I sat down for coffee with fellow New Mexicans and LF junkies Don Boyd and David Braum today, partly to compare David's 4x5 Chamonix and my 4x5 Phillips camera. This is a comparison I had wanted to do for awhile as many have talked about the Chamonix design being derived from the Phillips and indeed it is. My Phillips is not common however, It was custom ordered and then altered by the original owner, Michael Mutmanski. It has the long flexible "Universal Bellows", a Horseman international back and redesigned rear standard brackets (which make it more compact).
The basic structure and design of the two cameras is very similar. The Chamonix is a refinement of the basic Phillips design. It is more compact and a bit lighter (Its hard to say how much, we were sitting at a Starbucks, and most Phillips don't have the heavier Horseman back), whereas the larger Phillips extend further for longer lenses. Both cameras are superbly rigid, even fully racked out-the Phillips is the most rigid folding field cameras I have ever used and the lightest. The Chamonix lacks the focus lock of the Phillips. But David said he didn't find an issue with that in practice, but its lack is a slight concern to me. If you were running over rough terrain to change camera position in changing light, would the focus shift? If you were shooting straight down does the focus sink? As designed by Dick, the focus lock extends above the focus screw and pushes the rear standard design up about 3/4 of an inch-part of why the Chamonix is able to be more compact. The Phillips with the universal bellows handles much longer lenses (I've comfortably used from a 450 [focused much closer than infinity] on the Phillips to even wides like a 120 on a flat board with full movements, wider lenses become more restricted as they get wider and need recessed lens boards), but the bellows is not interchangeable. The Chamonix has interchangeable bellows, a plus for sure, though I understand from David that accessories like bag bellows are not available yet? Set up and function is virtually the same.
You can see my Phillips here with a Nikkor 120SW focused at infinity: http://www.largeformatphotography.in...3&d=1212377729
All in all the Chamonix very well made and beautiful. I had thought before seing one that they were the Volkswagon of field 4x5s, but they are much more than that. David's was stained black (Walnut?) and in that color very much had the black techy look of the Phillips. Owning the Phillips I feel like I own a first generation original of a fine sports car and when you get down to it they are so similar that I wouldn't feel the need to acquire a Chamonix, but if I didn't have the Phillips and was in the market............if only the Chamonix had the long Universal bellows and a focus lock........