View Full Version : Acra-Swiss model C

Jay Lnch
4-Dec-2004, 21:30
I am looking to buy an older Arca-Swiss 4x5 model C. What do I need to look out for in the way of problems with this model?

Are newer lens boards and bellows usable on the model C ?

thanks for your help....

Kerry L. Thalmann
4-Dec-2004, 23:51

The model you are asking about is also referred to as the A/B model or the Pro III. These older models used plastic front and rear format frames. Look for cracks or other damage to the plastic frames. They also used foam light seals front and rear. Check for deteorated or missing foam seals (they can be replaced).

Current 171mm lensboards will work with the older ARCA-SWISS cameras. The current rails will also work with the older function carriers. New bellows will not fit the old cameras. However, if you have the bellows frames, you can get a new bellows mounted on your old frames. Just be aware that, depending on which bellows you want, a new bellows for your old camera may cost more than the camera itself.


Emmanuel BIGLER
5-Dec-2004, 04:01
Good news if newer 171 boards fit older pre-F Arca Swiss cameras.

So I would suggest another possibility, perfectly OK technically but certainly too expensive, i.e. to use a 171 adapter board to fit either 110x110 smaller A/S boards or 96x99mm Linhof-Wista boards.

Again, a new adapter board made by A/S will cost you the price of the old camera ;-) So even if front light seals are not perfect, you could always fix the problem roughly with gaffer tape and use only the smaller lens boards like the 110mm A/S or 96x99 Technika-Wista boards. Technika-Wista boards are probably the smallest boards that can accommodate a #3 shutter. Even the new Linhof boards for the M679 are bigger than the 4"x5" Technika's.

A LF friend of mine has designed and found a competent machinist to fabricate his own adapter boards to mount 96x99 Technika boards on an old 13x18 Plaubel monorail. So he has rationalized his boards to the 96x99 Technika standard and can use his Plaubel without searching the Internet for used Plaubel boards. Pre-F A/S lens boards, according to Kerry T..., are not that difficult to fabricate by a competent machinist-friend. Adapting a Linhof board is just slightly more difficult, but you do not touch the camera, only the separate board, so you play it 100% safe.

Frank Petronio
5-Dec-2004, 09:31
Because the older Arca's are so inexpensive, you may ultimately want to watch eBay and pick up a bargain one (A, B, or C) so that you can combine the best parts into one above-average camera. Having an extra standard, rails, and an old bellows is handy for use as a lenshade or extended focal lengths. Because new Arca bellows cost more than an entire older camera, you may want to investigate having a third-party bellows maker make a new bellows using the worn-out bellow's frames and size as a guide (send the old bellows for them to copy). (Do a search for threads on replacement bellows manufacturers.) I had an older Arca leather bag bellows that was exactly like the current one except for the frames - it was a really nice bellows.

New lensboards are $70 plus but if you are patient you can find older ones for far less. Again, buying a second camera, stripping the useful parts off, and reselling the leftovers is a good strategy.

If only the old frames weren't plastic they would be exceptional cameras. As it is, they are still excellent and offer the lightness and compactness of the current models.

Kerry L. Thalmann
5-Dec-2004, 11:30
A little more info on lensboards and the older ARCA-SWISS cameras...

As I mentioned, the older cameras use foam light seals on the front and rear. Current cameras eliminated the foam light seals for a more durable mechanical light seal. This consists of raised ridges on the back of the board and mating channels within the front standard opening. Older ARCA-SWISS boards (all silver ones and early black ones) are flat (no ridges) and rely in the foam seals to be light tight. These flat boards are very easy to fabricate - they are just a flat piece of aluminum 171mm x 171mm with radiused corners and a hole of the desired diameter in the center. With one to use as a pattern, any competent machinist will have no problem making these boards. Mechanically, the older boards fit current cameras, but with no ridges on the boards and no foam on the camera, there is a risk of light leaks. Since the newer boards have ridges, they are a bit tight on the older cameras, but the ridges line up with the channels that contain the foam on the older cameras. If you're only using new style boards on your old camera, it might even be possible to remove the foam and still have a light tight seal. WARNING, I have not tried this. So, do some tests before attempting critical work with an old "foamless" camera and new style boards.

Another word on the bellows... The standard bellows on the older ARCA-SWISS cameras are made from a synthetic material that seems to be quite durable. On the older ARCA-SWISS cameras I've seen and own/owned, I've seen very few (less than 10%) with a bad standard bellows. Unless you're getting a REALLY good deal on a camera with a bad bellows, I'd advise passing on that camera and looking for one with a good, light tight bellows. These cameras aren't exactly rare. Nor are they expensive - in fact one in excellent or better condition is one of the bargains of the large format world. Don't waste your time and money on one in poor condition with a bad bellows. Wait for a better one to come along. It won't cost that much more, and you won't have the cost and hassle of replacing the bellows.

