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Arca-Swiss F-Universalis with GFX: revised review published

corvus

Active member
I once traced the described distortion profile for retrofocus wide-angle lenses with my modest converted Nikkor PC 28 3.5 - at the time when the camera was still available to me. It probably boils down to more or less mustache distortion with all retrofocus designs, as it has often been fathomed and described by Rob here for this type of lens.
I took a total of 9 shots with full frame 36x24mm each with 20mm horizontal shift and about 15mm vertical shift each. I tortured the lens to beyond the image circle. All in all, this is of course an extreme image angle of about 97°, which I would not use in architecture for a reasonably spatially correct representation ...
Up to maybe 55mm image circle you can use it well with some barrel distortion, which should be correctable. But beyond that, it reverses to a pillow. At the top of the attic, it's also easy to see. Right at the edge it gets extreme, as you can see from at the windows. The paving stones at the bottom of the image are actually roughly square ;)
Of course, this is just a FF lens. With MF sensors on MF lenses this would have to be investigated separately, but probably only a certain part of the image circle can be sensibly exploited for stitching. Regarding distortion, I'm tingling to one day try a symmetrical lens between 47 and 65mm. Hopefully it will work out.

2023-08-13_133453_Nikkor28_F11_9parts.jpg Nikkor PC 28 3.5 imagecircle.jpg

Torsten
 
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In my situation, the GFX 100S shutter shock issue is mostly due to the fact that it's on an F-Universalis. I turned on electronic shutter (ES) and haven't taken it off ES since. Given the kind of photography I'm doing with this outfit, I'm not seeing any issues (e.g., rolling shutter).

I expect shutter shock with a GFX 100S could happen on other digital view camera setups. You're attaching the GFX 100S to a device that is then attached to a tripod. There are lots of points for vibration. Keep in mind too that there's some shutter shock with certain long native GF lenses at specific shutter speeds. This is not uncommon; other cameras have shutter shock problems too under certain conditions.

Any time you're flat stitching, you're increasing the field of view. What you get depends on what you're trying to do. Panoramas are an obvious example of a much increased field of view. Some people want to keep the native aspect ratio, e.g., they shoot 4:3 and want a 4:3 image with a larger field of view. As a rough guide, if you flat stitch in portrait orientation with left and right shifts of 12.75mm on a 33mm x 44mm sensor, you will create a 4:3 aspect ratio image (same as native) with 0.75x the focal length. As an example, if you do this with a 50mm lens, you'll get a 4:3 image with the angle of view of a 37.5mm lens (but of course it's still a 50mm lens, so you get all the characteristics of a 50mm lens, including depth of field).

My Pentax-A 645 35/3.5 is a terrific little lens with an image circle that should just barely allow 12.75mm shifts for flat stitching to the original aspect ratio. However, I don't bother because it doesn't work well. The 645 image circle is technically around 69mm, so the 73mm needed for 12.75mm shifts is pushing it hard. At the edges the image quality isn't great. This is where John's RZ lenses, with their image circles designed for 6x7, do much better.

The other issue with trying to flat stitch to 4:3 with a lens like the Pentax-A 645 35/3.5 is you're fighting the distortion profile. A 33mm x 44mm frame in the centre of the Pentax-A 645 35/3.5 image circle is mostly barrel distortion; the moustache distortion is just starting at the very edges. However, if you left/right shift 12.75mm, you're getting the full moustache.

So for me, the bottom line is that if I need wider than 35mm, I'll try with my Leica PC Super-Angulon 28/2.8 rather than flat stitching the Pentax-A 645 35/3.5. I always get better, more reliable results even with its limitation.
Thanks Rob, much appreciated! :)
 

John Leathwick

Well-known member
Thanks John, good to hear your thoughts working with the RZ lenses.. Am curious about the shorter flange Schneider/Rodenstock lenses that just work on the Universalis at infinity.

Can these then be stitched to get a wider F.O.V?

Sorry, my question may not have been clear..


With regards to my other question, did your experience with using the focal plane shutter match that of Robs?

