View Full Version : Arca-Swiss A line?

andrew vincent
10-Aug-2006, 20:50
Would appreciate anyone's knowledge of the Arca-Swiss A-line, as I believe it is called, as I am considering purchasing a used model and want to know the availablity and compatibility of its accessories relative to the F-line (which I can't afford.)

I have tried the Tachihara 4x5, which is beautiful, but a tad flimsy for my taste and whose movements are not good for some of the studio and interior work I want to do.

I am currently using a Horseman 450, which is a wonderfully engineered piece of machinary, and which I greatly prefer using to the Tachihara indoors, but it is, of course, a tank (12 lbs) comparable to a Sinar P. So not being able to afford an F-line (not to mention a Master Technika or a Technikardan), and wanting something that will not literally start to bend my tripod and my back, but still have precision movements, I've found two inexpensive Arca-Swiss A-models with axis-tilts and 171 to linhof adapters that seem like good bets.

I'd like to hear from the wise sages of the board as to this potential switch, and specifically to know whether the Arca will be able to use the Fuji Quickload back I currently use almost entirely.


Frank Petronio
10-Aug-2006, 21:05
They are one of the best deals in photography right now, simply great cameras. But finding more obscure parts is hard, and locating a good bag bellows is nearly impossible. If you get really into the "system" you'll end up buying a second one.

The backs take Polaroid 545s, Quickloads, Readyloads fine but most do not have the Graflock slider tabs that allow you to mount Graflex style roll film backs. However a Graflock back for that era does exist, as does a fresnel and viewing accessories, so keep your eyes peeled.

If you buy one, I'd look for one with the full size base rail adaptor thingee that the smaller rail slides into. Many on eBay are only sold with the small rail, not the base adapter, which is really valuable for use with an Arca quick release as well as stiffening the whole camera up for longer extensions.

I prefer base tilts myself, so maybe you can save by getting an axis tilt only. The best is to get the model with both axis and base tilts. See precisioncameraworks.com for more info. Bob may even have some parts left...

A Satin Snow groundglass is a nice inexpensive replacement that avoids the hassle of using a fresnel and it is nice and bright for a plain glass.

The standards frames are plastic as are some of the knobs. Once in a while you will see these cracked and epoxied. Also, some of the bellows tend to flake. You can always salvage the bellows frames and get a nice new bellows made for $150 or so. Pay accordingly, as you can always find a second Arca and build a top camera and unload the doggie parts. Not that anyone else would ever do that to you ;)

The F-line is tighter and feels smoother and nicer overall yet I have never had an old Arca slip or go wacky. They are light and effective. Ansel used one towards the end and that says something. The same designer also designed the Sinar Norma, and once you get into it you realize the Swiss were onto something good.

Kerry Thalmann wrote the definitive article on Arca for View Camera a few years ago. If you subscribe you can find it online.

Kerry, I would gladly send you the cost of a VC subscription if you would just publish all your writing on YOUR website ;-)

Jack Flesher
10-Aug-2006, 21:38
Kerry, I would gladly send you the cost of a VC subscription if you would just publish all your writing on YOUR website ;-)

Oh heck yes!

