Arca or Sinar? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I was interested in the question on Arca Swiss cameras. I am trying to make up my mind whether to go for a very basic Arca Swiss which a friend wants me to buy or whether to go for a much more expensive Sinar P2, both quite old. Any views please?

-- John Robertson (, March 12, 2000


Opinions are divided between whether it's the lens on the front of the camera or the photographer behind it which makes the difference. The 'box' which the lens is attached to makes very little difference in my view. Most of our work is studio still life, with some architectural. I have had an old (very) basic Arca Swiss for a long time and know it thoroughly. My business partner has a Sinar P2 and I use this too. Both turn out the same results but are very different to use. The Arca swings & tilts from the base, which means that you need to re- focus quite dramatically each time you alter one of these movements. The Sinar moves from the lens axis, which is much quicker and easier. If you want to calculate swings/tilts with the Arca (using the hing rule) you need to use a protractor, with the Sinar the movements are both geared and marked, so making life easier. The Sinar is also much better engineered and far more rigid. If you are photographing very similar products using the Sinar you just need to change the product and the camera settings will be the same. With the Arca, I have found to my cost that it's a good idea to shoot another polaroid to make sure that the camera is still as originally set. The Sinar is a much more expensive, and expensive-looking tool and so is more impressive to clients but if this 'bullshit factor' is not important your decision should be based on your personal preferences, or on how much money you will have left after buying the Sinar. Personally I would prefer to buy the Arca and spend the saving on film!My views are those of a commercial photographer and are based on my own experiences of these 2 cameras. If you are doing landscapes, which I know nothing about, they may not be relevant. Hope this helps a bit.

-- Garry Edwards (, March 12, 2000.

Hi John, There is no doubt: the ARCA SWISS cameras are the better cameras. The actual M-Line or F-Line models are far better and more intelligently designetd than the SINAR; and astronomically far better crafted. Above all ARCAs are lighter and more stable (in the days of the very old Sinar Norma it was different,but this days are long time passed). Because of the very loud and noisy PR campaigns SINAR always counted on, the Sinars are a bit more spread in the LF market ( and as a sticky rumour goes in Switzerland also quite at the end of economical wealth). I'm working since years with an 8x10 M-Line with a great pleasure. But the good picture is made by the guy behind the camera. PS: I'm Swiss, but having no further connections to either brand then the once made decision. Regard, Urs

-- Urs Bernhard (, March 12, 2000.

John, try this:

Ask 20 Arca owners and 20 Sinar owners to fill in the blank:

"There is no doubt: _________ are the better cameras."

My guess is that every owner will vote for what he or she uses; when one uses $4000-6000 cameras one doesn't put up very long with an inferior product (and Urs, with all due respect to your opinion, it's a trifle insulting to professionals who have used Sinar for decades to suggest that they do so simply because of "Sinar's loud and noisy PR campaigns").

John, assume that the build quality for the two cameras is equal; both are world renowned for thoughtful engineering and design innovations (for instance, Sinar's angle calculator is to me extremely valuable when working in a hurry). Judge your particular choice based on the condition of the two cameras you have access to, the price, and your personal needs (e.g., if it's a lightweight Arca it's probably more portable than the P2). Which model Arca is it? Is one cheaper option cheaper than the other?

Other than that, no one in this forum will be able to do much more than tell you what works for THEM.


-- Simon (, March 12, 2000.

. . . and whether Arca or Sinar prevails in your survey will depend not on objective truth or even widespread wisdom but on how many users of either system are monitoring this forum today. Both brands, in a word, are generally VERY highly regarded.


-- Simon (, March 12, 2000.

I've owned and used both, and agree that your answer will depend on who answers. You need to find which works better for you! If I were working in a studio setting it would be a toss-up between a Sinar P2 and an Arca Monolith line. But I do field work, and the Arca F-line is much lighter and packs much more compactly, so for me, it is the best choice. I tried a Sinar F series camera, and it did not seem like either a good field or good studio choice.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, March 12, 2000.

Here is a simple solution - Find a store like KJP or Calumet and rent each camera for atleast a week each. At the end of the rental period you will have formed your own opinion as to which marque is most useful to yourself.

-- David Kirk (, March 12, 2000.

FWIW, Calumet doesn't rent either brand, although Helix in Chicago and several shops in New York rent both.

