Arca Discovery or Wista4x5 DX for LF beginner? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

As a LF starter my first step on the LF trail is to choose a camera. My camera queest now is between a field or monorail camera. I read several reviews but cannot make my final decision. Who can give me advice? The cameras that are on my list are: Arca Swiss Discovery Wista 45DX Walker titan They are for me (in Europe) all in the same price range. Which camera is the most easy to use in the field, to set up and to transport. Is the Arca Swiss, about which I read a lot of favourable comments, just as easy to use as a field camera? And are there other cameras I should consider?

Theo Hartman

-- Theo Hartman (, July 10, 2001


Theo, I suppose the deciding factor will be what lenses you intend to use, and what subject you will shoot. When you have answered these questions then take a look at the camera that most suits your needs. One word of advice!! Buy the best you can afford!! LF is so addictive that you may find that you very quickly outgrow so- called "entry level" cameras, and that you find you wish you'd invested in, dare I say, better equipment. The cameras you mention are all perectly capable, but there are better ones available for only a small further outlay of cash!!

Best of luck with your quest! Paul

-- paul owen (, July 10, 2001.

The Arca will probably be the easiest to use and set up, but the most difficult to transport. I have an F-line classic (I think that's what it's called) which is a wonderful camera. It has a telescoping monorail that means I can colapse the camera onto a 6 inch section and put it in a case. The discovery doesn't have this, so you're going to have a considerably longer rail to deal with. If you're carrying a case in a car, that's not too bad. If you're hiking in the mountains, it makes a big difference.

Between the Wista and the Walker, the Walker is probably a more capable camera, but not as pretty. The walker has longer bellows and a graflock back (If I remember correctly).

Lots of good work has been done with Wistas.

-- mike rosenlof (, July 10, 2001.

A Discovery fits into the provided soft case, 15 by 13 by 10 inches, and the monorail is 30cms long. I can carry the whole kit, meter, two lenses, a spare bellows, film holders, etc. in the provided case with ease. For farther trips afield, a Lowepro Photo Trekker comfortably takes the Discovery by putting standards at 45 degrees, and it almost lies flat. There's ample room for both camera and accessories. I can't imagine easier setup out of either case - you can leave a lens mounted, so it's just a matter of taking out the camera, and mounting on the tripod. I needed a camera equally at home in the studio, location, or field, and the Discovery handles all three.

-- Michael Mahoney (, July 10, 2001.

I have been shooting LF for a little over 2 years (still a newbie) and I have been happy with my Wista. It is light and compact which perfectly suits my backcountry hiking/backpacking style of photography. It was an inexpensive buy off eBay at about $600 w/ vintage lens (barely used). But there are some drawbacks... The Wistas do not have the lengthy bellows draw of some other cameras, so you can't use long focal length lenses. I haven't found this to be much of an issue. I shoot with a 75, 120 & 210. The Wistas also have the reputation of not being as rigid as some other cameras. But again, I haven't found this to be a problem for the kind of photography I do. I think the Wista is a good camera for the price. But if I had a bigger budget, I think I'd spring for an Ebony.

-- Scott Bacon (, July 11, 2001.

"The Wistas do not have the lengthy bellows draw of some other cameras, so you can't use long focal length lenses"

Not true, depending on the Wista there are extension beds and bellows as well as extended lens boards. Longer lenses certainly can be used!

Extension beds for the DX II and III are available in 450mm, 550mm and 800mm lengths. For the Wista Technical models you can get 300 and 460mm extenstion beds as well as the 450, 550 and 800 extensions above.

Bellows for these extensions are available up to 900mm long (35.43")

-- Bob Salomon (, July 11, 2001.

Thanks, Bob. I stand corrected.

-- Scott Bacon (, July 11, 2001.

I have a Discovery and I purchased a 30cm telescopic rail (the same one that is on the Classic. I can now carry it in a backpack, with the lenses and accessories. And as mentioned, it is an excellent camera. I use it in the field and it sets up quickly and take-down is just as quick, and function is flawless.

-- Gary Jones (, July 12, 2001.

I purchased a Arca-Swiss discovery last year when I was entering a commercial photography program. After a couple of months, I loved my arca and HATED having to use anyone else's camera. The Arca is just so much more logically made. Everything just falls into place, you end up not thinking abotu how to use the camera and are able to just concentrate on making the image. Now it isn't a field camera, but it packs up smaller than any other monorail camera I have seen. It's only drawback for field use would be the large size of the lensboards. However, this could be fixed with the purchase of the adapter that lets you use smaller (4x4?, I can't remember the brand) boards on it.

-- Josh Root (, July 19, 2001.

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