Who the heck is Chamonix?
Well, it's a small town nestled at the foot of the Alps. Why does this ski resort have anything to do with wooden cameras?
The story goes that many years ago a Chinese mountaineer/LF photographer travelled and stayed there for a week and fell in love with this town of Chamonix. The only regret he felt about his wonderful trip was that his 12x20 camera and holders were simply too heavy for mountain climbing.
Returning back to China, he was determined to design and build a rigid but light-weight wooden camera for his mountain trips. Of course he copied some good parts from other camera manufactueres, but not mindlessly. He built his first camera in 2002, his photographer friends in China like his camera and asked him to build cameras for them. So he found a small factory in southern China and assembled 8 skilled craftmen to build wooden cameras. In 2004, he named his camera Chamonix for his love of that mountain village.
This love of beautiful camera has grown into a business. He and his workers have made and sold some 200 cameras in China and other countries in Asia. Unlike Shenhao, Chamonix has a cult-like following in China because it is a camera designed by a landscape photographer and made for landscape photographers. Light-weight, strong, very functional and beautiful workmanship.
I got to know Chamonix because I needed to have film holders custom made for my 10x20 camera. I was so impressed by those holders and decided to find home for some of their ULF cameras here.
After much probing, we have come to the conclusion that the traditional distribution method is simply too expensive and time consuming. Operation costs like dealer's markup, inventory and double shipping, will have to be added to customers final bill. So we would like to try a factory direct method. I will collect payments here and the factory will ship the camera to your door.
We have a few cameras each in the size of 7x17, 8x20, 12x20 and 20x24. One 14x17 left. Those fine cameras will be very attractively priced and will be sold first come first serve. After these cameras are sold, future orders will have six month waiting period. Because US government puts great pressure for the Chinese to revalue RMB, those who buy China-made stuff later may pay a higher price in dollars. I will post technical information and prices at For Sale section early next week. Chamonix also makes 4x5, 4x10, 5x7, 5x8 and 8x10 cameras and has inventory in some sizes.
OK, Hugo, you have done a nice pre-sales job for Chamonix so far. Some of us are really tempted to get our hands on these modestly priced and beautifully made Chamonix. What is the caveat?
1. The Chamonix is a relatively young company. As with all young companies, it needs time to build its fame.
2. Chamonix cameras were designed and built for landscape photographers. It is not as stronger and as heavy as Deardorff.
3. So far, less than 1% of its cameras has returned to the factory for repairs. The factory has a 20 month warranty period. If your camera needs repair in China, it's a long trip.
4. The owner of Chamonix is still learning to balance his passion for landscape photography and his duty as a business man. There are times I can't reach him for weeks because he is traveling in some remote area in China taking pictures.
5. Chamonix has no offices in US and Hugo is the only contact person. He has a full time job and he will try his best to help everyone. But there is no assurance that all inquiry will be answered in a timely manner.
Finally, I want to thank Kerry and Michael on behalf of Chamonix. They have spent their valuable time to introduce Chamonix to folks here. I also want to thank people at the View Camera magazine.