I'm guessing, though, that renting two full view camera systems for a week or more will rival the purchase cost of a "quite old," "very basic" Arca Swiss. . . .


-- Simon (, March 12, 2000.

There is a real diference between the older Arca Swiss cameras and the current Arca Swiss F-line and Monolith camera. Sinar P2 cameras are excellent, but they are primarily machines for the studio (as is the Arca Swiss Monolith camera). I think an apples to apples comparison in terms of handling characteristics is the Sinar C and the Arca Swiss F-line. I used to own a Sinar C and eventually replaced it with an Arca Swiss F-line as it was more compatable with doing field work yet retained theexacting precision I require for studio workI really loved my Sinar C but it was too heavy to constantly lug around and it was wearing out. Which brings up another point: the amount of wear the cameras have experienced. A Sinar P2 that has seen a lot of use may require a fairly expensive overhaul. It is a precision inmstrument that may require "tuning". But so can an Arca Swiss or any other camera for that matter. My favorite points about the Sinar C and P2: the built-in depth of field, Scheimpflug calculator. This can help you find the optimum f-stop (i.e the widest f- stop) very quickly for complex studio work; and the vast amount of used accessories availible. My favorite points about the Arca Swiss F-line: how it handles, having rise in the focal plane (no need to refocus if using front or rear rise) My favorite things about the Sinar P2 and C and the Arca Swiss F-line; the precision and that all threeare yaw-free design. From unhappy experiences, I agree with Glenn that the Sinar F series is nowhere near the camera that the Arca Swiss F-line is even though the two are similar in weight.

-- Ellis Vener (, March 13, 2000.

John - don't listen to hard to Urs Bernhard. As I know here from Switzerland, he works for Arca Swiss. So his economical interests here are obvious. I tested both: Sinar and Arca Swiss. And I've found that Sinar is better in every way. Other might think differently. Arca Swiss is a good camera but Sinar is a real Swiss precision instrument. I guess that everybody who knows both brands will agree. You can be just as happy with both products. It's a joke however that Sinar would be in a bad economical condition, as Urs wants to make us believe.

-- Tom Castelberg (, March 13, 2000.

I used a Sinar p2 and use Arca F-line 4x5 Classic now. My main reason for the switch was the size and weight of p2 as it was not intended to be a field camera. I'll put some likes and dislikes for both cameras.

p2 likes
As mentioned above (fast & quick). Also handles short focal length lenses better than Arca F-lines in terms of the flexibility or easiness of bellows movements.
p2 dislikes
The tubular locks for rapid focusing do not lock standards consistently (this affects composition), although if the lock tension is maintained regularly at the factory, this minimizes the problem but can be still inconsistent.
p2 likes/dislikes depending on a person
Sinars has rules you follow. Here is an example. Basically, if you want to tilt/swing and don't want to distort the image, you have to tilt/swing first. This is accomplished as follows: Set the desired plane of focus at the rear standard, read the angle, transfer the angle to the front standard, and refocus as necessary at rear. Then you compose the image as you wish by shifting and raising/falling the rear standard. You have to follow this order, which makes some people hate/love Sinars, some people hate it first then start to love, and some others love it first then hate.... Why you have to follow that rule? Because the camera is designed to function that way; the tilt and swing mechanisms are above rise/fall and shift movements.

F-line classic likes
User friendly, meaning you can start any movement in any order as compared to Sinar. This factor makes the camera "intuitive". The reason is tilt and swing mechanisms are below shift and rise/fall mechanisms so that you can still raise and shift the front standard after you tilt to recompose, yet the plane of focus you set stays the same for example. There are some occasions when you have to raise the front standard to recompose rather than usually using rear standard after you tilt, for example, if you run out of the image circle while you're composing the image using the rear shift and rise/fall, etc.
F-line classic dislikes
shift and rise/fall mechanisms are rough and abrupt. The new F-line Metric cameras with self-supported geared shift and rise are basically improved versions of F-line Classic. So I suggest you to buy a Metric rather than Classic if you're going for Arca and field work.
F-line classic likes/dislikes depending on person
Obviously you can't do Sinar way with Arca F-line cameras. So you have to do traditional try and error iterating method to set the desired plane of focus. But this teaches you to appreciate Scheimpflug and hinge rules by the sense of accomplishment with your effort and sweat.... whatever.... (i.e. slower than Sinars to set a plane of focus and DOF). For Arca DOF solution, there was a gizmo called Brain Box. But it was discontinued (they probably come up with a new Brain Box sometime in future). I need a brain....

