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Thread: First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

  1. #1

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Well after struggling with the assembly of the camera after it arrived without any assembly instructions (see previous thread: ) I want to relay my inital experiences with the camera, here are my dislikes and likes in order of importance to me:


    Keep in mind I had no opportunity to try out an Arca before purchase. I was coming from having used a Wista which is easy to use but not extremely precise or rigid, my goal in spending the money was to purchase a rigid and precise large format camera which I would never want to replace. Everything I'd read about these cameras cited silky smooth controls and precise rigidity:

    1. Detents - The worst thing I find is that the rear tilt has some play in it at the zero detent, I also note that others including Tom Westbrook have found this too. It means at the detent it is not perfectly parrallel to the front standard and is hardly what I would call precise. I need to wobble it on use to ensure the back is parallel - for a camera with a reputation of precision I find this to be a big disappointment! have others come across this? is it possible to fix / adjust?

    2. Focussing - Having assembled the camera with difficulty as the function carriers were extremley hard to get on the rail I find almost everything on this camera is very stiff and hard to use. The geared focus even with the friction control untightened is still very coarse and stiff, hardly what I would call 'silky smooth', in fact it feels very coarse and somewhat cheap. The carrier appears to contain plastic runners which seem to shave off leaving little bits on the rail when the standards are racked. The front carrier is much stiffer than the rear so no consistency here. I have tried toghtening and loosening the friction control but it appears to make not much difference except when screwed right in then this makes focussing even stiffer but still moveable.

    3. Tilts and Swings - again very stiff, I tried altering the plane of focus on a standard landscape subject this afternoon, something very easy to do with the Wista, I found the tilts so difficult to move that they jump on initial movement and are impossible to set with any accuracy. The whole rig moves unless the B1 head is very tight when making these movements. Also the tilt lever catches the bottom of the standard when pushed upwards and if the standard is tilted back it will close the lever again. None of the knobs appear to function very well. This is not what I expected!

    4. Swings - same as above

    5. Film holder - Changing the orientation of the fim holder, something that I would be doing often in the field, seems difficult and of poor design. There are no instructions with the camera so I assume I am doing this right and have not damaged anything (my peeve from the original thread). Once the thumbwheel is turned the top pops out and then I seem to have to pivot the back down at an angle until about 75 degrees and then it can be pulled out. Putting the back back on appears much trickier as I have to feed the back into the lip at the bottom and then push down quite hard until it clicks. As the lip apperas to be fairly thin metal, this process does not give me much confidence. What are the componenets of the back? there appears to be some sliding levers on either side but not sure what they are for.

    6. Shifts - Fiddly to use, it seems to me to be a poor design, I can imagine the duck bill clamps will wear overtime and cause the back not to sit parallel.

    7. The thumbwheel on the lens board standard is very stiff to open and close, I'm going to have a go at it with an a alan key later today to see if I can adjust it as I can see me dropping a lens fighting to open it.

    8. Rise / fall - not too bad on the rear, fairly smooth but still somewhat stiff, on the front though its almost impossible to move even with knobs fully loosened which frankly makes not much difference. I have to yank / push very hard to move the front rise / fall


    1. The camera is very rigid - perhaps too much so as everything is just so stiff!

    2. The foldng rail and rail clamp appear very well engineered, perhaps too well, they are very solid and sturdy and is in my opinon the only parts of this camera that meet expectations.

    3. The B1 head is fantastic, everything I expected, silky and smooth, a feeling of quality and precision which I expected from the camera

    Thats it! you can probably gather that I'm none to happy with the camera at the moment but were my expectations too high? I expected silky and smooth, a feeling of Swiss quality precision engineering as others have testified. Have I been unlucky? has the camera been shipped without lubricant? Have the manufacturing tolerances dropped since the new 141 standard I just too fussy!!!

    Is it just that the camera is so new that use of the camera overtime will cause everything to become silky and smooth? can others share their experiences as right now I'm considering sending the camera back and to carry on using the Wista.


  2. #2

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    ...actually one other like -

    4. The bellows are really nice and flexible and very easy to fit. They fit very snug to the standards and the mechanism means they click in place easily.


  3. #3

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    ...another like -

    5. The spirit levels on both standards are an excellent idea, really helps to ensure standards are parallel. Spirit levels on function carriers too, makes it very easy to level the camera. others have mentioned the 'black goop' on the levels though, the finish is quite poor so I won't go into that here.


