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Thread: Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

  1. #21

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Hudson Valley, NY

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Julian - You'll soon forget the frustrations of the initial set up. The camera is very simple to use after you get it put together the first time. I photographed a large painting last week for an artist. I was set up and had 2 exposures so fast that the artist was truly shocked.

  2. #22

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Just curious... what exactly are people's expectations concerning instruction manuals for large format cameras? I see a lot of complaints in this thread about ARCA's poor documentation, but what about other manufacturers? Do other large format cameras come with detailed instruction manuals? Do people feel they are needed? I'm really curious to know what people think about this (perhaps I should have started a new thread on this topic).

    The reason I ask is that I have owned more large format cameras than I can remember, and the only one that came with any kind of instruction manual was the Linhof TK-45S. It was very helpful in learning the proper steps to fold and unfold this very unique camera. That said, I only used the instructions to learn how to fold/unfold the camera in the comfort of my own home. I never carried the instruction booklet with me in the field and never consulted it again after that initial 1/2 hour learning session. The Wisner Tech Field I bought new didn't come with any kind of manual. Neither did the Canham DLC (that may have changed, mine was from the very first production run). Nor did my Toho FC-45X. I have also reviewed many new large format cameras, and I can't recall any of them coming with an instruction manual. So, obviously ARCA-SWISS is not alone in the "lack of documentation" department.

    So, do people really feel detailed instruction manuals are needed for large format cameras? I bought my ARCA-SWISS F-Line used, so I didn't even get the one page "manual" everyone is complaining about. Personally, I didn't feel one was necessary. As a monorail design, the controls on the ARCA-SWISS are easily accessible and logically arranged. Don't know what a specific knob is for? Turn it and see what happens. It's not rocket science. In fact, I think the layout of the controls and operation of the ARCA-SWISS is the most straight-forward and intuitive of any large format camera I've ever used. The knobs are large, easily accessed and consistent in function and location between the front and rear standards. It is certainly easier to understand than the Linhof Technikardan (which I liked very much in spite of the very unique design) and any folding field camera I've used (especially, the wooden Canham, again a very nice camera, with a non-standard placement of knobs and levers).

    This is a big assumption on my part, but from the problems Julian is having, I get the impression this is his first large format camera (apologies to Julian if my assumptions is incorrect). Detailed instructions would likely benefit inexperienced users much more than those who have experience with other cameras. Each camera is somewhat unique, but most perform the same basic tasks. To me, learning how to operate a specific camera's controls is "low hanging fruit" compared to actually understanding how to use a view camera in general. For the latter, there are many good books on the subject and forums like this one. I can see how a more detailed instruction manual would benefit inexperienced users, but I have personally found the best way to learn how to operate one's camera is to use it. Whenever I get a new-to-me camera, the first thing I do is set it up on a tripod in my living room and play with all the controls, to see what each knob and lever does and how they feel in my hands. Next, I take it out and start taking pictures to see how well all the controls and movements function in real world conditions - to me, that's a lot more important than the quality of any documentaion that comes with the camera.

    Could the ARCA-SWISS documentation be better? Yes, definitely. But, other than Linhof, you could probably say the same thing about almost every other brand of large format camera available. So, should large format camera manufacturer's spend more time and resources creating better documentation? Perhaps there is a market here for third party instruction manuals (I doubt it). 3rd party users guides exist for 35mm and digital cameras, but each of those cameras have all kinds of programmable options, modes and settings. I've never owned a camera with any kind of automation that did not require me to carry and frequently consult the manual to figure out how to manually adjust the exposure settings or disable the automated built-in flash. By comparision, large format cameras are very simple in the operation of their very basic functions. Everything is manual. There is no automation, there are no "modes", just a few knobs, no menus, or mysterious buttons.

    Julian - once you get past the basics of setting up your camera, I hope you find using it to make photographs much more enjoyable. Each brand of large format camera has a unique feel. Locations of controls, size and accessibility of knobs, etc. vary from brand to brand and we all have our own preferences. I do agree with Frank that the ARCA-SWISS cameras are some of the finest made, but that doesn't make them the perfect camera for all users or all applications. I hope you find yours a good match for you and it serves you long and well.


