Friday, March 6, 2009
Tour of an Arca-Swiss Discovery Part 1
I thought I would take a slight departure from my usual location based posts and do a short series on the camera itself. Arca-Swiss makes several cameras and they all share some similar traits and qualities. Foremost is top notch design and engineering. This camera is brilliant in it's design and practically a work of art. You might use the analogy that an Arca-Swiss to any other camera is what a BMW is to a Pontiac. The ultimate camera.
I cannot say enough about the build quality. This is a rock solid camera. It has smooth controls. There are no gaps or looseness to this camera at all. The design and engineering-impeccable.
One last comment on the design, if you want to find out more, you really have to look as Arca-Swiss does not have a website. You can download some info in a couple locations but I think it adds to the cachet.
Here is the Discovery in basic configuration:
Start with a 30cm rail. The camera ships with a non folding rail. I find 30cm to be plenty long (and easily expandable) but the non folding rail make hauling it in a backpack a chore (note the Discovery has it's own very nice case that works for transportation, but I find less useful on the trail). I swapped out to a 30cm folding rail and now it goes into a backpack easily.
Two 171mm standards. These are large standards. The newer model F-Line cameras moved to a 141 frame which is more compact. I find the 171mm frames acceptable, but if you use the 171mm lensboards those are quite large and again carrying multiple lenses in the field is difficult. I added a 171 to Arca 110 front board adapter Now the lenses mount on a 110mm Arca board and pop onto the adapter. Again a huge improvement in carrying capability.
Finally note the standard bellows. It lists as good to about 380cm, but I think it can go at least 10% farther. This works well with 150 or 210mm lenses. It can work shorter than 150, but you will get limits in rise. For example, I use it with my 75mm lens. You can focus it, but back tilt is your only real movement.
So in it's basic configuration you have a solid and functional camera. I think in the basic set up it is more geared to the studio and maybe the location you drive right to. For me as a landscape photographer, the modifications I mention above improve the camera greatly as it becomes much more portable.
One of the things I found when sampling a metal flat bed camera was that the flatbed was easier to carry. The Arca is a bit bulkier and means a slightly bigger pack. BUT the Arca is significantly the easier and smoother camera to operate on the tripod. That ended up being one huge factor for me and the purchase. I'll gladly trade a slight extra weight and bulk in a pack for stability and ease of control on the tripod.
A couple of final notes. In the image I have a 210mm lens focused at infinity. I have a bit more room and can bring focus to under 5'. If you slightly overhang the ends (still locks down solid)you can do a 240mm lens. A 47mm lens also work with ease on this camera-even without a recessed lensboard.