Arca-Swiss vs. Linhof Technikardan 45s : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I would appreciate some help/ I am going to switch from field cameras--wisners-- to either the Arca Swiss or the Linhof technikardan. i have read many reviews/anaklyses of the cameras, their distributors, etc. both on this site and elsewhere. So I have read about alleged problems with folding/unfolding the Linhof, the rail system with the Arca swiss, etc. My question is simple: Which camera is better suited to non-studio photography? I work a lot in landscapes, but long hiking trips are rare. I do some architecture, and so need the ability to use wide angle lenses as effortlessly as is feasible and affordable. I use lenses from the 72mm XL to the fuji 450mm, so i realize that a pair of bellows is a necessity. generally i use either a backpack, a large F64 or a smaller Tenba, and have but rarely use a Tamrac wheeled case. Another way to ak this which replacement will fit into my working system better?

thanks in advance.


-- Bob Moulton (, March 22, 2002


Is there a reason you have excluded the Sinar F1 or F2? I looked seriously at the Arca Swiss some time back and decided that for my mix of field and studio use the Sinar was preferable. One major reason was the availability of used and rental components such as bellows, rails, lensboards, etc. For hauling around the Sinar has the advantage of smaller lensboards too.

I think either the Arca Swiss or the Sinar is a good choice as they are a modular design with great flexibility. The Linhof seems to forgo the modularity for a somewhat smaller package size.

-- Dave Schneider (, March 22, 2002.

Hi Bob-

I have a compact F-Line metric with micrometric orbix. It's the finest all around 4x5 camera I've used. All movements except base tilts and swings are self locking geared and only require 1 hand to adjust. The camera itself has exceedingly smooth operations and my compact model can be folded with a lens mounted and carried in one of the moderately large sized Tamarac (614?) shoulder bags. Set up takes just a few seconds to unfold the rail and mount onto the tripod. Since it is a system camera various bellows rails and front and rear attachments allow accomidation to almost any preference. With the standard bellows I routinely use a 110mm XL with extreme movements upto a 400mm Tele on my meager 30cm rail. If you have any specific questions let me know.

-- Jim Bancroft (, March 22, 2002.

and i use a technikardan s and the camera is just great. very fast to handle, little in transport position and after short time you will be familiar to change her in this position in few seconds. i like to use wide lenses, starting with 35 and 47mm. works perfect.......

-- rainer viertlböck (, March 22, 2002.

What is the rail problem that about which you speak for the Arca-Swiss? I have the Classic-F, and I've never had a problem with the standard 30cm telescoping rail. In fact, I think it's an advantage for non-studio work.

I have the Arca-Swiss Classic F with the leather wide-angle bellows, and it enables me to use lenses from 65mm through 180mm. (I use a recessed lens board for the 65mm, so it's possible you might need one for the 72mm.) I don't have a 210mm, but it's my understanding that this bellows focuses a 210mm lens fine, as long as you aren't doing close-ups. For lenses 250mm and longer, I have the long 700mm Arca-Swiss bellows. I like the combination of just these two bellows, because it minimizes bellows swapping. (I don't own the standard 350mm bellows.) The leather meets 80% of my needs, since I don't often use lenses above 180mm.

I tried the synthetic Arca-Swiss WA bellows and didn't care for it. I traded it in for the leather WA, and like it much better for my purposes. However, it's possible to focus the synthetic bellows for lenses wider than 65mm. (e.g. 47mm.)

Another thing that I like about the Arca-Swiss is the ability to roll the camera onto the back 15cm rail and remove this rail and the camera from the 30cm bench. The camera and this rail can be stowed conveniently in a backpack, and the remaining portion of the bench and 2nd 15cm rail can be stowed elsewhere in the backpack. An advantage of the Linhof is that all can be stored at the same spot.

If you get Arca-Swiss, you will want to consider the reducing lensboard so that you can use the Arca-Swiss 110mm boards. (Not necessary with the Linhof.) I got my camera with a custom made reducing lens board to use Graphic Pacemaker boards, and this works fine. The standard Arca-Swiss lensboards are huge.

I think that the use of the 450mm Fujinon lens on the Linhof is probably a bit iffy. The maximum for the Lihhof is 19", and others on this forum have indicated the Linhof can have stability problems at this extension. Plus, you would get virtually no extension.

