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Thread: Just for Fun - Custom ARCA Swiss Architectural Camera

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    Just for Fun - Custom ARCA Swiss Architectural Camera


    I’ve had an idea for a custom architectural camera brewing for some time now, and I recently managed to get version #1 done! I am pretty happy with it; that said, it is more about function than aesthetic design. But it functions well!

    I have an ARCA Swiss M Line camera, which I love. But the thing is an absolute beast and doesn’t like to venture outside the studio much… And I am not getting any younger. So while looking at the gear I have for the camera, I thought I could come up with something much lighter & smaller, and ready to travel.

    I found some dovetail linear stages with both Coarse and Fine gearing… I took these and designed a couple of pieces to attach everything to, as well as to the Cube. Essentially, it is a double-dovetailed “L” bracket with some custom dovetail clamps to attach the original ARCA format frames to.

    This custom camera was designed for a limited usage:

    - With a digital back, only lenses from 35mm (28mm??) through 100mm can be used. Although that range could easily be enlarged.
    - With a mirrorless camera (Sony, etc…) you have the above LF lenses plus a bunch of MF lenses as well.
    - Movements are front tilt (Orbix), front focus, front L&R shift, rear rise & fall. Of course, you can swap these movements front-to-back by switching the lens and sensor around. All movements are about +- 18mm, except for rise & fall. That is set for 24mm & 12mm (it can also be modified).

    Why not just buy a RM3di? I was sorely tempted, but disliked the idea of having lenses remounted, etc.. I wanted a bit more freedom. And why not buy a Universalis? Well, I wanted to have a little “fun” and see what I could come up with.

    I am using this with a digital back and the Rotaslide, and everything is good so far! My next step is to get a custom part machined to connect a Sony A7RII to the rear clamp.

    The last photo shows this custom camera sitting on top of my M Line camera, just for an idea of scale. It's very small and light comparatively.

    Yeah, I know, I have way too much time on my hands…

    Thanks for looking!


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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Scottsdale, AZ
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    Re: Just for Fun - Custom ARCA Swiss Architectural Camera

    That's pretty cool ... nicely done!

    If you don't mind sharing, which make/model of linear stages did you use? (I'm noodling about another project for which I think they would be perfect.)

    As it happens, I've been working on something similar myself, although it's far more modest in scope and execution than what you've done. I originally started with a Toyo 23G that I've owned forever, but then switched to the smaller, lighter, and more rigid Toyo VX23D (Toyo's modern replacement for the '80s vintage 23G) after I discovered that B&H was closing out their demo versions quite inexpensively (at least relative to their original discounted price, let alone Toyo's MSRP.)

    For the moment, I've been focused on making it work with various mirrorless bodies and my Contax 645 and Contax N lenses (FYI, the image circle of the 17-35/f2.8 zoom is surprisingly large from ~19mm onward.) I also plan to mount my digital back on it eventually, somehow, but one step at a time, first things first, etc.

    Yesterday afternoon, I dug out the handful of Mamiya Universal and Polaroid 600 SE lenses I adapted to use on my Toyo 23G way back when by removing the focusing helicoids and mounting them on lens boards, and I was surprised how decently most of them performed.

    Unfortunately, their focal lengths are all a bit long given the smaller sensor size, which has now started me thinking about how modern, designed-for-digital, view camera lenses might perform ... a slippery slope indeed, eh?

    Anyway, kudos to you for your achievement and please do post back with any updates you make to it in the future.
    Last edited by Audii-Dudii; 30th August 2016 at 08:40. Reason: Didn't want to steal the OP's limelight

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    Re: Just for Fun - Custom ARCA Swiss Architectural Camera


    Thanks for the kind words! I had lots of fun with this project.

    I also looked hard at the Toyo a number of years ago; quite a nice camera!

    Thanks for the info on the Contax N 17-35mm... That is very helpful to know! Now that I am trying to design a mount for the Sony (or whichever) mirrorless camera, I am also trying to determine a (short) list of lenses for it as well.

    I am happy to share the info on the linear stages, but will do so in a PM to you; coming to you soon.

    Will be back with some more images once the Sony mount is done.


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