Kirk Fry
10-Aug-2006, 21:58

I have a Arca B-line (base tilts), there is also an AB line(Base and Axis tilts). I love mine. These cameras are fairly old, 20-40 years (young compared to Dorffs). They are fine cameras if not worn out or broken, great field cameras. So the F-line standards are different, the bellows I am told do not interchange. The F-line rail is different and I believe the old standards will work on the new rail. Since I do not have an F-line I can not confirm this. I think the 171mm lens boards are interchangeable but I read someplace they were not. Unless you actually have the parts in front of you it is hard to guess.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the A,B, and AB line cameras are relatively rare. There are not a lot parts floating around for them. Do an experiment. Go to Ebay and go to large format cameras, and search for "Arca" (ignore the tripod heads). Then search for "Sinar" and then serach for "Linhof" . At the end of that exerecise you will know. Also the factory has had a long reputation for being real slow to produce new parts that are supposed to be in the catalog. They have no web site and very few "offical" dealers in the US. Of coarse with these long out of production older cameras you are looking for "used" parts, mostly on Ebay. It might actually be easier to get service on a Wisner than an Arca. :-) Fortunately they don't break often. They sell in the $200-400 range for the basic camera with rail. Try to find ones with extra parts like the bag bellows, extension rail and recessed lens board. These are the things that are hard to find. The intermediate extesion support standard and the goofy bellows that goes with it are damn near impossible to find. The old arca compendium lens shade I have I found to be virtually useless. I use a Lee Filter one now.

Kirk (Fry)

Carsten Wolff
10-Aug-2006, 23:10
I've got the appropriately named B-line Arca ;)....make one for it if you see one :).
The nice thing is that you can combine the 4x5 with say a 5x7, which is what I did.
I found that modern lensboards did fit the B-line's 171mm frame ok, although I've gone for a Linhof adapter as the Arca boards a too large for travelling... Also, the monorails run both F-line as well as the older standards, bit are different height in profile; keep that in mind.... someone else might have more insight into (lack of) compatibility there.
The 5x7 frames btw are lightweight, -but solid as -, alloy cf. the 4x5 plastic ones....

11-Aug-2006, 15:19
I have also had an older, (I think), B model with base tilts. Wonderful little camera which did what it should and was light enough to go hiking with. I had some problems with one screw missing in one of the standards that attached to the geared focussing. Looked around a fair bit but eventually found a store where I could buy the screw, which for some reason was a semi-obscure japanese type of thread.

Only thing I was a bit leery of was the felt in the standards, but that is something rather easily replaced. The standard frames were made of some sort of (quite thick) plastic stuff but with care they'll last forever, as does the bellows. The rest of the camera is metal.

I had the lens hood and a 90 with a the recessed board and a 150 and a couple of holders. Weighed, in total, less than the Mamiya RZ I had at the time... Nice kit - wish I had it still.

andrew vincent
11-Aug-2006, 16:05
Hmm, despite all the positive feedback, I'm still having my doubts. This an the Sinar Alpina are both cheap and look quite good in the pictures, but I have my doubts about their durability. I think I may just keep the horseman or get a Sinar F/P if one comes available, since I would really like the geared movements (and will never afford the Arca Metric.)

Frank Petronio
11-Aug-2006, 17:03
You can find a Sinar F much easier. The Sinar Norma (older) or F2 are very nice cameras although they are bulkier than the Arcas. None of them have any geared movements except for focusing though (and they all have geared fine focus) -- you really don't get geared movements until you get into the Sinar P range.

16-Aug-2006, 07:10
Not sure what your budget is, but why not an ARCA SWISS Discovery? Light enough to back pack, sturdy and can be used in studio as monorail? I think the 'kit' is $1300-1400? then you don't have to worry about the used or parts aspect? Very close to the F line without the cost.

andrew vincent
16-Aug-2006, 08:12
Thanks for all your help. In an entirely unexpected move that has caused me endless excited and worry, I stumbled into purchasing (isn't it wonderful/horrific how ebay makes that so common...) an relatively inexpensive but near-mint condition Linhof Technika V. Got it for the same price as a used Arca-Discovery.

So I'm going to have to play with that for a while and see how it works out. I may sell it if it doesn't have the movements I need, but I have a feeling it's going to work out well. We'll see. I'm going to keep it in good shape in case I decide to sell it.

Frank Petronio
16-Aug-2006, 09:21
I go back and forth between Arcas and Linhofs. It is damn hard to screw up a bullet proof Linhof, but yes, the Arca is more conducive to movements (although the Linhof can be coaxed into do extreme moves too, it is just harder).

Either will be 1000% more solid than your Tachi (which is still a good lightweight).