View Full Version : Lensboards for Older Arca Swiss 6x9

Kerry L. Thalmann
16-Sep-2003, 00:51
I asked this question yesterday on rec.photo.equipment.large-format, but haven't gotten a lot of responses (a couple private emails). Since this forum is so much more active, I though I'd give it a try here as well.

I have one of the older Arca Swiss A/B models that was the predecessor to the current F Line. The model I have has a 4x5 rear standard, a tapered bellows and a 6x9 front standard (similar to the current F Line Field model). Much to my dismay, I discovered last night that the front standard of my camera is not compatible with current Arca Swiss 6x9 lensboards. It's close, but the new boards are about a millimeter larger in both the x and y dimensions. If that was the only issue, it could be fixed in a jiffy with a file or benchtop sander. But, the new boards are also thicker in the middle (~1/8") with a ~1/16" lip around the perimeter to form a light trap. I'm concerned that this mechanical light trap may also prevent the new boards from fitting my camera. I can't know for sure unless I trim 1/2mm off the outside of the board all the way around first. Given the price of a new Arca board, I am reluctant to do so only to find out it still won't fit. The older boards are completely flat (~1/16" thick) and rely on a foam light seal in the front standard to be light tight.

So, anybody else shooting with an older Arca with a 6x9 front standard? If so, have you been able to modify the new boards to fit. Or better yet, do you know of a source for the older style 6x9 Arca boards?

If I can't find anything, I may just have a batch made up. I drew up the design last night in a CAD package. It only took a couple minutes (it's just a flat piece of aluminum with radius corners and a round hole in the middle). I also priced what it would cost to get some made. Once you get past the initial set-up fees, the piece price is very reasonable. Any machinists out there have any comments on what finish to put on these boards. Originally, I was thinking bead-blasted and black anodized. The service I'm considering using doesn't offer bead-blasting. As I'd prefer a matte black finish, powder coating is another option (the one original Arca board I have is painted flat back on the back and textured silver/gray on the front). Any comments on how durable powder coating is compared to anodizing for this application?

Thanks, Kerry

Emmanuel BIGLER
16-Sep-2003, 02:40

Just for your information. I recently visited the A/S Vogt family in my hometown, Besancon, France at Arca Swiss International, and they had an old pre-F-line 6x9 A/S camera brought by a customer for adjustment and repair. So I'm pretty sure that if you ask directly to Martin Vogt, who is fluent in English (you may, of course, prefer to continue the conversation in SchwytzertŁetsch, if you wish ;-);-), he will certainly tell you what A/S can do for you.

ARCA - SWISS International 29, Quartier de l' Europe, Espace Valentin, F-25048 BesanÁon FRANCE e-mail: arca-swiss@swissonline.ch Telephone: (33) 3 81 85 40 60 Fax: (33) 3 81 85 40 69

Frank Petronio
16-Sep-2003, 07:10
Hi Kerry - I'd talk to Bob Watkins at Precision Camera Works in Chicago - they are the authorized service for ARCA-SWISS in the USA - telephone (847) 430-8088 web: http://www.precisioncameraworks.com - he may have some old parts or leads. So is this going to be the intermediate camera between your Toho and Technika? Why not build a Technika adapter board?

Kerry L. Thalmann
16-Sep-2003, 10:34

Thanks for the response. I have had the pleasure of exchanging emails in the past with Martin Vogt. He was very helpful and friendly, and his English was very good (better than many native speakers). I will contact Martin for assistance.


Thanks for the pointer to Precision Camera Works. I will contact them as well. Given that this is a ~30 year old product that has long ago been discontinued, it might be a bit of a challenge to get replacement parts. But, who knows. Given the simplicity of these boards, getting a batch custom made is actually quite affordable. Since I need at least five, I many end up going this route.

