Arca-Swiss Technical Cameras
Even in this age of electronic image capturing, advanced large format cameras with their range of movement are the only solution to many common technique problems. Arca Swiss cameras offer perfectly designed, ergonomic controls to optimally adjust perspective and planes-of-focus quickly and precisely.
Arca-Swiss camera systems, with its standardized and interchangeable components, give photographers all the options needed to match the equipment to any imaginable assignment.
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What Sets Arca-Swiss Apart
The Arca-Swiss RM3Di body feature geared movements which are self-locking, self-arresting and very precise. The Arca-Swiss Factum uses a friction-lock without gearing for faster movement and a more compact body size.
All bodies feature all in-plane movement. This means that rise, fall and shift only move the digital back within the static image circle projected by the lens. This makes all the bodies highly adept at intra-image-circle stitching. Other brands of technical camera bodies often have at least one movement which moves the lens rather than the back which causes parallex errors when stitching images together.
Arca-Swiss took a very different approach to lens mounting as compared to other tech camera manufacturers. While other tech cameras rely on the helical focus mounts provided by Schneider and Rodenstock, Arca-Swiss chose to build a 5″ helical mount directly into the R series bodies. This helical mount rotates five full times (1800°) for up to 10 times more precision (minute adjustablility) than a standard helical mount and features very fine-grain markings with movements that are fluid but fully self-arresting.
For users creating focusing presets (zone focusing, or hyperfocal focusing), this level of precision makes it easy to return to a preset. Every time the system is set to a certain bayonet position an incredibly precise and repeatable focus distance is provided.
The focusing bayonet is built into the body allowing most lenses to be focused much closer (smaller minimum focus distances) than when using a standard helical mount. The 43XL, for instance, is able to focus to 12″ without any extension tubes. In addition, the “rotaslide spacer” included with most lenses can be used as a defacto extension tube for another lens. This means that users with two or more lenses with very close focus distances can be achieved without the need for additional accessories.
An additional benefit to building the focus bayonet into the body itself is universal availability of tilts and swings. With all three bodies tilt and swing (+/- 5°) are available for every lens from 23mm to 210mm. No adapters, special lens panels or accessories are required for tilt/swing; it is built into the body and is always available. The tilt/swing mechanism (the internal panel known as the “tum”) provides a very strong zero detent to ensure perfectly parallel alignment when no tilt or swing is desired.
One of Arca-Swiss’ chief design priorities is to make as many operations possible with only one hand. In the field this means more operations can be done hand-held (where one hand must remain holding the body) and can be done with only one glove removed in cold weather. This makes for an overall more elegant experience.
The Arca-Swiss RM3Di and Arca-Swiss Factum are compatible with formats up to 6x9cm. All support all digital backs with mounts available for all modern digital backs. The Variofinder natively supports all these film formats and lenses with its unique “zooming” element and magnetic masking system that allows for a quick change to any [focal length + format size]
Digital Back Compatibility
|Brand||mm||Suffix||f/||Image Circle||Filter Thread||Length||Weight||Center Filter||80mp||60mp||50mp||<60mp||Cambo||Arca|
Used Schneider Lenses are available. Contact us for more info on these and availability.
Available Arca-Swiss Bodies
|Brand||Model||Weight||Width||Height||Natural Rise||Natural Fall||Natural Shift||Rear Only Capable||Tilt||Tilt Method|
|Arca-Swiss||RM2D||700||150||150||20||10||+/- 15||Yes||+/- 5||None|
|Arca-Swiss||RM3Di||1150||185||180||30||20||+/- 15||Yes||+/- 5||Built-In|
|Arca-Swiss||RL3Di||1500||225||230||40||20||+/- 20||Yes||+/- 5||Built-In|
Weight: Weight (in grams) of the body only, no adapter plate, no viewfinder, no optional handles.
Movement: Shift On some bodies only one direction of movement is provided. In such cases the body is rotated 90 degress to provide the other direction of movement. For instance the Arca Swiss Factum provides rise and fall when oriented normally, and is rotated 90 degrees in order to use that movement for left/right shift. In the case of the Arca Factum an optional L Bracket provides for fast mounting in either orientation.
Support & Compatibility
What makes an Arca an Arca
The entire Arca R Series supports every modern Schneider and Rodenstock lens from 23mm to 210mm. Due to the fact that they chose a more traditional lens mount system, Digital Transitions can arrange the mounting of unusual, exotic or legacy lenses. The large size of Arca-Swiss’ focusing bayonet prevents mechanical vignette even with unusual lens+movement combinations.
Arca-Swiss has been continuously making view cameras since the 1950s. One mantra they have adhered to throughout that history is to make their systems as forward compatible, backward compatible and cross-platform compatible as possible. This is especially true of the Arca-Swiss R Series.
