Akrobat™

NWS Instruments AG
Modular Instrument Positioning System

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About

The Akrobat™ as a compact, robust, flexible and capable positioning system for precision optical instruments for imaging applications. It was designed to meet and exceed the demands of applications in academic, research and scientific as well as commercial photography fields such as advertising, automotive, industrial jewelry and tabletop that require flexible positioning of the lens away from the conventional perpendicular relationship with the film/sensor. Its capability is augmented by a logical, direct approach that allow its expert users to fully utilize its flexibility while focused on the creating their masterpieces. Every movement and mechanical feature was designed and refined in consultation with experienced experts and it is built, assembled and quality controlled by highly experienced workers in Switzerland. The Akrobat™ will be available configured for a number of applications. We will make available an on-line configurator so exact requirements can be satisfied. Initially, single components will be available only to registered owners of configured system so Akrobat™ owners will be assured supply of expansion accessories when they need them. Over time, availability will be extended to anyone visiting our WebShop.

Detailed Instrument Description

The Akrobat™ 1x and Akrobat™ 4x Modular Instrument Positioning System

Akrobat™ is the trademarked name of our mechanical instrument family which is used to precisely position our optical instruments. Akrobat™ 1x has one-axis movements, while the “Akrobat™ 4x” provides movements along 4 axes.

It is presented here in its final 3D design before prototyping, which may bring minor changes. Based on feedback in discussion with our beta-testers, we decided to significantly enhance the design of the original Akrobat™ system announced on January 14, 2019. Two important considerations precipitated these changes: precision and operating ergonomics. The original concept remains but we believe the redesign is a significant refinement and step forward.









The Akrobat™ 1x connects NWS optical instruments to camera bodies while allowing a ±11mm shift perpendicular to the optical axis. This is especially useful in architecture and interior applications. It comprises 2 parts:

  • The 1-axis movement part that allows an attached lens to shift up to 11mm off-axis perpendicular to the optical axis and rotating every 15° degrees on the optical axis to enable diagonal shifts, and,
  • The multiple camera mount interface that allows the use of various camera body adapters. Initially, 4 camera mounts will be supported – Canon EF, Fujifilm GFX, Nikon F and Sony E. As demands increase, other mounts will be made available.

To switch the Akrobat™ 1x between different cameras bodies, only the moderately-priced camera mount interface needs to be changed, there is no need to buy a complete new lens or Akrobat™ 1x. This provides experts user the unique ability to select the best tools for the job and budget.











Some may call the compact, modular 4-axis Akrobat™ 4x a “view camera” because it offers the same corrective optical adjustments and movements, and make it easy, secure, repeatable. We are OK with that too.

The heart of the Akrobat™ 4x is the NWS-designed 4-axis head. “4-axis” means movements such as tilt, rise/fall, shift and swing are all accomplished on the head. It uses large diameter rotational control for each movement:

  • swing/panorama by rotating the entire top portion of the head where the lens mount and dovetail is. Wide finger grooves are provided for gloved use on the perimeter of the dovetail plate. Rotational angle is only limited by what is attached to the lens bayonet and is up to 360°.
  • tilt is accomplished by rotating the 84mm knurled ring just below the dovetail plate. The large diameter allows effortless yet precise adjustment of the tilt angle of ±10°. We believe this large diameter offers significant benefits in precise Scheimpflug control.
  • rise and fall is through rotating the 70mm knurled ring through the range of ±10mm. This design makes it easy to make adjustments without have to take the eye away from the viewer or tethered monitor allowing much easier converging vertical line correction.
  • lateral shift is effected through the knob on the bridge which moves left and right by ±15mm.

Each axis is equipped with an engraved scale for repeatability, and center detents on every axis allow set up to be quick and precise.

A single head can be used as a tripod head, while 2 heads connected with industry-standard 15mm rods can form the basis of a “view camera” when combined with lens and body bayonets and a film back or digital SLR or mirrorless camera body.

An Akrobat™ 4x head with a lens bayonet can accept NWS’s lenses, other Hasselblad V-mount lenses, or via optional NWS-designed adapters traditional view camera lenses mounted on Compur/Copal No. 0 or No. 1 shutters.

Focusing with NWS lenses should be done on the lens to take advantage of optimized optical performance based on focused distance, while extremely precise focusing can be done by adjusting the stepless drive on the front dovetail using the graduated handwheel that moves the lens bayonet along the dovetail on top of the head. Tension of the stepless drive can be adjusted all the way to full lock of up to a 2kg lens payload.

An additional feature of the head is the availability of M3 mounting holes on the side of the bridge. An M6 screw hole and a 6mm dovetail can be added to the bridge so adjustable metrology positioning arms, such as the Fisso brand Made in Zürich, Switzerland, can be used to hold a French Flag to precisely shape ambient light around the lens or to anchor the Akrobat™ to non-conventional locations such as iron pipes or steel beams or optical tables.

