ALPA 12 WA/SWA - Happy Birthday to You!

02.2018 - Each February 28/29, ALPA celebrates the anniversary of the company's (new) foundation. On 28 February 2018, it will be its 22nd anniversary and at the same time the 20th birthday of the ALPA 12 WA/SWA.

It was on the way back from Photokina 1996 from Cologne to Zurich and after the presentation of the first medium-format ALPA. The owners of ALPA of Switzerland, Ursula Capaul and Thomas Weber, discussed the lessons of the last few days and realized that a radically more modular concept of a camera platform is needed for the future of photography.

The idea for the ALPA 12 WA (Wide Angle) and SWA (Shift/Wide Angle) and a completely modular and ergonomic, hand-held medium format camera for reportage, landscape and architecture photography was born on the trip from Cologne: a system with individually replaceable backs and optics and the highest possible degree of individualization for the individual user.

In the course of 1997 a completely new system had to be developed. This included two camera bodies with and without shift, a universal wide-angle viewfinder, adaptations for own roll film backs, a complete integration of large-format optics from Schneider Kreuznach and Rodenstock. But that's not all, Capaul and Weber have also recognized - deep in the analogue age - that future digital backs are a great opportunity and have therefore projected the first digital back adapter for backs with for the Hasselblad V interface. Security of investment has become the hallmark of ALPA and still today the very first ALPA 12 WA/SWA can be used with the most modern digital backs - 20 years after its introduction.


Schematic Drawing ALPA 12 WA/SWA from 1997, completed 1998


By autumn 1997, the most important elements had been completed through several development iterations. The list included a Polaroidback and ground glass as well as high-quality leather goods, straps and hand loops. In order to offer the user more choice, adapters for standard film backs with universal connection (e. g. Mamiya RB67) have also been designed and optimized. The first pre-production series of the ALPA 12 WA was completed in October 1997 and work on the ALPA 12 SWA was started soon afterwards.


ALPA 12 SWA prototype 1997 with study for alternative shift lock in the hand grip


Until Photokina 1998 everything was ready and Capaul and Weber presented the camera platform ALPA 12 in Cologne. They were already able to achieve their first success in advance when the renowned French Magnum photographer and filmmaker Raymond Depardon bought one of the ALPA 12 WA from the pilot series off the exhibition stand in spring and thus realized a project in Mauritania.


ALPA 12 SWA prototype 1997 with study with early hand grip sketches


In 2000, ALPA 12 WA/SWA won the "Red Dot" design award in the highest category with the remark: “Highest Design Quality for: Degree of innovation, Functionality, Formal Quality, Ergonomics, Durability, Symbolic and emotional content, Product peripherals, Self-explanatoriy quality.”


Red Dot Award 2000 for ALPA 12 WA/SWA - Shown with an early Phase One digital back


The cameras have been continuously improved in small details and the ALPA 12 SWA is still in production in the 20th year of its existence.
Happy birthday, ALPA and ALPA 12 WA/SWA!



ALPA 12 SWA, actual model


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Poduct Page ALPA 12 SWA

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