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Thread: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

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  1. #1

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    Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    So like a recent thread, I've been shooting and developing for sometime... 35mm but mostly MF of late. Lured into 4X5 LF, I picked up an Arca Swiss Model B and a couple of lenses a while back. Haven't had the chance to use the kit because we've moved and I'm still getting all set up in the space for developing, storage, printing, etc. and everything else again. (Whoever said moving was easy?) Want to say that I'm encouraged to see that many recommend a monorail for beginners... as that plays to my song sheet here. While I'm in no rush to go elsewhere... I am kind of wondering whether I might have jumped too soon, and (like so many on entering LF), picked up the wrong first LF camera. But as they say, "You have to start LF to know what's right and wrong for you" and that's in truth, still to come.

    So please don't misunderstand why I ask the following in terms of looking at lighter weight field type cameras. No more buckaroos exiting Ft. Knox local deposit box here for quite a while. LF is confusing from the outside, but I've got a few of the standard books and I'm game to learn.

    But I look at the lighter weight options and wonder whether - down the road if LF works for me, whether I might find myself looking for a field camera or not. I'm a guy who likes to walk with a camera. Some interesting reviews here. But not listed on the start page is Chamonix, Intrepid and Chroma... which are more contemporary options. Of these three, the Chamonix is the pricey end, but has a rep for high quality. Then again, they've also got a confusing number of models from F2 to H1, HS1, N1 and N2. Wow. I'm confused enough about LF, let alone wading through that mine field without a guide. By contrast, Intrepid and Chroma have only choices by size.

    Does anyone else think Chamonix's site seems to assume you already know what or why you like one versus another? or is that just me?

  2. #2
    Foamer
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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    I'm thinking a total beginner starting on their own won't buy a mid priced camera like Chamonix as their first camera. I started with a Cambo monorail, then Shen Hao, and am now happy with the Chamonix 045n.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  3. #3

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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    I'm thinking a total beginner starting on their own won't buy a mid priced camera like Chamonix as their first camera. I started with a Cambo monorail, then Shen Hao, and am now happy with the Chamonix 045n.


    Kent in SD
    Back in 1973 when I started in 4x5 photography I got a 1955 Linhof Technika III with one lens the 135 Symmar. I spoiled myself and got a mirror attachent for the back so I wouldn't struggle with a dark cloth. I found a sturdy tripod and a bunch of way outdated Polaroid 4x5 film to practice with. Then I concentrated on B/W before using color both negative and positive. I put the camera and other bits in a compact steel 8x10 filing box and would carry it on the plane with my tripod. This was my 4x5 outfit until 1984.

  4. #4
    David Schaller
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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    As others have suggested, why don’t you spend some time with the camera you have, and learn what it can do, before worrying about your next camera? At the start it’s good to be close to home, or your car, to work out your shooting procedures. Do some still life or portraits and develop some negatives, or drive somewhere and shoot a landscape.

  5. #5

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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Quote Originally Posted by David Schaller View Post
    As others have suggested, why don’t you spend some time with the camera you have, and learn what it can do, before worrying about your next camera?
    This makes the most sense as most photographers go through several cameras before they settle on the one to keep. I went through several Zone VI/Wistas before settling on Deardorff and Sinar. L

  6. #6

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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis-F-S View Post
    This makes the most sense as most photographers go through several cameras before they settle on the one to keep L
    Thanks for reading and responding, but I must have garbled my question. I am firmly NOT after another camera, and actually thought I made that definitively clear.

    What I thought I was asking was a simple question regarding the multiplicity of models from one builder and puzzling as to why that would be when I can't even figure the differences. FWIW, I am an advocate of one camera, one lens, one developer, one film, etc. and have pretty much stuck to that as I go about. And yes. I'm one of those weirdos who takes a TLR to France for 10 days and shoots nothing else.... and all on one film... roughly 30+ plus rolls, and loves it 'cause I've always believed in zooming with my feet. No regrets. So if I may say so in my own defense here... I respect the case you've endeavored to make... but you are preaching to a one-man choir even if I don't sing so well. Which means I'm probably STILL not making sense, huh?

