Arca Swiss - beware! : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

After a long investigation I decided on a new Arca Swiss 6x9 FC. This camera seemed to meet my needs, and I had found some quite positive reviews on this camera.

However, the result is a disaster.

Do not expect an Arca Swiss is made in Swiss. All currently Arca "Swiss" cameras are made in France. Apparently there is no quality control anymore. The two cameras I got were defective. One bellows had a light leak as large as a 25c coin. The lens plates could not be attached without play. The binocular mirror finder was stained, dirty, and scratched. The zero setting of the vertical tilt of the rear standard was inaccurate (the spirit levels (!) and some tests showed that the standards were not parallel). The horizontal shift of the rear standard often got stucked.

This disaster took 3 months of my time. Finally I returned all items to the dealer for refund.

-- Thies Meincke (, April 10, 2001


My first response is that your post reeks of nationalistic racisim. The reason for the ARCA-SWISS factory moving just across the border has to do with the fact that Switzerland isn't a paert of the EU.. My second response is to wonder about the honesty of your dealer. My third resonse is to try and get Martin Vogt from the Arca factory in on the discussion.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 10, 2001.

Well, I have a story too. I bought my 6x9 F-line brand new at Authorized Importer here in Canada. I took the camerea from the box and it looked like it was "used". All kinds of small imperfections in black finish. The knobs had small niks.All in all, the final quality was less than I was expecting for a "Swiss Made Item". I wanted to be sure, so I asked for another "new package". Sorry to say, but it was the same. I decided to go with it. I used the camera for a year, did nice work with it but finally decided to trade it in for Toyo VX 125. Never felt sorry about it...

-- Steven S. Miric (, April 10, 2001.

A light leak the size of a 25c coin (approximately an inch in diameter) is bigger than the side of one of the sides of the bellows. Do you really think a hole that big would escape even an idiot's notice?

If you bought a camera in the condition TM describes would you spend three months trying to remedy that "disaster"? Don't you think the dealer would be pretty upset and try to make his customer as happy as possible as soon as possible? Even to the point of inspecting the next camera that came in personally?

My point is that something is very fishy here.

Anecdotal offerings about automobiles don't prove a thing. They are simply not relevent. it is like saying "A 1979 Ford LTD I once owned really sucked" and therefore concluding that no company based in the United States was capable of building a decent fighter plane.

So I think it is put up or shut time for Herr Meincke. I'd have the same bulldog attitude if some one made the same ludicruous claims about SINAR or Linhof.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 10, 2001.

Late last year, I bought an AS 5x7 Metric from Robt White (UK). What I received was a brand new camera;looked & "smelled" new! It was (and is) just what I expected-- well made with precise movements.... it sounds to me that Herr Meincke was sold a used camera, or one that was damaged in transit. Anyway, I agree with Ellis: something's fishy! BILL

-- Wm Mitchell (, April 10, 2001.

I also bought an Arca Swiss 6x9 last year and it was in perfect condition. Everything I had expected from it! If I had received a "new" binocular finder that is dirty, stained and scratched, it wouldn't have taken me 3 months to return it. Besides, there are no 25cent coins in Germany. Perhaps Herr Meincke refers to a 50 Pfennig Muenze???

Should Arca Swiss change their name to Arca France? Should Toyota change their name because they have plants in the US? I don't think so.

-- Andreas Carl (, April 10, 2001.

I just took delivery of a new Arca-Swiss 6x9 F-Metric/Orbix system this past week, and find its fit and finish to be nothing less than exquisite. This model rides on the 30 cm telescopic optical bench, which consists of two dovetailed monorail sections that slide in a long underlying extension bracket. As an example of the care with which it has been made, the tolerance in machining the fit between these upper and lower parts is so good that when moving one in relation to the other, it almost feels like something with viscous damping! Furthermore, the obvious precision in manufacture is not just a question of appearances, as the fundamentally superior design makes this camera both more rigid and more exactingly flexible than my prior Sinar f2. Any camera used hard enough by uncaring hands will eventually feel bad and look worse, as the demo cameras at the counter of a high volume dealer will inevitably show, but based on my experience with Arca-Swiss and the users with whom I have spoken, I would be astonished if there was, in fact, a design or production problem at the factory.

-- Christopher Campbell (, April 10, 2001.