To summarize, I think Sinars are ruled (order) but faster and Arca F-lines are unruled (free) but slower. You can make your Sinar a second nature to you so that you no longer feel ruled and so can you for Arca so that you can make it quicker by practice.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, March 13, 2000.

Dear Mister Castelberg

("John - don't listen to hard to Urs Bernhard. As I know here from Switzerland, he works for Arca Swiss.")

Sorry Tom, you do not know much. Mister Bernhard is NOT working for ARCA-SWISS. Never did he. But, we're proud to have satisfied Customers.

Reading your comments (biased or not), I wonder about your intentions.



-- Martin Vogt (, March 13, 2000.

A couple of comments . . .

Those wanting to use very long lenses would benefit from Arca's 700mm bellows. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but it appears that the longest bellows available for the Sinar (4x5) is 45cm. (Or so.)

Also, I see no insult implied in Urs' comments regarding marketing. He commented that Sinar has relied on marketing to extend their market. This is quite different from suggesting that photographers have purchased Sinar cameras only because of Sinar's marketing. To be realistic, heavy marketing can sway a lot of people.

-- neil poulsen (, March 14, 2000.

As someone who was VERY SATISFIED Sinar user and who now uses an Arca Swiss F line, all I can say to Tom Castleberg comments is he doesn't know what he is talking about when he says that "Sinar is better in every way." What is intersting is that we are comparing a camera that costs around US$2300 (the Arca Swiss F-line) to a camera that costs around US$5500 (The P2). The Sinar F2 camera is the closest camera to the A/S F-line and isn't even in the same league, much less the same ball park as far as quality or ease of operation as the classic F-line camera, much less the F-Metric or the F-metric with the even more precise Orbix tilt mechanism.

-- Ellis Vener (, March 14, 2000.

I too am also a very satisfied Arca Swiss F-line user, albeit for only 6 months, and I have a few comments to contribute. Firstly, I'm an architectural/annual report photographer and the Arca was head and shoulders above the Sinar and other brands as far as a compact, quick-to-set-up-and-use, simple camera - something which I found very important, as in the real world, not everyone has the luxury of setting up the camera and waiting for an hour or so for the "magic light". Often I have to work FAST and the Arca was the ONLY camera I tested that I could fold up and pack/unpack with the bellows and short rail attached to the camera. I can open the camera case and have the camera ready to focus within 60 seconds! Sure, you can set up quickly with a field camera, but you don't get the use of a 47mm or 58mm XL with 5cm front rise with a field camera, either!! The only problem I DO have is with the Arca Swiss company (take note Mr. Arca Swiss person...) The Arca importer here in Australia has been waiting for 5 months for some accessories for me, fortunately they have let me borrow the bits I am waiting for out of their hire kit, so I am using the gear I need, but I'm sure that some dealers elsewhere would not be so kind.....time to get a wriggle on, Mr. Arca Swiss. As others have mentioned, its really personal preference - if I was a studio photographer, I would probably have bought a Sinar for its fine-geared focusing, but for the sort of work I do, the arca swiss F-line is

-- mark munro (, March 14, 2000.

reading this thread, my Linhof Technikardan kept nudging me to put in a good word. lens left on, it comes out of the pack, setup and ready for light in less than 60 seconds (if desired). I realize it isn't for everyone, but I am very impressed and recommend it highly.

"there, I did it. now get back on your tripod and give it a rest."

-- daniel taylor (, March 14, 2000.

Sorry Folks!...I know this is'nt part of the heated debate, but since I'm looking at getting a 4 X 5 I wanted to know what you people thought of the TOYO VX125B system compared to the ARCA and SINAR for mostly landscape, with some architectural and some studio work. Thanks!

-- David R. Williams (David.R.Williams2@JSC.NASA.GOV), March 15, 2000.

I can't comment on the Sinar cameras as I have very little experience with them. I've been using an Arca Swiss Metric for about a year now, and I'm very satisfied. Previous to using the A-S, I was using a field camera and always felt like I was in battle with the camera to accomplish what I intended. The A-S is so smooth and easy to use that I rarely think about the camera anymore. I'm now more focused on the actual photograph.

-- Larry Huppert (, March 16, 2000.

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