Arca Swiss B1 and Wisner 4x5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

This is in furtherance of the thread "Gitzo 3 leg sections vs. 4 leg sections", but since my questions are now related to the head choice I thought it appropriate to start a new thread.

There are a number of older threads in which people opine that the B1 is not well suited for the Wisner 4x5 because one cannot see both spirit levels at the same time, making fine adjustments difficult. Also, some responses to my Gitzo thread suggest - to me - that while a really lightweight, i.e. 4 lb., field camera is OK with the B1, the 6 lbs of the Wisner may be pushing it. What is the current thinking on these points?

Also - were I to consider a pan/tilt solution that would be noticably better for the Gitzo 1325 or 1348 tripod than the Bogen 3047 I have, what would that solution be? Would it be a Gitzo 1370 with quick release 1385 or Really Right Stuff clamp and plate? Please note that I have bought and returned the Bogen 3275 (Manfrotto 410) because I didn't like the balance, and that I would prefer not to put the $$$ into a Arca B2.

Thanks again.

-- Josh Divack (, December 13, 2001


One more thing - would the addition of the Gitzo 1321 leveling base be a solution that would allow for minute corrections if necessary?

-- Josh Divack (, December 13, 2001.


Me again (BTW, I do think you should listen to what other people have to say and not just duplicate what I am using. The 1325/B1 works great for me, but it is far from the only solution and others will have combinations they like better. So, listen to them too).

That said, since I specifically use an Arca Swiss B1 with a Gitzo 1325 and a number of different large format cameras, I'll share what I know. First, in terms of weight handling capability, it's hard to beat the Arca Swiss B1. It locks down really tight and is easily strong enough to handle a 6 lb. camera. It's rated to hold something like 90 lb. in the vertical orientation. I've never put those claims to the test (and have no idea if they are true - does it matter?), but I have used several cameras (including a couple 5x7s and an 8 lb. Linhof TK45S) that weigh more than 6 lb. on my B1 and it handles them with ease.

No ballhead is going to be as easy to use, WRT to leveling each axis independently as a three axis head. It does take a while to get used to, and is not for everybody. That said, of all the ballheads I've tried, the B1 is the best of the bunch in this regard. The progressive resistance of the asymmetric ball on the Arca seems to work really well with heavy cameras that don't require flooping on their side for verticals. The progressive resistance combined with the tension preset - when properly matched to your camera - make it a lot easier to make minute adjustments with the B1 than with other ballheads that lack this feature (which is every other brand on the market). Again, not as easy to use as a three axis head, but better than other ballheads I have tried - especially for heavier cameras.

So, I don't think the weight of the Wisner would be a problem, the ergonomics of leveling a view camera using a ballhead may take a while to get used to. Or, you may indeed prefer a three axis head. I haven't used one since my 3047 days, but Gitzo now makes some magnesium three axis heads that are lightweight and seem designed to compliment the light weight of their carbon fiber tripods. The low profile models are lighter than the standard profile versions. As I have not used any of these products, I suggest you solicit opinipns from those who have.

One final word on the B1. I have read from time to time of the dreaded "lock-up" problem. I've used my B1 under some very rugged conditions for several years now and never once experienced this problem. The head comes with simple instructions on how to avoid this problem and what to do if it happens. This appears to be a bi-product of the asymmetric design of the Arca ball, but should not be a problem if you follow the directions. I have also read online that quality control in recent years has not been as good as it once was. As I bought my B1 over five years ago, again I have no first hand knowledge of any quality issues - mine has prefermed flawlessly. You might want to do a google search on the* newsgroups for more up-to-date information from people who claim to have experienced problems.

My Arca Swiss B1 works great for me. I am very happy with it and think it's a great product. But, I have nothing to gain or lose based on which head you buy. I'm just sharing my knowledge based on my personal experience, but at the same time, I don't want to steer you towards something that may not work so well for you. It's really hard to say how well you would like the B1 - especially if you not used to using a ballhead with a large format camera. When I first tried mine, I wasn't thrilled - it was a lot harder in the beginning than the three axis heads I was used to. Still, I'm glad I stuck it out and got comfortable with the B1. Now that I've used it for several years, I'm sure I can operate it just as fast - likely faster - than a three axis head. In this respect, it's biggest disadvantage is also it's biggest advantage (once you get used to it) - only one knob to loose/tighten when you want to adjust the camera position - no need to fiddle with three separate controls arms.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, December 13, 2001.

I also use the B1 and really think it's one of the best investment I have made. It seems that the locking problem applies to the older units and is not relevent to current models. I bought mine used about 5 years ago, so it probably qualifies as an old one. I experienced the locking issue only once and was able to unlock it quite easily (tighten main knob and loosen tension knob). Many times I carry my tripod over my shoulder with an F5, 400/3.5 lens, and doubler combo loaded on the B1. I have never experienced any problem with the B1 getting loose so I wouldn't expect any weight issue with a Wisner. I am quite new to LF but from my recent experience the B1 holds quite well in the field and doesn't make positioning overwhelmingly difficult. My interest is in nature photography though. If your interest is in more precise subjects such as architecture or studio then a pan/tilt head might be more appropriate.

-- Georges Pelpel (, December 13, 2001.

Hi Josh,

I use a B1 with Arca-style QR plates for all my cameras up to 4x5 format, and wouldn't consider anything else. It's so nice to be able to use the same system regardless of the camera I'm using. Putting 6 pounds on a B1 simply isn't an issue. I use mine with my Ebony 4x5 (7+ pounds), Fuji GX680 (9+ pounds) and Contax 645 with 350mm lens (around 11 pounds) with no problems whatever.

Here's a tip on the QR plate. If your Wisner has just one tripod hole, this doesn't apply, but if it's got two holes like my Ebony, a Wimberley QR plate is the better choice. I switched to one recently; I use the long model that's intended for 35mm super-telephoto lenses. It's about 6" long and has a "track" down the middle to position two (or more) screws anywhere along the track. The camera won't swivel when fastened this way, and the plate is long enough that you can adjust the camera for balance as desired, i.e. if using a heavy lens or lots of bellows extension.

Regards, Danny Burk

-- Danny Burk (, December 13, 2001.

I second the recommendation for using a long AC base plate. My Wisner Pocket Expedition only had one tripod socket, Wisner just added a second one on request. When I was using the Wista DX this long plate made all the difference when using a 360mm telephoto by allowing the placement of the camera/lens center of gravity just above the ball head.

-- Georges Pelpel (, December 13, 2001.

In theory, I prefer a three-way head to a ball for LF. When I bought a B1, it was primarily intended for 35, but I ended up using the B1 for LF too, simply because it's so smooth and easy to adjust in fine increments. The 3047 was more difficult to make those fine adjustments. So while I wouldn't claim the B1 is superior to every other 3 way--I don't know the Gitos--it certainly is better than the 3047.

-- Steve Singleton (, December 13, 2001.

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