View Full Version : Arca Swiss: Collapsible vs. Telescopic Rail?

Andre Noble
29-Jan-2005, 12:11
Are there any significant real world advantages of the Arca Swiss Compact version (Collapsible) of the monorail over the standard Telescopic monorail in terms of overall compactness of camera during stowage inside a backpack for local and long distance travel?

Background: I'm dreaming big dreams and am planning one fine day this decade to perhaps get either an Arca Swiss 5x7 F Metric (w/ the standard Telescopic rail) or the Arca Swiss 5x7 F Metric "Compact" version (with the Collapsible rail instead).

Sturdiness, backpackableness, and precision are equally important criteria in deciding between these two types of rails because I plan shoot architecture on large format with lenses in the range of 72mm to 210mm with lots of movement in this format.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

neil poulsen
29-Jan-2005, 15:03
The telescopic bench with the two 15cm rails makes the camera easy to backpack. Placing the camera on one of the rails and removing the camera and rail results in a fairly compact package that's only 15cm deep. I've not used the collapsible rail, so I don't know the collapsed size and can't compare.

The telescopic rail expands to about 17 inches, probably about as long as the normal belows can expand. This would allow closeups at 1:1 with your 210mm lens.

Emmanuel BIGLER
29-Jan-2005, 15:46
The collapsible rail is in a fact the upper part of the rail folding in two equal parts connected by a hinge and a tightening screw. The rail is connected to the tripod with a short sliding bracket.
The telescopic rail is made of two separate upper rail elements sliding on and connected by a long bracket. Both collapsible and telescopic rails are, in the real world ;-) equally precise and rigid.

The standard rail length for 5"x7" is supposed to be 40 cm long (about 16") but you can use a 30 cm rail if you prefer something more compact. The length of the collapsible or folding rail when folded is simply one half of the total length. So a folded 30 cm rail (12") will be 15 cm long (6") exactly like when you slide the standards on the 15 cm part of a 30 cm telescopic rail. A telescopic rail can be expanded by 50% of the bracket length, in other words it is reasonable when the sliding upper parts do to not extend above one half or their length, this yields a 50% possible increase in length. For example on a 30 cm telescopic rail both rail halves can be extented by 7.5 cm outside the bracket, this makes a total of 45 cm ~= 18" = 12" x 1.5. 45 cm is comfortable to focus a 210 in 1:1 (420 + something would be the theroretical lens to film distance for a 210 @1:1)
The folding rail can be expanded by screwing an additional rail element in front, this is less convenient than sliding the rail on a long bracket.

For 6x9 I find the folding rail more convenient but for 5"x7" the procedure described by Neil is absolutely fine. It is also perfectly possible to totally remove the function supports from the rails, but since the function support is precisely adjusted to the rail I prefer to do it only when absolutely necessary. One Swiss photographer I met recently carries both a complete F-line 4"x5" and a 8"x10" bellows + back in a small mountaineering backpack ; he takes the function supports off the rail every time he packs the camera in his rucksack after a taking picture. My preference goes to sliding both standards to one end of the rail without taking the function supports off the rail at all.

So the conclusion is : both solutions are interesting, with the folding rail you save some weight but not that much on a 5"x7".

Andre Noble
29-Jan-2005, 19:21
Hello Neil and Emmanuel,

Thanks guys for taking the time to provide that useful info. Each type of rail has slight advantages is seems, and no real weaknesses from what I understand. Thanks Emmanuel in particular for providing those complete, useful details.

Nevertheless, I'm still undecided at this time but leaning towards the Compact version. Much time to make a final decsion.

Ellis Vener
31-Jan-2005, 10:08
The telescopic rail allows about 50% great extention than the length of the base section. I believethe 5x7 Arca-Swiss cameras come with a 40cm base and 2 20cm sections. Extendingeach of the rails 10cm beyond the end of the base section wil lgive you a total of 60cm of rail extention and stability. As neil points out the easiest way to travel with this version of the rail is to move both the frnt and rear standards to one section of the rail and then carry the other section of the rail and the base seperately in your backpack or case. When you get to a location you set up the tripod, attach the base to the head and then slide the rail with the standards on it into the rail. A second advantage is when you do either close up or macro work when you have a fixed magnification ratio you want to achieve you just slide both rails towards or away from your subject with out changing the distance between the standards. Because the base section is fixed to your tripod head this makes macro work a bit easier. A third advantage is stability: simply put there is more support under the rail.

With the collapsable rail you save time (no need to reassemble the base and rail together), you save space, and you save weight (no long base section). The primary disadvantage is that you lose the advantages listed above: extra length when you need it, etc.

I use the telescopic rail set up.

Scott Fleming
31-Jan-2005, 10:19
What about WA? Where do you put your function carriers on the rail and is there any problem studying the gg?

Ellis Vener
31-Jan-2005, 15:35
For wide angle I can keep both function carriers on one section of the rail and just slip that into the base. Alternately you could buy the 855mm rail clamp (base) from Arca-Swiss or have a machinist tap ( drill and thread) the appropriate size tripod holes in the bottom of one of the rail sections.

And of course you could just do what you normally would and set up the camera . This has the advantage of being able quickly change to a longer focal length lens.