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View Full Version : Chamonix 8x10 - Teak: First Impressions



turtle
15-Mar-2012, 00:43
I have received my Chamonix 8x10 and thought I would make some quick comments for the benefit of anyone contemplating such a purchase.

Firstly dealing with Hugo Chang was a pleasure. Efficient and helpful, the process was made easy and dispatch from China was exceedingly rapid. The camera was packed very well and arrived in perfect shape.

Now for the camera:

It is beautiful. I was unsure about the teak before ordering, but it is a very attractive camera and I will post some photos in due course. It is nice to see that the makers have selected pieces of wood with the best grain for the most visible areas of the camera. You need have no fears here – it’s a great combination of function and form.

Fit ‘n finish is superb. Not just good, but really fantastic. It is a very different camera to an Ebony (of which I have owned two and still have one) and does not have the same luscious oiled depth to the wood and glowing titanium, but that is a different topic. Everything on the Chamonix is finished and fitted as well as with an Ebony. Some might balk at this, but it is my distinct impression after inspecting the camera extensively. The materials are very different to an Ebony, but very much lighter as a result and under the hand nothing feels insubstantial about the Chamonix. Lighweight it may be, but it also feels solid and very well put together with remarkable accuracy to the machining of the components.

Function. Oddly I won’t comment too much about that as it has been commented on plenty. I will, however, say that the larger 8x10 feels easier to handle than smaller Chamonix models. Everything is beefier than on the 5x7 or 5x4 and somehow this feels more ‘right.’ The bail is very smooth, the Velcro tabs for sorting out bellows sag are great and the focus action silky smooth. In short, it works intuitively and smoothly and everything locks down with the right amount of pressure.

I also bought a Sinar to Linhof reduction board and initially thought the price a bit steep, until I picket it up. Yes, it is very expensive at $170 but it is feather light and beautifully made. Its easy to forget how much a reduction panel like this can weight when made from the usual metals, which combined with lots of lenses on Sinar panels can add up very quickly. I would strongly recommend anyone considering this camera to get this reduction panel.

Now for rigidity: this is exceptional. I once owned a 8x10 Zone VI Ultralight and I honestly think it put me off 8x10. Rigidity was poor, build felt ‘cynical’ and the Chamonix is everything the Zone VI was not. This new 8x10 is rock solid. I do not mean solid enough, but without question every bit as rigid as the most rigid non-metal field camera I have ever used : The Walker XL. Racked out past 500mm I was expecting it to lose some of its rigidity, but it was rock solid. Amazing, really. It is more rigid than my MPP 5x4 metal technical camera, which I sold when I moved to lighter cameras years back.

The bellows are nice enough but could be better. I suspect I will end up buying a bag bellows for use with lenses under 210, where much movement is required as the regular ones are a little thick and once compressed cannot be ‘moved around’ like those on an Ebony with universal bellows. They are nicely made and look very durable, but for really short lenses they are likely to be a bit restrictive. The bag bellows are a good price though (unlike some brands) so a not too painful investment.

Overall, this is a spectacular field camera and, within the limitations of the design, I struggle to see how things could be done much better (aside from improvements to the bellows). It weighs the same as the Zone VI Ultralight, but is in a completely different league in every respect. While moving the standard from hole to hole might seem an unpleasant design solution (I was sceptical before I had used a Chamonix) in use it is both quicker and easier than expected. The rigidity dividend (in combination with great tolerances and the rigid carbon fibre bed) is huge however and well worth the minor inconvenience.

Pics will follow in a day or two.

Chris Strobel
15-Mar-2012, 01:36
I look forward to seeing some pics. I'm down to either getting the Chamonix or Shen-Hao 8x10.I'm use to my calumet C-1 for rigidity, and am a little nervous about getting a wood field 8x10, especially with my 360mm Nikkor-W hanging on front.What tripod will you be using with this?

turtle
15-Mar-2012, 03:23
I'll be using a Berlebach initially, which is exceedingly solid, but quite heavy and a Gitzo head 1570 (I think thats the name) head I have. The head has a very large platform so the support is v good.

I have no doubt that the Chamonix would support your 360mm with no problem as the camera is not even really extended with such a FL; however, if you are using the camera for field use, have you thought about getting a lighter lens? The camera being able to handle such a heavy lens is one thing and your willingness to make it work another! I think the structural strength would be a non-issue, but doing rise and tilts with the front standard might feel odd with such a huge mass bearing down on everything.

Which Shen Hao are you looking at - the traditional Ebony copy HZX810 (or something like that) of the FCL810? I have not used either so cannot comment, but looking at the designs, I would be surprised if either are as rigid as the Chamonix with very heavy lenses up front (they both have folding front standards and the HZX has a triple extension). The FCL has a much shorter bed, which is not going to help matters. That of the chamonix is very much longer and made of extremely rigid carbon fibre. The downside if that the Chamonix is $1000 more expensive than the FCL.

