result of a dream of Mr. Zenzaburo Yoshino.
Among other businesses, he had a camera shop because he was a photography aficionado.
None of the cameras of the time, around 1950, satisfied him, so he decided to build the perfect camera.
He spent over eight years and more than one hundred thousand yens to build his dream camera.
In 1959 he presented the Zenza Bronica D, a very similar camera to the Hasselblad of the era, the 1000 and 1600 F.

It was a 6x6, SLR, focal-plane shutter system camera.

The advantages over Hasselblad were many, for instance:
  • After taking the picture, the mirror and aperture returned automatically to the original position. 
  • To allow a greater intrusion of the back of the lens, the mirror was not flipped up but slided down giving the camera a much compacter look.
  • Allowed long exposures, up to 10sec, using self-timer.
  • The film back could be attached without regarding body/back synchronism.
  • The film was fully automatically loaded without adjusting the start mark.
As he wasn't able to produce lenses, he went to Nikon, that he considered the best manufacturer.
Latter they made their own lenses.

The legend tells that the name Bronica is a blend of Brownie and camera.

In the sequence of this camera others came until the one that particularly interests me the EC-TL.
It was presented in 1975. This is a bigger girl than her ancestor but still a great camera crammed with amazing features.


  • Shutter: vertical travelling, cloth focal-plane shutter, electronically controlled 4sec - 1/1000sec, mechanically Bulb, 1/40sec, X sync 1/60sec 
  • Film winding / shutter cocking: crank / knob, 2 rotations
  • Exposure: instant stop-down metering, aperture-priority AE, manual exposure
  • Metering: TTL metering by mirror sensor
  • Display: LED, 4sec - 1/1000sec, over, under exposure, lights continuously in AE mode, blinks when in manual mode.
  • Finder: Interchangeable, waist-level, focusing screen also interchangeable
  • Film back: Interchangeable 120 / 220 film, 12 / 24 exposure, selectable.
  • Lenses: Nikkor, Zenzanon also Carl Zeiss Jena, Topcon, etc.
  • Other features: Intermediate shutter speeds, mirror lock-up, time exposure, multi-exposure control, mirror lock up, locking PC terminal, dark slide storage pocket, split mirror...
  • Battery: 4SR44 type 6V
  • Weight: Film back and body 1800g, with standard lens 2010g

My Kit:

DSC_8133 copy

DSC_8151 copy


The camera 
2 film backs
Waist-level finder
Nikkor-H   50mm 1:3.5
Nikkor-PC 75mm 1:2.8
Nikkor-Q 135mm 1:3.5
Metal hood
2 helicoid mounts

The lenses:

DSC_8138          DSC_4243 copy            DSC_8113

DSC_8135 copy 
The Kikkor-H 50/3.5 with the amazing original metal hood

Bronica EC-TL

The all day carry around, that makes the camera look "compact":
The Nikkor-PC 75/2.8


Great for looks and for portrait work: the Nikkor-Q 135/3.5


The interchangeable focusing glasses are extremely simple to change

Just remove the WLF and release the focusing glass frame, it hinges and opens with a spring action, then, without any kind of tool, just remove and replace the focusing glass.

To release the back all you have to do is remove the dark slide from its pocket


and insert it on the slot, when it is fully inserted the back is automatically released.

You don't have to worry about the state of the shutter or film back when changing backs. After replacing the back just wind the film advance and it synchronizes by itself.

This is the famous splitted mirror, the big one on the top and bellow the small one


The big main mirror above swings back and then flips up, the small sub mirror below rotates to the bottom of the camera body. This allows the design of more intrusive lenses, allegedly, 'such design maintains the inertial balance stable, and mirror-shock is minimized'. 
If this is true I can't imagine it without such design, the noise is so loud, when the shutter is released, that I never use this camera on my cemetery shots. I'm afraid of wakening the dead.

Through the viewfinder view of the 50 and 135mm lenses, using the 50mm

DSC_8128 copy

You can see on the top right of the image a faint 4, that's the shutter speed recommended for the actual light conditions. You see it faint because it was set to manual, and in such mode the info blinks, in AE (aperture priority) the info lights continuously. 

