Bronica GS-1

GS-1 AE VF

Zenza Bronica GS-1, PG 150/4

Zenza Bronica GS-1, PG 150/4

There is something special about any camera when you know that it represents the pinnacle of a given manufacturer’s efforts. The GS-1 is the last SLR ever made by Zenza Bronica. It is was released in 1982, shoots a 6×7 frame (or smaller depending on the film back) and there were never any upgrades to this model. It’s the biggest of the three lens shutter Bronicas (ETR, SQ, GS-1) The lenses were so good that after this PG Zenzanon line was released Bronica decided to upgrade all of their lenses for the other two cameras as well, using the same technology. The GS-1 is superior in terms of design, quality of the lenses and smoothness of function. Even though it is a 6×7 the body is relatively compact and light since they used more plastic than the other models. But there is nothing flimsy about this body at all. It’s as solid of a chunk of camera as you could ever want. There is a full line of accessories, including a rotating view finder that makes portrait orientation much easier. It was also the only 6×7 camera to offer ttl flash with the dedicated flash gun. Lenses are fairly easy to find, although the 80/3.5 is rather rare.

This camera is most likely to get compared with the Mamiya RB and RZ lines because they are similar in design; i.e. modular SLR with a native 6×7 format. There aren’t too many other cameras like that. They also employ lens shutters. But the focusing mechanism is quite different. While the Mamiya 6×7 cameras use bellows and focus like a large format field camera, the GS-1 has the more conventional focus ring on the lens. And while all three systems control aperture from a ring on the lens, the GS-1 is the only one that controls shutter speed from the camera body and not the lens. The huge advantage of the Mamiya cameras is the signature feature, the rotating film back. Unfortunately, the GS-1 (like almost every other camera in the world) requires you to rotate the entire camera to change orientation. The GS-1 is like the RZ and unlike the RB in that it is electronic, thus requiring a battery. While the Mamiya cameras are primarily designed for studio work, the GS-1 is probably more versatile. It is small and light enough to go on the road and be hand held. It is great for weddings, on and off the tripod. The GS-1 is a well designed, and well executed tool that can meet the needs of a wide variety of photographers.

The more I use this camera the happier I am. When it comes to handheld 6×7 SLR, it’s a clear winner! Here are some of the results.

42 Responses to Bronica GS-1

  1. revdocjim says:

    I am soooo bummed! I just missed out on a complete GS-1 set. They had it at my favorite store yesterday and were supposed to be holding it for me until I got there this afternoon. I was going to sell them back the one pictured above and then buy the set which included the AE-finder and standard 100/3.5 lens. But due to some miscommunication among their staff they let somebody else buy it before I got there. :(

    But there were two points of consolation. One is that a guy at the store felt bad enough about it to offer to keep his eyes open and give me a call as soon as one comes in, even though that is against store policy. The second point of consolation was that they had a very clean copy of the speed grip for the GS-1 in stock for about $25 so I got that. If I am really going to use this for handheld 6×7 photography, the speed grip will be very helpful.

  2. revdocjim says:

    I put my first two rolls through this camera last week up in the mountains and was pleased with the results. It makes me all the more eager to find a standard lens and AE viewfinder!

  3. revdocjim says:

    I finally scored on the AE prism finder and just finished my first roll with it today. Can’t wait to see the results. Still on the prowl for the standard lens!

  4. revdocjim says:

    OK… I think I’m set.
    50mm, 65mm, 100mm, 150mm and 200mm!
    6×6 backs and 6×7 backs in 120 and 220.
    AE finder!

    Good to go!

  5. The Last GS-1 manufactured was the 80mm f3.5

    I saw an almost unused example on eBay and bought it a few years back. It came with a leather Bronica Pouch.

    It is the only time I have ever seen this lens advertized. It is a beauty.

  6. revdocjim says:

    I haven’t seen that lens either. But if I did and it was cheap I would definitely grab it.

  7. Lou says:

    The GS-1 is a very good camera, my first medium format camera. I only traded it for a Hasselblad because of weight and size, but I sometimes regret that. The 65mm was my preferred lens.

