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Thread: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

  1. #1
    Imagowan
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    Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    Hello all!

    First off, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who frequents these forums. I have not been on in quite some time. I was doing some research and lo and behold an old thread I started appeared. Wow, it was so fascinating to read the many suggestions, ideas, and thoughts people provided me back then. Also super interesting to see what fit and what did not, as well as to see the level of my own naivete and how far I have come.

    Long story short- I cam here several years ago asking about large format cameras. I was about to begin an MFA program and was sold on the idea that using a view camera would slow me down. At that point I was working digitally, occasionally shooting with a Mamiya 7 (which I sold, but not wish I had back) and a Yashica mat-124 G that I enjoyed, but that know longer works. In many ways I was still very new to photography, but I was certain my work would blossom and I would exert more control over my image making if I shot LF. I knew I wanted something to take into the field and that I could travel with. The way I shoot now is different from back then, but not radically so by any means. My website (which needs an update!) is www.isabelmagowan.com and hopefully can be helpful in providing some context for the images I make. I currently work with a 5d Mark III. It is a great camera, but something doesn't feel right. Ultimately, this is because of my own photographic process and inability to decide what I want to make work about than it is anything to do with the camera. Regardless... Those years ago I got excellent advice. Looking back now I am wondering why I did not respond to every single suggestion. I suppose in a way I sort of had my mind made up early on. Many cameras were mentioned. Some were real proponents of the speed graflex, of wood cameras, of Toyo's, of monorails. I knew I did not want a monorail, I still stand by that. Ultimately, I bought a Chamonix. Beautiful camera, but I under estimated by own patience and over estimated the degree to which I thought I needed movements. The truth is, while this camera is beautiful, it never felt intuiative, but more frustrating and difficult to handle, difficult to store. Admittedly, that was because I was a newbie. I over looked more commonly produced brands thinking this camera had the answers. I picked something perhaps to beautiful and too advanced. Its movements at times felt counter intuitive and did not leave me feeling like I had control (again experience). While I made some beautiful images with this camera, I never enjoyed the experience. Set up and break down was always cumbersome, a certain mechanisms, especially the lift and tilt function mechanism on one part on the back kept slipping and almost breaking down on me.

    Yet, I have not given up on 4x5 and the idea of a field camera, simply put, this beautiful camera was not the right fit for me. Recently I saw my friends horseman. It looked so tiny! So easy to fold back in! The lens I believe could stay on. All that annoying setup of the Chamonix (I believe it is the 045F1) was one of the reasons why I just couldn't get myself to use it. It felt so anal that I felt my soul being sucked out. The horseman, which she said was fairly inexpensive, was great she said. At this point, I have learned that price does not always make for a better camera. I still love the idea of setting up a shot, but not without all those bells and whistles, all the time of setup. Of course some set up is to be expected but that is fine. I just need something a bit more pragmatic, functional, and useful. I want the process to be smooth and excite me more than frustrate me. Because the Chamonix is sort of "botiquey" I found it hard to find advice when dealing with issues or when trying to problem solve. That back mechanism... not so smooth... I feel anxiety thinking about it.

    So any thoughts? What do some thing about the Horseman (I can not recall which she had, I believe she bought it for $600.00). Are there any other light weight easy to use, set up, and carry cameras available? Do any have the option of also taking medium format film? I am also open to the idea of shooting with a medium format camera. I found the Mamiya RZ cumbersome, although know many people who love it. The Mamiya 7 was great but the paralax was tough on the version I had and I found (must have been due to my lens) that I could never get all that close. I also find the Mamiya in some ways has over taken the LF standard in artsy fartsy schools. I have also found that people were shooting with all sorts of things (that is the good news).

    Please let me know if you have any questions or could use more information that might help with feedback. Apologies for the long rambling above. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the 5d mainly because now I have a bunch of equipment for it, but in doing this have lost the passion of simply seeing and making. I get distracted by this or that and don't focus on what I want and how to achieve it. Any ideas are welcome and I am incredibly appreciative for all and any advice.

    Thank you!

    - Issy

  2. #2
    Moderator
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    Welcome back!

