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Shooting the Bronica ETRS without a Battery

Don’t ask how long I’ve been shooting the Bronica ETRS medium format film camera without a battery. Because it’s been a long time. And, looking back, taking its limitations into account it was probably a good thing. I purchased the Bronica ETRS a year ago, so there are really no excuses beyond being a novice with the camera.

Bronica ETRS with 75mm lens

If you don’t know what I’m talking about I should explain. A Zenza Bronica ETRS is an old piece of equipment where the battery performs two functions. First, it provides a red light inside the viewfinder to show the battery has charge. Second, it enables the camera to perform on non-mechanical shutter speeds. The Bronica ETRS has only one mechanical shutter speed – 1/500 (its maximum shutter speed).

The Bronica ETRS, with a live battery, provides single stop shutter speeds down to 8 seconds and a bulb setting. So, when you think about the constraints of having a dead battery versus a live battery the results can be profound.

In my humble defence, the battery is something that can slip an amateur photographers’ mind as they walk around with that expensive light meter trying to work out why shots aren’t quite going to plan. Yet, with the 1/500 fixed shutter speed the Bronica ETRS revealed a valuable predictability.

So it struck me a few days ago that somewhere there was supposed to be a red light. I pressed the button to no avail and replaced the battery (no major issue there). Then I meticulously pored over rolls of film negatives and scans until it dawned on me that the new battery could metamorphose the camera into another level of creation. Think of the battery-less photographs that I’ve been shooting as a super fancy-lensed plastic camera with a glass lens. The shutter speed was ALWAYS mechanical at 1/500.

I think the experience has made me better understand that film camera and its capabilities and limitations. I have two-thirds of a roll of Ilford Delta Professional 400 shot and still inside the camera, and I’ll probably develop and scan the finished film during this week, but then I’ve got some experimentation to pursue to measure the real capabilities.

I’ve got another 120 roll of Ilford Delta Professional 400, a roll of Ilford FP4 PLUS 125 and four rolls of Kodak Portra 400. It should be an interesting month.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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