View Full Version : I need help regarding an older style non-tilting ARCA Swiss function carrier

David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 11:53
Years ago, I picked up an older style ARCA Swiss A/B/C style function carrier with the era appropriate 4x5 format frame and lensboard. The format frame is in nice shape with a functioning level. It is the one with rise, but no axis tilts. The lensboard is the silver type, with a Copal No. 3 hole. I know I can use the lensboard on my 171 Discovery if the need ever arises. So far so good.

This is the first old style A/S function carrier I have held in my hands. This one is different than the carriers I have seen in photographs on this forum and elsewhere (although I did not realize this when I purchased it). The lever to control swing is present. The focusing and shift knobs are there. There is no control for tilt and there is no slot that would normally allow the carrier to tilt.

Two questions: The first regards using the carrier on an F-Line rail. I have the 30cm telescoping rail. The older carrier has the proper profile, but it was slightly too narrow. Having read many times on the forum that you could use these old function carriers on current A-S rails, this was puzzling. Eventually, I loosened the friction lock and used a needle nose pliers to try to widen the profile. This worked well enough that I can get the carrier onto the rail and move it back and forth with the focusing knob. However, the fit is very, very tight. It does not seem to be hurting anything, but I hate forcing things. Is this normal? Will using it this way hurt anything? Is there any safe way to loosen it up (but not too much)?

Second question: What is this carrier’s purpose? It allows for only focus, shift and swing. At first, I thought it might be for an intermediate standard, but why would such a standard have provision for swing? I am curious. What do I have here?

I don’t even remember why I ever purchased these parts, but I am sure I got a great deal on them! :-) They came out of storage today because I recently received a Whole Plate sized back built with an ARCA Swiss style dovetail that matches the format carrier and a bellows that reduces to a 171 format frame that mates with my Discovery’s front standard. It works great, giving me a Whole Plate camera that has all movements but rear rise and fall that can collapse onto a 15cm rail to easily fit in my backpack. However, I find that the bellows push the back out of vertical when using my 180mm Fujinon W with substantial front rise, or my 120mm Fujinon with hardly any rise at all. The F basic function carrier will not hold the back in the vertical position. I thought that the non-tilting carrier might work sort of like the back of the Canham cameras which don’t tilt on the rear standard. This would allow me to get a bit more rise out of the 180mm and a pinch when using the120mm. I just don’t want to unnecessarily damage a carrier that someone else might be able to use, or damage my camera (the latter does seem unlikely, but . . . .)


David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 12:37
Here are a couple of quick cell phone snaps of the carrier.


19-Feb-2017, 12:50
Based on the pics, it looks like you have B style function carriers. I'm confused when you say that they don't tilt because these are the same ones I have on my A/S and I can assure you that they tilt fore and aft; loosen the black lever and the U-shape piece on top should pivot fore/aft. Additionally, I currently have both these function carriers mounted on a modern 30cm telescoping rail and they work smooth as glass. They also move easily on an older Oschwald era rail that I recently bought as an extension. I would guess that your function carriers are damaged if they don't fit easily on the telescoping rail and don't allow tilt.

David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 13:50
Hi Alan,

That is interesting. All of the photos I have seen of the older style carriers show a slot that allows the part that grabs the dovetail in the format frame to tilt back and forth. That is missing on this carrier. When I look at the carrier, there are absolutely no signs of damage. The plastic material that is shaped to fit the rail is in absolutely perfect condition. It is still a bit baffling.

You can see the slot in the photos included in Kerry's post regarding his 4x10 ARCA here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?23134-4x10-Lotus-ARCA-SWISS-Hybrid. You can also see that the lever controlling the swing has a knob on the end of it, which I assume controls the tilt. That is missing on my carrier. Does your carrier have that knob?

David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 14:08
OK, I think I just figured it out. One of the older versions (A?) had axis tilts only, right? That would mean that tilt was controlled on the format frame. Is that the answer to the second question? Not sure why that did not occur to me until just after responding to Alan's post.

That still leaves a really tight fit on the current version of the rail. So if anyone has any insights on that, I would really appreciate it.

Colin Graham
19-Feb-2017, 14:15
It looks like an A (axis tilt) series function carrier, the lever only controls swing. The axis tilt is on the standard itself.
The same type of lever controls tilt on the B (base-tilt) series carriers, except it has an additional knob threaded through the lever's shaft that controls the swing.

Here's a shot of my camera, which has one of each carrier style-


About the rail, I think the newer F-Line rail has a taller profile, which I've heard doesn't work well with the Oschwald-era carriers.

David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 14:22
Thanks Colin.

Colin Graham
19-Feb-2017, 14:36
I agree about the standard bellows- pretty difficult to use movements under 200mm without stressing the standards. My rear bellows frame would actually pop out of the clips with even minor movements, had to install some shims to keep the frame locked in place.

David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 14:45
Thanks Colin,

I definitely have the same function carrier as you have on the front of your camera. It came paired with the same sort of format frame you have on the back of your camera, minus what appears to be an accessory shoe on the top of your rear format frame. From your picture, it looks like I have an A function carrier and a B front format frame.

19-Feb-2017, 21:43
Hi David,

Sorry, I didn't look at your pics closely enough. The function carriers on my camera look like the rear one on Colin's camera; making them B style. I guess the only safe thing I can say is that both my B style function carriers fit nicely and move smoothly on my 30cm telescoping rail and a much older rail that I use as an extension for my 480mm lens.

Again, sorry for the confusion.

David Karp
19-Feb-2017, 23:18
No problem. This one is confounding. The profile of the formed plastic pieces in the carrier matches the shape of the rail, but it appears to be a bit too narrow. There was no hope of mounting it on the rail before I spread it a bit using the pliers.

John Schneider
21-Feb-2017, 23:17
It's a well-known secret that the older pre-F rails were typically but not always a tad wider than the F rails. Some pre-F function carriers work fine with F rails and vice versa, but some pre-F carriers are just too tight to fit on F rails. This seems to be both by design and by sample-to-sample variation (according to Rod Klukas, even the older F rails and carriers were made to looser tolerances than current production; he had to send a mid-90s F carrier to France to be tweaked to fit a current production F rail).

So you can send your function carrier to France for reworking ($$$$) or you can try what I've used. Remove the knobs so that you can remove the silver metal side plates. Remove the nylon pieces (carefully, they're fragile) and place a piece of brass shim stock between the carrier center body and nylon piece. You'll have to punch holes (a paper punch works fine) for clearance holes for the knobs. Do this for each side, reassemble, and try it out. It'll be trial and error and I found that you need a much thicker shim than you think you'll need just by measuring the max width of the F rail cf. the pre-F rail. I'd suggest 0.015" per side as a starting point. I don't know what happened to my piece of 0.020 shim stock but send me your address and I'll send you some of my roll of 0.005 stock.

When I find my older so-modified function carrier I'll post a pic here.

David Karp
21-Feb-2017, 23:50
Thanks John!

Somehow, I knew you would have the answer to this puzzle. My carrier is just a bit too tight to work on my rail. I can get it onto the rail, but it sure does not want to move.

I appreciate the offer. PM coming.