  8. revdocjim says:

    Thanks Lou! And yes, I agree with you about the GS-1. Alas, for many the lure of the Hassy is just too great, and the price usually forces us to sell just about everything else we have in order to afford it… So far I have managed to resist all Scandinavian and European temptations (except for the Zenit which was given to me!) and my collection is almost entirely “made in Japan”, just like me!

  9. Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr. says:

    The GS-1 also had an 80mm lens which is fairly rare.

  10. Daniel Metts says:

    I use to own a GS-1 with 100mm 150mm and 200mm, AE finder and rotating finder, I sold it and have regreated it ever since. I plan to buy another GS-1 outfit soon. The lens were beter then any I have ever used.

    • Frank Gademann says:

      If you still have interest in a full GS-1 Eqiupment, please send me a mail. Do you speek german? Regards Fränck from cologne/germany

      • revdocjim says:

        Unfortunately I don’t speak German. Only English and Japanese. At this point I think the only other lens I’m looking for would be the 80/3.5. Do you have one?

      • Frank Gademann says:

        No, sorry!

      • dmakoun says:

        Hallo Frank,

        ich hätte durchaus Interesse an einem kleinen GS-1-Outfit. :)

        Dave

      • revdocjim says:

        Es ist eine wunderbare Kamera!
        Sorry, I don’t speak German but thanks for visiting. I would gladly recommend the GS-1 if you want a relatively portable 6×7 SLR.

      • im looking for GS-1 Body,, i have 3 lenses and 3 back, the body is broken. so sad.

      • revdocjim says:

        Well actually my GS-1 kit is for sale right now, along with the other three Bronica cameras I own. But instead of selling individual pieces, I’m selling each camera as a kit, with the accompanying lenses and accessories.

  11. revdocjim says:

    It is a very special camera to me as well. I doubt I will be letting this one go any time soon!

  12. Sage says:

    Hi Jim- I have an RB67 and I’m curious: how is the size/weight of the GS-1 compared to the RB67? I’ve been thinking about a second MF camera, looking mostly at the Bronica SQa. I love the RB, but want something smaller to carry around. Nice pics of your cameras!
    Sage

    • revdocjim says:

      Hi Sage,
      The GS-1 is definitely smaller and lighter than the RB, but it’s still a big camera.
      With the standard lens, WLF and 120 film back the weight of the GS-1 is 1.83kg and the RB is 2.69kg.
      The dimensions of the same GS-1 are 106.5 x 116 x 196.5mm
      The dimensions of the similarly outfitted RB are 104 x 144 x 233mm

      I have found that with the speed grip and AE prism finder the GS-1 makes for a very reasonable handheld camera. I tried the same setup with the RB and it was almost comical! It was incredibly huge…

  13. Sage says:

    Thanks Jim! I actually just pulled the trigger on a Bronica S2a on ebay, I wanted a smaller camera that still has a large negative, and the price was so cheap I decided to go for it. I’m also fond of the 6×6 size, so I’m excited to try it out. Not to mention this one I found is in perfect condition…
    Thanks for the detailed response.
    Sage

  14. I have a different problem with my new GS1 AE prism viewer – I do not know what the prism switch marked S and A is for – it is on the right hand side, as you look down onto the prism. Can anyone help? It is not even mentioned in the Prism G manual!

  15. revdocjim says:

    Haim, as you can see from my photos above, the only switch on my AE finder for the GS-1 is the AE lock switch on the left side so I don7t understand what switch you mean. The catalog also makes reference to this as the only switch on the finder.

  16. Joe says:

    S=spot metering, A=average metering?

  17. Geo says:

    I never could figure out that S/A think either. Probably Spot/Average like Joe said. Great system, great lenses. Actually hand holdable in the field.

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  23. Paul says:

    Awesome reviews. Thanks for sharing. In 6×7 it looks like you had the major cameras – Bronica, Mamiya and Pentax. What made you settle on the Pentax? Is the 67ii much different? I am very much in love with my 645N but am looking at 6×7. Thanks.