    Quote Originally Posted by Imagowan View Post
    Yet, I have not given up on 4x5 and the idea of a field camera, simply put, this beautiful camera was not the right fit for me. Recently I saw my friends horseman. It looked so tiny! So easy to fold back in! The lens I believe could stay on.
    The Horseman 45HF, 45HD, and 45FA are nice cameras and can be set up pretty quickly, though the controls are a bit cramped, movements are limited and there are many lenses that are too big to fit. (FWIW, I have the Horseman VH and VH-R 6x9cm cameras, which share the same basic design.)

    But there are many 4x5 cameras that do not require any kind of folding at all. You can leave the lens on, and if you use a quick-release plate with your tripod, you can mount the camera and be ready to go in an instant with no fuss. Non-folding wooden field camera models from Ebony, Shen-Hao and Chamonix come to mind. If you tend to see wide, another non-folding alternative would be a Cambo Wide, which uses lenses in helical focus mounts. There are also rigid-body 4x5 cameras from Chinese companies such as Fotoman, Gaoersi and Da Yi. These all use lenses in helical focus mount; some models have (limited) movements and some don't. These too are best suited to shorter focal lengths; with mounting cones to accommodate normal or longer focal lengths they tend to be pretty bulky, and close-focus may be limited.

    Most or all of these will have Graflok backs that can accept roll film holders as well as 4x5 cut sheet film holders.

  3. #3
    Drew Saunders drew.saunders's Avatar
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    B&H produced a "Professional Photo Sourcebook" in 2007 that's a wealth of information about the cameras available then. Fortunately, quite a few view cameras, field or monorail, haven't really changed much since 2007. From here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/find/FreeCatalog.jsp in the bottom right corner are the links to the files, the whole beast is at https://static.bhphotovideo.com/Fram...SourceBook.pdf and the LF "Field" cameras are https://static.bhphotovideo.com/Fram...ormatField.pdf
    From that, you might be able to figure out which Horseman your friend had, whether it was one of the folding metal ones or the Woodman, plus see photos and specs for a lot of cameras that you might want to pick up used instead of new.

    I see from your web page you're in New York. I'm sure there are lots of photographers in that area who have cameras that you could look at and get a feel for what might be better for you. I don't know if there are LF clubs or meetup groups in that area that might help you get in touch with people with all sorts of cameras, but that would be a good place to start.

    What lenses do you like? I have a non-folding Ebony 45SU which is more of a "collapsing" camera. I think the term "non-folding" doesn't describe how they work well. The better way to describe how I store it is that it "flattens." Anyway, I could store it with my Nikkor-M 200 f/8 lens or my Fuji 125/5.6 lenses on it quite easily (those are both very small lenses that could be stored on many cameras in their compact/folded state), but my huge Fujinar 250/4.7 isn't practical to leave on in its collapsed state. Chamonix makes the 45H-1 and 45Hs-1 and Shen Hao makes the TFC45-IIC and XPO45-A that are non-folding. I find it's pretty easy and fast to collapse my 45SU for storage and open it for use, but it's not the perfect style of camera for everyone.
    Flickriver (to avoid Flickr's annoying new format): http://www.flickriver.com/photos/drew_saunders/

  4. #4

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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    Thank God we got the "short" version ! I forgot what the question was.

  5. #5
    David Lobato David Lobato's Avatar
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    I like a field 4x5 because it's it's less weight and more compact than the RB67 I had for a few months. So I sympathize with your RZ comment. If I am going to carry a certain amount of weight and take the time to set it up a camera, I'd much rather expose an image on a 4x5 inch sheet of film instead of a 6x7 or 6x9 cm piece of film.

    I use a Toyo 45A because it's quick to set up, among other reasons. A Chamonix 45F-1 did not interest me either. Check out other metal field cameras from Horseman and the Linhof Technikas. New Technikas are expensive, older ones are more affordable. Also the Arca Swiss 4x5 cameras but they are pricey.

  6. #6
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    If you mostly want big film or non-extreme lens options and not a ton of movements, there are plenty of speed graphic / crown graphic options as well. They don't get much respect but do the job inexpensively and simply.

    If you want the DSLR to be fun, just put away all but your 50mm lens and get to know it with just that lens. Or get the Yashica repaired and it's a great deal lighter and more convenient than a DSLR in normal outdoor situations.

