| Arca Swiss Rm3d
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Arca Swiss Rm3d

Arca Swiss Rm3d

Ok.  It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Arca Swiss cameras.  Over the years I have used a 4×5 F Line, 6×9 F Metric, 6×9 F Line Compact, 6×9 M Line 2 and now… now they have this lovely little technical camera.  How, how I ask you, could I possibly resist it?  The R Line is completely different than anything else in the Arca lineup.  There’s no rail, no standards, there’s not even a bellows for cryin out loud!  Can this thing possibly make pictures of architecture?  Yes.  Definitely… and with great finesse.

Truth be told, technical cameras have been around for quite a while, with great products on the market from Alpa, Cambo and more recently Sinar.  Could Arca Swiss possibly bring something new to the table that the other manufacturers have missed?  Umm, yeah.  The Rm3d is quick, nimble, precise and retains the modularity of all Arca Swiss products.  I find that I’m using it more often than my view camera just because it sets up quicker, is lighter, more compact and has a much better focusing system.  The focusing mechanism built into the R is why I actually consider it THE camera for obtaining the sharpest possible images.  Here is, finally, a mechanical instrument that can match and exploit the high resolutions inherent in today’s high end digital backs and the new lenses from Rodenstock and Schneider.

Below is a closeup of the focusing ring.  Here is the big difference between the R and all the other tech cameras.  With other manufacturers the helical focus mount is integral to the lens and very similar to a dslr manual focus ring with very little fine adjustment available.  The focus ring on the R makes nearly 5 full rotations, that’s about 1720° of focus adjustment from infinity to closeup… much, much more adjustment than the other style or my view camera have.  The ring is indexed and all the lenses come with a cheat sheet that tells you what index number to set the focus at for a given distance.  I have tried this method using a tape measure and it is extremely accurate.  I do work tethered to the laptop most of the time, so I don’t really need to bother with this method.  Honestly, though, even with the wide lenses I get pretty good focus on the groundglass but then my eyes are still holding up nicely given their 40 years *knocks on wood*.

Also below are the control for the tilt adjustment and the scale for movements… 10mm rise, 30mm fall and 15mm to each side.

One of the great things about the system is that I can swap lenses back and forth between the R and my view cameras.  When you receive a lens in R Mount the lens itself is mounted to a board (flat or recessed depending on focal length).  The board bayonet mounts into a spacer that Arca Swiss uses to calibrate the lens to the focus mechanism on the camera and lastly there is an additional spacer to be removed for focusing on a sliding back.

Above is a shot of a Schneider mounted into the R Bayonet adapter.  The slight recess in its board allows me to use the 35mm lens on my M2 and still be able to focus onto a sliding back, very cool.

Below is a shot of the camera setup on location.  Normally their is a small mouting block that sits in the bottom of the camera that fits any Arca quick release.  Keeping up with the modularity of all their systems, this block can be replaced with the rail from my view camera which allows me to back the camera up that little bit extra, here allowing me to use a 55mm instead of a 43mm.  Yeah, I get all geeked out about this stuff.



  • chris
    Posted at 10:26h, 23 July

    Thanks a lot for putting this up! one question: what do you think about the rotaslide?


  • chris
    Posted at 10:53h, 23 July

    I carry that and the Kapture Group Slider. I keep waffling between the two. I like the ease of rotating the back on the Rotaslide, but the compactness and ability to mount a ‘Blad viewer on the KG. Both work really well. The Rotaslide I have is actually a loaner and as I understand it, the one I have on order (new design) is smaller and the Ground Glass doesn’t rotate (just the back)….maybe the best of both worlds?


  • Michael
    Posted at 19:12h, 26 July

    Hi Chris,
    Does the 10mm rise limit the Rm3d use as an architectural camera and have you had to invert the camera to use the 30mm fall yet? How secure is mounting the extra spacer rings if using a sliding back and will the new Rota slide allow use of a Blad prism?

    Thank You

  • chris
    Posted at 19:55h, 26 July

    Michael, you know what’s odd to me? On the Luminous Landscape video where they review the R, they criticize the vertical movements with the same comments you’ve made. However, the opposite is generally more true. When you’re talking about shifting the back (as opposed to the lens) you want more FALL, remember the building is upside down on the groundglass, so you’re shifting down to get the top of it into frame. Recently on an interior, though, where I wanted more floor than ceiling (a very rare occurrence) I was able to invert the camera with little inconvenience.

    The spacers are a very rigid mount. I almost always use the sliding back, so really don’t use mine anyway. Lastly, I haven’t received my new Rotaslide but I expect it will retain the standard Arca Ground Glass without the prism mount found on the KG back. One way I can see to get around this is to buy the Blad V mount adapter for the rotaslide and then get the Blad SWC groundglass kit, as I believe that allows a prism to be mounted… can anyone confirm that? I might be worried about focus accuracy with all that adaptation, tho.



  • Ian
    Posted at 06:45h, 27 July

    Hi Chris, If you had to choose between purchasing a Mline2 and the Rm3d which would it be. I mean which one are you pulling out of the bag more often the tech camera or the monorail?