I bought a used Arca-Swiss, and you guessed it, it was used! But, it was, and still is, in great shape. I'm very happy with my purchase.

-- neil poulsen (, April 11, 2001.

This story caused quite a stir. Both Arca and my dealer here in Germany contacted me. There is one point that is my fault: the binocular mirror finder was ok (told me the dealer), there was was a protective transparent cover on the surface of the mirror I had not removed. I had not seen anything like this, but that could be true, so I apologize for this.

-- Thies Meincke (, April 11, 2001.

Hi Neil

If you got a used one then its an Arca maybe still from Swiss production like mine 10 years old one so you can be happy with it for your lifetime!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, April 11, 2001.

"You seem to be saying that you are saying that since the hands that now do the final assembly of the cameras are French they must be inferior to Swiss hands. The engineering and people in charge of the company are still Swiss."

Hate to say it Ellis, but, yes the "hands" making the product often effect the quality of the product - that's a fact. More importantly, is how the "hands" are motivated within the work place (money, benefits, working conditions etc.) but, finally, it comes down to Quality Control. If the QC processes are correct, then there should be a very small percentage of bad or defective items that are shipped. In the case of Arca, and the low volume they produce, the defective product rate should approach zero.

The final product certainly has to do with the engineers and owners but they do not manufacture, assemble or QC the product. They can only setup the manufacturing procedures and audit the process. Yes, ultimately the management and owners are responsible for the product, but that responsibility comes in the form of motivating the employees to produce the best they can and auditing (QC) the product to provide a standard to which inferior products do not get shipped.

There is a factor of employee pride in the quality of the product where the employee refuses to make a bad product because it is a personal reflection on their integrity. Whether that pride resides in the current manufacturing facility versus the old manufacturing facility is something that cannot be proven one way or the other through the Internet without an impartial observer who is intimately familiar with both operations.

But to state that the owners and engineers are the same, inferring that somehow that translates into manufacturing quality, is naive or a gross simplification of the manufacturing process to say the least.

-- steve (, April 11, 2001.

I recently saw and handled a few Arca cameras in a fair and I was really impressed by the quality and impeccable finition of these products. They had not much to want from my Toyo VX-125 on this regard. Unless Arca-Swiss produces OEM versions in third world countries besides the genuine "swiss standard", and I don't think it is the case, you should probably look towards your handler for the fault. Some dealers have a generous return policy or don't bother to sell a demo for a new. Never thought of where the returned products would go? I recently was sold a "new" video camera that had still some of the gift wrapping paper from the previous owner and numerous use marks. It returned the store almost instantaneously!

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 11, 2001.

Please do not speculate about the connection between the move of the factory to France and the decline in QC. My understanding is that AC used to be a very small company and had to expend recently to meet the demand for their products. There are rumors that QC has declined, no hard facts to the best of my knowledge. I asked AC to participate in this discussion, let's wait and see. Moderator

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, April 11, 2001.

My new Arca 6x9 FC Metric arrived an hour ago from Robert White in UK, and it is a beautiful little thing. Brand spanking new, even to the leather smell of the bellows. The only flaw I notice is a small ding on the lens board, affects nothing and doesn't show when the lens is on. I'm still putting it together, but just wanted to add my two cents before rumors start spreading that Arcas are anything less than well- made beauties. I'm deliriously happy so far!

-- Sandy Sorlien (, April 11, 2001.

I too recieved a brand-new and in perfect condition (Arca-Swiss 6x9 Metric)from Robert White about 8 months ago. I'm not sure if it is of Swiss or French manufacture, but both countries have a reputation for high quality products. As stated before with regard to damaged or defective "NEW" Arca products, somthing is not quite right here. Bob P.

-- Robert Pellegrino (, April 11, 2001.

Dear Mr. Meinecke and Contributors

ARCA-SWISS has investigated this case carefully to get accurate information. Because of the information we have now, we have hesitated to respond to such a post.

„Do not expect an Arca Swiss is made in Swiss. All currently Arca "Swiss" cameras are made in France.“ “Apparently there is no quality control anymore. “

Approximately 50% of an ARCA-SWISS camera is made in Switzerland. 30% of our Employees in France are Swiss. ARCA-SWISS did open its new Company in France two Years ago! Obviously we have not moved recently, and demo products are from France. ARCA-SWISS was aware that this move would be monitored closely, therefore we doubled our quality control. We are proud, that we have been able to increase our quality over our old “Swiss Standards” considerably. Last Year, approx. 10 negative posts about our leading Monoball® tripod heads and its quality where posted after a client revealed that they where delivered from France. Suddenly they disappeared? This post starts with France again…..

