View Full Version : Good Deal For ARCA F Metric???

13-Jul-2012, 12:41
Hi guys,

I'm thinking seriously about purchasing a used Arca F 4x5 metric compact and want to know if it's a deal I should take. It's the older model with 171mm front and rear standards. It also includes the extension rail and clamp for tripod mount. The camera appears to be in excellent condition with the only sign of wear being minor scratches on the rail itself.

The seller will accept $2300. Do you guys think this is a good deal? It's apart exactly the model I've been hunting for except I would have preferred the newer 141mm version.

Also, what should I be looking for when I inspect the camera in person? And what age range could the camera be, given that it's an f metric compact 171mm model?

Thanks and looking forward to hearing your opinions.

13-Jul-2012, 12:57
Also, what's involved in switching the back configuration between landscape and portrait orientation?

13-Jul-2012, 14:31
I would go for it. I have an Arca myself. It is probably the most versatile camera on the market. The 171 model is perfect for adding larger film backs like 8x10" and 7x17".

Emmanuel BIGLER
13-Jul-2012, 16:15
Hello from France !

I'll not comment on price issues since the LF market in the US is quite different from here in Europe, moreover the euro vs. dollar exchange rate has dropped significantly in the last months ... so I'll only concentrate on the technical aspects.

Although discontinued as new items, Arca Swiss continues to supply accessories in 171 size like bellows. hence you can buy a 171 camera without fear of lacking any accessory.
The binocular viewer did not change between 171 and 141 models. Functions carriers for F-metric did ,not change between 171 and 141 models.

What tou should check if you can manipulate the camera
- check or simply ask the seller if the optional orbix tilt is installed in the front standard. If not, this can be added afterwards but for this the standards have to go back to the factory here in Besanšon, France, and the cost of the operation is to be added to the offer, if you intend to have an orbix some day.
-check that all spirit levels on the standards are present and that the zero-clicks for tilts are smooth and precise ; that spirit levels look well aligned when both standards are set to zero tilt.
- check that rise and fall as well as lateral shifts operate smoothly and without play.
- check the focusing rack & pinion system on both function carriers, check that operation is smooth and that locking is done perfectly without applying to much force. Cleaning and re-lubricating the function carriers can probably be done by Precision Camera Works in the US.
- check that the small levers locking the format frames in the dovetails, attaching to the function carriers, are not bent or damaged and that you can attach/detach the format frames from the function carriers easily and securely.
- check that the Fresnel lens is present at the rear standard behind the ground glass, the ground glass is a sandwich of a fresnel lens + a ground glass. To the best of my knowledge, all F-metric cameras have a fresnel lens.
check of course that the glass is not broken. corners are cropped, this is normal condition, it serves to check for vignetting looking through the lens, when you use a filter or a compendium hood.

Regarding the date of manufacture, a wide range of years could be something between 1990 and 2004. 171 cameras were gradually phased out from 2004 with the introduction of 141 models.
Minor changes occured in the function carriers since the introduction of the F-line in 1984, but it is difficut to explain here in a few words. Otherwise the most visible change is the change between rail type I, very similar to pre-1984 Oschwald rails, except for black finish instead of silver finish. newer rails type II are easily recognized with their circular hole in the middle, instead of a flat rectangular hole, and the locking system based on a longitudinal slit underneath locked with levers rotating by and angle of 90░, instead of lateral clamps locked by knurled knobs and screws.

"compact" denotes a camera with a folding rail, folds into two equal 15cm (6") halves. Standard length for the rail is 30 cm (12") for a 4x5" camera but you can use of course any rail, I have a fixed 50cm, and rail elements up to 1 metre long exist ;)
. Folding rails did not exist in pre-1984 Oschwald times, and exist either in rail type I or rail type II.
In order to attach the camera to a tripod you'll need either a short 8.5cm bracket corresponding to your type of rail I or II or a new Arca Swiss clamp. if you go for one of the new Arca Swiss clamps with a double dovetail, the narrowest dovetail exacly fits the forlding rail without need for the 8.5cm bracket. The 8.5 cm bracket fits like classical Arca Swiss plates to all "said-to-be-compatile" quick-release clamps.
Older Oschlwald rails or F-line type I had a threaded hole for 1/4"-20 screws underneath (and may be also 3/8"-16). Type II rails can only be attached to a clamp, due to the locking system underneath. But it is not practical at all to screw a view camera directly to a tripod head; a quick-release clamp is the only solution I would recommend (after using F-line cameras for 10 years, which is modest in comparison to many carriers of LF photographers.)

Otherwise I wish you good pictures with this camera, if you decide to go for it. And do not hesitate to ask all questions here !

13-Jul-2012, 18:55
Thanks for all the info Emmanuel! Very helpful indeed. I'll be sending you a PM with some additional questions.

Does anyone else have any comments with regards to pricing? It's pretty rare that this specific camera comes up on the used market so I've had trouble finding other comparable sales.

13-Jul-2012, 19:06
So I wanted to send you photos via PM but couldn't figure it out so I'll just post them here.

