Arca-Swiss F-line Field 4x5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm totally new to large format (I don't even have a camera yet!), so apologies in advance if this is dumb. I've been looking around for a 4x5 camera that seems like it would be good for my uses (amateur; landscape & architecture mostly, but with a human being thrown in from time to time). I ran across the Arca F Field via Jack Dykinga's book, 'Large Format Nature Photography', and have a question about it I hope someone can answer.

The camera has a 6x9 front frame/standard and a 4x5 in the rear. Will the narrower bellows in the front restrict movements very much (if at all) or restrict the lenses that can be used with this camera (as compared with using the 4x5 front standard, that is)? I can't find info form the company on this one, but B+H doesn't mention

Thanks for the help! Tom

-- Tom Westbrook (, January 14, 2002


Tom--your question is not at all dumb or inappropriate. The AS system is confusing to the novice as it was to me, and I'm still asking questions, etc. and I am not 100% a authority.

I have the camera you are refering to--a 6x9 front & 4x5 back which is called the AS compact field--it does come with a wide angle bellows (make sure it does) i believe--My system of lenses with this particular camera with wa bellows is as follows and without problems: a 65mm, 90mm, 152mm, 155mm, 210mm. I am looking at a tele--300 to 360.

Keep in mind that if you get roll film backs as accessories, one would need 4x5 roll film backs for this particular set up.

The concept behind the AS system is that it is "modular"--ie., design a system to go up or down in size format- a very very nice Swiss feature. Raymond

-- Raymond A. Bleesz (, January 14, 2002.

If you go back to the B&H web site and click on the specifications tab you can get the details about rise and fall. You will be limited to 25mm rise and 35mm fall on the front standard. I have the Discovery, which has the larger lensboard and a 100mm rise. Whether you will miss the additional rise provided with the larger lensboard or not is another matter, but for architecture you will definitely use rise -- it's just a matter of how much. But, if you look in Dykinga's book at page 56 you will see how you can "cheat" a bit to give yourself some additional rise.

In terms of lenses, I don't think you should be limited unless you get an old barrel lens that you need remounted into an old, large shutter such as an Ilex #5.

If you are thinking Arca-Swiss, give Jeff at Badger Graphics a call. He can probably answer most of your LF questions, but they are one of the few companies that stock A-S and Jeff knows his stuff.

I'd also start reading in the archives here.

Welcome to the group!

-- Jennifer Waak (, January 14, 2002.


The Arca Swiss F-line field would be an excellent choice for what you want to use it for. Looking through Jack Dykinga's book (my Christmas gift too), there are examples of him using a 58mm lens through a 400mm lens, so it should pretty much cover your needs. I have an older Arca Swiss & can attest that the movements are more than adequate. I use far more movements for the occasional commecial job that pays for my hobby than in the nature work I really enjoy.

Another resurce is The F-Stop ( They have scanned the AS system layout that shows the range of components available. I too, have had a hard time looking for specs on the Field version, but pretty much know what it is.

Good luck & welcome to LF!

-- Ted Brownlee (, January 14, 2002.

I have an AS, and I would prefer the 4x5 front along with the 4x5 back, primarily because of the expanded movements that one obtains. Is there really that much difference in weight?

-- neil poulsen (, January 14, 2002.

Tom, me again. I agree with all of the previous posters that the F-Field would work well for you. I also think the Discovery would work equally well, if not better, for half the price. The big differences between the two are that the Discovery has a regular monorail vs. the telescopic and that the Discovery has a full-sized lensboard (unless I missed something really obvious). And the Discovery is a pound lighter (FWIW). I recently traveled with mine, and it easily fit into one of the rolling carry-on bags -- just took off the bellows and turned both standards flat with the monorail. So, I could carry the camera, 3 lenses, film, meter, etc. along with clothes for padding, onto the plane.