We do not think it is up to us to reveal where the Photo Industry is manufacturing (Zeiss Germany, Rollei, Hasselblad, Canon, Nikon, you name it). ARCA-SWISS is a registered Trade Mark and “Made in Switzerland” is not being used. If you decide on an ARCA-SWISS, you do decide on our superior Design, Quality, and Finish. As long as our products carry the ARCA- SWISS brand name, you can count on above qualities which made and makes ARCA-SWISS famous.

“The two cameras I got were defective. One bellows had a light leak as large as a 25c coin.” There was only one camera. ARCA-SWISS controls every single Leather bellows at different stages due to pinholes (Hair) etc.. The bellows on your camera was stripped off the bellows frame by abuse.

“The lens plates could not be attached without play." Correct. “The binocular mirror finder was stained, dirty, and scratched. “ The protective plastic foil that covers our coated, optical mirror was not removed. (although the Dealer informed Mr. Meinecke to do so)

“The horizontal shift of the rear standard often got stucked.” ,“The zero setting of the vertical tilt of the rear standard was inaccurate (the spirit levels (!) and some tests showed that the standards were not parallel). “ According to Your Fax, tests performed with the 45mm Apo Grandagon which is one of the most critical lenses “showed perfect results from the center to the boarder of the image circle”. (camera levelled !) Your XL 80mm with displacements was noticeably less sharp than your medium format equipment if enlarged 5 times. The test with the Apo Grandagon 45mm proves the perfect alignement of the camera. ARCA-SWISS takes no responsibility for Lenses.

“This disaster took 3 months of my time. Finally I returned all items to the dealer for refund.” You received your camera in December; beginning of February we have been asked to upgrade your camera with orbix and fixed your stripped bellows for free. We have informed your Dealer about the delay and you have agreed to wait for the upgrade. Mr. Meinecke did never contact ARCA-SWISS, although e-mail address, phone numbers etc, are on our 3 Year Warranty Card., Catalogues etc.

Our suggestion for future posts: Try to avoid blaming a Country, a Company, a Product or even a Person without having profound knowledge.


ARCA-SWISS International Martin Vogt

-- Martin Vogt (, April 12, 2001.

Herr Vogt,

You may be right on all the facts, but a little more humility towards your customers and potential customers would, I suspect, work in your favour. I have thought long and hard about buying an Arca-Swiss, but the reaction and difficulty I have experienced in obtaining normal information from your company I have found unusual! (Just so it is clear, I now work for a Swiss company, with many of my colleagues living in Switzerland, France and Germany). Best regards

-- fw (, April 12, 2001.

A final statement in response to Arca's:

1) I did not start the Monoball discussion, nor did I contribute to that discussion.

2) I got a camera in December. It was defective (both the defects were confirmed) and was returned. In March I got a replacement. I cannot say if it is the same or another one.

3) The bellows was defective when I opened the box. And certainly I did not "abuse" it. This assertion is insolent.

4) "The test with the Apo Grandagon 45mm proves the perfect alignement of the camera." Wrong. I proved that must not rely on the zero settings. I must align the camera with the spirit levels because of the play of the tilt mechanism of the rear standard.

5) I had contacted my dealer in Germany. I do not have a contract with Arca, I have a contract with the dealer. I will centainly not ask Arca for a permit to publish my Arca experience.

-- Thies Meincke (, April 12, 2001.

i am a very satisfied owner of a 4x5" f metric from arca. the problem of the viewerfoil it is soved about some seconds to remove. the arca worked under all conditions ( minus 30 C ). Ive never had any problems. next days i ll receive another one 6x9 metric and i trust it will be in the same shpe like the one i own. i m very happy with my arca and the results and i dont want to change.

-- marcus schwier (, April 12, 2001.