For the camera bayonet, several options are available – a Canon EF, Nikon F, Fujifilm GFX or Sony E mount sits on a "dummy post" that provides perfect alignment along the optical axis. The stepless drive on the rear dovetail allows additional, precise focus adjustment, as well as flange focal distance compensation for using lenses of shorter focal lengths.

For vertical camera use, using a medium format film or digital back, or a Sinar p/p2 Multipurpose Frame, 3 additional dummy posts of the various heights exactly required to correctly align the optical axis will be available. The Sinar p/p2-Multipurpose Frame opens the Akrobat™ system to many 4x5 accessory attachment possibilities including 6x12, 6x17 panorama and instant film.

Very ambitious types can use a 4x head in lieu of a dummy post and bask in the privileges and advantages of being the most extreme users of the Akrobat™.

Archived information below

Ingenious, capable and ergonomic, the NWS Instruments Akrobat™ is a modular component system that enables expert photographers to create their own instrument configurations for demanding assignments and applications. The system is simple to set up and allows full adjustment flexibility so they can focus on creating and perfecting their masterpieces. It is a lot like a Mecanno® set for expert photographers.
At the center of the system is the patent-pending 4-axis head which independently controls and adjusts each axis, one at a time and then allows a pair of movements at a time to be locked down securely. Add 2 15mm rails to connect another head, add a lens and a camera on corresponding front and rear frames, attach a bellows in between and an ultra-flexible, jewel-like instrument emerges: tilt, shift, swing, rise and fall are now easily at hand.

Shaping and modifying light from any direction on the Akrobat™ is far easier than with a lens hood – light modifiers can be added and adjusted quickly using articulated Fisso® arms attached to the 4-axis head. Hanging the camera from a steel beam? Just add another Fisso® arm or two. Add a micrometer to adjust focus in ½-micron steps when focus must be dead-on. Center-detents on every axis allow quick and accurate set up. Every control is intuitive. Each adjustment is precise and smooth. All movements are refined. Most important, every axis can be locked down securely. The possibilities are only limited by imagination.

Add a NWS 23APO or 110APO lens on the front, and create extremely high resolution, low distortion and chromatic aberration-free masterpieces. Or mount vintage lenses with No. 0 or No. 1 shutters. To the back, attach a mirrorless or DSLR on the landscape/portrait lens mount, or a Hasselblad V-Mount back – film or digital. Or make “Nägel mit Köpfen” and reach for Sinar and Graflok accessories. Even panoramic formats like 6x12 and 6x17 are possible.

The amazing Akrobat™ is very likely the last camera system any expert photographer will need to buy.

Swiss precision has never been more accessible. Complete modularity allows single components or full subsystems to be added, all at reasonable prices: fully-equipped configurations at Early-bird pricing start at 2,500 CHF. And everything is precisely and meticulously Made in Switzerland.

Here are more details about the Akrobat™:

The 4-axis head

This patent-pending base component is built on a bridge block that utilizes industry-standard 15mm rods with 60mm spacing. The departure from a proprietary rail system offers much more flexibility and makes great financial sense.


Tripod Plate

The first layer of the head is a 50mm diameter tripod plate which sports a standard 3/8-16 mounting screw. The mounting screw is fixed to offer maximum rigidity and security.




Tilt

The second layer of the head is a front- and rear-tilt mechanism which enables the object mounted on the tripod plate – a lens, a camera, or a rapid tripod coupling – to be tilted along the optical axis ± 8°. The degree of tilt is indicated by scales on the tripod plate. A spring-loaded center detent allows a quick return to zero.


Rise/Fall

The third layer of the head is a rise and fall mechanism which enables the upper parts – the tripod plate and the tilt mechanism – to be elevated or sunk by ±10mm. The degree of rise/fall is indicated by scales on opposite sides of the center column. The action of the mechanism works exactly like that of a focusing ring on a lens. A spring-loaded center detent allows a quick return to zero.




Tilt and Rise/Fall Lock Ring

Next comes the lock ring for the upper adjustments – tilt and rise/fall. By pulling on the lever of the lock ring, both movements are securely locked. The lever can be placed in any one of 4 positions on the ring to accommodate right- and left-hand users.


Swing

Last adjustment on the 4-axis head is the swing, which can rotate the 4-axis head about its vertical axis by ± 30°. The degree of swing is indicated on scales on opposite sides of the swing ring. The swing lever can be placed in either the left or right positions on the ring to accommodate right- and left-hand users. A spring-loaded center detent allows a quick return to zero.


Shift

The entire 4-axis head column can be shifted left and right horizontally to enable lateral shift. The degree of shift is indicated by scales on the front and back sides of the bridge block. A spring-loaded center detent allows a quick return to zero.


