View Full Version : Arca Swiss Field Camera

14-Jan-2007, 11:22
After a year using a Calamut 4 x 5 studio camera and dragging it around from place to place in a "coffin-on-wheels" I built for it, I have decided to upgrade to a field camera. I have looked at many and settled on the Arca Swiss. I like the camera to move front and back. Before I take the plunge, I would appreciate any and all feedback or suggestions.


Daniel Geiger
14-Jan-2007, 11:52
I use an AS classic compact 4x5 with 141 boards (current model) and love it. It is my first and only system, but unlike what many people say on the forum, my first one is a keeper. I do outdoor nature with lenses currently from 90XL to NikkorT720. There is a lot of talk about the orbix, but I don't feel the need even if I do movements on 5 axes. [I have not used the orbix, so can't truly compare it]. I even shoot with it on an inverted column on a tripod, the AS hanging down, and it works quite fine.

There seems to be a general feeling that two axis front movements is rare, and rear movements (short of fall/rise) is not really necessary. I disagree, use tilt plus swing on front on a regular basis, and also use rear tilt/swing for compositional purposes on occasions.

I did upgrade to a Maxwell screen, but otherwise it is as out of the box. I also got Ron Klukas' screen protector. If you get the long bellows, they may sag and cut off some of the image. I made a little wire thingy that clips in the rail and supports the long bellows.

If you want to carry it around, my pack with three bellows, 5 lenses plus 2 rear elements, meters, filters, hood, 2 boxes of quickloads is 50 pounds on a Supertrecker AWII. Totally worth it!

If you want details, please contact me off-line.

14-Jan-2007, 12:52
Why not to try the archive?

evan clarke
14-Jan-2007, 13:08
Hi Solli,
I am a long time Arca user in all formats. My current user 4x5 is an 141mm Fmetric w/ orbix and is absolutely the best setup going. You will gain a miniscule amount of weight savings with the field but you lose all of the front adapter options (110mm Arca, Technika, etc.). I can draw focal lengths from 58 (recessed) to 720 tele with a small rail extension (2oz.) The optical bench is also much better than the folding rail setup. The guy to talk to is Rod Klukas at Photomark in Phoenix. As an aside, I just sold my 171mm loaded 4x5 to Jim at Mpex. I think it is available, is in mint condition and is also a wonderful camera...Evan Clarke

Doug Dolde
14-Jan-2007, 13:53
I have had the 141mm Arca Field with Orbix since last July. It's a great camera. Very smooth and accurate, fairly light and compact. I can use up to about a 360mm lens at infinity with the standard bellows plus a 15cm extension rail. I have also tried Ebony and Linhof Master Technica but prefer the Arca for it's accuracy and ample movements.

Frank Petronio
14-Jan-2007, 15:05
If you can afford one -- and find one -- they are one of the best. You can get a good deal by getting the older 171mm F-series that is slightly larger. There is also the Discovery series which has the same quality but a simplified carrier and less robust tripod attachment (that still is fine) that is relatively inexpensive and still expandable into the "system."

You can argue cameras forever but the Arcas are unquestionalbly desirable...

14-Jan-2007, 15:48
Hi Solli,

I currently use an Arca 4x5 Field with orbix (141mm) exclusively for studio work and would not trade it in for a different system. I also use a 6x9 Field Compact (no orbix) with 50cm rail as a permanent macro setup (I do a lot of botanicals) and would not use any other 6x7/6x9 bellowed system. It was using the 6x9 FC for a few years that sold me on ordering the 4x5 w/orbix. I find my Arca cameras to be very precise with smooth as butter movements. I recently sold my travel 4x5 which was an Ebony in exchange for a digital system. Although I am enjoying the convenience of digital, I miss my outside 4x5. I personally do not want to take my Arcas out of the studio as I did recently and found it to be a bit much in weight and setup time, although there are other photographers that do it without too much fuss. It might be since I am a 5'3", 48 year-old female I cannot lift as much weight as the bigger folks, but for me my system is just too heavy to take out on road trips and I cannot imagine lugging it on commercial aircraft. Last week, I ordered a new non-folding Ebony to replace what I sold which was a folding model. This time around I am going to try a non-folder since I love my studio cameras so much. I would definitely consider the weight of the system for outside work before I make a purchase.

Just my 2 cents!

14-Jan-2007, 18:03

Which Ebony did you order? The 45s?

I love mine...light weight and so quick to setup.

14-Jan-2007, 18:10
Hi Paul,

I ordered the 45SU. I got use to the asymmetrical tilts on the other Ebony I had and I wanted a longer bellows than the 45S. I did give some serious thought to the 45S since Midwest had one available, but in the end, Badger got my order (again). :)

Harley Goldman
15-Jan-2007, 16:44
I have the F-Line classic. Love it!! Really easy to use, lightning fast to set up. I just sent off my front standard for the geared micrometric Orbix for the asymetrical front axis tilt. My first upgrade after about 3 years of use. Great camera.

Eric Brody
15-Jan-2007, 21:53
I had a Toyo 45A for many years, great camera, and for a milestone birthday treated myself to an new 141mm Arca F-Line Field despite Evan's suggestion to do the standard camera. I bought mine from Rod and could not be happier. It is a joy to use in the field. It fits well in my pack with the 210 lens mounted and the folded rail and sets up quickly. While I do not have the orbix or the metric (I'm too cheap), I suspect it will be my last and best camera. I just spent a week at a workshop with Jack Dykinga whose book, "Large Format Nature Photography," is a treatise on the camera. Jack loves his, though his is modified. He and I are left handed and he managed to get a camera made for him with both knobs on one side, a bit quicker and slicker to use. I got a couple of great tips from him on using the camera even more efficiently.