Dear Herr Meincke My experience, through working in photographic retail supplying among other things Arca cameras, leads me to be able to say, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were sold, possibly unknowingly, a camera of dubious origin. It could not have been new. Arca Swiss quality control is of the highest standard. If you had seen as many new Arcas as I have you would agree with me. Sadly I know that you will never be able to for one reason or another. I suspect that the damage could have happened at your dealer without their knowledge. People can be clumsy sometimes when they are examining things. Were you knowingly sold an ''ex demo'' camera? This could be the cause of the problem. Ex demo equipment is often a bargain and much sought after but should always carry the same warranty as if it were new. It sounds as though you have benefited from such a warranty and I hope that you are eventually satisfied with the outcome. Arca Swiss cameras are a fine product your experience is unfortunate and extremely unusual.

Matt Sampson.

-- Matt Sampson (, April 12, 2001.

I don't know if anyone is tabulating the responses, but here's mine: I bought an A/S FC 6x9 about three months ago from Robert White, and all I can say is WOW! The camera is flawless, and the service both pre and post sale from Robert White is nothing short of fantastic.

Would I get another A/S? You bet I would!

-- Roger E. Oppenheimer (, April 12, 2001.

Herr Meincke, I believe your experience is very unusual. Sounds to me like you got a "lemon" for one reason or another. Arca Swiss has a reputation of producing extremely fine and precise cameras. I have the feeling that the problem is more with the dealer than the manufacturer in your case. Herzliche Gruesse!!!

-- Andreas Carl (, April 14, 2001.

I agree with those posters who say Herr Meincke's problems do not suggest anything fundamentally wrong with Arca cameras, terrific pieces of kit, beautifully made. I'm more concerned about those who mock him for not spotting the plastic covering - I remember my own difficulty in working out how to load my first Polaroid back, embarrassing to think about now... And there's some over-reaction too from those who absurdly accuse Meincke of nationalist racism and mental dwarfhood. Good grief! Let's keep a sense of proportion here. Viele Grusse, Thies...

-- Anthony Harrison (, April 15, 2001.

I know this response is posted late but I am disappointed to see Mr. Vogt's response to a client that has recently purchased his product, whatever the circumstance. Although I can appreciate Mr. Vogt's list of disclaimers attached to his response, the intonation chosen for his response is very surprising.

There are many fine camera systems available in the market and all of us look forward to the agreeable Customer Service that comes with it. I think that Mr Vogt should remember that WE choose his product, not the other way around.

-- Dave Anton (, April 17, 2001.


I'm having a little trouble here. what exactly was it about the "intonation" of Mr. Vogt's response that bothered you? he seems to have responded point by point to Dr. Meincke's problem and corrected mistatements by Dr. Meincke (there was only one camera , not two, that Dr. Meincke --as he himself acknowledged--failed to remove the protective cover on the front surfaced mirror; that the alignment problem appeared to be with a specific lens not the camera itself).

We certainly have other manudfacturer's representatives who sometimes participate here whose arrogance sometimes astounds me. perhaps it is that Mr. Vogt's first language isn't English? I too fell into that trap with my first response to Dr. Meincke. A failing for which I now apologize.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 17, 2001.

My mistake: I missed Martin's last paragraph. That was a little over the top.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 17, 2001.

In case you people haven't noticed, this site is known as the Large Format PHOTOGRAPHY Homepage, not the bitch and click forum. Lately several thread have degenerated into sophomoric pissing matches by people with slightly bruised egos. If you feel that you must response to a particularly egregious comment that you take as a personal affront, please do so outside of this forum. If a posting is factually incorrect, provide the proper information in a constructive fashion. If you feel that you must assert your photographic superiority, go bash some newbie in the 35mm discussion group. Remember, this site is for the sharing of information and ideas regarding large format photography, and many of us have little time to waste on postings cluttered with petty accusations and intellectual posturing. Let's get back to photography!

-- Matt Long (, April 18, 2001.

Hi all

Dave you are definitly right. Mister Vogt`s answer is not diplomatic at all. And we are the persons how buy a product or not!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, April 18, 2001.

To Mr Vogt's defense, I think I remember a similar thread flaming Arca-Swiss support less than a year ago. In both cases, the problems encountered by the unhappy buyers were not so much Arca-Swiss's fault, but rather due to a negligence in the distributing chain, at least this is how I understand it. I am not sure how I would have responded in such repetitive attaks against good reputation. I have had the pleasure to meet and talk with Mr Vogt not long ago and he is a real gentleman. Certainly his words were beyond his thoughts.

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 18, 2001.

Just to make it clear to everyone here: I am not a moderator on this forum.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 18, 2001.

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