Arca Swiss Discovery : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi, Can anyone give me feedback on the Arca Swiss Discovery? I was thinking of the Canham, but realised I can't afford it. The Discovery is only 5 lbs., yaw free, levels in a good place, and other impressive features. Also, I have no experience with base tilts, so when I tilt the front standard for depth of field focus, what does this do to my composition, and how do I get it back? I appreciate any response. I just can't find the time right now to get to a camera store, to check it out for myself.

-- Raven (, December 06, 1998


Hi Raven, You should look at the static content for comments about the Arca Swiss 6x9 and Arca swiss 4x5 F-line cameras for general advice. Arca makes very fine equipment in general. My experience is with the 4x5 F-Line camera and I can tell you that it is rugged and a pleasure to use. The Discovery does some things slightly differently than the F-Line but is still very close.

My experience with the front standard base tilt (with Arca Swiss, Sinar C and Canham DLC) is that doesn't really change the composition all that much, you just have to refocus and maybe a little rear rise. In any event the change wasn't enough to bother me. You are shooting landscapes and still lifes, right? i understand your fear of base tilts but in some ways I find them easier to deal with than axis tilts. For still life work you will really like using a yaw free camera like the Discovery.

-- Ellis (, December 07, 1998.


I started off with an Arca F-line Basic which is fairly similar to the Discovery. I think it's an excellent camera. It's also part of the Arca system, so you can upgrade (if you can afford it!) later. I've now got various bits including M-line front and rear standards and the M-line lens tilt format frame - my next 'want' is a 10x8" back. Arca have now designed a new base tilt that is meant to address all problems with normal base tilts, but I'm not sure if it's in production yet. Not being used to any other system, I've not really noticed a problem with the existing Arca cameras. As Ellis says, it's beautifully built, light, and I carry mine on a 15cm rail (smallish pack size).

-- David Nash (, December 07, 1998.


Arcas are the most intuitive, and easy to use LF cameras Ive ever seen. Theyre also beautifully made. I had a different 4X5 for years that I only used occasionally because it was too fiddley. I use the Arca all the time.

One nice thing about the Discovery is that, even though its an entry level camera it is made just as well as the more expensive Arca cameras. The difference is, its simpler. There is, for instance, only one geared movement, the rear focus. (So, if you were used to focusing with the front, you might not like it.) But I always have focused with the rear so I like it a lot. The geared rear focus, by the way, is Arcas progressive type whereby you set the knob to greater or lesser degrees of friction and, in the end, you do not have to lock the knob down. This means the focus always stays right where you put it. All the other movements slide, but because the camera is so finely made there is no binding or other unpleasant happenings. I bought the Discovery, over the F, just for this reason. Its really fast to use. Slide, lock and youre done. Another thing I particularly like is the fact that both standards do the same things in the same way. This means that once youre used to the camera (which takes about 5 min.) you never have to stop and think how to get the movement you want, its always the same, front and rear. Finally, I like is the fact that I almost never have to point the camera down. I level the camera and then, if I need to point down I just use some of the 100mm of rear rise. Leaves the back perpendicular and I can then tilt the front forward if I need to.

Minuses you ask? Very few. The monorail is too short for close up work, even with medium lenses--about 12 inches (30cm). And youll need a bag bellows for short lenses. Start adding a bag bellows, a longer monorail and pretty soon the camera will cost almost as much as a Canham (which doesnt need these as extras). Arca is a very good system, but also expensive.

If you can use the Discovery as it comes, say if you only did landscapes for instance (and kept your lenses under 300mm), its a wonderful bargain. Even if you have to buy a few extras it still may be a good deal because its nice to have a camera thats light and works well and is fun to use. Even the carry bag that comes with it is not too bad if you dont need to go more than a couple of miles.

-- Steve Pfaff (, December 07, 1998.

Hello RAven

I'm from Switzerland (like the Arca Swiss) and have tested the Discovery for a couple of days in rough field conditions. It worked out fine. It's pretty lightweight for a monorail-camera (3,75kg including a 90mm lens) and it's also very compact. It is very stable and all movements are easy to use. Since I'm a beginner in LF- photography I had difficulties in focusing for a large range of depth of field and in choosing the right tilt angle. It's some guesswork as with almost every LF-camera. The Sinar F2 however, which weights a little more and cost more, is very precise with its build-in Scheimpflug and depth-of-field-calculators. So even if you need a very small aperture for enough depth of field it's very easy to focus just the way you want it.


-- Tom Castelberg (, July 12, 1999.

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