View Full Version : a chamonix 4x5 for architectural purposes?

3-Aug-2009, 14:24
Hi - I'm another complete newbie, don't even own a 4x5 camera yet.

However, I've done quite a bit of reading in here and in a few books (and Simmons' is in the mail). I will be shooting mostly architectural photography - in my case probably a lot of compact, urban landscapes, not too much interior work.

portability is very important, so from reading in here it seems to me, that the chamonix 45n-1 would be my best bet, right...? Initially, I considered the Tachihara and the Shen-Hao. However, the chamonix's rigidity, universal bellows and simple (and beautiful) design appeals to me - and I think (but surely don't know) that it's movements are sufficient for me?

So I guess my question is: What do you experienced architectural photographers think og the chamonix's movements in relation to architectural work? Will I have enough rise? Or what would you recommend (camera+lens combo)?

I know that the Tachihara has more rise and fall, but wouldn't it require me to have strickly XL wides in order to actually be able to use it? I am also aware of the fact, that the Shen-Hao has some back rise that the chamonix lacks. But from reading in here, it (the Shen) is less rigid and heavier - and have a little less rise.

for the record, I think that I will be shooting with a 90mm, possibly also a 75 and 300 in some distant future with too much money to spend...


lars mortensen

ps: I hope I am not bringing up a subject already discussed extensively in other threads. I have searched in here, but haven't yet found answers to these questions.

3-Aug-2009, 14:58
i have a chamonix 4x5 and it is awesome. you will not go wrong with one. if you want to use a 75 or 90mm lens and need mad movements then be sure to get a recessed lens board and/or a bag bellows. i have used a 75 and 90mm on mine with no problems....i was not shooting crazy architecture but i did use movements. i have used a 65mm as well....i wish i had bag bellows for sure.


3-Aug-2009, 15:02
I have a Chamonix 45n-1 and find that I run out of lens image circle before I run out of movements. The 45n-1 has 45mm of rise, 30mm of fall, and 20mm of shift. Some day I'd like to get the Super-Symmar XL 80mm f/4.5, but even that lens only allows 39mm of rise. It also allows 34mm of shift, but you can use some swing on both standards in the unlikely need for so much shift. With my 90mm f/8 Nikkor, the 45n-1 with universal bellows has more than enough movements.

3-Aug-2009, 19:05
I agree with BarryS on the movements. Wide Angles also vignette with extreme movements regardless of camera. The one way to tell if you will run out of image circle is to have ground glass with a 45degree cut in each corner. After making you extreme movements look through each corner with the lens open for focusing. If you can not see light through each corner you will have vignetting and on your negative will see a crescent shape with nothing on the emulsion.

As to the camera the Chamonix is liked by those who own them and they do not come up for resale very often. I have a Shen Hao field camera and its on par with the Chamonix. A view camera like my Cambo SC does have some controls which let me calibrated and align each standard more precisely than either the Chamonix or Shen Hao. This might help in getting lines in the position you want for architectural photography. This does not make any of the camera bodies better just different and possibly better for the task at hand.

3-Aug-2009, 23:51
Thanks very much, all of you - nice to know, that the chamonix seems more than capable for the job.

Lenswise, I was thinking about either a Grandagon N 90 f4.5, Fujinon SWD 90 f5.6 or a Super Angulon 90 f5.6 - if I can afford them

I have a little extra question regarding rise and horizon line: If I, for instance, use 45mm of rise in landscape format, would that be equivalent of seeing the horizon line at the bottom edge of the negative (or top of the ground glass) ? regardless of focal length?

I've seen some of Michael Wolf's pictures from hong kong and chicago, where the horizon is not even within the frame. But that was with longer focals, i think.

thanks again,

4-Aug-2009, 00:18
If you raise the lens, the horizon sinks so to speak, so you will get more sky.
If you lower the lens you will get more foreground.

With raizing/lowering the back it is the other way around.


Jeff Keller
4-Aug-2009, 10:57
Yes the 45mm lens rise would put the horizon very close to the bottom of the 4" tall frame if the camera is level ... (think of it as chopping off the top 45mm of the film and having an additional 45mm at the bottom for the inverted image cast on the film)

Jeff Keller

4-Aug-2009, 15:02
thanks Jeff, exactly the answer to my question.