Oren Grad
15-Mar-2012, 09:27
I also bought a Sinar to Linhof reduction board and initially thought the price a bit steep, until I picket it up. Yes, it is very expensive at $170 but it is feather light and beautifully made. Its easy to forget how much a reduction panel like this can weight when made from the usual metals, which combined with lots of lenses on Sinar panels can add up very quickly. I would strongly recommend anyone considering this camera to get this reduction panel.

How large is the hole in the reducing board? Many Linhof-to-Sinar adapters have holes that aren't quite big enough for the rear cells of some lenses one might want to swap across formats.

Chris Strobel
15-Mar-2012, 10:00
Hi again,

Yes I've thought about lighter lenses.I have a 240 mm G-Claron, also a 450mm Nikkor-M which isn't terribly large. I also have a 300mm Rodenstock Apo-Siranon-N which is my favorite and most used lens of the lot, very sharp lens but big like the 360mm Nikkor. What would be a good high quality lightweight 300mm for a wood field?

I've been looking at the FCL-810a Shen-Hao that badger sells.I like that it has both front base and axial tilt, and scale markings for zeroing things out.Also the folding desing of the front standard looks cool to me, but I can see where all the extra movements could cause rigidity issues. I like the bail arm of the Chamonix, the built is spirit levels, and the wide carbon fiber base. I wish there was a video somewhere showing the operation of the Chamonix, I'm still not clear on how you move the front standard back and fourth.

Your possible issues with the Shen are ones I've pondered too. And with your experience with wood fields it's good to hear your take on it. Again looking forward to some pics.

Thanks!,

Chris


I'll be using a Berlebach initially, which is exceedingly solid, but quite heavy and a Gitzo head 1570 (I think thats the name) head I have. The head has a very large platform so the support is v good.

I have no doubt that the Chamonix would support your 360mm with no problem as the camera is not even really extended with such a FL; however, if you are using the camera for field use, have you thought about getting a lighter lens? The camera being able to handle such a heavy lens is one thing and your willingness to make it work another! I think the structural strength would be a non-issue, but doing rise and tilts with the front standard might feel odd with such a huge mass bearing down on everything.

Which Shen Hao are you looking at - the traditional Ebony copy HZX810 (or something like that) of the FCL810? I have not used either so cannot comment, but looking at the designs, I would be surprised if either are as rigid as the Chamonix with very heavy lenses up front (they both have folding front standards and the HZX has a triple extension). The FCL has a much shorter bed, which is not going to help matters. That of the chamonix is very much longer and made of extremely rigid carbon fibre. The downside if that the Chamonix is $1000 more expensive than the FCL.

dsim
15-Mar-2012, 10:17
I wish there was a video somewhere showing the operation of the Chamonix, I'm still not clear on how you move the front standard back and fourth.
Chris

Chamonix 8x10 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j7axnQhQWg)

turtle
15-Mar-2012, 10:18
Chris, here is a video for the old style 8x10 but the principle is the same: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOjJTnuZUdY

Regarding lighter 300mm lenses, the 305 G claron has a massive image circle and weighs about 450g in a copal 1. The 300mm Fujinon-C is well respected and tiny, but they seem to be overly pricey at the moment on the used market ($700 or so). The 300mm f9 Geronar covers with a little room for movement and weighs about 280g in a copal 1 - similar to the Fujinon-C. The Geronar is not a good performer at wider apertures but great at F22 and smaller. There are not many around but they are very cheap, usually. I got mine for just over $200. The 305 G claron can be had in mint condition for about $400-450 and with a 380mm image circle (as per Schneider) and a consensus that stopped down it is a whole lot bigger, you are unlikely to ever run out of movement.

The Sinar to Linhof reducing board has a hole that mates with the circular rim on the inside of the Linhof board. So, no, it wont be good for those Nikkor 150 SWs and 155 Grandagons, but then again I would expect lenses of that FL to likely find their way onto a receessed Sinar board to allow better movement. So yes it has its limitations for lenses with monster rear elements.

Chris Strobel
15-Mar-2012, 12:01
Wow thanks for the video link guys.Doesn't get any clearer than that! Is it me or is that front axial tilt not centered on axis, and is there a notch or mark to zero out the front rise?

evan clarke
15-Mar-2012, 12:13
I have an 11x14 Chamonix and my whole kit with an aluminum pack frame, 2 lenses, camera, 2 holders and dark cloth is about 26 pounds...lighter than my 4x5 kit. I made around 75 sheets with it last year and am ready to go right now.

ic-racer
15-Mar-2012, 17:18
and am a little nervous about getting a wood field 8x10, especially with my 360mm Nikkor-W hanging on front
Certainly the Chaminox is lighter than the Shen-Hao, and is probably worth the extra 1K for someone looking for the lightest solution. However, everything is a compromise. Like the way Chamonix made the base of the front standard so thin. If you want a sturdy, but heavier front standard for a 360, then the Shen-Hao is the way to go.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v670/ic-racer/DSCF4724.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v670/ic-racer/810c11.jpg

Chris Strobel
15-Mar-2012, 18:26
Certainly the Chaminox is lighter than the Shen-Hao, and is probably worth the extra 1K for someone looking for the lightest solution. However, everything is a compromise. Like the way Chamonix made the base of the front standard so thin. If you want a sturdy, but heavier front standard for a 360, then the Shen-Hao is the way to go.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v670/ic-racer/DSCF4724.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v670/ic-racer/810c11.jpg

