View Full Version : Lightweight 8x10 architectural camera (A-S?)

Micah Marty
21-Sep-2005, 08:26
Hi, I have a pretty specific (A-S) question relating to my general quest for a precision 8x10 that is light enough to carry around (I do a lot of urban walking and architectural work).

I have used several different brands -- most often Sinar -- and numerous formats, but I'm thinking of selling everything I have and putting the funds into one high-end, lightweight 8x10. I want as full a range of movements as possible in a sturdy, lightweight package, which apparently means Ebony or Arca-Swiss, neither of which brand I've used before. (Feel free to point me to other options, but it seems that most of the usual suspects are either not as precise or as sturdy or as lightweight or as versatile with respect to movements; I'd like all four if possible.)

I've always preferred monorails, which gives the edge to A-S, but in Nathan Congdon's review of the Ebony 810, he said he rejected the A-S 8x10 (I'm thinking F-Line, not M) because it only offered 40mm of front rise, which of course is ridiculously limiting. Somebody else said there's an A-S "extender" that adds 40mm of front rise, and therein lies my question. Has anyone seen or had experience with this extender? Is it the gizmo in the upper right of the 14th pdf page (in A-S's page numbering, page 1.12) of the A-S catalog at http://www.largeformatphotography.info/ARCA.pdf? (How) does it work?

"Official" and "knowledgeable" answers from A-S reps are, I assume, as difficult to come by as they have been since "elusive sales support" was apparently written into the company's charter 40-odd years ago.

I'm open to considering Ebony, and I suppose I could find a way to justify it in terms of income produced, but I can't believe how much a full-featured Ebony costs even over the already-very-pricey A-S. Then again, over the years I've gradually invested quite a bit accumulating camera gear, and I don't want to sell it all in exchange for a camera with a crippling limitation. Thoughts?

Janko Belaj
21-Sep-2005, 08:31
Have only seen it on web, camera has no direct rear shift and swing, but seams light and strudy: Canham JMC810. (http://www.canhamcameras.com/8x10metal.htm)

Janko Belaj
21-Sep-2005, 08:39
and the "traditional" one isn't bad at all. I bet you cen have much larger front rise combining base and plane tilt. The 1st one uses sinar's boards, this one is lighter... 8x10 Lightweight (http://www.canhamcameras.com/8x10lightweight.htm)
btw, what means "A-S"?

Micah Marty
21-Sep-2005, 08:47
Sorry; "A-S" is "Arca-Swiss."

I previously owned an 11x14 Canham and am open to the 8x10 model, but wonder if I could do better with respect to rigidity, versatility, and/or precision. (I do like both the man and his cameras, however!)

John Kasaian
21-Sep-2005, 08:51
FWIW, the architecture photography firm of Hedrick-Blessing did a fair amount of work with 8x10 Deardorffs. :-)

Micah Marty
21-Sep-2005, 08:53
Janko, at least on my browser there's a very short character limit in this forum for "Subject of post." I didn't want to imply in the title that my question wasn't fairly arcane, yet there wasn't room to type "lightweight" + "architectural" + "Arca-Swiss," which is why I abbreviated it to "A-S," and I forgot and used the same abbreviation in the first line. Hope that explains it.

21-Sep-2005, 09:29
What movement is more important for architecture than rise? I think it is worth more money to have more of it.

A quick scan of B&H reveals another potential (monorail) candidate: Toyo 810G, with 85mm of geared rise...

evan clarke
21-Sep-2005, 09:41
Arca has an all-new version of their 8x10 and the guy to talk to with your questions is Rod Klukas at Photomark in Phoenix (602) 244-1133. I am picking up the new 140mm 4x5 there next month and may just spring for the 8x10 if he has one in stock. I have a ProII A-S 8x10 now which is just a dream and the kit is lighter than my 4x5 F-metric. The new 8x10 is lighter yet and has an ingenious hydraulic bail which closes the back on the film holder with a very light tap of one finger...Evan Clarke

Micah Marty
21-Sep-2005, 09:54
Hmm. Very interesting, Evan; thanks for the news. I'll give Rod K. a call and see if the front end of the new version is as impressive as the back end.

Christopher, the Toyo 810 looks like it has it all (and B&H has a used one for 40% less than new), but the weight (almost 20 lbs) is kind of a deal (back?) breaker for long jaunts. (I'm well aware of the ULF transporting options using carts, baby joggers, etc., but I'd like to avoid that if possible when shooting 8x10.)