I don't think that you could use the 450mm on the Arca-Swiss with the standard 350mm bellows. And even with the long 700mm bellows, a 450mm lens would still be iffy with the standard 30cm telescoping rail. (30cm bench with two 15cm rails.) I focused a 450mm lens with this combination on my Arca-Swiss, and while the 700mm bellows was plenty long (and then some), the 15cm rails were stretched to the limit on the 30cm bench. However, you could get an extra 30cm rail along with the two standard 15cm rails. Combining the 30cm bench with a 15cm rail and a 30cm rail, you would have no problem getting both the length and stability that you would need for the 450mm lens on the Arca-Swiss. (W/extension.)

One advantage of the Arca-Swiss is the international Grafloc back for 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, 6x12 work with the many backs that are available on the used market. I don't think this back comes standard on the Linhof. You could check to see if you can obtain an internation Grafloc back either new or on the used market for the Linhof. The Arca-Swiss also comes standard with an excellent Fresnel focusing screen. Without shims, other straight GG's will not work on the Arca-Swiss.

Summarizing, if you don't use the 450mm much, and then only at infinity, the Linhof might be best. It's got the small lens board, the bellows length that you would need, all in a convenient package. Aside from the bellows problems (for some people), it's a great camera. With the WA leather and the 700mm bellows, the reducing lensboard, and the extra 30cm rail, the Arca-Swiss would work splendidly. But, you would have some additional cost for the couple of extra items. (W/the WA Leather and the 700mm bellows, you could skip getting the standard 350mm bellows.)

Have you seen the reviews for both these cameras on this site? See also Check back threads, too. There's been a lot of discussion on both these cameras.

-- neil poulsen (, March 22, 2002.

In my opinion, either the Arca Swiss or the Linhof would work for you as each are wonderful precision instruments. Your requirements will most likely benefit from some additional accessories for your desired lens utilization. Both would benefit from the use of bag bellows for wide angle shots. The Linhof has a support bar for macro/long lens applications and Robert White in England was able to assist me save some big bucks on a bag bellows and the support bar for my Technikardan.

As a result, the tie breaker has to be what feels good for you when you have an opportunity to put each on a tripod, set it up and take it through its paces. One of them will inherently "feel" better to you. Every photographer feels proud for what equipment they selected as they rightfully should. Thankfully, we still have many quality cameras and lenses to select from. I am sure that wherever you reside, there are some willing large format photographers that will help you with this decision by sharing a bit of their time with you. I am just outside of Denver and would be happy to show you the Linhof. Good Luck

-- Michael Kadillak (, March 23, 2002.

Asymmetrical axis lens tilt>Arca-Swiss M/Orbix ($$$$); Base lens tilt>Standard Arca-Swiss FC ($$$); Center axis lens tilt> TK45S ($$). Picture quality Orbix ++++, FC ++++, TK ++++, Wisner ++++, Hoffman ++++. Ease of Use: Orbix +++, FC +++, TK +++, Wisner ++. Durability of camera body: Orbix +++, FC +++, TK +++, Wisner, ++. Stability of Adjustments: Orbix +++; FC ++; TK ++, Wisner +. Upgradeability to larger format: Arca Swiss + ($$$), TK -. US technical assistance: Arca Swiss ??? TK: Uncle Bob ++++. Overall quality: Orbix ++++, AC ++++, TK ++++, Wisner ++. Front rise: Arca-Swiss ++ (without special part), TK ++++. Wear and tear: In all of these metal cameras, the bellow pleats are exposed to wear and tear unless precautions are taken to prevent abrasion. You need to keep hard objects (e.g., lensboard) away from the bellows. You do not want camera rubbing back and forth as it is being transported. You will be better off if someone demonstrates the proper way to fold and unfold the TK bellows, and have you then show that you can reproduce the

-- David (, March 23, 2002.


Both camera's are fine pieces of equipment, and to make a choice is difficult. If you have the possibility to get on-hands experience with both camera: do that.

You have to see and feel them.

From the spec's alone you pretty much made a shortlist of camera's that can do all you want. It is the personal touch and feel that helps you make the final descission, maybe you hate the way how the TK45s "feels" but love the ARCA.


