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Thread: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

  1. #1

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    Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    I know people have asked a million questions about what the best field camera out there is. However it seems that The Chamonix has created a bit of a stir and I am wondering if people who have used that as well as some of the other less expensive field cameras can give me their thoughts. I have used a graphic for a while and more recently a B&J 4X5 View camera (not the press camera). I have found the B&J's added movements to be very helpful so I am looking to combine (some) of that ability with the size and weight of the graphics and I think a "real" field camera is probably the best way to do that. The Shen Hao seems like it would fit my needs, but some people either love or hate these from what I read so I am just trying to put it all together and see how the Chamonix fits into the 4X5 field camera market.

  2. #2

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    First, can you wait 6 months for a Chamonix? If not, then the camera is not for you. If so, read on.

    In the last 8 months, I have owned a Zone VI, a Zone VI ultra light, a Canham DLC45, a Toyo 45AX, and now the Chamonix 45N-1.

    I've sold everything else except the Chamonix and the Toyo 45AX.

    The Chamonix is a well built camera with a ton of movements and lots of bellows. There are a few things to get used to, like focusing and changing lenses, but once you do the camera is a joy to use. It weighs about 3.5 pounds compared to 6 pound Toyo.

    Now I don't use lots of movements as I do mostly landscape and portraits with the camera and I have two lenses, a 110mm and a 210mm. This means I have plenty of movements available and still have lots of bellows.

    So far, I have no "real" complaints about the camera, just a few minor things to wish for. I wish there was a visible scale on the base where the front element screws down. I wish there was a folding focusing hood for the camera like the one Toyo makes for their cameras. That would be a huge plus for me. Also, I wish there was an accessory shoe on the top of the rear standard, like the one the Toyo has. There are times I would like to use a small flash and right now there is no place to put it (I won't put it on the front standard).

    All in all, the Chamonix is hard to beat. $699 plus shipping is a pretty good deal.

  3. #3
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    David, You have owned almost as many VC's in the last 6 months than I have in 30 years!
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  4. #4

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidb View Post
    There are a few things to get used to, like focusing and changing lenses, but once you do the camera is a joy to use.
    David could you expand on this? What's so different about focusing and changing lenses?

  5. #5

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    the focusing knob is a the back of the camera in the middle. it is a worm gear. i too find myself always reaching to the front standard to focus. (this is where most of my of cameras focus from)

    as for changing lenses i do not know. i think it is a very easy and straight forward design. i think that the lens boards are a bit too large EEERRRR....maybe the front standard hole is a but too small for my boards. my friend also experiences the same thing. i will haver to take a file to my boards.

    other than that it is a great camera. i am not the one to ask for a comparison as i do not own any other "modern" view camera. i own a korona view 4x5 and a B&J 8x10. i have owned a kodak 2D 8x10, and a calumet C1 8x10, as well as some press cameras.

    the difference for me is i have almost full movements compared to my korona 4x5. i get less bellows draw and that is kind of a bummer. i get 20 inches + with my korona! i have not used a B&J 4x5 but if it is anything like the 8x10 i would say it is similar to the chamonix but heavier bulkier, and WAY less pretty. OH! i do enjoy the geared movements on the other cameras! that is the one down side to the chamonix. when you loosen the knobs to adjust ,say rise, then you also have the potential to disturb the tilt as this knob controls both. small thing, i am able to "keep it all together" but others may not share this opinion.

    eddie
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  6. #6
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    David, I don't mean to beat up on you but to follow on with what Kirk said how could you have used any of them extensively enough in that period to become familiar enough with any single one ..... or, was it instant hate? Nothing wrong if it was instant hate or a particular camera just didn't fit your style but you can't really condemn any of those you discarded so quickly as you never got to know them.

    As for the Chamonix, I'm waiting for one to arrive so I can test it thoroughly. I have had the pleasure of using one briefly in my studio thanks to Gary Samson who is shooting with it in Ghana right now. I have no problem with controls as I have used Phillips cameras in the past. In its price and weight range it is perhaps the most versatile camera I have used. It sets up reasonably fast. It was rigid enough with the bellows somewhat extended. The fit and finish is lovely. It'll take a lot more use and a lot of sheets of film through it before I am ready to say much more but suffice to ay the one short look was all I needed to impress me enough to give a longer look.

    I'll also add that I am equally interested in seeing Richard Ritter's 4x5 that will be on the same platform as his 5x7. That should be available at about the same time the next batch of Chamonix 4x5's arrives.

    Finally, to get back to the OP's question, there really is no best field camera; there is only the camera that is best for your needs, style of shooting and budget.

  7. #7

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    I'm a serious newbie but I did spend the past year learning LF on a 4x5 Shen Hao. I am one of those that did not find it particularly intuitive -- in fact, I found it a bit frustrating and was, in part, convinced that it was either my ineptitude or inexperience that led to my dissatisfaction.

    I think luckily in my case, I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't necessarily me or the camera, but that the two of us together were not well-suited and I swapped it for one of the new Chamonix 4x5s (thank heavens for an understanding husband).

    My experience with the Chamonix has been completely different -- I really enjoy working with it on all levels. So go figure.

    I'm still in the market for a 5x7 field, I only wish that the Chamonix 5x7/5x8 wasn't so expensive or I would give serious thought to buying another.

    So take your shot -- I think finding the right camera is a bit more touchy-feely than one might think. Sure surprised me. Luckily if you treat your gear well (and buy decent stuff to begin with) your mistakes won't be too costly.

    Good luck,

    JT

  8. #8

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    How does the Chamonix acrylic/plastic ground glass compare to a regular GG?...Any light flare/hot spots? Does it scratch easy? I know on their larger cameras they use this type of GG so I assume it is the same on the smaller formats.

  9. #9

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    Thanks for the input and by all means continue to discuss the topic but I thought I would update you all that I am leaning towards a used Shen Hao. One of the main reasons I am looking for something is allowing better movement with a 90 and with the available bag bellows it looks like that would give me the most movements. I can see how I get along with it and if I don't probably get my money back and try something else. Unfortunately I really can't try before I buy as there isn't really anywhere I know of near where I am that carries any large format gear in a meaningful way.

  10. #10

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    Re: Chamonix vs other <$1000 4X5 Field Cameras?

    Quote Originally Posted by robert View Post
    How does the Chamonix acrylic/plastic ground glass compare to a regular GG?...Any light flare/hot spots? Does it scratch easy? I know on their larger cameras they use this type of GG so I assume it is the same on the smaller formats.
    The Chamonix 45N-1 uses conventional ground glass with a fresnel lens. I'm not sure where they draw the line for switching to acrylic, but all the 4x5's have glass.

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