View Full Version : What's this Arca Swiss camera model?

20-May-2009, 20:43
Hello all,

I'm pretty new to large format - I've been shooting digital for few years now, and recently wanted to try medium format and then large format : I rented an Horsman 450 camera last week-end and even if I found it pretty heavy, i really loved the way I could play with the focal plan.

I have the opportunity to buy an Arca Swiss camera, that comes with a Rodenstock Apo Ronar 240mm f9 lens and some accessories - like around 20 film holders, a polaroid back, polarising filter...

I already know I will have to buy another lens to get wider shots.

Still, the seller can't tell me exactly which model is the camera he's selling, and I didn't find so far a matching camera in google :


The seller also told me that the rail could extend.

So my questions are :) :
- any idea of the model of this camera?
- would it be a good choice to start?
- is 430$US a fair price?

Thanks a lot in advance for sharing your knowledge with a new fan of LF :)


PS : thanks to excuse my English as it's not my primary language :)

Michael Finder
20-May-2009, 22:24

This is the same Arca Swiss model I had as my first 4x5 large format. I do know it is fairly old, probably 20 years +. The camera looks in good condition. If you can: - check the bellows for light leaks. The bellows are also interchangeable so you can get a wide angle bellows for wide angle lenses. Arca Swiss are excellent system camera wit lots of accessories.

This is a good studio camera, however I wouldn't like to carry this in the field. It is a high quality camera, quite solid and heavy. You will also need a solid tripod. I think this outfit would be heavier than a Horseman 450.

I made my own lens panels out of aluminium sheet.

This seems to be a fair price for what you have described is on offer.



Kirk Fry
20-May-2009, 22:45
It is an early AB (axis base tilts) ARCA swiss maybe 30-40 years old. They are excellent cameras and by most rail standards the camera is quite light weight. You can if you are in the field take the support rail off to lighten it. Those support rails are special, don't lose it. You can add an additional chunk of rail using it. I use mine in the field all the time. Saint Ansel used one too. Some of the parts are interchangeable with modern ARCA's but not all. I think the standard supports are, but the bellows are not. Obviously the smaller lens boards will not be. Parts are hard to come by and now are only available used (ebay) but that is basically true of all view cameras now. If the camera is all there, $430 is a GREAT deal.

21-May-2009, 04:16
I have a similar one. I believe this one is a C model, with both axis and base tilting which is handy. Its sturdy and very smooth to operate. Parts can be found here and there but nobody's giving them away as there appear to be a fair number of continuing users. The cameras themselves, though, are not bringing in very good prices as there is an oversupply of smaller monorails. KEH had one of these for sale for under 400 a while back (no lens). There are many Sinars, a more popular camera, on ebay going for 1/4 of their initial price. Non-field, 4x5's are a buyers market right now.

Walter Calahan
21-May-2009, 06:13
You've picked a great camera to start your LF adventure.

Emmanuel BIGLER
21-May-2009, 08:39
hello from France !

the camera looks good and @$430 inculding the apo-ronar it is a fair price.
The lens is excellent, no problem.

This is a pre-1984 "Oschwald" A/S type, named after the previous owners of the company, Alfred & Max Oschwald from Zürich, Switzerland.

A few things you should check on the camera ;

- check that the locking controls on the function carriers work fine, and that the geared focusing travel is smooth with no play. My understanding is that Precision Camera Works in the USA can service it (clean, lube adjust) if required.

- check that the black foam seals behind the lens board are OK. Again this can be replaced. This is something that was improved in the modern F-line series, no longer any foam required due to a re-design of the lens panel attachement mechanism. But all 35 mm camera rely on foam seals !

- regarding the bellows, there is no longer any stock of metal frames at the A/S factory but with the old frames you can re-mount a modern bellows, either from A/S of from a 3-rd party supplier like Custom Bellows in the UK (formerly : Camera Bellows, UK, but this is apparently the same company). so if your bellows are too damaged (I hope not) do keep the frames, it will be easy to renew the bellows fabric.

Some advice : you'll probably find that the lens board, 171 mm square, are too big.
I think that the 171mm boards that were in use on the modern F-line until two-three years ago are compatible with he one you need on his camera. I never used 171 mm A/S boards so somebody here should confirm.

The A/S 171MM boards of the older "Oschwald" type like this one are actually flat aluminum panels, very easy to re-fabricate. And they show up occasionanly on the used market. The modern F-line 171 panels are recessed.

A/S had on catalog an adapting board from 171 to the widely used linhof technika board (96x99mm). They show up occasionnally on e-bay.

I also know that the 3-rd party company S.K. Grimes in the USA can fabricate an adapting board to smaller lens boards like the Linhof-technika panel, or the Sinar board (140mm, not really much smaller than 171 but widespread as well) or of course the current 110 mm Arca Swiss board (for the 6x9 camera and the F-field 4x5" & misura).
For this you should supply S.K. Grimes with an A/S 171 board, they will machine it and mount an adapter for you.

21-May-2009, 10:13
Wow, thanks for all that quick feedback.

So to summarize :
- it's a fair price
- it could be a good camera to start (if everything is ok with the camera, I'll check every point you mentioned)
- it's not that heavy and could be use also outside of a studio (I plan to use it 50/50 between studio and outside)

I still wonder if I shouldn't go for a real field camera though - but I don't know enough them to be sure that I will have the same freedom to play with focal plan (which is my main interest in LF with the large format itself).

I saw a lot of recommendation for camera like the Crown Graphic but really don't know if it could fit my needs.

Again, any help is welcome - I should go and see the camera this Sunday and really hope I'll be able to have a clearer idea on whether it fits or not my needs (in term of weight and size for this one).

Thanks again !! :)

21-May-2009, 10:28
This camera is the most universal type you can get.
It can be used in the studio and outside.
A folding camera has allways limits and no focussing back, something you will need in the studio.

I have both a monorail (Sinar P2) AND a field (Shen Hoa), the last one recently by the way.

You will love this camera !


21-May-2009, 10:37
I also own one of these and concur in the comments that others have made. I am pretty sure that the camera pictured is axis tilt only. The lens board is more or less interchangeable with the more modern "F line" 171 board, as is the rail.

In my view $430 is a STEAL for the camera and all the extras.

The crown graphic is a fun camera, but they are just night and day. The crown has very few movements. I admit that I am partial to rail cameras, but I think you will probably get much more use and enjoyment out of the Arca than you would from a crown graphic.

21-May-2009, 14:48
Thanks again for the fast answers :)

If the camera is in good shape, I think I'll buy it this Sunday...

I'll give you news as soon as I have it ;)

Thanks for the fantastic support, that's really appreciated :D


21-May-2009, 23:48
I also have this exact 4x5. it's the Basic model A - Axis tilt only (the others were the B for base tile and the C for combination Axis and Base). I carry this out in the field quite often but don't backpack it anymore. I'd recommend visiting www.eckla.de for a Beach Rolly. This is an indispensable piece of kit for humping gear and saving your back. I have the Multi Rolly.

The lens boards are 171 mm and not hard to find. Some folks seem to think they can sell the board only for about $125.00 or more - don't fall into that trap. Take your time and you'll find them for a good deal less.

If the standards, bellows and focusing gears are all in good shape $430.00 really is a steal for this piece of kit. I'd also recommend a strong wood tripod, possibly a Berlebach or Ries (although the latter is twice the price). I use a Berlebach 9043 with an Acra Swiss Z1 monoball head.

All the best,