    • revdocjim says:

      I wanted to keep at least one 6×7 camera since I love the look and feel of the 6×7 frame size. Bronica GS-1 was the best for handheld work. Mamiya RB was more of a studio camera, which isn’t really for me. The Pentax 67ii is the most modern of them all in terms of design and the metering system is the best. My primary use for this camera is landscape, and it is a perfect fit. As far as comparing it to the 645, it’s bigger and bulkier, but I just really like the 6×7 frame dimensions. The 645N is a wonderful camera as well though, and I guess that’s why I own both!

  24. John McGinnis says:

    I want to buy a GS-1 Bronica used. Should be the box, lens, film magazine and other things to
    use. I prefer Excellent or Excellent + condition. I would pay via paypal.

    Please let me know what you have to sell. Thanks, John McGinnis, 46077

  25. Mark says:

    I just got my Bron GS-1 yesterday after several months of shopping and agonizing. The camera itself seems to work ok, however the led display seems to be intermittent. Could this mean low battery power, or problem with contacts on AE prism viewfinder? However when you remove the viewfinder you can see the led display right on top of the main camera box, and it still seems intermittent, even when loaded with film, dark slide out, shutter cocked. Suggestions? Have yet to get first roll developed, eagerly awaiting results. On another topic, trying to join the Yahoo Bron users group but Yahoo software does not seem to be allowing me.

    • Mark Samuels says:

      The problem with the display on the AE metered viewfinder had to do with the battery. On advice I replaced it with a Camellion silver oxide battery 4SR44 and it has worked fine since. Also I was finally able to join the Yahoo Bronica Users Group (BUG), which is still active though not regularly busy. Regarding mirror lockup, which many people have reported having trouble with, it does work although it is important to follow specific steps in the correct order, in order not to lose frames. However the metered viewfinder does not work correctly once the mirror is flipped up, so mirror lockup does have to be used with manually set shutter speed. Either use a separate light meter, or use the AE viewfinder meter to determine the exposure, and then instead of leaving it in automatic mode, once the mirror is flipped set that shutter speed manually. That works fine for me so far. I am having a lot of fun with the camera, despite the weight, the negatives are simply huge and I have not yet come close to scanning them at max resolution to see how large I can really print. I have experimented with several b&w films (Ilford FP4Plus, Delta100 of those currentlys old), the Delta is very sharp but high contrast so skies have tended to be on the edge of overexposed. For color I have tried Ektar ISO 100 and Portra ISO 400. Both very nice, people say the Portra is better for portraits and the Ektar for landscapes, but once digitally scanned one can play so much with saturation in Photoshop that I’m not sure how significant the differences between the two films are in practice.

  26. eglobetrotter says:

    I bought this camera few days ago and would like to buy additionaly the 6×6 film back. So there are 120 and 220 backs available, but it is quite hard to find 220 films (at least in Germany). My question is, is it possible to use 120 film in a 220 film back?

    • revdocjim says:

      I would be inclined to defer to Danaher here because I no longer own the camera so I can’t look and see. I do know that with the Pentax 645 film backs it is very easy to convert a 220 back to 120 by removing one screw and adjusting one little piece but I don’t recall hearing about any such adjustments with Bronica film backs.

      • edthinktank says:

        The Bronica RF645 which was produced by Tamron does have a switch on it to allow either 120 or 220 film.  I do not believe that the GS-1 backs have anything like this. The RF645 did not have backs, so the switch was important.

    • Mark Samuels says:

      As noted, 120 and 220 film have to be used in the equivalent backs only. In a pinch you could use a 6×7 220 back (which seem to be available regularly on the used equipment sites) and simply crop to square format if that’s what you need. A bit of wasted space on the film but not as much as the extra you get from twice the number of frames per roll.

  27. No a 220 back will not be useful for 120 film.
    The 120 film is thicker than 220 film because of the paper backing on 120 film.
    A great use for the GS-1 is producing 6×7 slides.
    Mamiya made a reasonably priced 6×7 slide projector.
    — Dan

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