  3. #23

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Hudson Valley, NY

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Kerry - I think Julian's problem were (and will be limited to) with the initial set up. The actual use of the camera, as you suggest, is easy enought o figure out by trying the various knobs. The 1 page A-S "manual" is not much more than a parts list. The camera arrives dis-assembled. When I got mine I also struggled a bit with the inital set-up but was able to figure it out (I owned a Horseman field camera previous to this and had the advanatge of playing with the A-S at the Photo Plus Expo booth). I remember wishing there was an assembly guide but never needed more than that.

  4. #24

    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field


    I remember setting up my Arca for the first time 15 years ago-it took a half hour. It took an additional hour to become familiar with the controls-locked, unlocked etc. I then made a successful (well, at least properly exposed) shot of a neighorhood Sears mail order house.

    Arca provided a complete descriptive catalogue at the time. No real instructions though.

    Good guides for View Camera use can be found on this forum and Simmons et al have written fine introductions. The first web resource I was aware of to prompt me to actually use movements was the Toyo site

    Still, a flatpack bookcase comes with an assembly diagram.


  5. #25

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Hi Guys,

    Kerry, its not my first large format camera its my second, I own a Wista DX II too which I've been using for about 5 years.

    Its just that after having spent an awful lot of money on something and waiting a long time for it to arrive it would have been nice to have even a basic few words on assembling the equipment.

    It is not unknown for me to break things as I'm heavy handed as people who know me will tell you!!! I sat up for 2 hours deliberating on whether I should force the pieces together being unaware of what it should feel like and the resistance I should expect.

    A simple instruction sheet explaining the process would have sufficed. As you know Arca info even on the net is scarce, I still don't understand why they can't put a web page together like say Ebony do, that would have been ample. I guess I was dreading forcing something together incorrectly and then having to wait ages for a replacement. The Arca is more complex than the Wista but even that had 2 or 3 pages of setup info.

    I'm not asking for much having spent my very hard earned cash on what I hope will be a quality and reliable piece of equipment. The presentation gives me very little confidence in the equipment even though I know its reputation as a quality tool is excellent.


  6. #26

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field


    Although I read all the previous posts in the thread, I still may have misunderstood. It sounds like what you wanted were assembly instructions, not a users manual. The difference is your Wista came fully assembled (no assembly required) and your ARCA didn't. As I have not seen the instructions that came with your camera, nor have had had any problems assembling my ARCA-SWISS cameras (I have several bits and pieces, both old and new, that I have combined in a number of configurations) I may have misunderstood your concerns.

    Hopefully, you have your camera assembled by now, if not the function carriers should just slide right onto the rails. There is no need to remove anything. The knob that locks the focus is a clamping knob that holds the standards in place on the rail. It should neither be tightened, nor fully loosened when mounting the function carriers to the rails. The function carriers should feel tight when mounting them on the rail. They may loosen up a little with use, but should never feel loose - you don't want the function carriers wobbling on the rail.

    Hope that helps,

  7. #27

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field


    Is it up an running now?


  8. #28

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    But Kerry, you're a prematurely retired engineer, right? As are half the other seasoned citzens here, those that aren't rocket scientists and computer geeks. Given the advanced technical aptitude of the audience, what is simple to you might appear a little intimidating to us mortals.

    Luckily engineers don't always make the best pictures (your case being the exception of course!)

  9. #29

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    While my engineering background may help, I think the real reason I don't seem to need an instruction manual is experience and familiarity with so many different large format cameras. I've used so many that it would take something really unusual to stump me.

    And although my questions may not directly apply to Julian's situation, I'm still curious if other people think all large format cameras should come with detailed instruction manuals, and what cameras do/don't come with good documentation?


  10. #30

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Help with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field


    I purchased the same camera last year and you shouldn't have to force anything. Look at the photos Greg Miller and Tom Westbrook put up and it should be clear as to the direction the standards face. They should slide on the rail with little pressure.
    I did have the same question about opening up the rail!
    I've used and owned many view cameras (since 1973) and this one is the best combination of size, weight and movements of any camera I've used. I absolutely love it.
    It should all fit together perfectly, if not, there might be some unusual problem.
    There is a small quirk if you get an extension rail, the "teeth" have a small gap where it meets the original rail, so you have to slide the standard over this gap to engage the teeth on the extension. Not a big deal, but be aware if you get one.
    I can use my Fuji 450 with this extension (25cm) and the bellows supplied!

    Good Luck,

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