Ken Lee
21-Sep-2005, 10:06
Could you please tell us the name, or any further description of the new Arca Swiss 8x10 ?

evan clarke
21-Sep-2005, 11:10
Hi Ken,
They are oretty cryptic in their naming conventions. It is still F-metric, F-classic, etc. You need to check it thoroughly to make sure it is the new one. There is a ProII on eBay right now which looks like a good one. This camera has a channel and a monorail as the rail setup. I split the monorail on mine so the camera can be racked onto a 5 1/2" section of rail for easy storage, works like a charm. I mount the rail/channel on the tripod, slide the camera in place and go!!...EC

Marco Annaratone
21-Sep-2005, 11:32
I have an Arca-Swiss 8x10 F-line and I bought the extender from B&H. The A-S product number is 069000. It fits nicely between the front standard and the function carrier and the whole setup stays rigid (I put pretty heavy copal 3 lenses on without any problem). This way the front standard is centered with the rear standard without having to lock the front standard and the two can be really pushed close together big time, making it easy to carry the system around. The only drawback is that since the rear standard has no rise/fall, if you have to lower the front standard you have to either take the extender off (a pain, in the field) or tilt forward the camera and tilt the two standards backward (this is much easier). I do no regret having bought it.

Micah Marty
21-Sep-2005, 12:10
Hey thanks, Marco, for that report! The rigidity of the front standard with the extender was a concern of mine, as my favorite lens is the Nikkor 360W and with many cameras' front standards, that weight really makes for some drooping and readjusting.

Having no "front fall" below the center point of the rear standard without the "angle down and re-level" method isn't ideal (I wish A-S had designed in the kind of front rise/fall range that many field cameras have!), but it might be worth the tradeoff in light of how often I use front "rise" compared to how rarely I use front "fall." Those who routinely photograph down from atop high buildings may feel otherwise, of course. . . .

Thanks again for your help.

Brian Ellis
22-Sep-2005, 08:25
What do you consider "light weight?" What do you consider to be a "full range of movements?"

Deardorffs weigh 12 pounds, I've owned two and I wouldn't consider then to be "light weight" but then I didn't come to them from a Sinar or whatever your present system is. Deardorffs are plenty sturdy and have respectable movements though maybe not as many as a Sinar or Arca Swiss monorail. Still, as someone else pointed out, Hedrich Blessing has done pretty well using Deardorffs for architectural work. My understanding is that's what they still use today though they've switched to printing digitally. Deardorffs are also very easy to carry around, set up, and take down. Canham's "light weight" 8x10 might be a better choice given the importance of "light weight" to you. It weighs about 9 lbs I believe but I've never owned one so I don't know about its other attributes.

I can't imagine paying for an 8x10 Ebony given the availability of other very comparable cameras that cost much less. I've owned two Ebony 4x5s, they were nice cameras but grossly overpriced IMHO and the 8x10 seems even worse to me. But Ebony makes them and people buy them so obviously others disagree.

Micah Marty
22-Sep-2005, 12:27
Hi Brian,

Well, in my original post I wrote of "my quest for a precision 8x10 that is light enough to carry around." So yes, I suppose a 12lb. camera is light enough to carry around, although I have found that when one is carrying something in-hand, the difference between, say 9 lbs. and 12 lbs. can be significant after two or three miles of walking (I usually carry the camera in my left hand, tripod in my right, and have a backpack with holders, lenses, etc.).

It seems to me that when people in this and similar forums refer to "lightweight" 8x10 cameras they are talking about cameras that are generally less than 10 lbs. or so, and that's probably the range I had in mind.

As far as defining "full range of movements," in shooting architecture I've found that having on both the front and rear of the camera as many of the usual movements as possible (I don't think I need to list them here) and not having controls do double- or triple duty can save time. That may not sound important in what is by definition a time-consuming format, but "painstaking" doesn't mean "leisurely" and if better controls mean it takes two minutes to set up a shot instead of five that adds up when the light is changing. (I'm used to using large view cameras [both 8x10 and 11x14] with less-than-full movements on the back and am open to that if it means more rigidity and/or less weight.)

Cameras with "a full range of movements" are often also more likely to have more-flexible or even interchangeable bellows, and for example when shooting 8x10 with a large-coverage 150mm at full-rise that can be helpful.

I'm also struggling to explain what I mean by "precision," but I suppose it means that if a knob is turned only a very tiny amount it both changes the position of something on the camera very slightly and keeps it in that position. True, I've seen great photographs made using cheap, beat-up view cameras with really loose or vague control knobs, but again, shooting architecture when every millimeter matters seems to *benefit from* -- even though it doesn't *require* -- controls with more precision than is needed, for example, to photograph a distant mountain. That's partly why I gravitate toward monorails.

I have nothing against Deardorffs and am glad to see you and John K speaking up for them. But I'm guessing that they would sometimes not be the first choice of 21st-century photographers who shoot architecture almost exclusively and who have a choice -- H-B's photographers included.

Almost any camera can be used to make strong photographs, but that doesn't mean it is the best tool for the job. My question involved trying to identify the best 8x10 tool for the job of "carrying the camera around" during long walks and "shooting architecture."

tim atherton
22-Sep-2005, 13:00

the main problem is all these things - full range of movement/precision/lightweight (possibly add "rigid") are beginning to get mutually exclusive.

