In an older post I wrote about the wide angle leather bellows that Arca-Swiss makes and how fine a piece of equipment it is. I also picked up a used synthetic wade angle bellows and that is the subject of this post.
The nutshell review is to skip this and go for the leather one. Yes, it costs more but it is more functional, easier to work with, and let's face it-just looks cooler.
Unlike the soft supple qualities of the leather bellows, the synthetic is stiff. I am sure that helps keep the light path open but it also makes it more fiddly to work with. Even changing the bellows which is literally a two second affair with the leather or standard bellows takes a while as the bag like qualities keep getting in the way.
It puffs up when in use and can act more like a sail than the other bellows. Being a landscape guy who frequents west Texas, wind is a common element I deal with. Adding any more features that catch wind is not something I like to do.
Even storage of the camera becomes more of a pain as the bellows sticks out on three sides from the camera meaning you have to carefully wrap it around the frame prior to putting it in your pack. This is the exact opposite of how the accordion folds of the leather and regular bellows fit nicely within the frame. I worry that heavy, long term use will weaken the material and potentially cause a light leak.
Then that cool factor. The leather bellows would get the approval of the Fonz, it is a finely crafted piece of leather. The synthetic bellows, on the other hand, has about zero cool factor.
So, yes the synthetic bellows will work, I just think an Arca-Swiss owner ought to just get a bellows that matches the engineering quality of the rest of the camera.
My final thought on it is I keep mine as somewhat of an insurance policy for my good leather bellows. I also now have a bellows frame I could send to the UK and see if the folks at Custom Bellows could make me something of a universal style bellows for my Arca.
Both images here have me set up in a local park, with a 125mm lens and the compendium. I think you might be able to see how stiff and sail like the synthetic bellows can be. Also note the Crown Graphic in the background.