View Full Version : monorail for field talk me into or out of arca

RT Green
24-Jul-2005, 15:54
About to bite the bullet and order a camera for nature photography. Field cameras have some compromises I do not want and so after some soul searching have settled on a monorail for ease of use. The top dog is an Arca swiss Discovery. The Discovery becomes tops since it is a better value than the F-field (which I lust after). Would there be a better choice? Cambo/Calumet perhaps? Toyp C or G (VX125 probably more than I can spend)? I will be using a 65mm, 125, and 210 as my lenses.

Any encouragement you can give that this is a good decision or last minute reason to look at something else?



Henry Ambrose
24-Jul-2005, 17:27
The Arca is a great camera and my favorite by far of all the others you listed. Once you get it on the tripod the Arca is the simplest, most direct and probably fastest to use -- its just wonderful. If you are going to carry it much just remember that its large and heavy compared to a field camera and that you will need a bag bellows for your 65mm lens -- so there's even more to carry -- not to mention the huge lensboards. I think the Arca is overkill for nature photography as you probably won't need the movement range that it offers.

If I were you I'd think real hard about an Ebony 45S instead. By the time you buy the Arca bag bellows and a technika style lensboard adaptor you'll spend the cost of the Ebony which covers your lens usage with no accessories to buy or carry - and it sets up real fast since its a non-folder and is very easy to use.

Scott Fleming
24-Jul-2005, 17:54
I wanted an Arca but could not justify the cost. Picked up a mint Toyo VX 125 for $2k and I could not be happier. It's very quick to set up and shoot. The quickest I warrant. Very flexible bellows. Will take a 58mm on a flat board out to a 400 tele. Everything is geared except tilt. Very light. Very packable.

Frank Petronio
24-Jul-2005, 18:13
If you're new to large format, the subtle advantages of a $2000 Arca are very minor over a $200 Calumet. So if you are new, it may serve you well to start with a simple modest kit, make some images, and make sure you are committed.

If you've already stumbled around and can afford it, the Arca Discovery is an excellent value and you can easily buy a few parts (like the rail attachment) that make it all that the F-line model is.

Of course, if I had gobs of $$$ I'd wait for the 141mm Discovery model that will inevitably be announced once you purchase the current Doscovery. ( I added that just to torment you.)

ronald lamarsh
24-Jul-2005, 18:19
Couldn't afford anything new but I picked up a used cambo monorail and love it, the ease of and generous amounts of movements was educational. The only downside is it is rather heavy but I use it strickly for shooting not more than 200yds from the car. Another advantage is the large amount of reasonably priced accesories and their availability on the used market. I almost got the linhof basic 4x5 monorail, which is a real beauty, lighter and of impeccable quality not to mention a steal at $800 but the cost of lensboards and bag bellows added up to almost the purchase price of the camera.

Dan Dozer
24-Jul-2005, 19:38
When I wanted to upgrade to a "new" 4 x 5, I went with a used Linhof Technikardan, and am very pleased with it. All the complaints that some people have with folding and unfolding it - no problem once you get used to how everything rotates/moves. I got mine through Ritz Photo in Phoenix for $1600 - nearly mint condition with a bag bellows included. That price seems to be about the going rate for a used one. I'm not sure what additional features the Technikardan S has on it, but I think the Technikardan is great.

Dave Moeller
24-Jul-2005, 20:51
When I first got into LF I picked up an old Cambo monorail (one of the square-railed SC variations)...dirt cheap with good bellows was all that I cared about. It was a fine camera for working in the field once I practiced setting it up and breaking it down enough times.

I eventually moved to a field camera for the lighter weight due to chronic spinal problems, but monorails work just fine in the field. Whatever you end up with, do yourself a favor and practice setting it up and taking it down in your living room a few dozen times...the practice will pay off in the field. Once the camera's set up in the field, a monorail's a dream to work with. There are occasions when I'm out shooting that I still miss having a monorail with me, regardless of how pretty the field camera is.

Best of luck to you.

John Hollenberg
24-Jul-2005, 21:12
As long as you aren't carrying the camera for substantial distances, go for it. I purchased a used Arca Swiss Discovery after owning several field cameras (metal and wood). It is by far my favorite 4X5. Certainly can be a bit more hassle getting the camera there, but once on location it is a dream to work with compared to the other cameras.

Bill McMannis
24-Jul-2005, 21:34

I agree wholeheartedly with Dan that the Technikardan is the way to go. I have the 45S. The key difference between the 45 and 45S are locking detents. These "zero" the movements for quick setup. I really like them, but some photographers prefer the 45 as they find the detents cumberson when opening and closing the camera. It is great for nature and landscapes as it is as portable as a field camera, but has the movements of a monorail. Prices on the used market are getting reasonable.

Bill McMannis

Bobby Sandstrom
24-Jul-2005, 21:57
I owned the discovery and had the micro metric orbix conversion done to it. I had the viewer etc.. etc... It's a very nice camera. Mine fell and the rear standard got wobly. I was going on a trip to Monument Valley and needed a camera. I heard about and fell in love with the Tachihara 4x5... BRAND NEW 595.00. If you can settle for a 75mm lens instead of the 65mm it's all you'll need for landscape. I absolutely LOVE mine. Very Light, Very Rigid, Easy to set up. I can use my 400mm tele zenar with it as well. The best thing that happened to me is I stopped depending on the Reflex Viewer and now much prefer viewing upside down and backwards.

Best of Luck

Ernest Purdum
25-Jul-2005, 09:05
Reading all of the above, I was impressed by how many people love their current cameras. That's great.

Secondly, I think that when RT says "nature" photography, he perhaps means close-up pictures of this and that rather than, or in addition to, landscape photography,. ?? It could make a big difference in regards how much bellows he needs.

Greg Miller
25-Jul-2005, 13:02
I have the newer A-S F-Line Field. In addition to its lighter weight it also has the benefit of a bellows that handles a very wide range of lenses (so you don't have to carry a second bellows and change in the field).

I started with a folding field camera. But I ama very linear thinker (background is computerprogramming) and I found the folding foeld camera to be too much of a hassle when dealing with all the inherent compromises. And with a folding field camera you will run into limitations on how wide or long you can go.

I am much happier with a monorail - all the movements are very simple and logical. BeforeI had the monorail I passed up many shots because it was too big of a hassle to set up the camera sometimes. That does not happen any more - set up could hardly be easier. And the weight is virtually the same as my folding field camera.

This is a very personal decision. In the end you'll have to decide what your priorities are and choose based on that.

Harley Goldman
25-Jul-2005, 16:54

I started out in LF with a Wista wooden field camera. I after about a year I bought a used Arca F-Line Classic and could not be happier. It is quick, simple and very easy to use and the system is quite flexible. I don't find it all that heavy for short hikes (3 miles or less). For wide lenses, it does require a bag bellows. I can use my 80mm with the standard, but movements are quite limited. For the 58mm, the bag bellows is a must. I have a conversion lensboard to the Tecknika boards, so the large Arca boards are not an issue. The fresnel is very bright and the camera is a pleasure to use.

Cameras are very much a matter of taste. I have friends who love field cameras, but I don't. I find them a pain to use, especially compared to the ease of a monorail. You will just have to try the Arca (or anything else for that matter) and see if it suits you.