    Okay. So let me try this again: I'm just puzzled why when my Arca Swiss has two bellows - one balloon and one norm - why Chamonix would seem to build different models to do what? The same thing? Is this a field camera kind of thing?

    And this doesn't have to be taken as an inquiry translating into wanting to buy another camera? I don't, it doesn't and it shouldn't. Yes, I can see the virtue of lightweight, and I like lightweight generally, but if all you do is repeat the TLR's limitation in a LF field camera sort of way, where a TLR is stuck with normal and you have to get entirely different TLR's to have a Telephoto and/or Wideangle TLR (think Rolleiflex here).... in order to approach certain situations... I'm just confused as to what the benefit is other than it lets a builder look like there's a lot of consumer choice. Why doesn't a builder just offer customization to whaterver you want? ANd no, I don't have three different TLR models... though I know folks who do. FWIW, I have only one and it's a 3.5F to save a few bucks and have a slightly smaller and lighter camera... and the slower F stop has almost never been a factor whether shooting at night or in a dark cathedral (Notre Dame du Paris before the fire). Maybe this rhettorical and I just answered my own question?

    Okay... I'm behind a rock now and ready for incoming. Thanks!

  7. #7

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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Quote Originally Posted by roscoetuff-Skip Mersereau View Post

    Okay. So let me try this again: I'm just puzzled why when my Arca Swiss has two bellows - one balloon and one norm - why Chamonix would seem to build different models to do what? The same thing? Is this a field camera kind of thing?
    Just in case you missed Kent's post earlier - Chamonix offers optional bag bellows for all of its 4x5 models. You do not need a "special" Chamonix camera to use bag bellows.

    FWIW, I started with a Cambo monorail and while I assume it was great for studio work and very versatile, it was a heavy, bulky pig to transport which led me to shoot it far less often than I wanted. After upgrading to a field camera (a Chamonix in my case but it holds true for most) I actually look forward to taking it places since it's so portable.
    Trevor

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    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Quote Originally Posted by roscoetuff-Skip Mersereau View Post
    Thanks for reading and responding, but I must have garbled my question. I am firmly NOT after another camera, and actually thought I made that definitively clear.

    What I thought I was asking was a simple question regarding the multiplicity of models from one builder and puzzling as to why that would be when I can't even figure the differences. ...
    Form follows function. Check the specs out for each model for the differences. There are non-folding and folding models, differences in bellows length, weight, etc. Use your camera for awhile to get an idea of the use of the movements, how one operates the camera, and all that. If you get the chance to handle a different type of camera, check out how they differ in operation. Your question really needs experience to understand the differences.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  9. #9

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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Yet another vote for getting some experience with the camera you already have. Arca-Swiss are especially well-made cameras, which makes them a pleasure to work with. My first view camera was a 4x5 Sinar F monorail, which I carried around in a day pack for a lot of hiking. Monorails aren't the best cameras for "packability" but they make up for that in flexibility, i.e. they can do anything. You may well find, after you have used it for a while, that you really want to keep it and add a field camera to your options, but you can only learn that after you have lived with the Arca for a while.

  10. #10
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Camera confusion: Beginner Puzzles over Chamonix et al

    Among the view cameras I've owned and used most were Burke & James flatbed and monorail, Graphic View, and Ikeda Anba. The Ikeda was by far the prettiest and lightest, but shaved only about 3 lbs. from the complete kit that weighed 15 to 25 lbs. It also cost three times as much as the next most expensive camera. I used the B&J flatbed for more photos than perhaps all of the others because it was the only one for years. With very few exceptions any photo taken with any of them could have been taken almost as easily with any of the others. Cameras may come and go, but fine tripods might last a lifetime. It's the lens that forms the image. Remember, fine photographs were taken with cameras and lenses that seem primitive to us today. Of course lenses made in the past few decades are better, but my most often used LF lens is still a Kodak lens from the 1940s. The differences between photos taken with it and the best lenses made today are much less than the differences between my photos and those of a master.

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