Thanks :)
I was out shooting yesterday at a site in the mountains east of New Zealand's Southern Alps, and took a panorama that shows the potential of the F-Universalis when coupled with a capable lens. This was taken with my Mamiya 75mm lens at F/11 and with my GFX 50SII in portrait mode. It comprises five images with +/- 10 and 20mm of horizontal shift, and some tilt to bring the foreground into sharp focus. The stitched image is 13,346 x 8182 pixels, and I turned off the usual sharpening I use in PS, because the jpeg was too sharp for my liking. I didn't apply any vignetting or distortion correction, although in retrospect, slight vignetting correction would possibly have been beneficial. In effect, I've used stitching to compensate for the fact that my wider angle 35mm was at home - the image diagonal of 85mm makes the 75mm equivalent to a 35mm on 35mm format. This image diagonal is close to the 89mm that it was designed to cover. Note that I've corrected the maths here - in my first go at this post, I had overestimated the effective image diagonal.

-John

Kura Tawhiti III.jpg
 
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corvus

Active member
I would now like to add the following happy addition to my post 6 weeks ago on 8/8:
My camera has been readjusted and is now in good working order. A technician from Arca Swiss - who worked on my camera - also called me back and explained the details.
So now I look ahead and get going :)
 

Niddiot

Member
Great article Rob, thank you. I recently swapped out of Fuji for a CFV 50CII for the universalis. Able to switch back to what feels more secure 2 standard arrangement with the standard bellows. Plenty of working space with p645 lenses and the 47mm SA. Electronic shutter seems fine.
This looks like a really really nice compact combination. Of course you can use the 907X on the rot afoot also.

Warmest regards

Dave
 

Attachments

rdeloe

Well-known member
That's a nice looking setup Dave! I'm glad the write-up was useful. If Hasselblad ever comes out with a 100 MP BSI sensor CFV back, I will be intrigued!
 

Gojophoto

New member
Earlier in 2023 I put up a short post about the Arca-Swiss F-Universalis, and linked to a "working review": a PDF printout on my Google Drive site.

I've had the chance to work the F-Universalis hard, and to use it in combination with the GFX 100S. The time seemed right to put up a proper review that is easier to read, and which reflects a lot more hands-on experience.

Rather than burying a note in the previous thread, I've started a new one here.

If you're interested in this tool, the review is posted here: https://www.robdeloephotography.com/Pages/Arca-Swiss-F-Universalis-Review

I'm happy to answer any questions via this thread.
I love your trees on your website. Stunning! I am a little confused about wat the Arca-Swiss F-Universalis does. Is it a new camera system? I am new to all this. By the way, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Fuji 50 II -would that camera allow me the same beautiful detail as in your trees? Or should I get the Fuji 100 or Fuji 100S?
 

rdeloe

Well-known member
I love your trees on your website. Stunning! I am a little confused about wat the Arca-Swiss F-Universalis does. Is it a new camera system? I am new to all this. By the way, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Fuji 50 II -would that camera allow me the same beautiful detail as in your trees? Or should I get the Fuji 100 or Fuji 100S?
That's still one of my favourite projects. Thanks for the kind words.

You might be surprised to learn that the project was shot using a Fuji X-T2 camera (APS-C sensor with 24 MP) and adapted Olympus OM lenses on a tilt-shift adapter. A Fuji GFX 50S II has a sensor that is 4.34 times larger (in area) and has twice as many pixels. My GFX 100S has four times as many pixels. I would say if you like the pictures in that project, it's not because of the camera or the lenses.

An Arca-Swiss F-Universalis is a digital view camera. It lets you use camera movements (shift and tilt). You can also get camera movements with dedicated lenses, like the new Fuji GF 30mm tilt-shift lens or Canon tilt-shift lenses, and with a tilt-shift adapter and lenses that have an image circle that allows movements on your sensor.
 

corvus

Active member
On the subject of transport, I have a compact solution to offer, which you can perhaps use for hiking, if some other things should fit into the backpack. It works to put the camera with housing and two lenses together with accessories like filters in a NYA-EVO RCI-M (approx. 30x30x16cm). However, it has the small limitation that I have separated lens frame and rotafoot - but is feasible.
F-Universalis in RCI-M.jpg
Greetings Torsten
 

John Leathwick

Well-known member
On the subject of transport, I have a compact solution to offer, which you can perhaps use for hiking, if some other things should fit into the backpack. It works to put the camera with housing and two lenses together with accessories like filters in a NYA-EVO RCI-M (approx. 30x30x16cm). However, it has the small limitation that I have separated lens frame and rotafoot - but is feasible.