If you think you may want to do close-up work or use really long lenses (such as 600mm), another consideration may be that the long bellows for the F-Field is 50cm and for a camera with 4x5 front and rear standard is 70cm. The included bellows on the F-Field is 24cm (so max of 240mm lens focused at infinity) while the included bellows for a camera with 4x5 front and rear standard is 30cm. I'm a bit of a long-lens person, so I notice these things.

Also, consider picking up the Steve Simmons book, Using the View Camera. It's a good intro without being too overwhelming. The Kodak view camera book is pretty good as well.

Overall, A-S is a great system, you can't go wrong.

-- Jennifer Waak (, January 14, 2002.

Tom, I can only endorse the suggestion of considering the Discovery. As there are various ways to turn this camera into a real small package, there seems little sense to the 6x9 front. I enjoy the Discovery a lot, it is superbly manufactured, and easy to use, even in the field.

-- Marcus Leonard (, January 15, 2002.

Everything is a compromise, but I would go with the 6x9 front route both for practical and aesthetic reasons if I were to use an Arca Swiss.

The main advantages of using the smaller 6x9 front are size and weight. The lens board for the 6x9 is 110mm sq. whereas for a full size 4x5 front, it is 171mm sq. If you carry a few lenses, you would require a much larger case to hold the much larger (4x5 front) lens boards unless you get a reducing adapter board so you could mount all lenses in the smaller (110mm) boards. The adapter board will increase the distance from the lens to the film plane, that means you need to mount some wide angle lenses like a 75mm and down on a recessed board. The tapered wide angle bellows that comes with the 6x9 front camera is made of leather and the whole package of the Arca Swiss 45FC is one of the best-looking 4x5 cameras you will ever see.

The disadvantage of the 6x9 is the front rise (about 25mm). For landscape and wide angle work, it is adequate. But in extreme architectural situations, you may feel restricted. One solution to overcome that is to mount the lens off-axis to gain about 15mm of rise. [Fall is not a problem, as the front/back standards is a combined 130mm.]

The choice is up to you.

BTW, I think you should also consider Ebony cameras (both the folding and non-folding versions) as they offer small size, light weight and rigidity. Some Ebony models are constricted of only titanium and ebony wood. They are very pleasing to the eyes as well, according to many owners of this forum.

-- Sunny Ray (, January 15, 2002.


Here is an option that might be the best of both worlds.

I think that you will want the additional rise the Discovery offers for architecture. It is better to have your lens run out of coverage before your camera run out of movements!

If you are worried about the size of the larger lens boards, try this.

Arca-Swiss makes an adapter board that fits on the Discovery, just like its standard boards. The adapter board accepts Linhof Technika type boards. They also make an adapter that accepts the smaller Arca- Swiss 6x9 boards. The Technika adapter is probably a better bet, since the smaller Arca-Swiss boards are more expensive than the Technika boards. Also, there are lots of used Technika boards out there, and not too many small Arca Boards. This way, you can have all the movements you need, a lighter camera, smaller, less expensive, lens boards, and more room in your backpack. This set up will be perfect for architecture and carrying into the field.

If you decide to upgrade, the Discovery can be upgraded to something very close the the F-Line, for less money than buying a new F-Line.

Badger Graphics is a highly recommended source. So is the F-Stops Here. Also try Photomark in the Phoenix area (Ask for Rod). I think that Badger and Photomark might have the best prices. Both Badger and Photomark show the F-Field on their websites. Check them out.

Good luck.

-- Dave Karp (, January 15, 2002.

Thanks all for you input.

I'll check out the Discovery again. One drawback with that camera (or so I've read) is that you can't fit the other AS 'system' parts to turn it into, say, a 5x7 in the future. Is that true? [I've been tossing around the 5x7 option, too, but that's another story.] As for weight the Field is 7lbs., the Classic (with the 4x5 front) is 7.5lbs., & the Discovery is 6.6 lbs. Weights vary depending on the source used. These are from the Arca brochure, except the Field, which is from B+H.

