View Full Version : Chamonix 45N-1 Universal bellows and Folding Viewer Review

22-Aug-2008, 07:47
Chamonix 45N-1 Universal bellows and Folding Viewer Review

Since I first started using the Chamonix 45N-1 in late 2007, I’ve thought it was a beautifully designed camera that needed very little in the way of improvements. However, when the camera was first released, there were no accessories available, which somewhat limited the camera compared to older systems with more options. The summer of 2008 has seen the release of multiple accessories to complement the 45N-1. As of this summer, most of the following accessories are available. Note that the prices listed are estimates based on exchange rate earlier this summer and may vary due to currency fluctuations.

Lens shade: $35

Reflex Viewer: $250

Folding Viewer: $30

Carbon fiber lens board: $65

Leather Jacket: $25

Universal bellows: $90

Wide Bellows: $80

Dark cloth: $25

45 film holder: $69

Universal Bellows

After using my Chamonix for a few months, I ran into a couple of issues. My widest lens is currently the Nikkor 90mm SW f/8—which I bought for its light weight and generous image circle. The standard bellows is of excellent quality, but like many other bellows—movements are limited with short lenses. The standard bellows allows approximately 20-25mm of front standard rise out of the front standard limit of 45mm.

Standard bellows may limit movement of short lenses

The universal bellows is similar in construction to the standard bellows, but there are no stiffeners in a small section at the front of the bellows. The stiffeners act to give the bellows form, promote folding, and prevent sag. Removing the stiffeners in a small section at the front of the bellows has no effect on the proper folding and dimensional stability of the bellows, but it does allow a wider range of movements when the bellows is compressed for use with short lenses. I found that the front frame could be raised to the full 45mm the front standard allows when using the universal bellows. There is a similarly wider range of shift available.

Universal bellows allows full front standard movements with a 90mm lens

The universal bellows also extends to the full length of the completely extended 45N-1, so there is no loss of function when used with a long lens.

Universal bellows fully extended

Normal bellows fully extended

Overall, the universal bellows is made to the same high standards as the standard bellows, and the Chamonix is thoughtfully designed for simple and easy bellows replacement. It adds functionality for a modest price without any loss of extension, so I highly recommend it for all general use. The universal bellows can be purchased separately or for a modest additional cost—as the primary bellows with the purchase of a 45N-1.

Pros: Easy to install, high quality, reasonable price.

Cons: None

22-Aug-2008, 07:48
Folding Viewer

Using a view camera is a real joy for me, but I’ve found using a dark cloth to be less than ideal. In the wide open landscape or even in the studio, working under the dark cloth can be a meditative experience. However, in the city, the dark cloth can become a liability that isolates the photographer from his or her surroundings. In many urban areas, that’s not a good idea, especially for keeping an eye on expensive equipment. The bulk and setup of the dark cloth can also slow you down.



The Chamonix folding viewer consists of a metal frame and fabric hood that mounts to the accessory posts that normally hold the carbon fiber ground glass protector. The viewer is a small version of the classic Graflex SLR camera folding hood. The fabric is made from the same material as the bellows which is easily folded and unfolded. A small tab of Velcro holds the viewer closed when not in use.


I found the viewer to be good at blocking out extraneous light at the cost of a fairly small viewing slit. The narrow horizontal slit's main drawback is its orientation when the back is used for vertical shots. If you shoot a lot of verticals, using the viewer would probably be somewhat frustrating. The viewer also precludes the use of a loupe, so it requires good vision at the fixed distance between the hood edge and ground glass screen.


Like all things Chamonix, the quality is excellent. The cost is low enough to order even if you won’t be using it all the time. Despite some limitations, I think the hood is a very good value for a useful accessory.

Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, protects ground glass

Cons: Not so good for vertical shots, doesn’t allow the use of a loupe.

22-Aug-2008, 08:18
Thanks for posting this Barry. I had planned on acquiring a 90mm lens at some point. It looks like I might want to budget for a Universal bellows also. Good to know. Any idea what the lens shade will look like.

Thanks again.

22-Aug-2008, 08:24
Thanks Kurt. I think the lens shade is a flexible arm with a small flat shade--something similar to the Ebony shade.

Eric Leppanen
22-Aug-2008, 08:32
Thanks for the write-up, Barry! Would you mind checking how much front rise you can get from the universal bellows at 84 mm of extension (infinity focus for my SS80XL)?

22-Aug-2008, 08:57
I'm glad to hear the universal bellows does alow for noticeably more movement on a 90mm! That's what I've ordered the bellows for, the 90mm :-)

22-Aug-2008, 08:59
Eric--I'll check tonight, but I'd bet you'd get full rise at 84mm.

22-Aug-2008, 09:45
I have to disagree with your statement about the usefulness of the folding viewer in the vertical orientation. If anything, I think it is more useful vertically, you can put your left eye right onto the slit in the viewer and it functions very similarly to the eyepiece and viewfinder of an SLR. You easily have an unobstructed view of the entire ground glass with almost no light leak.

Otherwise, thanks for a good review :)

George Hofmann
22-Aug-2008, 12:42
Good info. But where would one obtain these accessories? When i got my 45N-1 I received utterly no information about contacting the factory, obtaining support or purchasing accessories. Not even an owner's manual.


22-Aug-2008, 12:52
Good info. But where would one obtain these accessories? When i got my 45N-1 I received utterly no information about contacting the factory, obtaining support or purchasing accessories. Not even an owner's manual.


I don't think many large format field cameras come with an owner's manual because they're fairly simple machines. In general, large format photography requires some research and reading well beyond what you can find in an owner's manual. I recommend Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons as a good start. Chamonix cameras are handmade in a small workshop and the company's representative in the US is Hugo Zhang. You can PM him here on the LF forum or email him at hugoz_2000@yahoo.com.

22-Aug-2008, 16:20
Hey Barry, thanks for the review! I wonder if Chamonix will make a folding viewer that will work in both landscape and portrait orientation. I shoot both landscapes and portraits equally, so not being able to interchange the folding viewer from both ways would be annoying.

Also, how easy is it to install and remove the folding viewer? While I would most likely keep it on, if Chamonix has one for the portrait position, I would purchase two and use them interchangeably. I found using a dark cloth gets way too warm for me!



23-Aug-2008, 09:15
As I mentioned previously, the folding viewer works equally well in both orientations.. It is my opinion that it is even easier to use in the vertical orientation.
Just my .02

4-Dec-2008, 17:07
Useful review of the Universal Bellows. One question; I'm intending to use a Nikkor SW 90 f4.5 if I get this camera. I see you're getting a good rise/shift with these bellows; would I get this in combination with a decent amount of tilt for landscape work on a 90mm?


5-Dec-2008, 05:10
I use this combination, Nikkor 90/4.5, 45n and universal bellows - no need for bag bellows...


5-Dec-2008, 10:36
Very informative thread. I have read that the universal bellows allow for decent amount of movements with a Schneider 80mm XL. What about a 72mm XL? Would bag bellows be a must then?

18-Feb-2009, 00:51
Thanks for the review and pictures.

Does anyone who has used this know if the folding viewer is quick-on/quick-off, to allow access with a loupe?