All Arca-Swiss R bodies can accept the standard Arca-Swiss Binocular Viewers, Rotaslide, and Compendium Shade and Ground Glass. These accessories work equally well on Arca- Swiss’ line of view cameras such as the Arca-Swiss Monolith.
The Arca-Swiss RM3Di can be used as the front standard of one of those Arca-Swiss Monoliths, providing the ultra-fine precision of the R series focusing bayonet. This is especially useful for focus stacking and macro work where it is beneficial to be able to affect focus in a very minute, very evenly spaced and very repeatable manner. Using the markings on the lens bayonet it is quite easy to do a five frame focus stack with perfectly even spacing – and then repeat it several times for additional subject matter.
There is an adapter to use R-series lenses on the traditional front standard of an Arca-Swiss view camera. This means if you own both an Arca-Swiss view camera and an Arca-Swiss R-series body you can share lenses between them. One advantage of using these lenses on a full-sized view camera is the very large range of movement and availability of larger and simultanous swings and tilts.
And, of course, the body is natively compatible with all “Arca-Swiss compatible” quick release plates, rails, and mounting systems. In fact, in addition to the standard-orientation mount being “Arca-Swiss compatible” the top accessory mount is as well. This means the body can be reversed 180° (“upside down”) so that the larger “rise” movement becomes a larger fall, for instance, when shooting canyons or a skyline from the top of a tall building. When mounted upside down the Variofinder can be mounted into the “bottom” mounting point.
The Arca Swiss Variofinder is the best rangefinder in the world of tech cameras. The view is very high in quality, offering a clear bright view with very low distortion and an accurate view of the final scene. A unique “zooming” and mask system allow the Variofinder to provide an accurate framing preview of nearly any combination of format size and lens. In addition, the Variofinder can be rotated to sit vertical or horizontal to match a digital back mounted in either orientation.
Tech Camera Technicals
Digital Transitions is one of the largest Arca-Swiss dealers in the world. We pride ourselves on knowing these tech camera systems better than anyone. This page is provided to help guide our customers early in their process of selecting the body and lenses that best match their needs and budget. But the numbers (price and specifications) are only a small part of the process of selecting a tech camera. The workflows, ergonomics, aesthetics, and “feels right” factors should weigh heavily in this decision.
We strongly encourage you to contact us for an appointment at our office, a remote demonstration (video+audio+screen+file sharing), or an evaluation rental (counted towards purchase) so we can help you determine which fits your needs best.
Image Circle (mm): the projection size inside of which you can shift/tilt/swing and stitch. All else being equal, a larger image circle is better. These are the “stated IC” reported by the manufacturers not the “usable IC”. Rodenstock tends to be conservative; Schneider tends to exaggerate.
Center Filter: Is a Center Filter recommended with this lens? An exclamation mark indicates a CF is especially recommended. A CF reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor, leading to longer exposures. But using a CF makes the frame more evenly illuminated, leaving less “heavy lifting” for the LCC to do, therefore reducing issues with shadow noise & color fidelity.
Filter Size (mm): Size of the thread (in mm) of the front element. Notably Cambo’s Compendium offers a built-in filter holder which allows the user to maintain a single set of filters which will work with any lens.
DB Compatibility: Smaller pixel sizes (in microns) cannot accept light from strong angles. The IQ180 with 5.2 micron pixels, for instance, does not work well with the Schneider 28XL or 35XL. “Limited” means you cannot use the entire image circle – when doing large shifts/rise/tilt/swing/stitching you may encounter severe color cast. When using a combination marked “limited” it is very important to use a center filter wherever practical.
Note that the P30/P30+ and P21/P21+ are exceptions to this chart. They perform very poorly with tech camera lenses and we strongly recommend against such a combination.
TS Available: WTS Available: With Arca every lens can be tilted or swung. With Alpa a separate TS adapter is available which allows tilt/swing with all SB (short barrel) Alpa lenses; only some lenses are available in a SB version. With Cambo only lenses in a Cambo TS mount can tilt/swing and no adapter is required; only some lenses are available in TS mounts.
Weight (grams): The weight of the lens or body by itself. Final weight of lens with shutter, camera mount, and center filter (if applicable) will be a bit more. Final weight of a body will be similarly more when adding accessories like a viewfinder.
Length (mm): This is the total length of the lens (in mm), including the rear element. Distance of the front element from the mount point will therefore be a bit less.
Rear Only: Are all available rise/fall/shift operations on the rear of the body? This is preferable when stitching as it keeps the point of view (determined by the location of the lens) the same between frames.
|Product Name||Arca-Swiss Factum||Arca-Swiss RM3Di|
|Shift Left (mm)||15||15|
|Shift Right (mm)||15||15|
|Tilt Forward (deg)||5||5|
|Tilt Backwards (deg)||5||5|
|Max Format Size||6×9 cm||6×9 cm|