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Thread: Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

  1. #1
    aleatorist David R Munson's Avatar
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    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    I'm slowly getting closer to settling on the camera to replace my beautiful but now-limited Linhof Kardan Bi. You may or may not remember my posting a question back when the board was still on P.N regarding LF camera systems, the emphasis being on the system as a whole, for studio work. My functional emphasis will still be on studio work. Still life, portraiture, etc. The choices have been narrowed down now, and I'm looking for some more specific feedback now.

    The two models I've narrowed things down to at this point are the Linhof Kardan Master GTL and the Arca Monolith 4x5. I had considered, briefly, a Sinar P2 or X, but honestly Sinar gear has never impressed me all that much for whatever reason. Same for the Cambo Ultima. Maybe it's just the base logic behind the systems. Whatever. Both of these cameras are big, heavy, and so expensive it's scary. The supporting systems are also crazy expensive, but that's just something I'm going to accept.

    The equipment I have now doesn't really enter into the decision. One could argue I should go with the Kardan GTL because I already shoot with a Linhof and therefore likely have accessories I could just use with the new camera, etc. My current inventory of Linhof-specific accessories consists of two lensboards.

    What does enter into the equation are things like reliability, system capabilities, and long-term support. I'm 21 now and will likely be using whatever I buy for a pretty long time, so I'd like to think that in 15 years I'll still be able to buy accessories and parts without having to spend long hours scouring the used market. Digital support is another consideration, though seems to be only of negligable significance given the modular and interchangeable nature of LF equipment in general.

    Secondary considerations include things like how easy/hard it is to take these cameras on location. Having only had the chance to handle these cameras in person briefly, I don't really know about these details. Yes, studio work will be my primary application, but I can guarantee that the camera will also be taken on location from time to time. Another secondary consideration is format conversion - if I want to shoot 5x7 or 8x10 with the same camera, how does switching bellows, format frames, etc impact the usability of the system?

    If I can, I'll be handling both these cameras at PhotoPlus Expo later this month (I'm just going to assume that I'll be able to do so), and this may shed a little helpful light on the situation, but any thoughts anyone here could throw my way would be greatly appreciated. Do you own or use either of these cameras? Have you used them in the past? Have you used both of them? Thoughts one way or the other, yea or nay, would be great. Thanks much.

  2. #2

    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    I'd look at the Arca-Swiss website for more information. No wait... they don't have a website. Hmmm....

  3. #3

    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    David: I had the GTL and from experience ca tell you that this beast does not like travelling. It is so extremely heavy (close to 18 pounds), that setting it up is cumbersome in the extreme. You hope that nothing will distract you while doing it so that you do not let the beast crash on the concrete. Get ready to get the heaviest head, the Linhof levelling thing is made for this brute, others seems flimsy as for example Linhof´s 3D head feels like a straw supporting the probervial camel. If the straw does not break the camel´s back, this camera will break yours. Keep it in a studio, set it on one of those pole type supports and you and your Linhof and you will live happily ever after, unless of course you opt for that Arca Swiss thing, if you can ever find her, and decipher its anatomy once you do. Yes, the Arca is as hard to find as Noah´s but perhaps someone here will guide you to where it hides. No I never have owned one of them, why, if I wanted a mechano set, I know where to get one. Before I forget, David, get something more practical like a Technikardan or Toyo, there are lots of other cameras too that will take you even beyond you may want to go without breaking your bank or your back.

  4. #4

    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    Asking my stomach you have narrowed down your search to the two most impressing monorails in the market.

    Asking my brain you are on the wrong track. If you already know that you will work primarily in a studio and you are committed to pay a fortune for new equipment you should look for something like a Linhof 679 and a complete digital setup. For the remaining location work you could keep your Kardan-Bi.

    Sorry for committing this sacrilege...

  5. #5
    aleatorist David R Munson's Avatar
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    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    Martin, it's actually something that I've considered. However, I don't think it would be the right choice for me at the moment. I'll be able to purchase my new monorail without going into debt. I wouldn't, however, be able to purchase a $20,000+ digital back plus camera without going massively into debt. And that's not something I want to do fresh out of college. Five years down the road, maybe, but it just doesn't make sense right now, particularly if I end up spending the next two years as an assistant. Thanks for the thought, though.

  6. #6

    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    The GTL is of course better than the Kardan-Bi but especially if you are on a budget it is no quantum leap. In some cases it will take you 3 minutes less to make the adjustments and thats it.

    I would save the money for starting your business soon and in the meantime try hard to find a good assistant job where you can borrow all the equipment you can not afford today.

  7. #7

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    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    The Arca Swiss line of products is well described on various northern-american commercial web sites, namely retail stores who do provide Arca Swiss equipment and accessories. The information is very easy to find, there is a representative in Chicago and you can place a direct phone call to one of the offices in Switzerland or in France. A copy of the current catalog is hosted on this non-commercial web site.