Greetings Torsten
That's a similar arrangement to what I ended up with, Torsten, although I went with Tenba BYOB's - a DLSR 10 on the left for my F-Universalis with the camera still attached, and a DLSR 9 on the right, divided to take four lenses, shown here with the four RZ lenses that are my main shooting option. I can fit these very comfortably into a Deuter Futura 28 backpack, which is very comfortable to carry. When I don't want to carry the four Mamiyas (nearly 4kg in total), I switch to a much lighter set of Pentax 645 and Schneider ApoComponon lenses that cover a similar range of focal lengths that don't have quite the coverage of the RZs but weight only about 1kg in total.

Regards

John

TenbaBags-4068.jpg
 

corvus

Active member
I have been using F-Universalis for a good six months now. I would now like to share my initial experiences and give some feedback. I mainly take pictures for architecture (complete equipment in the case) and outdoors in the city and landscape (I only take one insert out of the case and put it in my backpack). Initially I used 3 older lenses for this first practice phase - a modified direct plate mounted PC-Nikkor 3.5/28, Linhof Technikon 5.6/58 (Rodenstock), Linhof Super Angulon 8/90 (Schneider). I used my existing Canon R8 full-frame as the shooting unit. This combination is of course limited and compromised - especially for architecture, where wide angles below 47mm are only possible in retrofocus designs, all of which are difficult to correct due to mustache distortion and therefore not a favourite for me. So I first wanted to find out how I could use the F-Line camera in my workflow in order to be able to make targeted purchases for lenses and sensor/digital back.
From my perspective, the only option for a technical camera would be a back with symmetrical lenses - without the limitations in terms of movement, but, as you know, with a much higher investment. I asked myself whether this is really justified and makes sense and whether I can achieve better results with larger and heavier equipment in MF? Comparisons like this one leave me with doubts at the moment:


I can recognise differences in these results - but nothing significant. I have therefore also searched for threads here in the forum where MF and FF are compared. Can any of you remember one that is already running here?

Torsten
 

corvus

Active member
Further doubts come from my own comparisons when trying to figure out what to expect from symmetrical lenses. Even the recent very interesting and helpful threads on Schneider 35XL, Hasselblad CFV100 and others are not currently fueling my desire to take a bigger step.
For example, a comparison looked like this:

The 58 Technikon works about as well in the 0 position as my standard fixed focal length Canon RF50/1.8, it is even slightly sharper. I can move the lens very far - the movements of the F-Universalis do not go beyond the image circle. Post-processing the corrections with LCC in Capture One works well. The time required is also ok. However, stitched shots usually cause headaches - not so much because of the lens corrections and the individual LCC, but rather because of the stitching process with the C1 Panorama function, where something strange happens to the previously standardized white balance. I have tried different workflows following instructions to no avail (the middle part differs):
2024-03-10_160826_3x58 F8.jpg
[ 3 shots landscape, shift horizontal -25,0,+25 mm, vertical +8 mm ]
(I haven't yet found a thread here where LCC workflow in stitching was/is discussed, as it doesn't really belong in this thread)


For comparison, I now wanted to know how a comparable panorama with the Canon standard fixed focal length 50mm succeeds - i.e. without a view camera ...
2024-03-10_162126_3x50 Freehand.jpg
[ 3 shots landscape format, freehand ... without tripod !!! mind you ]
(with my panorama head it could be done even more precisely and parallax-free)

C1 did a better job of stitching than the much more time-consuming process of shooting and post-processing mentioned above. The time required is negligible in comparison. Kind of sobering, or am I doing something fundamentally wrong?
 

rdeloe

Well-known member
Hi Torsten. I get the sense you're asking the forum a question, but I'm not sure what it is. If I had to guess, I'm reading three questions between the lines:

1. Is it worth getting a medium format to replace your full frame R8 for your work?
2. Is it worth using a digital view camera and adapted lenses, instead of "doing it in post"?
3. If it is worth using a digital view camera, is it worth the big spend to get lenses like the 35 XL?