There are many good cameras out there, the Arca is just one of the best.


Emmanuel BIGLER
16-Jan-2007, 02:11
I have been using a F-line 6x9 Arca Swiss camera since 2000 doing mostly 6x9 and 120 rollfim and occasionally a 665 polaroid.
BTW I really regret that 665 positive/negative polaroid film packs are discontinued.

I recently upgraded to the "field" 110->141 model with the misura's leather bellows and 141 rear frame.
The weight of the camera itself is only a small fraction of the total weight of the gear, and I agree with Darr Boharsik (incidentally : superb monochrome images of flora and nautilus shells on your web site !) that for outdoors the difference between a digital equipement hand held and even the lightests 6x9 view camera on a tripod is huge ;)

Consider also the weight of all lenses, cut film or rollfilm holders, plus all accessories like an exposure meter, a loupe, a compendium, filters, paper & pencil for notes...... including the weight of the photo bag or rucksack itself !

The 6x9 A/S F-classic weights about 2.2 kg / 4.8 lbs with ground glass & attaching dovetail but without lens

The 4x5" field 141 (front 110 -> rear 141) weights about 2.4-2.5 kg / 5.5 / 5.5 lbs with GG & attaching dovetail without lens ; weigth is identical to the 6x9 metric

The weight of the misura, similar to the F-classic field except for the simplified rear function carrier and a slightly longer (32 cm) folding rail is 2360 grams 5.2 lbs including oval baseplate+dovetail without case.

weight of a typical standard lens 135 or 150 mounted on a 110 A/S lensboard : 400 to 600 grams
weight of a Horseman / Arca Swiss 6x9 rollfiml back : 600 grams, this is quite heavy w/respect to a double 4x5" cut film holder ;) I do not have handy the weight of the 6x12 Horseman rollfilm back, I would guess something like 700-750 grams, due to the additional 4x5" base plate.

The manual ("dynamic") Orbix® adds only 60 grams to a 110 front standard.

Choosing the metric model instead of a classic adds about 275 grams .6 lb to the weight.

It can be seen that the difference of weight between a A/S 6x9 and a field is not so important. And I know that the difference between the 'field' 110-141 and the standard model 141-141 is not very important as well... The main reason is that function carriers are designed to support up to 8"x10" frames...

If you have any question, I'll be happy to answer.

Kerry L. Thalmann
16-Jan-2007, 09:59

I'm sure you'll love the ARCA-SWISS. It's a great system. It gives you all the features and convenience of a studio monorail, but in a package that is light enough and compact enough to carry in the field.

The true beauty of the ARCA-SWISS system is the modular design. It lets you pick and chose the bits and pieces to configure the camera to best meet YOUR needs. I even made 4x10 and 7x17 conversion kits for mine.

My base 4x5 camera started life as a 171mm (front and rear) F-Line Classic with the older low-profile rails and the side clamping extension bracket. I switched to a 110mm front standard when I made the 4x10 conversion kit (the 110mm size was a perfect match for the front of the Lotus 4x10 bellows I used). Last year, I upgraded to a 110mm F Metric front standard with Micrometric Orbix. This gives me self-arresting geared front rise and axis tilt. It may sound like an extravagance, but I love it. It's so smooth and precise, and being able to fine tune the front tilt with one hand while louping the ground glass wth the other is a time saver.

While I'm generally a fanatic about weight, especially on multi-day backpacking trips (where I take an ultralight Toho monorail), I've stuck with the 171mm rear standard for a couple reasons. All my various bellows, from the sublime leather wide angle bellows through the 70cm extra long bellows, fit the 171mm rear format frame. Also, I have a wonderful rotating back from an older pre-F Libe ARCA-SWISS that fits my 171mm F Line rear format frame perfectly. A rotating back sounds like an unecessary luxury on a field camera, and truth be told, it is. It adds a bit of weight and bulk to the camera, but makes switching from vertical to horizontal a snap - literally. Still, it's not the time savings that keeps me using this back, it's the peace of mind. When out photographing miles from the trailhead, I don't have to worry about dropping the back and shattering the ground glass when repeatedly rmoving it from teh camera to switch from vertical to horizontal. If I want to go really light, I can always use the standard non-rotating back that came with my camera.

For the 7x17, I use a really old pre-F Line 40cm extension bracket (the kind with the four plastic knobs on the side) along with current high profile 15cm and 40cm rail sections. While the extension bracket probably dates from the 1960s and the rail sections are of recent manufacturer, they work perfect together. For this camera, I use a pre-monolith M Line 171mm front standard from the early 1980s. Like the 110mm F Metric w/Orbix front standard on my 4x5/4x10, this gives me self-arresting geared front rise and axis tilt (a nice feature that permits one-handed operation when using long lenses on the ULF camera).

As you can see, it's easy to mix and match various ARCA-SWISS components to get EXACTLY what you want.


eric black
16-Jan-2007, 10:40
I have been using an F-line C (171mm) since I started shooting LF many years ago- what I can add to this conversation is the ruggedness built into these cameras- a few years ago mine suffered a bit of an unexpected trip over a 15 foot dropoff near a waterfall in New Hampshire (on the first day of shooting). The impact thankfully occurred at the rear portion of the camera and the lens was spared any trauma. The ground glass was picked up in pieces and several parts were scratched but the camera survived. Simple tools and a few minutes worth of work were all that were needed to get the camera operable again- (and let me tell you it is lots of fun focusing with the biggest shard of glass held against the fresnel for an entire week). Upon my return, new parts were available immediately from Badger Graphic and Im still using the camera to this day. Somehow, I dont think my Wista field camera would have fared as well.