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/arca-swiss.html

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/ARCA.pdf

    I've already manipulated Arca Swiss M-line cameras at the Arca Swiss International office here in Besançon. To me --I'm an amateur-- this is a dream camera with all movements being silky-smooth and self-locking. I've also manipulated a 30-year old Sinar P, and I was less impressed, but the comparison is not exactly fair due to the age of this Sinar that faithfully served a professional architecture photographer for decades ;-)

    An Arca Swiss M-line is not exactly the camera you would bring in the field, but for studio and digital imaging, this is an extremely precise masterpiece of mechanical engineering. Many parts are compatible with the F-line.

  8. #8

    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    I am biased towards sinar for two reasons..

    1. Having owned and used one professionally for 3 years.

    2. having worked in the pro rental business before becoming a pro-photographer.

    Linhofs are great...do not get me wrong and so are arcas. But as a professsional photographer, you have to take several things into account. Being able to rent the accesories you need sometimes is a big deal. Nobody in the USA rents linhof monorails or Arca's. In fact almost every rental house, doesn't even have Linhof Monorail Boards, let alone accesories. Arca...forget it.

    If you ever need more rails for extension, or a reflex viewer or anything you will be out of luck with a Linhof or Arca, unless you want to pony up the dough. Plus in the world of commerical photography...getting jobs at the last minute is the norm, and you can't tell your client that you have to call Badger graphic or something and get an extension rail. With a Sinar...you call Fotocare, and have it messengered to your studio in 1/2 an hour. If you went with something like Sinar...you have tremendous rental and store support, as well as a good rep (who will come to your studio at the drop of a hat) and good repair support all over the country. From NYC to Dallas, to LA, to Georgia....you can rent Sinar equipment.

    I feel if you have a TREMENDOUS budget, and are willing to buy everything you need...than go with the Linhof or thr Arca. But remember camera equipment is the least of your problems in starting a business...you still have to budget lots of coin for promoting yourself, lighting, and studio fees.

    If your still set on Linhof, Lens and Repro has a GTL 4x5 for under $2000.

  9. #9

    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    David,

    the Master GTL is a very good choice for studio work. You may carry (or better transport) it in a relatively flat Linhof-case (ca. 8") which I own, but it is still heavy. I also own the 5x7 conversion kit which can be exchanged quickly and easily with the standard 4x5 back. There is also a 8x10 conversion kit but it is outragiously expensive, costs almost as much as the complete 8x10 Master GTL. So for 8x10 I use a Kardan GT which is also a very recommendable camera, off course without freely adjustable asymmetrical (floating axis) swings and tilts on the rear standard.

    For outdoor work I would keep the Kardan Bi (as I do) for this might be the best monorail to transport (exept Technikardan which has not all the same movements). You can exchange back, screen, fresnel, bellows and lensboards with the GTL.

    By the way Martin is right: There is nothing a Master GTL can which Your Kardan Bi can´t. It is just easier and quicker with the GTL.

    Before I bought my GTL I had also an eye on a used (older) Arca Monolith. It had not all movements I wanted (if memory serves: no central tilt for rear standard), so I decided against it. I don´t know the now sold version of the camera and I don´t think there are many monoliths to be found in Germany.

    Support for Linhof is very good in Germany but can sometimes take time.

    The GTL is not a mainstream camera like Sinar P or F, even in Germany. For digital work they might be overkill so You may get one for decent price overhere as I did.

    Good luck for Your choice!

  10. #10
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Linhof Kardan GTL vs Arca M-Line as a complete studio system

    David,

    Nothing at all wrong with your choices but I would like to know why you eliminated the Horseman LX from your considerations.



    I don’t know enough about the Arca to make any further contribution beyond noting that finding small pieces for an Arca system seem to be a bit difficult in the US at least more difficult than for a number of other systems. I agree with you on the Sinar, I used one for years and never felt it was quite as robust as the Linhof it replaced.



    I’m not suggesting Horseman is a better system than Linhof but, IMHO, they are equal and you should take a look at Horseman as well. The Horseman system does everything (or almost everything) the Linhof does and does it almost as well. If you operate the two systems side-by-side you will likely see the differences in the Linhof and prefer it but otherwise the Horseman is a fine instrument. If price does come into your considerations that is another reason to think about the Horseman system. If the initial outlay is not a consideration then don’t take price into consideration since the differences are not substantial over the life of the system.



    Finally, it comes down to support. I believe you will get excellent support from either HP Marketing or Schneider and their dealer networks. It is simply personal choice. I use the Horseman system for two reasons: 1) at the time I needed a new system I already had a reasonable investment in Sinar ‘stuff’ and, 2) …. This is the real important one … I accepted a Horseman system as payment of a debt that I otherwise would have had to writeoff. Don’t get me wrong, I find the Horseman a delight to use and as fully functional as I will ever want or need in the studio. However, if I were starting from scratch and money was no object I would go with the Linhof.

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