Any additional comments or information based on these? I believe the extension rail and the clamp (??) are included in the sale as well, but that's it. Does this appear to be a type I or II rail?

Thanks again!


13-Jul-2012, 19:18
Well, it seems like a pretty reasonable price if the condition is as you describe. New (141 size), the price differential between a metric and a non-metric seems to be on the order of $1k. Lensfielders http://lensfielders.com/category/arca-swiss/ currently has a 171 non-metric for $1799.


13-Jul-2012, 19:23
Looks like a type II. You can see a Type I rail on the Lensfielders link in my previous post under the "30 cm Optical Bench...(Old Style)" posting.


So I wanted to send you photos via PM but couldn't figure it out so I'll just post them here.

Any additional comments or information based on these? I believe the extension rail and the clamp (??) are included in the sale as well, but that's it. Does this appear to be a type I or II rail?

Thanks again!


14-Jul-2012, 04:47
It sounds like a good deal to me. I spent months looking for an F Metric, and they're hard to find at all, at any price. Are those lenses included? If so, I would think it's a great deal.

I ended up spending far more than that on the 141 version. I love it, especially since I cover some miles carrying it. However I have found it very difficult to find accessories second hand, even simple things like lens boards. There are a lot more parts available at lower prices for the 171 model. Most things I need up buying new which makes it a whole lot more expensive.

14-Jul-2012, 04:52

I bought my Arca Swiss Metric 4x5 here in the forum, also a little above 2K USD... but with no extension rail, but a backpack instead.
So I also think it's a fair deal....

It's an awesome camera, very sturdy and precise, yet lightweight enough to take it out in the landscape.
You will love it!

Best regards,

Frank Petronio
14-Jul-2012, 08:43
The 171 lenboard is not that much larger but it makes using a recessed board with a wide angle - or a larger lens in a Copal 3 shutter - a lot easier. Plus there are more used parts in the 171 format ~ so if I were looking for an AS I would see it as a benefit, not a negative!

15-Jul-2012, 11:20
Thanks for all the info guys. One more question....

What's involved in rotating the back to switch between portrait and landscape orientation on an Arca f-line?

15-Jul-2012, 11:44

there's a locking slider button on the rear standard, when you shift it up, you can take out the plate with the whole ground glass on it.

after taking it out, you rotate it 90 degrees and put it back in ... the locking slider will make a click and lock the plate again.

here's a photo of that: http://tomwestbrook.com/Photography/as_photos.html
search for "ground-glass locking slider"

best regards,

Frank Petronio
15-Jul-2012, 11:46

there's a release catch button on the rear standard, when you shift it up, you can take out the plate with the whole ground glass on it.

then you rotate it 90 degrees and put it back in ... the button will make a click and lock the plate again.

best regards,

Takes only 3-4 seconds, super easy and secure, better than "rotating" backs that can bind up and add bulk.

Personally I like Linhofs and Normas as having high quality and value but if you can afford an AS-Orbix then they are very fine cameras, a nice balance of solidity and reasonable compactness - I believe they are going to be the lightest of the high quality metal monorail options and far superior to wooden folders.

15-Jul-2012, 11:52

just a quick "BTW" ... the bellows can be replaced easily with the same principle
(there are two more instances of the release slider button to lock each side of the bellows,
and one instance of the release button is for the lens plate)


Frank Petronio
15-Jul-2012, 12:11
Their is a simple plastic ground glass protector that attaches to the back as well, it is worth searching for if not included. You could also fabricate one simply.

15-Jul-2012, 17:02
That's a good deal for a hard to find camera.

I have the 141 metric with micrometric orbix that I bought new for much, much more than that price.

See if he will include the case which is an expensive item.

Emmanuel BIGLER
17-Jul-2012, 00:45
What's involved in rotating the back to switch between portrait and landscape orientation on an Arca f-line?

Actually the operation is so fast and intuitive, that one can easily attempt to do the operation after taking the film holder's dark slide off ;) Don't laugh ! I already did it !

Linhof Technikas have a rotating back allowing to .. rotate to any angle (who has ever used this feature, taking a picture rotated, e.g. by 23.6 degrees ??? however with such a back you can make a fine adjustment of horizontals on the image itself without touching the tripod or the other camera controls) even with the dark slide off, without any light leak.
An admirable but complex and costly piece of engineering, a circular groove and 4 latches controlled by an annular gear. Superb ! I remember this impressive
device, familiar to Technika users, as one of my first vision of LF gear, when I used a Linhof Color monorail camera (a monorail with a technika front and back connected by a rail) ... 30 years ago.

[going slightly off-topic]
However, Arca Swiss have recently introduced such an optional rotating back for their 6x9 lines of cameras (110 mm frames, hence irrelevant here for 4x5" users). I've not seen this very new device yet and I'm not sure that it stays light-tight when rotating. Forgot to ask about this rotating device last time I visited Arca Swiss (shame on me, it's only 5 minutes by car from my office ;) )
Rod can probably comment.