I think all three are examples of "Only you can answer this question" questions. I think we've reached the stage now where using a technical camera or digital view camera is as much a matter of personal preference as it is results. I've seen enough samples from the Fuji GFX 100 system with the Fuji GF 30mm tilt-shift lens to be comfortable with the idea that the results you get with that setup are top notch, and that the only reason to use a technical camera, medium format back, and lenses like the Rodenstock in the comparable angle of view is because you don't like tilt shift lenses, or don't like Fuji, or prefer using technical cameras.

I'm still loving my F-Universalis with the lens lineup I put together. It gives me enormous satisfaction to use the equipment. But I know I could absolutely do what I'm doing with less fussy, lighter, easier to use gear and get as good or better results. I don't want to though. I like my fussy photographic workflow. ;)
 

corvus

Active member
Thanks, Rob, for the answer. Right, my post was kind of half report half question. Sorry, I'll give it a try:

Basically, I like the slow focused way of working (on location). Handling like the F-Universalis offers me that at first. I want to prioritize the time on location, not so much the time for elaborate post-processing (I already sit in front of the screen a lot due to work). My expectation is to be able to improve this with the greater local control of the image sections in conjunction with lenses with as few corrections as possible - compared to my previous way of working with shift lenses on full format. However, when using a view camera for my applications, I only see the purchase of a digital back ... (but no GFX, X2D ... // and full frame is not really practical)
So the question is: Can I really improve this workflow with a digital back and also significantly improve the image quality and the end result?

Maybe a forum member has done the experience and comparison of MF/Techcam and FF/Shift lens - similar to christophebenard.com. That would be very helpful. I would hate to spend an extra 5 figure sum only to get a very similar result afterwards. Then it's more likely that I'll go back to shift lenses - at least for architecture....
 

diggles

Well-known member
Can I really improve this workflow with a digital back and also significantly improve the image quality and the end result?
What type of architecture do you foresee photographing? What are you going to do with the final images?

The GFX and Sony A7R sensors are basically the same. The Fuji is bigger. The difference is in the lens/sensor combo. If you are mainly shooting residential interiors like the image in the comparison then you will not see a huge difference between using the GFX/30TS or FF/Canon 24 TS-E II. If you are shooting large exteriors or spaces with a lot of detail then the Canon 24 TS-E II will not come close to the level of detail you can get from the 30TS, especially if you need to shift for panoramic images.

The workflow with a digital back is not going to much different than your current F-Universalis workflow. My suggestion would be to rent a GFX 100S/30TS/110TS and the Canon TS-E lineup so you can compare all three setups and see what you like the best.
 

corvus

Active member
Thanks, Warren!
I realize my question is still too imprecise ... or the language needs improvement ;)

For my work I see 50-60MP as sufficient in perspective - maybe 25% for print and small exhibitions with image sizes of ~80, max. 100cm edge length / the rest is for the screen. The most are Outdoor shots and little bit interior spaces. The technical and geometric relationships, sizes, support dimensions, image circles etc. are clear to me.
I know the use of Canon TS-E well (and also PC-Nikkor). A GFX setup would be similar in terms of handling and would certainly perform somewhat better. I could borrow that (but it's not favored) I'm more referring to the comparison with a digitalback, since I basically like the workflow on a view camera and almost all lenses would work without geometric limitations (theoretically). I understand that I would just have to try it out myself...

This is precisely the problem: I am currently unable to obtain a loan or workshop (except perhaps an IQ4150, which is completely oversized for me and also out of the question financially). A used device with 50 or 60MP would be perfectly adequate. However, I have no feel for their workflow. The fact that it is slower than a system camera is ok, but that's all I can tell.
I have been in contact with arca-shop in Stuttgart and Greiner-Photo (also known for Schneider support). So far no possibilities have opened up (yet). There is also no other information about workshops in my area... All I can do is wait and see or buy at random.
 