  • John A. Smith
    Posted at 19:25h, 07 August

    I’am 62 years old and have to wear glasses,and have shot most of
    my landscape images with 4×5 or 8×10 before buying p65.I’am now trying to
    decide between the two arca swiss cameras,m2 or the rd3.I’ave shot 4×5 with
    arca swiss metric 4×5.so what do you think would be best?I think the r3d for light
    weight but the lens cost much more than the lens would cost for the m2.But maybe the
    focusing would be better with r3d what do think? would use the new 43xl,and 70mm.90mm
    and 150mm starting out thanks John

  • chris
    Posted at 07:53h, 08 August

    John, if I were in your shoes I would go for the R. It will certainly be more pricey with all the lenses but it, I feel, is much more suited to landscape work, especially with it’s focusing mechanism. What I’m really loving about it is that I can go back and forth between lenses with very little or no focus adjustment, that really speeds up shooting… and if you’re chasing the sun… well you know. The only downside is the extension tubes necessary for the long lenses. The 90mm and 150mm would be much more compact just on lens boards, but then the R is much more compact than the M2. The only other considerations are how much movement you expect to use (The M2 has considerably more) and whether you will ever need swing and tilt at the same time (M2 only).


  • john smith
    Posted at 14:55h, 06 September

    thanks chris I have finally come to that conclusion.I think I’am going with the rm3dl 4×5
    model because I have very good feeling we will see bigger sensor sizes coming in the
    future,and thats going to be very soon just weeks away.I think we will see 4×5 sensor
    in the near future to and the cost will not be more than what we see in p65.I just want to buy something that I don’t have to trade in in next few years as things progress in sensor
    sizes John

  • chris
    Posted at 14:14h, 08 September

    I considered that for a bit, myself. Nice how you can rotate the lens mount so that you can have swing or tilt instead of just tilt. What you loose in compactness you gain in versatility.


  • Jim2
    Posted at 04:35h, 18 October

    Hi Chris, great article. May I ask where to buy the rm3d and accessories?

  • Lee Geyer
    Posted at 13:38h, 30 October

    Hello Chris.

    I have been reading your stuff with interest. I have an M monoloth on order for my P65+. It will be me first view camera.

    Did you receive the new rotaslide and do you like it?


  • chris
    Posted at 15:37h, 30 October

    Hi Lee,

    Best of luck with your M, that’s a beautifully engineered bit of camera! I have received the new Rotaslide which I am quite happy with. Honestly though, I flop between it and the Kapture Group Slider almost daily. There are very different benefits to both.

  • Clyde Franklin
    Posted at 01:50h, 05 April

    The posted info has been very helpful – thanks Chris . Coming from 4 by 5 Arca doing landscape , I also am dealing with the rm3d vs m2 choice for digital . As I often use long lenses (210 300 450) , I am wondering if a vignetting issue would occur from the lens mount of the rm3d when the camera is used with longer lenses on the bellows adapter , and if so at what point . (The perspective differences having to do with small sensor size could be a plus in my particular case) . Also , do you think the aip shifts and compact design of the r series would predispose toward better retention of specs over time while system is being hauled around in a backpack in a somewhat rugged area ?

    Regards , Clyde

  • BrianThomson
    Posted at 15:06h, 20 April


    First, thanks for the informative posting and the diligent response to everyone’s questions. Now to my question: what are your thoughts on the Rl3d versus the Rm3d?

    Hope to meet you at the Chicago PODAS workshop.


  • chris
    Posted at 07:08h, 22 April

    Hi Brian,
    I’ve never held an Rl3d. These are the differences as I understand them: The Rl3d is larger and can shoot up to 4×5 film. It has about 10mm more movement on each axis. It also has a rotatable front mount which allows the tilt mechanism to be employed for Tilt OR Swing. That’s a nice feature, but honestly I never seem to need tilts… I love the compactness of the Rm3d. Occasionally I do need a little more movement than it allows but that only happens with long lenses (135mm and up) and I’m usually using those on my M Line 2.

    REALLY looking forward to PODAS!!!


  • chris
    Posted at 07:18h, 22 April

    Wow, I’m behind on several questions here. Let me do a quick round-up:

    Ian… definitely going with the Rm3d most of the time… still need the M2 in studio, though.

    Jim2… Photomark, Badger Graphic, Capture Integration and BH all carry Arca

    Clyde… I honestly have no idea about vignetting with that kit and long lenses. While you would have no issues at Zero movements. Sooner or later you’re bound to get some cutoff with enough shift. As solid as the M2 is, I would feel more confident about the R holding tolerances… there’s just less to it… less to get tweaked climbing canyons.


  • Fram
    Posted at 04:47h, 28 June

    I am thinking of getting the Rm3di
    and am getting very confused because i am also considering the Alpa 12 max and have been reading a lot there is no where here in India i can go and test them unfortunately,

    In the last picture of the camera on your blog you have an attachment where the viewfinder normally sit what is that and what does it do,

    also if i am using the sliding back adaptor which ring do i have to remove and how difficult is it to do, what has it to do with the focus.

    When focusing on the ground glass how accurate is the focus (i’m 43 and still have 20 x20 vision i think) generally i do wide angle stitches and clients are asking for a better quality from me so i was hoping to upgrade to the Rm3di.

    could you please give me your valuable guidance

    all the best