-- Huib Smeets (, March 23, 2002.


As others have mentioned, either camera would be great for your application. You've done your homework well and narrowed your choices down to two of the finest cameras made. As Huib says, it really may just come down to how the two cameras feel in your hands (not to be underestimated).

I haven't compared prices lately, but that may also be a consideration. Badger Graphic occasionally has various Arca Swiss models on sale (their "normal" prices are also quite good). A while back (December, 2001??), Bob Salomon posted something in this forum about the Linhof TK45S being on sale. Not sure if those sale prices are still in effect, but I'm sure Bob could tell you. If I recall, the savings were substantial.

WRT to the TK45S and long lenses. Yeah, the location of the tripod sockets does present an unbalanced load at long extension. That's inherent in the design of this camera. Linhof does make their accessory macro support bracket to aleviate this problem, but I don't use one (it's big, heavy, expensive and must be removed from the camera to fold it up for transport). The unbalanced load puts added strain on the tripod head. So a sturdy head along with a good quick release plate helps a lot. I use an Arca Swiss B1 with a RRS QR plate that runs the full length of the main rail section. This lets me slide the camera backwards when using long lenses. It is still not perfectly centered, but it helps some. Kirk and Wimberely make similar plates. The longest lens I currently use is the 450mm Fujinon C that you mentioned. For normal landscape use, this combination works fine. The ftf of this lens for infinity focus is 425mm and the actual maximum extension of the TK45S is about 505mm. So, you have an extra 3" of extension for closer focusing. In actual practice, I can focus down to about 8 - 9' with this combo. Obviously not true macro, but pretty close for a 450mm lens. Also, the 450mm C is so light, it puts minimal loading on the front standard. Much less than the heavier 450mm CM-W (or a 480mm APO Symmar or APO Sironar-N). In short, for normal landscape use, I find the TK45S and 450mm Fujinon C to be a perfectly useable combo (especially with a good tripod head and QR plate).

On the other end, it easily handles the wide angle lenses - with the accessory bag bellows. Should work fine and give you all the movements you need with your 72mm SA XL.

I've limited my comments so far to the TK45S, because I use one and am quite familiar with it. I do not own an Arca Swiss, but have friends who do, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are of comparable quality to the Linhof. For me, the main reason I didn't go with the Arca was that I got a good deal on a used (but mint condition) TK45S and bag bellows. It was basically everything I needed to support my full range of lenses (75mm - 450mm). Plus, I already had several Linhof/Wista boards that I had used with other cameras in the past (this board style is a bit of a defacto standard for field cameras). This outfit completely met my needs without buying a lot of additional parts and accessories (OK, I did have to buy the RRS QR plate). For the Arca, I would have had to buy both the bag bellows and a longer bellows (the standard 380mm will not work with the 450mm Fujinon C), and possibly a longer rail (from the spec sheet, the max. extension with the 300mm optical bench is 450mm, enough to focus the 450mm C at infinity, but not much closer). I would have also either had to buy a bunch of new AS lensboards, or an adapter to use Linhof/Wista style boards. Like Linhof, the AS acessories are very expensive. For my needs, to support my full range of lenses, the total cost of the AS system would have been substantially more than the TK45S (when was the last time you heard of a Linhof being the "low cost" alternative). Of course, this also reflects the fact that I got a good deal on a used camera. So, it's not entirely an apples:apples comparison. Just wanted to point out that when comparing prices of the two systems, be sure to take into account all of the acessories needed to support your full range of lenses.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, March 23, 2002.

I use a Linhof Technikardan 45S with lenses from 72 mm to 450 mm. It works fine for all of these. As you say, you will need the regular and bag bellows. One nice feature of the Technikardan is the ease of changing bellows: they clip onto the back of the front standard and the front of the rear standard. On many field cameras you have to remove the ground glass portion of the rear standard and pull the bellows through the rear standard--this is slower and leaves one wanting an additional hand. On the Technikardan changing bellows is quicker and easier.