  7. #7
    Big Negs Rock!
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    I use a Deardorff V8 with reducing backs. I love the way it works. I use a Pentax 67 for MF and it's very easy to use -- it's just a big version of the 35mm camera. Good luck!
    Mark Woods

    Large Format B&W
    Cinematography Mentor at the American Film Institute
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    www.markwoods.com

  8. #8

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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    Your photos have almost no need for camera movements. The field cameras will probably feel much better and not have any significant constraints for your shooting.

    The speed graphic / crown graphic mentioned by jp should work well (were used by news reporters). Horseman 45HF, 45HD, and 45FA (mentioned by Oren), Linhof Technika, Toyo 45A, Wista 45 RF are similar designs.

    Since you are primarily taking pictures of people you probably would find the versions with rangefinders are an advantage.

    Like Oren I have a Horseman VHR which is fun to use but has limitations on movements, so I use my Canham more often.

    Nothing will be quicker nor easier to use than your DSLR. The biggest difference will be whether you like the process of taking the picture or of working with film.

    Best wishes, jeff

  9. #9
    Imagowan
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    Hi all,

    Thank you so much for your considered responses. Drew, I will look into into the source book you recommended. My friends horseman was not wood. Click image for larger version. 

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    It looked something along the lines of the images here (hoping these worked). I think it may have been the 45FA or the 45HD.

    My Chamonix is a field camera, however unlike many field camera it offered additional movements, that generally are only found with monorail cameras. I have would like to be able to pack a camera so it collapsing or folding is fine so long as it does not take 20 minutes to set up. I don't think I would mind limited movements, after all part of my issues (which for many others would be its virtue!) was the extent of movements and then the difficult of locking those movements in place. To many components to be accounted for. This made it hard to connect with subject or direct or do much of anything as I was always trying to finagle the camera.

    Luis- good one! Main question: What LF 4x5 field camera is functional, lightweight, easy to set up, strong/ durable, and enjoyable to shoot with.

    By any chance do any of these 4x5 field cameras have the ability to also shoot with medium format film?

    JP: I am still interested in speed graphic, crown graphic. That be said some movements would be nice. I know it is not possible here. Out of these cameras (graphic) is their a particular model or make that you could suggest? Thank you in advance

    Jeff: In regard to finding versions with rangefinders, are you referring to medium format cameras? Or is this possible with large format cameras? What is the benefit of this or difference? Apologies for not knowing more in regard to this.

    David: I am agreement. If I shooting film, then I rather have a lightweight MF cam rather than a cumbersome RZ. If I have to take that set up time I would prefer the 4x5. Also the RZ was not very convenient to carry. My Chamonix, actually was very light weight and could fit into a backpack quite easily- something I liked. But then Each time setting up, it not maintaining positions, changing the copal boards (which I am not opposed too, but got tiresome in addition to the set up involved) took me out of anything I was doing. I also do not need so many movements. The specific chamonix had to many movements. I just need basic movements.

    Here is the link to the Chamonix I own http://www.chamonixviewcamera.com/045F1.html

    I also would like to trade the Chamonix or find something under $1000.00. I am tough on my gear and one of the reasons I rarely used my Chamonix was because it was so beautiful and I worried it was too delicate.

    Thank you again for all of your feedback. I look forward to reading more.

  10. #10
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Want to replace Chamonix, field camera or medium format suggestions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Imagowan View Post
    JP: I am still interested in speed graphic, crown graphic. That be said some movements would be nice. I know it is not possible here. Out of these cameras (graphic) is their a particular model or make that you could suggest? Thank you in advance
    Not sure about Crowns but look for the graflok back on either.. For speed that would be a pacemaker.. They'd generally have the metal stamped lensboards, which the standard that goes with them has more movements than the previous Anniversary version, which has wooden lensboards. I happen to like the Anniversary and preanniversary better despite less movements because you get a bigger lensboard for bigger lenses... but it's a tradeoff. A Crown basically the same as a speed graphic except that it lacks a focal plane shutter. There are websites and FAQs to fill in the details. Graflex branded 135 and 210 lenses are excellent and usually come with a lensboard. Lensboards are available used for most common sizes or new (and custom) from ebay user golfista174. The front standard can be removed and reversed if you need scheimpflug movement of aiming the lens downward.

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