Swing and Shift Lock

Both the swing and shift adjustments can be locked down by the simple flip of the lever underneath the bridge. When the flip lever is opened, the entire 4-axis head column is free to swing and/or shift laterally between limits. When the flip lever is closed, the entire column and both swing and shift adjustments are locked.
Please note that the lock for the 2 upper adjustments is independent of the lock for the 2 lower adjustments – this means upper adjustments will not be disturbed while lower adjustments are made and offers the photographer a structured perspective correction workflow.


4-axis head mounting Accessories

On both sides of the 4-axis head bridge are a series of M3 screw holes and corresponding holes for locating pins on both sides at the top. This allows the ambidextrous attachment of the micrometer fine-focus adjustment system, as well as Fisso articulated arms - to freely place and hold a lens shade in an effective position or to attach to odd-shaped objects such as a water pipe or steel beam via a powerful magnet.

The 4-axis head’s adjustment ranges are:

  • Tilt ± 8°
  • Swing ± 30°
  • Rise / Fall ± 10mm
  • Shift ± 12,5mm



The Micrometer Focus Adjustment Kit

Magnified live-view on modern digital cameras and backs has significantly improved focus accuracy. However, while focus indication has improved, the methods by which focus is achieved has not.
View cameras focus with rack and pinion or friction. Both systems were derived from film systems where focus accuracy is easily hidden in the lack of film flatness. With live-view, inaccurate focus is much easier to spot but using coarse rack and pinion or inconsistent friction focusing has cost even expert photographers plenty of precious time.
We believe the best way to finely adjust focus is to use a precision micrometer – the type machinists use to meet to the microns and 10,000th of an inch. Famous brands like Tesa from Switzerland and Mitutoyo from Japan are always dependable and accurate.
For those who need this level of precision, the Micrometer Focus Adjustment Kit will enable extremely fine, repeatable focus adjustment by turning the Akrobat™ into a precision linear translation stage like those on a microscope. Different kits are available to accommodate micrometer stems from 10mm to 18mm.


The Front Lens Mount

The front lens mount is an extension of the 4-axis head top plate. It acts exactly like the “front standard” of a view camera, and allow lenses to be mounted to its V-mount bayonet mount. Since it is an extension of the 4-axis top plate, all movements effected on the 4-axis head are translated to the lens in the lens mount, thus positioning the lens at any desired position within its adjustment range against an image plane.
Two optional mounting plates are available to mount lenses with between the lens Nr. 0- or Nr. 1-shutters. They directly mount into the V-mount bayonet.
Another option is a top plate extension with an elongated slot, which allows the front lens mount frame to be positioned by ±4mm along the optical axis to adjust for minor entrance pupil variations, sometimes helpful in panoramic setups.




The Rear DSLR Mount

The rear RSLR mount sits on a reduced column height extension off the 4-axis head. The camera is attached to the DSLR mount in conventional manner. A ball-tip lever on the left-hand side of the mount frame can be pushed to release the landscape/portrait latch so the camera can be instantly rotated 90° easily and without removal from the mount or tripod. The reduced column height extension has no adjustments.
Additionally, 20mm frame height extensions are available to elevate both the front and rear mount frames to accommodate cable connections on the left side of tethered DSLRs.


The Rear Digital/Film Back Mount

The rear digital/film back mount sits on a 4-axis head. With 2 4-axis heads, the Akrobat™ is now a full-function view camera. Adjustments on both 4-axis head columns and bridges enable full flexibility and control by the photographer. The choice of a Hasselblad V-mount interface is based on easy availability of focusing ground glass and magnifier in case the digital back has no live view capabilities, or that the use of a film back is preferred.


The Front or Rear Sinar Mount

The Front or Rear Sinar mount is a top plate extension for either a 4-axis head or a reduced column height extension.
Any Sinar p-system frame can be used with the top plate extension. Once the Sinar p-frame has its lower attachment parts removed, 3 mounting holes are revealed where the top plate extension can be attached.
If the top plate extension is used with one 4-axis head, a front lens frame and a reduced height extension column mounted on connecting rails, the resulting configuration is a “mini Sinar-Handy” that can use NWS Instruments lenses or any Nr.0 or Nr.1 lens on the front, then many Sinar accessories attached to the back of the Sinar ground-glass focusing back including 6x12 and 6x17 panorama backs. This full adjustment possibility of the 4-axis head on the front enables perspective and creative control seldom found in any panoramic camera.
If the top plate extension is used with two 4-axis heads and mounted on connecting rails, the resulting configuration is a 4x5 view camera that can use 140x140 lens boards on the front, and many if not all accessories attached to the back of the Sinar ground-glass focusing back such as roll film holders, sliding focusing backs as well as bino viewers.


Another interesting possibility is the use of the Sinar “Hinterlinsenverschluß” - the Sinar/Copal shutter with a 75mm shutter opening and shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/60th of a second. Using a suitable “wake-up” cable release in combination with a digital back, many exotic, vintage lenses without shutters that previously were only decorations may now be creatively adopted and used.

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