This camera doesn't need any special finder to meter the light, it has a light sensor in the main mirror and another one to compensate from the light coming from the finder. It uses the stop down method, as many SLR cameras of the same era. You can make a reading and check the DOF, pressing the button opposite from the shutter release. In AE mode the reading is taken when you press the shutter release.

I think that's enough about the features but, not exhaustive, I could be writing about it for much longer.
Maybe that it's not a good idea, this is big enough trial to your patience.

Let's just look of what I managed to do with it:

Me and Bronica EC-TL
Me and Bronica EC-TL

Pouca-terra, pouca-terra...

If you are interested I have some more shots taken with it on my Flickr photostream.

Stay Tuned (o;


  1. Grande post raul.

    Sempre achei as Bronicas interessantissimas.
    baratas e funcionais.

    Grandes fotos do corpo e das lentes tambem.

  2. @ neca:

    Obrigado. Realmente são fantásticas.

  3. LIke the 'exploded' shot.. nice

  4. Isto é que é ensinar... Isto é que é ler e aprender... obrigado por partilhares o teu conhecimento em primeira mão...
    A melhor maneira de começar o dia!

  5. @ Raul PC:
    Obrigado, caro homónimo.
    Os teus comentários são sempre bem vindos e apreciados.

  6. Beautiful machine. I own an S2A and I wish to own that one too.

  7. Very helpful review with good pictures.I've just decided to sell my Mamiya RB67 Pro S and buy this one.:) Do you think it is a good idea?

  8. @Azazello:
    I think this is probably the best camera of it's kind.
    For sure smaller, lighter and packed with features absent in the Mamiya.

    All this said, if I were in your shoes I would keep the Mamiya and buy an EC-TL but, I'm a compulsive gatherer.

  9. Raul,
    I just bought an EC-TL in almost mint condition with the Zenzanon 75mm lens. Can you tell me your experince about the meter? How accurate do you find it? Looks like it is off compared to my Sekonic meter.
    I have a redone S2A which I love. The EC-TL is much more solid when firing the shutter. No slap at all.


  10. @Robert:
    I find the light meter on my camera quite accurate,being careful in not allowing much light to enter by the finder.
    But with thirty something cameras each one is a different case.
    What I usually do is take a scene reading with the camera, transfer the data to my Nikon D40, shoot the same scene with it and look at the result. Doing this with a few different scenes give me a quite accurate idea of the condition of the light meter.

  11. Raul,

    Really great review and very informative for me. I've just picked up one of these in an old camera shop and I am waiting nervously for the first roll of 120 film to be returned!

    Did you have to get the camera serviced or anything like that, when you first acquired it? After all, 36 years old or so. I've noticed the black foam padding around my focussing screen is badly degraded, so I can only wonder about the internal condition...

    Great photos you've taken with it too!

    All the best,

  12. @Phill:

    Good for you, it's a wonderful camera.

    I have only cleaned it, no service at all but, I understand your concern.

    Thank you for your visit.


  13. Fantastic and very informative writing Raul.
    I own and use my latest since 3 years now.
    It was also my 1st pro medium body when I started shoot as a pro. and I was happy to get it back after all these years . I have also 40/4 mm and 50/2.8 mm Nikon lenses for it as well as 105 shutter one for use with outer bajonet.I can take pictures of them and let you post it here - let children know how old good stuff used to be looking like :-)

  14. Hello Raul, I'm looking to get a Nikkor f3.5 135 mm Q(.C.?) lens for my EC-TL, similar to yours. However, I'm uncertain that the models on eBay will actually fit. Currently I have a Nikkor-P f2.8 75 mm fitted, with the appropriate helicoid mount.

    Is there an easy way of telling which Nikkor-Q or QC models are the right one? For example, I would be interested in the following one on eBay but I've been told by the seller that it won't fit the Bronica. I'm not sure I agree. What's your opinion?

    Thanks very much if you can spare the time to advise me.


  15. hope you still use it,I have two and love them better then my hasselblad and I use it more then the hassy regards bruce

  16. hi still a great camera ,I have two and use them as they were meant to be not stuck in a display unit
    my work is photography and 'yes' I use them in it regards Bruce

  17. Hello Raul, great review thanks. Fingers crossed just about to purchase one of these great cameras.
    Geoff -Australia.