This is for a "special project" that I will unveil once it's complete. I was originally intending to use one of the larger Arca front standards (that take the 178mm boards) with a Technika board adapter - until I found the camera with the smaller front standard. As I am always obsessed with weight, I decided to go with the smaller standard, which reduces the weight of the camera by almost a pound (compared to the larger front standard + adapter board). Also, the bellows for my "special project" are almost a perfect for the smaller Arca front standard. However, I don't think there is enough room to fit the smaller front standard with an adapter for Technika boards. The Tech boards are 99mm tall vs. 109mm for the Arca. That only leaves 5mm (less than 1/4") both top and bottom to fit the hardware and still make it accessible.


Ernest Purdum
16-Sep-2003, 18:31
Regarding anodizing vs. powder coating, they are both reasonably durable, so I think the decision could be made by cost.

Kerry L. Thalmann
16-Sep-2003, 20:02

Thanks for the reply. The service I received quotes from had nearly identical pricing (within pennies) for anodized and powder coated boards. However, the lead time for the powder coated boards was considerably longer. Also, I have been exchanging private emails with someone knowledgeable on the subject and he raised a concern that the high temperatures necesary for powder coating might cause warping in boards that are so thin. So, if I get any made, they will be anodized.


Matt Long
16-Sep-2003, 22:57
Hi Kerry:

While powder coating is quite durable, it is still a surface treatment that can be chipped off (with some difficulty). If dealing with a precision fit, please note that a powder coated part will also grow in dimension because of the added layer of material.

Anodizing, on the other hand, protects aluminum parts by making the surface much harder than natural aluminum. During the anodizing process, aluminum oxide is "grown" out of the outer surface and produces an extremely hard layer of .0002" to .0009", depending upon the process. The anodized layer has a porous nature that allows the product to be dyed any multitude of colors. Anodized parts also retain their original dimensions.

I machined an Arca Swiss style plate for my Wista SP that I later had anodized to enhance its durability and lubricity. And it looks neat, too!

Keep us posted on your project, now that you have piqued our interest!

Frank Petronio
17-Sep-2003, 04:18
You probably saw this one: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2951217323&category=15247

Sal Santamaura
17-Sep-2003, 07:57
"Keep us posted on your project, now that you have piqued our interest!"

Matt, I feel even more elated about getting together back here when someone posting can actually spell "piqued" correctly! Perhaps we'll even see proper use of "you're," "they're" and "a lot" too.

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Sep-2003, 09:52
Frank, Yes, I've seen that one, but I already purchased another off the German eBay site a while back. I also have one of the standard 4x5 Arca A/B models and a spare rail. So, I've got all the parts I need to complete my project and still have one and a half 4x5 cameras left over. What I really need is lensboards.

If anyone here does happen to buy the one currently on eBay, and would like to split an order for custom made lensboards, please contact me via email. I'm considering ordering as many as ten boards myself and as the quantity goes up, the price per board drops dramatically.


Christopher Condit
17-Sep-2003, 16:12
If you haven't yet ruled out using new AS boards, you could mock one up out of thick cardboard, or some other easily worked material, to see how hard it would be to get it to fit. Cheaper and easier than using a real board. I did it successfully, right on through to mounting a lens and shooting, with an old Century Graphic once.

That must be some project if it requires *ten* or more boards...


Kerry L. Thalmann
20-Sep-2003, 16:47

Thanks for your feedback. I'm definitely going with an anodized finish.


The camera will be multi-format for use with everything from roll film up to 8x10 (eventually). So, it will have to accommodate a wide range of lenses. Even in single format mode (say, 4x5), I will usually carry six lenses (80, 110, 150, 210, 300, 450 in this case). Add shorter lenses for roll film use, and longer lenses with more coverage for 8x10, and I can see using up the 10 boards no problem.

Besides, as I said, as the quantity of boards goes up, the price per board goes down dramatically. In this case, 10 boards cost less than 25% more than a single board. Most of the cost is in getting that first board made. After that, the material and machine costs for such a simple item are downright cheap. In this case, I'd rather have a few spare boards laying around than not enough, requiring me to place another order and pay the steep price for that first board all over again.