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Thread: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

  1. #1

    4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    As requested in another thread, here are some photos of my 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS hybrid. I call it my Swiss Lotus. It started life as an amalgamation of of parts from an older pre F-Line ARCA-SWISS 4x5 monorail, a 4x10 Lotus conversion kit (back and bellows) and a few bits and pieces I fabricated in my garage using simple benchtop power tools. The completed camera weighed 6 lbs. and can easily handle any lens I have capable of covering 4x10 from 110mm - 450mm (or longer - with an extension rail the bellows can extend out to 27").

    I don't have all my old receipts in front of me, but I know the total cost at this point was around $900 ($350 for the older ARCA-SWISS camera off eBay, $485 for the 4x10 Lotus conversion kit off the German eBay and about $50 in miscellaneous aluminum stock, screws, drill bits, taps and a saw blade to cut aluminum on my table saw from the local hardware store. This was a LOT cheaper than buying an of-the-shelf dedicated 4x10 camera. I really got lucky finding anf winning the 4x10 Lotus conversion kit on the German eBay site.

    My original plan was to buy an 8x10 camera back off eBay, strip the finish, dissassemble it, shorten the necessary pieces, glue it back togther, make a frame for it, apply the finish and then have a custom bellows made for me by Camera Bellows in England. I actually started down this road, but then the 4x10 Lotus conversion kit popped up and I couldn't resist. If I would have stuck with my original plan, the total cost would have been even less, but it probably wouldn't have turned out as nice. Here's a photo of Phase 1:



    I liked the camera, and the ARCA-SWISS system so much, I decided to upgrade not just my 4x10, but my entire 4x5 system to an ARCA-SWISS F-Line. I sold my 4x5 Linhof Technikardan TK45S (A very nice camera I enjoyed using, but not easily converted to 4x10) and bought a 4x5 ARCA-SWISS F-Line system. Conversion from Phase 1 ro Phase 2 of the 4x10 Swiss Lotus was quite simple. I simply changed the front bellows frame. For the new version, I made a bellows frame out of an old 110mm ARCA-SWISS lensboard. This is the version I have used the most to date, and I was very pleased with the way it all worked. Thanks to the wonderful ARCA-SWISS F-Line chassis, it's a joy to use. It packs down small and weighs about the same as other comparable 4x10 field cameras from Lotus, Canham and Lotus. I don't have the exact weight handy, but I remember it was between 6 amd 7 lbs. Here's a photo of Phase 2:



    Phase 3 was the simplest upgrade so far and required no modification to the existing camera, or any work on my part. About this time last year, I began an even more ambitious ARCA-SWISS conversion project. This one is a 7x17 and I call the resulting creation the Franken-ARCA. You can see pictures and read about that project here. For that project, I used with a pre-Monolith 171mm M-Line format frame on the front standard (another German eBay find). The bigger 171mm standard was needed to accomodate the larger lenses used in ULF photography - and to also accomodate a Sinar behind-the-lens shutter for use with barrel mount lenses. What I really liked about this particular pre-Monolith M-Line front format frame is that it gave me self-arresting geared front rise/fall and axis tilt. Normally, I might consider this an extravagant luxury on a field camera, but when using the long, heavy lenses required for ULF photography, I found it a godsend to be able to tweak the front standard movements (especially the tilt) with one hand while louping the ground glass with the other.

    I quickly became spoiled by this convenience and soon desired it on all my cameras in all formats. Fortunately, getting the same functionality for my 4x5/4x10 system was a simple matter of swapping out the front format frame. So, I replaced my original 110mm F-Line format frame with a 110mm F-Metric format frame with the Micrometric Orbix geared axis tilt option. By simply swapping the front format frame, I got the same functionality (self-arresting geared front rise/fall and axis tilt) that I enjoyed on my 7x17 Franken-ARCA. The weight penalty was a very tolerable 2 oz. (total camera weight still less than 7 lbs.) and the location of all the controls are the same on all my cameras from roll film up to 7x17. The consistant location and operation of all movements makes switching between formats a no-brainer. I've been using this configuration for about 9 months and love it (yes, I have become spoiled by the self-arresting geared front movements). Here's a photo of Phase 3:



    I'm now on Phase 4 and hope to have it done by spring. You may notice I am still using the old pre F-Line rear fuction carrier from way back at Phase 1. The reason is I originally cut my rear dovetail plate to fit that style of function carrier and it's just a little too wide for the current F-Line finction carriers. This hasn't been a big deal, as the older style function carriers work perfectly well with the newer ARCA-SWISS rails. However, it does mean I end up carier two rear function carriers (one old style, one new) when carrying both 4x5 and 4x10 kits. I could just trim a little off my homemade rear dovetail plate, but I'm working on a major modifcation to the way the rear frame attaches to the rear function carrier. It will be a scaled down version of the design I used for my 7x17 Franken-ARCA. That design is much more rigid than the version shown in the three photos above. I haven't really had any problems due to lack of rigidity, but I do have to be careful not to push too hard when louping ths top corners of the 4x10 ground glass. There is some flex and if I push hard enough it will cause the focal plane to shift. Phase 4 will greatly reduce any flex in the rear standard and totally eliminate this as a potential issue. Plus, it will be compaible with the newer F-Line rear function carrier and eliminate the need to carry a second, older style rear function carrier in the field to support both 4x5 and 4x10 configurations. I'll add a picture of Phase 4 in a month or two when it is completed.

    Kerry

  2. #2

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Very good work, Kerry! Who knows, maybe there will soon be an original AS 4x10, 7x17 etc. conversion kit available? I wouldn't be surprised...
    GPS

  3. #3

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Thanks Kerry.
    That helps me to make up my mind to get an Arca in a few years. (When I can afford it).
    Do you have the data on the rear metal frame?

  4. #4

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Quote Originally Posted by Songyun View Post
    Thanks Kerry.
    That helps me to make up my mind to get an Arca in a few years. (When I can afford it).
    Do you have the data on the rear metal frame?
    If you get an Arca, you will never look back!!!..EC

  5. #5

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Kerry,
    What do you think about the orbix tilt when you rise the front frame? It seems that when you rise the frame, the orbix tilt no longer works as a center front tilt.
    Do you think the F-metric function carrier is necessary for close-up shots? I mean, will the geared shift make it a lot easier to take close-up photos? in case that you might need a small amout of shifts, both front and back.
    Also what rail would you recommend if I would like to start with a 4X5 and get a 4X10 or 8X10 later.
    Best,
    Songyun

  6. #6

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Wow Kerry, thats awesome!! simply awesome!!

  7. #7

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Kerry,

    What a beautiful camera!

    Should I send my camera for you to modify now?

    Cheers
    Life in the fast lane!

  8. #8

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    The more I look at it the more I realize it. What Kerry is showing here is not just an example of a modification. It's the the AS modularity philosophy taken to its logical end - in this way with AS you can easily get whatever format you like (even multiple) without any need for multiple cameras. You can easily take 2 -3 formats with you just changing the back and keep the quality of the AS construction for all of them. Thanks for the inspiration, Kerry!
    GPS

  9. #9

    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    Quote Originally Posted by GPS View Post
    The more I look at it the more I realize it. What Kerry is showing here is not just an example of a modification. It's the the AS modularity philosophy taken to its logical end - in this way with AS you can easily get whatever format you like (even multiple) without any need for multiple cameras. You can easily take 2 -3 formats with you just changing the back and keep the quality of the AS construction for all of them. Thanks for the inspiration, Kerry!
    Yep, all the credit goes to ARCA-SWISS and their innovative modular design. I just took that as an invitation to try something different.

    There is likely some limit as to just how big you can go before exceeding the carrying capacity of the F-Line rear function carrier. I've gone up to 7x17 and haven't experienced any problems. Where the upper limit is (12x20?, 14x17?, 16x20?), I have no idea, but for anything 7x17 and smaller, it seems like you can adapt whatever format your heart desires. 5x12 would be cool, and I've thought about 5x8 and 7x11, too.

    For those who want to go REALLY big, the older pre F-Line 8x10 cameras had a special heavy duty rear function carrier. Using one of those might make 12x20 or 14x17 (another format I am seriously contemplating) possible.

    Kerry

  10. #10

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    Re: 4x10 Lotus/ARCA-SWISS Hybrid

    5x12, 5x8, 7x11... 12x20, 14x17... nice formats all of them. I know that fever all too well... Not so long ago i was building 1-2 cameras a year. Friends stopped to understand why I needed so many formats. It came to its temporary end when I needed to move and lost my workshop. Now I will move again and think about a new workshop... Sometimes I was thinking there should be something like Camera makers Anonymous - when I was simultaneously building a camera and designing yet another one. My workshop was busy even at 11 PM. Anyway, all those formats are good - the problem starts when you have to choose which one will follow you on this trip and the next one...
    GPS

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