One poster wondered whether the Fuji-C 450 mm can be focused closer than infinity: the answer is yes, down to about 3 meters. The reasons are that the camera has slightly more extension than the published specs and the flange focal distance of the Fuji-C is less than 450 mm so there is a small telephoto effect of reduced bellows extension. I find the rigidity at maximum extension fully adequate but not perfect. I don't think the rigidity could be improved much without increasing the weight of the camera. In windy conditions you might want to shield the camera with an umbrella or use the macro support rail. I haven't had any significant problems with using the 450 mm lens. Sometimes I have to carefully adjust the parallelism of the standards.

I have been quite pleased with my Technikardan and have ended my rotation through various 4x5 cameras. Compared to the other 4x5 field cameras that I have used, the Technikardan is more precise, more convenient to adjust and works better with a wider range of focal lengths. The Technikardan is especially better with wide lenses than many of field cameras: the 72 mm lens is a pleasure to use compared to the difficulties on some other field cameras. The drawback of the Technikardan is that it is heavy compared to most other field cameras, so it is probably not a good choice for long distance hiking.

I have heard that the 90 mm Super-Angulon XL is difficult to use on the Technikardan because of the size of the rear element and the size of the hole in the front standard of the camera. I don't have personal experience with this lens. I use a smaller and lighter 90 mm lens--it has less coverage than the XL, but I have never needed more coverage. The 90 mm XL is very large and heavy, and so for most is probably not the best choice for use in the field. If you already have this lens, this issue is one thing to consider.

Once you understand the procedure, it is quick and easy to fold and unfold the Technikdardan. It is best to practice at first with the bellows removed. What Linhof should do is include a video showing the procedure. For now, read the instructions carefully and ask the seller or the internet for help if you don't understand.

I have never used an Arca-Swiss so I can't comment on those cameras.

-- Michael Briggs (, March 23, 2002.

Yes the TK 45S, the Master technika, the Technika 2000 and the Technorama 617S III are all still on special at very deep discounts with the US 5 year warranty through any camera store who does not sell gray market Linhof.

As for practicing opening and closing the TK without a bellows this really won't teach you how it is done as the bellows helps the standards to rotate properly.

Opening and closing a TK is very easy and all one needs do if they need help is call our 800 phone line. 800 735-4373.

-- Bob Salomon (, March 23, 2002.

I too own an Arca F-line C w/ microorbix and the leather wide angle bellows - I can confirm that this bellows works fine down to about 1m with a 210mm Sironar S (albeit w/o much movements, and of course the 30cm extension rail).
IMHO, this is truly a fine camera with an enormous range of absolutely yaw-free movements (you get up to 10cm front rise w/o any accessory, some studio monorails I know offer less here!), and rather easy to transport and set up, though not exactly light (I use a the medium size Tamrac rucksack).

The few things that could be better are a more durable finish (in my experience, it wears off rather fast at stressed edges, the Linhofs I saw looked more rugged to me), and a bit stiffer standard posts (IMHO these are just a tad too much on the lightweight side, though I experienced no real problems while using the camera).
If you prefer to work with direct movements and on-axis tilts, please consider that the orbix tilts on-axis only if no front rise is applied (but this can be overcome conviently by using indirect rise, using the base tilts).

-- Stefan Dalibor (, March 23, 2002.

If it might be helpful, I've started to put some information on the Arca-Swiss F-line Field camera on my web site at swiss.html. It's not too well organized or complete yet, but I have most of the major points covered and include a few photos. It's not a review, but a compilation of facts. If you see something I missed that you want to know, just email me and I'll try to answer.

-- Tom Westbrook (, March 23, 2002.

i'm using a technikardan S 45 with bag bellow, most of time with a apo 55mm and a 6x7 super rollex. I'm very happy with it, and i can use linhof lens bord, pola 545i back, 4x5 readyload... If you want to shoot only roll film, then arca swiss is more convenient if you want to rent equipment, then sinar is the best if you want to shoot 4x5 and backpack a lot...i think the winner is the technikardan arca 4x5 still a very good compromise (still large compare to a technikardan), and their binocular viewer is a dream ! I was looking for an arca swiss f line metrix 69, when i bought my linhof...then i found out, that i need to shoot 4x5, when i need to shoot in very wide angle ( crop to 6x12). Good luck

-- dg (, March 24, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