The Cambo Actus: A Gem!

Michael Erlewine writes

On his reactions to the Cambo Mini View Camera.

The Cambo Actus: A Gem!

I have a whole shelf or two of focus rails and another one with bellows and/or technical cameras. Some of them are tiny like the old Spiratone camera, which has all the view-camera moves and is of the size to fit a mirrorless camera. Sitting right next to it is a Rollei X-Actus 2 and it weighs over 14 lbs. Then there are the tilt/shift lenses, of which I have three and ever a tilt adapter that only has one fixed angle. And of course, my old standby, the Nikon PB-4 Bellows System.

So, when I finally had time to check out the new Cambo Actus for the Nikon mount, I was in for a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. This little gem, while not perfect, is one of those pieces of equipment that fits so well in hands that I knew right off that I will love using it, and I already do.

Michael Erlewine

©Michael Erlewine

It was a little hard to find one that you didn’t have to wait weeks for and the various adapters were another problem. Luckily, I remembered a company I had purchased a Medium Format camera from years ago, and they know all this stuff: Capture Integration out of Atlanta, Ga. They put together a system that had everything from soup to nuts, all assembled and ready to go. I went with that over waiting for who-knows-how-long, and hunting down all the parts for myself.

This little beauty’s body measures 5.9 x 3.9 x 6.7″ (15 x 10 x 17 cm) and weighs 2.2 lb (1 kg), not ultra-lite, but have you picked up a technical camera lately that is any lighter? And no, it does not have all the movements, but it has the ones I use most and has camera bayonets for Nikon F, Canon EOS, Canon M, Leica M, Sony E-mount, MFT mount, and Fuji X.

Of course I did not find a bayonet for the Pentax K cameras, and within a couple of days of emailing the manufacturer in Netherlands, they agreed to design the first one for my new Actus camera, which I will have pretty soon. As of now, I have the Nikon and the Sony-E-mount camera adapters on hand.

Michael Erlewine

©Michael Erlewine

It is important to understand that the front-standard on the Actus is fixed, while the rear moves, which is just what I want, and what any focus-stacker requires. The front-standard has 360º swing, and front tilt of +10º, -9º, each with their own geared knob. The swing and tilt movements on the front standard rotate around the optical axis, which is handy.

The rear-standard has Rise/Fall of +0.5”, -0.6” (+12mm, -15mm) with its both geared knob and locking knob, and a rear shift of +/-0.8” (20mm) with a locking knob.

As for mounting lenses, the Actus has a sturdy fork adapter that locks in place smoothly (and firmly) in one movement. Voila! Lens adapters come in a variety of formats, including M39, 24mm WA, Leica R, Nikon F, Canon EOS, Hasselblad, Mamiya RZ/RB, Mamiya 645Pro TL, Pentax 645, and with the standard Copal #0 and #1 holes.

The bellows is a dream come true. I am used to wrestling with my other bellows, mounting and unmounting them. With the Cambo Actus, it is all magnetic. The bellows snaps into place, front and rear, in a second and must have some of those rare-earth magnets or something. They fit tight!

As it turns out, the standard bellows turns out to be perfect for me, since with the Nikon D810 (for close-up work) I am not looking at shooting at infinity. The standard rail that comes with the Actus expands from 6” to 8.5”, which is more than enough for the lenses I work with. However, there are Wide Angle Bellows (one fold), Long Bellows (30 cm), and Macro Bellows (45 cm) available as well as special rails to match them.

A brilliant and easy-to-use feature on the rear-standard is a lever that allows you to rotate your camera from horizontal to vertical and back in one movement. How nice is that! The Actus also takes my Nikon D810, but if I want to add on a wired remote (Nikon MC-30), which I am used to, I need to add a tiny extension or force the cord a little. I am already used to the extension with my Nikon PB-4 bellows, so I do that.

And this little beastie feels like the precision machine it is. The whole thing fits in a Pelican Storm case iM2050, and comes packed in a foam piece that fits right into the iM2050 perfectly.

Michael Erlewine

©Michael Erlewine

As for what I don’t like about the system or “wishes not granted,” I don’t like the fact that to change camera bayonet mounts on the rear standard requires 4 screws, and about a minute of my time, and worst of all fiddling with those tiny screws. I wish they had offered mountable adapter plates for each camera, so we could just switch them out with no hassle. Although I don’t need it, I would prefer that BOTH front and rear standards move, but that is not a real problem.

I love that the rail is Arca-Swiss compatible, which is all that I use. And again, I LOVE the heft and smooth feel of fine machinery on something I will use just all the time. I use it on the Swiss-Arca Cube C1 (with knob) and can flip it using the C1 so that it is exactly 90º, and still it is sturdy.

As what I do with it, I use it with any number of exotic industrial lenses, like the El Nikkor 105mm APO, the Printing Nikkors, and many others. Since I am not going for infinity focus with this system (but you can with a mirrorless camera), I can do all kinds of close-up and macro stuff with an elegance of movement unknown to me until now. Do I recommend it? I believe you know my answer to that. I love it.

Michael Erlewine is an award-wining archivist of popular culture and founder of AMG, the All-Music Guide, the All-Movie Guide, and (rock concert posters), and many other sites.

Erlewine is also a world-famous astrologer, the first person to ever program astrology on home computers and make programs available to professional astrologers. The author of scores of books on astrology and related topics, including hundreds of articles.

As a specialist in Macro photography, Michael has produced many video tutorials and books on the subject. Many thanks to Michael for letting us publish his story and images on the CamboUK site.

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