More movements on the front and rear standard usually means more weight. Precision - i.e. possibly geared in places, or individual controls for different movoements/functions (rather than relying on one knob with several functions) usually = more weight. Again, more rigid often = more weight.

With some of the limitations mentioned, the Arca probably starts to come closesr to what yu are looking for.

Many of the lighter than 10lb cameras make compromises in the above areas to reduce weight - Phillips, Wehman, Canham metal etc - some more in one area than the other. In 8x10, reducing the rear movement options for example seems a standard way to reduce weight and increaserigidity . The Phillips takes a one knob does it all approach among other things . The Phillips and the

Most other monrails apart fromt he Arca will give you what you are looking for, but will weigh much more...

If you really want lighter, you are going to need to compromise on some of the other things - you are going to have to decide what you are willing to compromise on and then see which camera or two fits the bill - the Canham Metal for plenty of rise but less precision, the Gandofli Variant for a bit more precision but less rise, The Canham Traditional for a bit of both, the Arca for plenty of precision and rigidity, but with the limitations mentioned - etc

Micah Marty
22-Sep-2005, 14:01
Thanks, Tim; like others here, you speak with extensive experience and I appreciate your input. I know there are always tradeoffs (especially if one tosses "price" into the list of factors), and of course somewhere in the middle I hope to find a camera in the 9-10lb range with decent, but of course not ultimate, precision, rigidity, and versatility. (If I sell a bunch of stuff I can at least not be too limited by "price.")

I hadn't considered the Gandolfi recently (I did last time I bought an 8x10) and should probably have another look at it. Right now I'm thinking the Arca F-Metric with the extender will be the ticket. Ebony looks good, but except for the non-folding Ebony (max 380mm bellows) the 8x10 Ebonys all weigh 11lbs or more (the Ebony-wood versions weigh more than Arca's M-Line 8x10!). Most owners rave about them, though others like Brian say they're not enough better to justify the price premium and he may be right.

Also, Brian, I just found your own assessment of your 'dorff in a 2002 photo.net post (in fairness, I'll point out that everything else you said about your camera was laudatory):

"My one minor nit about my Deardorff 8x10 is that front rise and front tilt are controlled by the same locks, which isn't a real problem but I've always thought that each movement should have its own lock so that you can move the thing you want to move without moving the thing you don't want to move. My one major complaint is the weight (about 12 lbs). 8x10 has become my favorite format but when I add three lenses and three or four film holders, plus the usual other accessories and tripod, it really isn't practical for me to hike any significant distance with it."

So it goes. I've had numerous friends with Deardorffs, I chatted with Ken Hough at a Howard Bond talk in Indiana, my computer tech used to shoot for Hedrich, I know L.F. ("Large Format"?) Deardorff's great-granddaughter Julie Deardorff (she's a reporter for the Chicago Tribune), etc., etc., so I've always had a warm place in my heart for the cameras. I'm just not sure they're the best mix of the various factors I'm weighing right now.

Thanks again to all for your wisdom. . . .

Ken Lee
22-Sep-2005, 14:25
You can also spend a few hundred dollars and build your own Bender. I don't have one, but from what I have seen online, it seems like a very light monorail with full range of motion and extension. Apparently, it is rather easy to knock down and set up.

As far as I can tell, the only serious limitation is the lack of geared focusing. Perhaps someone who has one can tell us how hard it is to focus "by hand". If they can convince me that it's a breeze, I'll be much inclined to get one.

22-Sep-2005, 15:14
Ken: You can also spend a few hundred dollars and build your own Bender.

I've built two Bender 4x5s. One for myself, and one for another chap. IMHO, it is not a camera for serious work unless, maybe, you make some modifications. The most grave issue is with the lock-downs. They don't lock down well. Standards, etc will slide, nudge out of place. To solve this, cut some narrow strips of #240 wet/dry sandpaper and glue them to the wood under the locks. That works very well.

But it remains that it is just way too light to be useful in a breeze. That's MY HUMBLE OPINION of course. There IS such a thing as being just too lightweight.

It's a very pretty camera, a lot of fun to make (the first time), but it might evantually fall apart in the field... then you can enjoy putting it back together again.

Jay Bender might rip me a new one for writing the above, but hey, he's never going out of business. One thing I recommend - Follow Jay Bender's directions. They are a model of making do perfectly well. Amazingly resourceful piece of literature. You don't need to run out and buy jigs and stuff.

tim atherton
30-Sep-2005, 10:56
of course, not quite light weight at 12lbs, but with plenty of rise, some rear movements, reasonably sturdy if in good condition and almost bombproof, is the Kodak Master 8x10...