Whisp3r

Active member
...This is precisely the problem: I am currently unable to obtain a loan or workshop (except perhaps an IQ4150, which is completely oversized for me and also out of the question financially). A used device with 50 or 60MP would be perfectly adequate. However, I have no feel for their workflow...
Maybe I misunderstand, but does it matter which specific digiback you borrow in order to get a feel for their workflow? The main difference I see would be between BSI and non-BSI versions, but still, both would still, for example, require an LCC as part of the workflow. You could borrow an IQ4, knowing full well it won't be a part of your future setup because of price and resolution, but you'll still get a pretty good feel for the specific workflow of a (pancake) tech cam plus digiback setup.


The technical and geometric relationships, sizes, support dimensions, image circles etc. are clear to me.
So that would leave only the workflow as an unknown variable, and the specific performance you're hoping to get from a 50-60MP digiback. You can solve the first problem by borrowing that IQ4, no?


So the question is: Can I really improve this workflow with a digital back and also significantly improve the image quality and the end result?
Currently, I can't accurately answer that question, as I am only familiar with the GFX/TS workflow, which is quite fast. EXCEPT for when I need to stitch. I find the combined X/Y shifting quite unintuitive, it's hassle to me. So I am looking forward to having independent movements. I do have a digiback and SK-lenses, but I am waiting for the tech cam itself (it's in the process of being calibrated by Arca). In about a month, I will be able to give you a rookie's perspective. I took a gamble and basically went in blind when picking a tech cam setup, save for the very useful feedback of a number of working pros here on GetDPI. My reasons for trying to make a switch from GFX/TS to tech cam are different from yours: I feel I am no longer fully invested in my work, everything has become somewhat unfulfilling, like I'm just going through the motions. So I'm putting a lot of hope in completely changing my approach with a different system, different workflow, different way of approaching my subject, rediscovering the joy of the process itself, a bit like Mister de Loe is describing, actually :)

Anyway, just my two cents.
 

anyone

Well-known member
Your question was about why the results you get with your tech cam are the way they are. I think the biggest issue here is most likely the lens. Old analogue designs can work well. However, in my limited experience, they did perform particularly well with longer focal lengths. Wide angles are more problematic. I don't know your lens, but used the Grandagon 55mm sometimes on digital. It's price/ value ratio is spectacular, but the optical performance is clearly not as good as lenses optimized for digital.
 

guphotography

Well-known member
Hello Torsten,

In short, a different camera (or more expensive one) wouldn't necessarily yield you better results.

I'll share my two pence on camera systems first.

Similar to Warren and yourself, I have used Sony alpha and Fuji gfx bodies with adapted lenses, before moving onto Universalis, and currenlty RM3Di.

Speaking from my own experiences, what Sony and Fuji lacked was the creative freedom, which are limited by lens choice and lens movements. Yet what view camera gives are the total opposite, when working with it, I felt each composition was considered and that made me happy in the process.

Before you jump into digital back, my advice is to shoot some roll film instead, given universalis handles both beautifully. It has helped me a great deal, definitely made transition to digital easier. All those LCC, colour cast, edge sharpness concerns, distortion, cost etc. evaporate, very liberating!

Over the years, from what I observed, one key factor that differentiates one great architectural photographer to another is composition. How you see the form, from what distance, at which angle, how tightly to frame it can result in a distinct feel to an image. And with film, you have many lenses at disposal. Simply looking through the ground glass with different lenses can train the eyes to see what pleases you.

It is also a cost effective (relative to digital back) way to find your happy medium, once you find out what focal lengths work for you, it can be a seamless transition into digital back. More often than not, you will end up reaching for that very lens 90% of the times.

Based on lenses and camera you currently use, I worry moving into digital back may cause further headache, since the focal lengths to your current sensor size may misguide you, and in case you haven't worked with alternatives.

Starting with that one lens, it'll help you match it with the right back.

Sorry for the mumbling, been shooting for over 12 hours since 5am, just want to get the words out of my head before hitting the sack.

Ciao
 
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