  4. #4

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    8:3 ratio of dislike to like.

    Send it back and get a different camera if you're not happy.

    I have an Arca-Swiss 4x5. The only problem I had with the engineering is how the front of the long bellows attached to the front standard. I exchanged productive e-mails with the company, and discovered that I had one assumption of how I thought the connection should happen and the company had another. I now live with their engineering solution. Oh well.

    Perhaps a little communication directly with Arca would help you. May be not, they are Swiss German after all. Grin. They are very firm people.

    Only you can be the judge of using your Wista verses keeping this new camera. None of us are going to use your camera. None of us know how you like to work. And one thing I know from reading this group, people have their favorites, so they suggest trying what works for them. Ultimately it comes down to you, not what the rest of us like or dislike.

    Me, I can't stand a Gandolfi. Had the worst experience in the world with "one" of their cameras, so would never suggest it. But another photographer could adore the Gandolfi and think I'm a nut for saying what I think. So who am I to say just because I have no experience with a Wista and own an Arca-Swiss that you should keep the Arca?

    Ultimately it's not the camera that will make you happy, it's whether your equipment enables you to make the images that make you happy. If the Wista, does that keep the Wista. If the Arca's design allows you to work in a superior way over the Wista, keep the Arca.

    Not everyone works the same way. That's way there are many solutions to the same work flow - lot's of cameras and lenses to choose from. Not a bad place to be!

  5. #5

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Hi Walter,

    Actually that's a very valid point, I would normally try to at least play with equipment before purchase but was not able to in this case. I guess I'd heard so many positives and so few negatives, and being as I'm a stickler for precison, accuracy and performance over looks I thought this would be the camera for me.

    Actually I have another like to add:

    6. Focussing screen - much brighter and crisper than the Wista, much easier to use.


  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2002

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    No offense is intended by my reply Julian, but:

    Shouldn't you be discussing your problems, etc., with the dealer you bought the camera from instead of airing them out in a forum? You could barely get the camera together a few days ago and now you are giving a complete public review with many negative observations. There are many people (including myself) who use this camera and would disagree with your conclusions. These opinions (from many photographers) are available in print and if you search this forum.

    If your camera has issues, then it may be related to the production of that specific camera or your expectations are different than what the camera can produce. Either way, it is the dealers responsibility to deal with this if you contact them about it.

  7. #7

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Gathering your dislikes... they seem to be 3:

    1. The rear zero detent needs adjustment. This can be adjusted and aligned. I had this done in the US by the authorized repair facility.

    2. Everything is stiff. I have played with several Arcas (owned some too) and some are certainly stiffer than others... I think you got a very stiff one... don't accept it! Talk with the dealer first, then Arca, but get it fixed.

    3. Shift clamp. This is the way they are... I have never had them loosen up, but if you want smoother shift movements, get a metric.

    There are certainly sample to sample variations in Arcas, and most are fine, but you seem to have gotten an extremely stiff camera that needs to be remedied.


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Scottsdale, Arizona

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Well, you have to enjoy 'working' the camera in the is an 'experience' to be enjoyed. Send it back, if you are not happy.

    I owned a Tachihara 4 x 5 - and then bought an Arca...really enjoy the Arca (discovery model)....but have sold more images taken with the Tachihara...

    I enjoy (ed) both.

    In the end its about enjoying the experience and making some great images. The equipment is a means to an end. But there is no reason why you shouldn't enjoy the journey..

    BTW, my ARCA loosened up after working it a while.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field


    I would definetely return the camera for either a refund or an exchange - maybe you did get the one bad Arca that is out there. You listed so many negatives that you will never be happy with the camera and always question yourself why you bought it in the first place. These cameras are too expensive to compromise as much as you'd have to with yours. Get an exchange or look for another manufacturer.


  10. #10

    First experiences with new Arca Swiss F-Line Field

    Hi Peter,

    I want to see what others experiences are with the camera and to see if they are similar to mine, e.g. the cameara will eventually loosen up after inital use etc. I will also speak to the dealer on Monday but they are shut now and they also have little experience with Arcas. This forum is a wealth of knowledge from people who actually use the camera.

    Due to lack of documentation and having never touched one before I have no benchmark, I look to the forum for assistance with my questions and concerns.

    In what way do you disagree with my conclusions? this would be useful for me to understand if I have a duff camera or if there is anything I can do to remedy my issues.



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