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09/16/14 Arca FPS (Focal Plane Shutter) lens issues clarified

Yesterday, I was very excited by Arca’s announcement of the new FP (Focal Plane Shutter).  I knew that this device was in the works well over 10 months but had been asked to keep all mention of it off the web.  Arca  is a small company based in France, with basically no website, so getting information about current and future products can be very difficult.  The FP shutter was the one single item that Arca was working on that really had my excitement and interest.  The main reason being:

  1. It was going to “fit” into the current r cameras rm3di or rm3dl in a modular fashion
  2. All existing lenses with R mounts would work
  3. Price point was going to be around $1,800.00 for the shutter and all electronics needed to run it.
  4. Focal plane shutter would allow shutter settings of 1/3, 1/2 and 1/10 of a stop.

With the actual announcement, unfortunately, a few of these previous statements did not come true.

The FP is a real item, and it will be a modular attachment to the current R series cameras, see my previous post for more information.  Here is a picture of the FP

rm3di focal plane shutter

New Arca Swiss Focal Plane Shutter for R series Cameras

Knowing the Arca does excellent design and that they make very good products in regards to quality, I have no doubt that this FP will work as designed.  There are just a few issues to be concerned with that I see.

I. The lenses that can be used will need a new modified lens tube installed.  The lens tube is the first ring of the R mount, and you can clearly see it in this photo.

Arcs R mount 28mm Rodenstock

Rodenstock 28mm HR in Arca R mount

The first ring, closest to the lens, with the name Sironar Digital HR on it, is the lens tube that will have to be modified.  Modified is not a good word as basically you will replace it with a new one.  The lens will have to be measured, the measurements sent to Arca, and they will make a new ring.  I guess in the future with Arca, if you were to purchase a new lens, they might ship both rings.  OK, now lets add up the cost.  The rings are $350.00 each.  So if you are going to work with say 5 lenses, you will need to spend an additional $1,750.00 just to be able to use the new shutter.  I find this the most unappealing part of the deal, as Arca should consider giving a credit for the current ring as it will not be in use any more and might as well just be a fishing weight.   Plus you need to either drive your lens to an Arca representative or ship them and to ship and insure 10K of glass, I figure that will add about $250.00 to the cost.

II. The shutter is going to be controlled via a wifi attached controller.

The dEx controller.  I have to assume that this is not “part” of the shutter so it’s safe to say add another $1,200.00 to the total cost.  Plus it’s wifi controlled.  This is a new technology to implement, so I hope it’s well thought out.  If the wifi connection fails or disconnects in the field,  it appears you will not be able to fire the shutter.  This means you would have to removed the shutter from the R camera and the new modified lens tube, then reinstall the original lens tube.

Looks like the cost of the FP will also be a bit more than I had anticipated.  Here is an estimated breakout of the cost for using the shutter with 5 lenses.  This is based on pricing that was released late on the 18th of September 2014.  Pricing is much higher than I expected.  This easily approaches the cost of the Alpa FPS.  So competitive advantage based on pricing appears to have possibly gone out the window.  I was also hoping that the lens tube replacement would stay at $350.00, not $490.00.  More information needs to be out on that soon.

  • Cost of Shutter……………………………………………..$2,940.00
  • Cost of 5 lens tubes……………………………………….$2,500.00
  • Cost of mpu for shutter…………………………………..$1,400.00
  • Cost of wireless controller for shutter…………………$1,200.00
  • Total cost for FP shutter………………………………….$8,040.00

One other thought, as it appears that the dEx controller will be making a wifi connection, but to what?  I can’t see the controller depending on a digital back’s wifi (mainly because right now so few of them have it).  So what is the wifi all about.  Do you wifi to the controller with say a iPhone, to make the settings i.e. change shutter speed (that would be about all you could change on a shutter)?  If so, again, I have to wonder about that, as it makes you very dependent on the battery life of your phone and the battery life of the dEx.  To me it would be so much more efficient to have a hard connection to a device that can set the shutter.  It would become serendipitous to carry both lens tubes on any trip so if the shutter fails or can’t make a connection, you could re-install the old lens tube, pull out the shutter and shoot with the copol shutter already in the lens. This would of course only apply to lenses that already had the copol shutter installed.  I wonder if Arca will still sell new lenses with copols.

Even with the extra costs, I believe overall this is a good investment long term for a R camera user, and once a Phase One back comes out with Live View that is full frame and works with movements with minimal crosstalk effects (which create color saturation loss on shifts), the photographer in the field will have quite a system.