Len Eselson
7-Aug-2009, 12:42
If you decide to get a Chamonix 4X5 I suggest that you order it with the Universal Bellows. This will enable you to deal with movements with your wide angle lenses, and probably obviates the need for a bag bellows.
Len Eselson

Kirk Gittings
7-Aug-2009, 13:45
If you decide to get a Chamonix 4X5 I suggest that you order it with the Universal Bellows. This will enable you to deal with movements with your wide angle lenses, and probably obviates the need for a bag bellows.
Len Eselson

I agree completely. I don't own a Chamonix though I have played with one. BUT I do own a Phillips and could not get by without the universal bellows for wide angle lenses.

7-Aug-2009, 15:46
thanks for the additions, Nicky and Len. And yes, Len, I would definitely order the universal bellows - another big plus with the chamonix compared to the Tachihara and Shen Hao, I think.

7-Aug-2009, 16:04
... didn't see your post, Kirk. But now, when you are in this thread: Any particular lenses you would recommend for architectural photography? As stated before, I'm not going to shot too many interiors, but I certainly need wide angles. Was thinking about starting with a 90 - they seem a little more available and lower priced than the 75's and 72XL (which I would love to have, though)

I have been looking a bit on your web - really like the Wanderings series. This whole thing about LF started for me through the work of Michael Wolf and Sze Tsung Leong (and surprise, I'm an architect as well...)

Kirk Gittings
7-Aug-2009, 16:23
Yes I would start with a 90 if you like the slight exaggeration of perspective that you get with a 90. Otherwise I would go with a 120 which has a more natural look. For commercial projects I usually go with a 90 where the exaggerated perspective adds a dynamic feel to modern architecture. With historic architecture or my personal work, I prefer the more normal look of a 120. Does that make sense?

Wider lenses on 4x5 may solve necessary problems, but IMO they are not one's "go to" lenses unless one is seduced by the exaggeration which screams "this is a photograph made with a really wide lens" and distracts from the subject.

7-Aug-2009, 20:57
From a novice perspective, I think you are on the right track.

I just started with large format, and purchased a 4X5 Chamonix with universal bellows, and a 90mm and 210mm. I plan to focus on landscape, nature and architecture subjects. I selected the 90mm f/4.5 to allow inside low light situations.

I haven't used all the adjustments yet, but that is a primary reason I wanted to try LF.

8-Aug-2009, 14:24
Certainly makes sense :) and I do like the rather exaggerated perspective, that the extreme wides give... for some things at least. I am very fascinated by extremely compact urban landscapes, so the ability to 'include' a lot is important to me. I find that I use my Sigma 12-24 (on a D80) almost all the time... not the sharpest lens, but relatively straight lines at least.

Any particular place you would suggest that I go lens shopping? I haven't been here long enough to go to the classified and ebay seems a bit unclear to me.

And thanks for adding, David - some of your previous questions in here led me to my choices :) I found, that your preferences or initial thoughts about this were very close to my own.

8-Aug-2009, 18:13
I purchased both used lenses from KEH. I thought if they grade a lens EX+, a lens should be in good shape. I did not feel comfortable purchasing from eBay, since I would not have an idea what to look for if there was a problem with a lens. Midwest Exchange is another good source for used equipment. I picked up one Caltar since they are private label Rodenstocks and the price was more inline with my budget.

Forums like this one are also good sources for lenses. I purchased a digital pentax spotmeter on nikonians.org and it was like new. If you find a long term member or one with lots of posts, chances are they are concerned enough about there reputations to avoid selling something other than what is advertised. I just sold some unused gitzo spikes on nikonians and will take great care to make sure the buyer is satisfied.

Spending under a thousand dollars for a 4X5 LF camera, or each of the lenses, seems like an easy way to try out LF. I would have liked a 5X7, but the price point and uphill battle with film etc. was past my resistance level.

I am taking it slow, but was happy with my first try. If I can take a couple shots each week, I will be happy with my progress. I would jump at the chance for a local workshop, but KC is limited on LF photographers.

9-Aug-2009, 02:23
Yep, KEH seems to have a really broad selection - thanks for the tip. I'm a little afraid of customs, though. The thing is, I live in Denmark. I have one local dealer with a fair selection, but in most respects they seem heavily overpriced.

Once again, thanks for sharing. It is valuable advice for newbie like me.