Wow nice images.Yes I'd like to use my 300 and 360 plasmats if possible.I hardly use my 240 G-Claron cause its hard to compose with in anything other than bright sunlight, I'm more low key.After lugging around a black C-1 and Ries A-100, I'm sure either the Chamonix or Shen on my Feisol tripod is gonna feel like a feather by comparison. Thanks for posting these pics.

turtle
16-Mar-2012, 02:39
Without wishing to start a 'this is better than that' as I dont have the two to compare directly, the Chamonix and Shen have very different front movements. The front standard of the chamonix has no linkages or joints of any kind for base movement, whereas the Shen has three, all of which are potential sources of flex. The photo of the Chamonix is the MKI, not the current Mk II and that camera weighed in at 2.8Kg - a whole kilogram less than the current one at 3.8Kg. There have been some changes and I will try to get a photo of mine up today. I can honestly say that I cannot detect any more flex from the front standard of the Chamonix than I could with an ABS Walker XL, which has a fixed front standard (only front axial tilt available) and it is far more rigid that the Zone VI which had a more traditional front standard. Take the joints out and you remove most of the possibility for play. In all fairness to the Zone VI UL, the movement in that camera was in the aluminium hardware and wood. The cool thing about the Chamonix is that the carbon fibre bed and runner that carries the front standard, just will not flex, which explains the ridiculous stability at long extensions.

turtle
16-Mar-2012, 04:37
I've uploaded a bunch of files. File 467 shows the neat solution to arresting the rear standard in the vertical position. This protrusion can be pushed aside to allow for rear back tilt.

The width of front standard in contact with the bed is approx. 1 inch. It's rock solid and there is quite literally no movement whatsoever. The Shen Hao allows for a front base tilt, however, which is not possible with the Chamonix.

The other photos are intended to show the fit, finish and some of the functional aspects. Sorry for not posting lots of funky photos with movements etc.

It seems none of the photos online show the right colour for the teak. Its cooler than shown here perhaps. Anyway, its very nice and while not as exotic as the best of black walnut, is a much better substitute than I expected.

More to follow in next post...

turtle
16-Mar-2012, 04:39
more photos...

In the second photo you will see the very visible dots which help you ensure the rear standard is squared when using the rear extension. These are much better than the hard to see lines marked on the carbon fibre bed on some other Chamonix camera. I cannot imagine even attempting to find those in fading light.

turtle
16-Mar-2012, 04:40
and finally....

File 467 shows the neat solution to arresting the rear standard in the vertical position. This protrusion can be pushed aside to allow for rear back tilt.

Songyun
16-Mar-2012, 10:31
Certainly the Chaminox is lighter than the Shen-Hao, and is probably worth the extra 1K for someone looking for the lightest solution. However, everything is a compromise. Like the way Chamonix made the base of the front standard so thin. If you want a sturdy, but heavier front standard for a 360, then the Shen-Hao is the way to go.


I dont know how do you draw the conclusion that the front standard on Chamonix is less stable.

It might be hassle for someone to screw, unscrew the front standard while open/fold the camera. However, the front standard is probably one of the most stable among wooden folding 8X10s. Just like turtle said, less linkage/joints means more stability.

I have used 360 sironar s (the heaviest lens I own) on Chamonix 8X10 without any problems.

Besides, your Chamonix camera photo is from an earlier version.

Songyun
16-Mar-2012, 10:34
that camera weighed in at 2.8Kg - a whole kilogram less than the current one at 3.8Kg.
I once owned the previous version with walnut wood, and now have the latest version with maple wood. I think the current one is lighter than the previous version. So it must be the wood.

Darren H
16-Mar-2012, 11:57
It is a great looking camera!!! Hope it makes you some great images. Post more pics of it out in the field and some of the results too. Have fun.

Alan Gales
16-Mar-2012, 12:25
Congratulations! I really like the look of the teak with the black. It really is beautiful!

turtle
16-Mar-2012, 13:06
I'm hoping that I will be able to spend a good few weeks in far flung parts of the UK when I return home in 6 weeks. That'll give me a good chance to get into a routine with it and comment further. So far though, playing with it in my room overseas, it is looking promising. I dont have the kit here to shoot with it, so have to be patient!

Bob McCarthy
18-May-2012, 10:24
I don't have the Chamonix 8x10, only the 4x5. It is mainly a carbon fibre camera with wood components. It is very strong. I believe the 8x10 is also made this way.

Possibly this is the reason for confusion. I've never owned a Shen ho, but used mainly metal cameras , Linhof Technikardan, then Technika, and both Sinar F and P. the Chamonix is equally rigid in practical terms.

Bob

ic-racer
18-May-2012, 20:35
Nice camera turtle!
Looks like the Chamonix 8x10 has undergone some changes and gained some weight and the Shen-Hao has increased in price to $2160 USD. We live in great times with these two competitively priced, contemporary-design 8x10 cameras on the market.