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A 'rookie's' feedback about his very first experience with a view camera: the Cambo Actus G and Fuji GFX


My goal in attempting this experiment was to measure if the dream I had of using a view camera could be met by a positive experience in real life.
GraphicArt in Bern, Switzerland, was kind enough to lent me a Cambo Actus G, with an Actar 24 and a Schneider enlarger's 80mm lens mounted on a 39mm plate. Prior to the test, and following Rob's (@rdeloe) advice, I had sourced on eBay a Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 as well as a Pentax 645 75mm f/2.8 lenses.

Test took place over a week-end so it was pretty limited in scope, but large enough to get a very clear feeling about the experience : and this was great success. I realy took a lot of pleasure to use this piece of equipment and to change the way I took pictures.

View cameras is much about slowing down and taking time to adjust multiple settings and shape the focus plane in order to reach the targeted picture. Although equipped with a digital back, here a Fuji GFX, I clearly noticed the need to slow down and this resulted in a very pleasant experience. At the same time, I enjoyed the feedback provided by the digital back which helped me adjust the shooting parameters to reach the desired effect. The learning curve appeared much shorter than it probably would have been had I used an analogic view camera.

I cannot pretend to master the subtilties of Scheimpflug principle in such a short period of time. But I was able to use the application of this principle to reach a much shallow depth of field in portraits and still nature pictures. I was amazed with the results and the ease of use to obtain them.

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Weather was not clement enough to allow me spending long hours in nature chasing the perfect landscape picture. I spent quite some time taking pictures of my interior and testing the effects of shifting the sensor's position for further images stiching. I spent some time outside though to check the imaging capability of the Pentax lenses in far landscapes and compared them to my existing Fujinon equivalent.

Here are a few thoughts about the results of my experiment:
- as I already mentionned, I enjoyed the experience very much, to the point that I am sold to the idea of buying such a technical camera
- I found some difficulties though in the relative 'lack of precision' of focusing and tilting. Especially, on the camera I was lent, locking the focus was requiring to keep a strong hand on the asjustment knob while screwing the lock, at the risk of loosing the focus when not done properly. I therfore feel the need to purchase an equipment which is more 'precise' in this field. I am hesitating between the Cambo Actus equipped with the fine adjustment knobs, which are expensive, and the Arca-Swiss F-Universal, which offers micro-metric and auto-locking adjusment features as standard.
- the difference between the two lines of equipment also resides in the range of available lenses. Cambo offers a larger range of lensplates than Arca-Swiss, which clearly weighs in favor of Cambo, as my intention is not to invest huge amounts of money in Rodenstock lenses, at least from the very beginning...
- As a rookie, I made a large number of mistakes and quickly found the limits of the model in terms of stitching pictures. My dream of very large stitched lanscapes has not been met, although I could achieve reasonable shifting with the Actar 24 and more limited with the Pentax 35mm.
- I noticed a very good sharpness of the four lenses I had to test. A fantastic feeling of sharpness for the Pentax 35mm when used in interior's photography and of the Pentax 75mm when used for portrait and still life. I was slightly disapointed when comparing the very far landscape pictures I made (mountains) and found a noticable better sharpness of Fujinon lenses compared to the Pentax ones in this field. This observation should be moderated by the difficulties I had to fine tune the focus on very far targets, and the softness can very well be the result of my lack of experience in this matter.

In conclusion, a very positive experience for me and a difficult decision to make.
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Well-known member
I'm glad you enjoyed trying a Cambo Actus. I always enjoy reading someone else's experiences. Thanks for taking the time to make this post.

I wasn't able to try an Actus before deciding on the F-Universalis. I hope you get a chance to try an F-Univeralis too before you make up your mind. Whether or not a particular system is a good fit is a very personal thing, and often can only be determined after some use.

As far as lens plates go, I haven't found the selection from Arca-Swiss to be limiting. It is true that Cambo sells dedicated lenses, some with known provenance (e.g., the Actar-19) and some with mysterious provenance (e.g., the Actar-24). If those are the ones you wanted, that would be a major deciding factor. Arca-Swiss does have boards for Copal 0, Copal 1, Copal 3, Pentax 645 (and thus Pentax 67 with the Pentax 645-67 adapter), Pentacon, Canon EF, Hasselblad V, Leica R, R-Mount, and M39x1/26th inch. Without modification, you can attach M42x1 lenses to Copal 1 boards using a locking ring. And of course you can fabricate different kinds of mounts too. I built one for Olympus OM (a standard adaptation mount I use), and most recently for Mamiya 645.

You were specifically concerned about the focus mechanism on the stock Actus. I've heard that complaint before, and, honestly, it's one of the reasons I chose the F-Universalis. Mind you, I can easily imagine that not everyone would like the way the F-Universalis self-locking gear system works. Again, it's a matter of personal taste. As I mentioned in my working review, stiffness is the price you pay for self-locking gears.


Well-known member
I went the actus way a couple of years ago for the view camera experience. I did not know about the universalis.

I have a few mamiya rz lenses that work with the rz adapter.

The focus lock on the actus introduces a small but annoying error, especially noticeable with the lens wide open.
I usually work around this by keeping the focus almost locked and using the mechanical advantage of the geared fine focus knob.

The design of the fine focusing knob also allows you to fine tune the stiffness by adjusting the grub screw that holds it in place.

But as Rob mentioned above, it’s stiffness of operation vs play!

Hope you find a camera you like!



Thanks @rob for answering. I had the opportunity to play with the Actus MV at the dealer's yesterday when bringing back the Actus G and this would be the way to go for me, were it not for the weight which is twice the weight of the Actus G...

Thanks @Anwar for sharing your experience. I see we are on the same page as far as focusing is concerned and I appreciate your comments about the benefits you are drawing from using the fine focus knob and the way you handle it.

As mentionned above, playing with the more recent MV has confirmed me that Cambo had made significant improvements in the precision of its gearing. The new camera offers much more precise although not stiff movements, also in the field of vertical shifting (on the Actus G I had in test, the back was kind of falling under the weight of the GFX when the lock was released) ; the zeroing of the swing is also much more precise on the MV, and the locking of the tilt is an appreciable feature.

I will carefully weigh pros and cons, and thank you for helping me in the decision process.