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Gateway to review of Arca-Swiss 4x5 camera, our recommendation for digital photography.

In addition to Sinar it turned out that Arca-Swiss and Cambo had the best 4x5 cameras in the sense of the sturdiest. Unfortunately no Arca-Swiss cameras were available, so we opted for the Cambo Ultima. This turned out to be even sturdier than the Sinar. As a result when we needed an additional large format camera for field work, we opted for another Cambo, the Cambo Wide with 90mm lens.

Sinar is understandably the camera of choice of many professional photographers.

I especially like Sinar's impressive range of accessories. Unfortunately, in 1998 Photokina the Sinar-Bron booth at Photokina was so filled with equipment and photographers that I never had an opportunity to meet with the people there. Besides, Andrea kept nudging me away from all the alluring models who were attracting attention.

Toyo is the camera of choice for Michael Collette, developer of the Better Light digital system. He suggested that I would find a Toyo model to my liking. Andrea and I visited the Toyo exhibit at Photokina and they even had a newer model of what Collette recommended.

But a variety of factors about the Sinar, Arca-Swiss, and Cambo cameras made the best impression. First of all, the developer of the Arca-Swiss system and head of the company were all there. It always helps to know the people behind the equipment.

Second, Swiss craftsmanship is internationally highly regarded. I had long ago selected the Arca-Swiss tripod head as my favorite for using with 35mm and medium format cameras. The Arca-Swiss tripod head is so well liked that several companies in the USA provide aftermarket accessories for the Arca-Swiss quick release tripod head system.

Photograph of the 4x5 large format Arca Swiss camera with a tripod.

The Arca-Swiss exhibit booth at Photokina was practical and done with Swiss efficiency. No rock-and-roll music, no dancing Swiss Misses in scanty outfits handing out Swiss chocolate, just good camera equipment and friendly staff.

Andrea, my partner, was with me at Photokina all week and she also agreed that the Arca-Swiss camera would be an ideal model for the new millennium of digital photography. The Arca-Swiss is a good choice both for Phase One, Dicomed, Better Light, and other 4x5 digital inserts. In 2000 I returned for another Photokina and again found the ArcaSwiss cameras as among the best made at this international trade show.

Why not Linhof? FLAAR already has a Linhof 4x5 and also a Linhof 8x10.

Why switch to an entirely different camera system? The Linhof design is L-shaped, and hence sags with the weight of a digital insert. The Arca-Swiss has a different frame, more stable. The Linhof Technakardan we have is an early model (circa 1990) and is wobbly. The newer model is not as loose, but we don't have that.

At the recent Seybold '99 trade show the exhibits were more subdued, no go-go dancers. I thus got an opportunity at last to meet and speak with key people at the Sinar-Bron booth. As a result Sinar-Bron it was possible to arrange the loan of a 4x5 Sinar X camera to allow improving the digital photography equipment review program of the Digital Imaging Technology Center. As you read this our photo crew is in Guatemala setting up the studio in the Museo Popol Vuh. The advantage of photographing in Guatemala is that this Central American country offers a wide range of photogenic subjects, especially Maya art and artifacts

Unfortunately the Sinar was a demo camera. It arrived in bad condition with severe inner wear on the gears. This did not speak well for Swiss craftsmanship at all. A few months later Calumet sent us a Cambo Ultima. It was brand new, never used, Thus it was easier to notice it's rock-solid construction. Indeed it seemed better built than the Sinar. Perhaps if we had a brand new Sinar that had not been shipped across the country countless times to trade shows and abused by people before it got into our studio, perhaps our opinion on Sinar should be and could be updated. We treat cameras on loan with the utmost care but evidently others before us had used the camera rather roughly.

We never did get the opportunity to try out the Arca-Swiss. They did not seem to have any available for evaluation. But that situation is what resulted in us finding out about the Cambo. I never would have thought of a Cambo since I knew only the low-end cheap models. The Ultima is a totally different camera, the top high-end of large format studio cameras.

Large Format Cameras
Arca Swiss

Cambo Ultima
Color crisp
Dicomed field pro
Recommended cameras
Recommended Best Buy

Suggested lighting equipment for photo studios

Posted April 6, 1999; updated Oct. 4, 1999; links organized April 2000; last updated July 28, 2001; links added Mar. 2002
Redesigned January, 2004
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