Like Frank, I've bought multiple older ARCA-SWISS cameras and mix and match parts to my heart's content. I now have a current generation F-Line system and still use some parts from the older models (long rails, rotating back, etc.). Not all the old system components work with the new models, but it's often cheaper to buy an entire older generation camera for the cost of a single new component (long rail and extension bracket, for example).


Jay Lnch
5-Dec-2004, 13:37
Thanks for all the replies. They really are helpfull.

One more question. What should I pay for an older model A, B, C in reasonable condition?

Thanks, again...

Frank Petronio
5-Dec-2004, 14:52
I think they should be worth more, but most of them go for between $250 to $500 for a basic 4x5 set up. Last week a set of two 4x5s and a 8x10 (well used) went for less than $800 - I should have gotten it, but I've learned not to speculate on cameras I won't use. Prices get really low after Christmas - Tax Season, then pick up for the summer.

The newer Arcas are better made, and have a nice fresnel (plain GG on the old ones, in most cases) but for $400 on average, you can get a nice one with a vintage lens and a perfectly functional rail system that would cost $1000 to replace with a new "F-line" design. I swapped the rails from my older cameras with the less than ideal rail that came with my Discovery (new series) - saving $$$ over buying the more modern equivilant.

If money got tight, I would have no qualms about using an older Arca (or Sinar Norma) again.

Kerry L. Thalmann
6-Dec-2004, 17:15

I've been tracking ARCA-SWISS prices on eBay for a couple years. The 4x5 models are the most common, and the least expensive. Typical selling prices are in the $350 - $450 range, depending on model, condition and accessories. The 5x7 models go for about $650 give or take and the 8x10 usually go for about $750 - $800. Ironically, it's the little 6x9 models that usually fetch the highest prices. Earlier this year a couple of them went for over $1000 each on eBay.

When shopping for these older models, keep in mind that they were made for nearly 30 years (mid-1950s through early 1980s). Subtle improvements occurred over that time. The earliest models used soft gray plastic knobs that are prone to break. I tend to avoid these really old models when I can. Look for later sample with hard black plastic knobs. Also, the back design changed over time, and various options were offered. The ultimate previous generation ARCA-SWISS is a very late model with both base and axis tilts and a rotating Grafloc back with a factory fresnel. While these features are seldom mentioned in the auction listing, most can be spotted by looking at pictures of the back of the camera - or ask the seller. Even a deluxe, late model with all these features can often be bought for about $450.


P.S. I had an article published on the history of the ARCA-SWISS cameras in the Mar/Apr 2004 issue of View Camera magazine. The article had a lot of information on the older cameras, as well as photos of both older and current models. If you can get your hands on a copy of the magazine, it might help you in your search for an older ARCA-SWISS.

Ed Kelsey
10-Dec-2010, 09:29
I just picked up a super clean A model with a #1 lensboard from Camera West in Rancho Mirage, CA for $295. I much prefer axis tilts anyway and couldn't pass it up.

Fantastic store if you are close enough to visit and Sean is great to deal with.

Acheron Photography
12-Dec-2010, 15:17
I know this is an old thread... but just a couple of recent observations.

First the old Arcas don't seem to have got that much more expensive. I picked up an absolutely mint C for 199 (roughly $320) the other day. There is still a good market in 171 lens boards, and with patience you can pick one of these up fairly cheaply too.

For me, these really are excellent value cameras. The one issue in my view is the standard bellows, which while having a good draw for longer (at least in the 5x4 context) lenses, does not compress enough to be convenient if you are using movements with a 90 let alone anything shorter. A bag bellows is therefore a worthwhile addition.


Frank Petronio
12-Dec-2010, 15:24
These are kind of like older Linhof, Fatif, and Plaubel monorail cameras, you can buy the basic model for a song but finding extensions and bellows and oftentimes lensboards can be a real pain. It's a shame since they are all excellent cameras (the Linhofs are probably the highest quality ever).

If you take the ratty old bellows or find a beat-up set, then you can salvage the frames and get a new set made, either bag or long. If lensboards are a problem, get one or make one and modify it to use common Technika or Toyo-style lensboards via an adapter. And as for rails and other parts... keep your eyes peeled. Sometimes you end up buying a second set-up and selling of the extra parts to get what you need.

Or just trade it and get a boring $300 to $600 Sinar, Cambo, or Toyo and rejoice in abundant part supplies.