Bronica ETRSi

5 Frames with Expired Portra 160 NC 220 in a Bronica ETRSi – By Robert Launder

Sometime around the early 2000s, my grandpa purchased a Bronica ETRSi outfit. As he was already in his early sixties and in poor health, he never had much of a chance to use it. After a few years, he gave the entire outfit to my dad, who primarily stuck to shooting digital. I have been long term borrowing it since January of this year.

Along with the camera, I was able to get a good few rolls of 10 year expired TMAX 100 in 120 and 3 rolls of Portra 160 NC in 220. Fortunately, since my dad enjoys photography, and because my mom used to work at a camera retailer, they kept all their film in the refrigerator. I followed the common rule of thumb of over-exposing one stop per decade expired and shot it at 80 ISO.

For those who don’t know, Portra used to be a little different. The had both the VC (vivid color) and NC (natural color) variants. To my understanding, the modern Portra is something of a happy medium between the two.

This shot shows off the green color cast pretty clearly. It was more obvious before I made corrections.
Here you can really see how colors were rendered in an evenly exposed scene.

The main thing that I noticed when I finally scanned the film is the absolutely incredible colors. I don’t know how much of this is due to age or if this is actually how it looks, but I adore it. There is a noticeable blue cast for darker images and a green cast for brighter images (this could also be my scanning process- I used the bundled Epson software with which I only change the contrast, never the colors).

My previous experiences shooting film were almost exclusively with 35mm. This would either be taking snapshots with point and shoots as a kid, or SLRs and black and white film in college. While I enjoyed the process, I enjoyed the freedom of my first DSLR after I graduated.

The flexibility of digital was remarkable, but digital cameras just don’t feel as good to use. A chunky 35mm SLR mirror slap is way more satisfying than that of an APS-C digital. My wife and I also didn’t make all that much money at the time, so having the monetary investment that film brought was a non-starter. But upon discovering the ever growing film resurgence community, I wanted to give medium format a try.

Heavy blue cast in the darker portions of this image. This didn’t show up on a Portra 400 shot I took at the same time.
While the oranges aren’t as pronounced as I would like, I think the blue gives a nice atmosphere to this one.
This is the type of thing that I shoot a lot in 35mm. the ETRSi is small enough that you can use it as a walk around camera.

While I primarily shoot landscapes, and 645 is not known for landscapes, the quality of the Bronica lenses and the step up from APS-C was astounding. The camera itself feels incredibly well engineered, with numerous safeties in place to prevent accidental exposures. And the pictures! As anyone can tell you, medium format has a certain look to it, and I don’t believe that it’s just the shallow depth of field.

Quick last minute note about the edits: scanned with an Epson V600 in Epson Scan with the flat contrast setting, with minor color tweaks, contrast adjustments, dirt cleanup, and cropping in Lightroom.


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8 thoughts on “5 Frames with Expired Portra 160 NC 220 in a Bronica ETRSi – By Robert Launder”

  1. Is that the AE or AE-ii? I just got the speed grip for my ETRsi and have been considering getting the AE-ii to make it easier to use quickly. How well does it meter?

    1. AE-iii. From what I gather, it’s more expensive than the ii, but has a spot meter. It reads about as well as the app on my phone, so not too bad.

  2. Frame number one is my favourite. If she was a musician this would make a terrific album cover – esp if you leave the green cast in! Well done!

  3. Nice to see you back in the analogue world! I got a Bronica ETR earlier this year and it is such a joy to shoot. I have the grip on mine which I find a bit more comfortable. Nice shots! I have yet to try the old Portra but you are inspiring me to get some sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great so see some love for the Bronica ETRSi system.
    I’ve owned one with 40mm, 75mm and 150mm PE lenses (all excellent) plus a power winder and AEii finder for about 20 years and still enjoy using it from time to time. Prices have increased from a low a few years ago but they still represent excellent value for money IMO.

  5. Wyatt,
    My understanding is that the AE-iii has spot metering as well as average metering. It uses LCDs rather than LEDs for indication, with backlight illumination. There is built in dioptre adjustment unlike the AE-ii. But perhaps most importantly it seems to have fixed the battery drain issue that plagued some AE-ii. But the AE-iii is quite a bit more expensive and harder to find.

  6. I’ve recently picked up a ETRSi and will be using it for primarly landscape shooting, have loved using it over the last few months. I’ve also not seen much in the way of 645 landscape shooting but in any case for me the tradeoffs for smaller negative size vs frames-per-roll and the extent to which I’m likley to ever enlarge in the future has meant this is where I settled.

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