Anyway, for an education in LF, I found a place in town that rents LF, but only Sinar f1, f2 & p2 and Horseman LX (which of those would be closest to the AS, by the way?). I'll rent a camera for a few weekends to get a better idea what my requirements are.

Thanks! Tom

-- Tom Westbrook (, January 15, 2002.

having read these answers, no one has brought up whether or not there is a wide angle bellows available for the field version of the F-line camera. If s othis will take care of your shift needs. The limited rise on the 6x9 standard doesn't necessarily limit the amount of rise youcan use as there is also the possibility of using the indirect rise method of setting up your camera. This involves tilting the monorail upwards or down wards and then tilting the front and rear standards to the vertical level. because the Arca-Swiss F Camera is a yaw free design you won't have any problems if you also need to swing. In addition because the rise mechanism is above the swing and tilt points you won't have to refocus if you decide to change the amount of rise or shift you need.

p.s. Thank you for reminding me ofthe new Dykinga book. Today is my birthday and i have an amazon g.c. to use!

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, January 15, 2002.

If you go with any of the standard (non-field) versions of the F-line cameras (includingthe Discovery), you can use lenses as short as 45mm with the standard lensboard without needing a deeply recessed board. For all lenses shorter than 135mm you will want to use a wide angle bellows to get full use of the camera movements and lenses image circles.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, January 15, 2002.

Just to toss in another idea: I used an Arca 6x9 a few years back and liked it very much, it's a gem!!! This camera has the 6x9 standard of the "field" you are looking at, but a 6x9 rollfilm back instead of the 4x5 back. You may think "makes no difference, I can always use a roll film back on my 4x5". But the truth is, if you buy let's say 3 lenses for your 4x5, they wouldn't work so great for a 6x9 camera, cause you probably would like to have 3 different focal lengths more suited to 6x9... Anyway, just think about whether you really want sheet film, or whether you could get away with the much more economical and easier to handle roll film. You still would have all the advantages of perspective control. The Arca is the best 6x9 camera I could imagine!

-- Andreas Carl (, January 15, 2002.

Happy birthday Ellis!

-- Sal Santamaura (, January 15, 2002.


The Dykinga book is nice, and good for someone like me just starting out in large format. I have been reading your posts for quite some time. Based on them, I doubt whether there is much in there that you do not already know. It does have some nice photos though.

-- Dave Karp (, January 15, 2002.

thank you everyone for your good wishes. I decided not to get the Dykinga book mentioned but one of his other books --Desert and a copy of Robert Adams' Why People Photoraph.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, January 16, 2002.

I believe the Arca "field" camera comes with the wide angle bellows standard. From about 47mm up to 180 or 210mm, all is well. If you want to use a lens longer than a 210mm or so, you'll then have to add on a longer bellows (they make a 40cm and a 50cm, as I recall), AND you'll need more extension than that furnished by the standard 30cm collapsible rail. Something to consider when plotting any Arca system.

-- Scott Atkinson (, January 16, 2002.


I do the exact typr of shooting that you do. And for that reason I own two cameras. I have a lightweight field camera and I also own an Arca Swiss F-Line Metric. My front standard is 6x9 and I have 6x9 and 4x5 rears. I have the 6x9 binocular reflex viewer which is a realy gem. It is small and very lightweight.

I regularly shoot 120 rollfilm in 6x9 horseman backs and use the Arca Polaroid 6x9 back as well for architectural assignments.

When I need 4x5 or a client requires it, the flip of a simple lever and I slide off the 6x9 and slide on the 4x5. I leave the 4x5 w/a bellows attached to the back at all times. I use lenses ranging from 58 to 210 and as a result only carry the one bellows.

My field camera is an Ebony. It is a great camera and it has been a worthy travel mate.

Take Care -Bill

-- Bill Smithe (, January 16, 2002.

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