I wanted to compare the Bronica EC with the previous version of Bronica’s 6×6 cameras – the S2. They are very similar in build, but my model, the EC-TL offers some refinements.
First, the EC-TL is an upgraded version of the EC that adds TTL metering. Now, this is a nice feature, and may be useful in a studio setting, but for landscapes and outdoor photography, I’m not sure how useful it is. First, it’s difficult in sunlight to read the metering LEDs in the viewfinder. It might be easier if there were a prism finder attached, but with the waist level finder, it’s very difficult to read. I’ve also noticed that light entering the finder may interfere with the meter… so, I would say it’s a nice feature in some cases, but for my work with a waist level finder, and for nature photography, not so useful.
The comparison of the S2 and the EC (or EC-TL) is similar to comparing the Nikon FM and FE. Basically very similar functionality, but one has an electronic shutter and one has a mechanical shutter. Well, the S2 has no electronics whatsoever (and the FM, although mechanical, has a meter), so maybe the FM/FE comparison isn’t as close as I thought. Maybe an original F or F2 compared with the Photomic versions of either. In any case, the S2 is a completely mechanical camera with no metering capability, and the EC adds electronics, and the EC-TL adds TTL metering.
Now, all that being said, I think the electronic shutter is a good improvement. I’m not fond of buying batteries – I’m not sure anyone is. However, if the track record I’ve seen in other cameras carries over the Bronicas, I think the electronic shutter will last longer, and remain more accurate over the years. Again, how important is that? I’m not sure since my S2 from 1969 (or thereabouts) works perfectly – and is still accurate enough to produce some very fine negatives today. I can’t say how much, if any, repair work this camera has had, but the mechanical cameras of that era seem amazingly long lived. It’s hard to believe they work as well as they do after 50+ years.
I actually think Bronica made some nice changes between models. For example, the frame counter on the EC-TL is on the top of the film back. On the S2 it’s on the side/back – which means having to look someplace else to see the current frame number. Also, the shutter speed dial, and the crank to advance the film are both on the right side of the camera. On the S2, the shutter speed dial is on the left, and the film advance crank is on the right. If you’re right handed (I am) that makes things a bit more intuitive – using your right hand for everything. Also, the shutter speed dial markings are visible from the top on the EC-TL, while on the S2 you have to look at it from the side to read the markings. Just a little bit easier with the EC, especially if you’re working with the waist level finder.
If you’re using the EC-TL meter, the switch to turn the meter on is the depth of field preview button. When depressed, the meter is on. So, it uses stopped down metering. Newer cameras used linkages between the lens and camera body to allow metering with the lens wide open. With the EC-TL and others of the era, you had to stop down the lens (set the f-stop) to get the correct reading. Not a big deal once you get used to it. And even less of a deal if you’re using an external meter, not the built in meter. When using this meter, you set the aperture where you want it, and the meter displays the matching shutter speed. You then set that shutter speed, frame and shoot.
One other nice feature on the EC is the double exposure dial. On the S2, in order to create a double exposure, you had to remove the film back, and then use the film advance to cock the shutter without advancing film. On the EC, you simply turn a dial on the right side of the film back to “D” and then turning the film advance will only cock the shutter without advancing the film. Turn it back to “A” (not sure what “A” stands for – maybe Advance) and the film will advance again. I don’t do a lot of double exposures, but this also allows for cocking and firing the shutter with no film in the back at all. When I’m checking my shutter and mirror I like to fire it without film. It was a bit of a pain to always remove the back in order to fire an S2 without film.
I’d like to mention something here – I was just outside taking some example photos with the EC-TL, and I used the last 2 exposures on my roll of film. After my last exposure, I felt a sense of closure – I was at the end of the roll, and my shoot was over. I guess it interests me because I’m always comparing what it’s like when I shoot film with what it’s like when I shoot digital. It’s funny, I was taking some photos of Texas Bluebonnets last night, and I just stayed, shooting more until I was tired. Shooting as much as I could. But film, that’s something entirely different. It forces you to plan, or at least think about what you’re going to shoot, and how long you’re going to shoot… it’s not an open ended proposition. If you’re shooting film, you’re purpose for taking that walk is at least partially to take photographs. And, I don’t like to leave a roll of film in the camera unused, or partially used. It’s like something is unfinished – not the film, but my plans. I was supposed to take photographs.
Here’s something else. I like composing a photograph on ground glass. A waist level finder is the closest thing to large format that a medium format camera can offer. The medium format glass is large enough to get a good view of the image, and the lines are easy to line up on medium format glass. It’s not as nice as large format, but I like composing on this better than through a 35mm viewfinder. Bigger is always better – just my opinion.
My EC-TL weighs in at just over 4 lbs, 10oz. Quit hefty, but I’m determined to take this camera along on my next trip at the end of May. Maybe I’ll have to post a traveling with medium format update on how it went.
Ok, here’s some samples from the EC-TL. All on Tri-X, developed with HC-110 (Dilution B). I actually like the grain in these – even though I’m not crazy about the grain of Tri-X in 35mm. It looks very smooth, very pleasing in 120.
Let me know what you think of the EC series of medium format SLRs from Bronica. The series includes the EC, EC-TL and EC-TL II. The lenses from the S2 are compatible, but the backs are different and cannot be shared. I like the EC, even though I have to buy batteries for it.