Chamonix 5×8” – 3 years later

Categories: English, Výbava
Comments: Comments Off
Published on: 28.12.2010

 

Part I – first impressions.
Part II – 4×5″ reduction back I, 8month long experience
Part III – 4×5″ reduction back II.
Part IV – 3 years (and several hundred exposures) later. (you’re here).
.
Equipment.
Lenses.

 

Here is an update on using this camera after almost 3 years of using it, and exposing several hundreds of film sheets.

I still like the camera very much, the way it’s built, the way it operates. It has become an extension of my mind, my eye – it’s so well designed that I don’t have to think about operating it. Instead I can focus on the photo opportunity… Well, almost always (it would be too good to be true all the time, wouldn’t it?). Now the remarks, some minor, some a little bit more important.

1. My first remark concerns the nuts used to tighten the front standard. When folding the camera down, I have to be careful about orientation of this nut – it has to be parallel to the front standard (or nearly so). If they are rotated, they will protrude too much down and scratch the wood on the base – as I have unfortunately made prior to realizing the problem…

(also, I think the nuts might damage the bellows in a similar way in the long run).

 

 

 



2. The focusing helical is great, but care must be taken to tighten it regularly. Otherwise with time the helical would get a bit loose and will not hold the focus for example when a long/heavy lens is used and the camera is pointed either up or down. In such cases, focus creep will occur. The same will also happen when a very short focal length lens is used and the bellows are squeezed tight. And if this happens in the field, with the perfect shot in front of me… (Yes, that happened to me, twice).

The remedy is very simple, just tightening the appropriate screw. The wrench is now in my camera bag all the time.

(And btw., this is not an issue with my Chamonix only, my friend’s Shen-Hao needs the same care in this regard. So I think it’s a „feature“ based on the design.)


3. The third remark is just a clarification to the specification: the Chamonix camera website states the minimum bellows extension is 110mm, so one would assume that a lens with a focal length greater than 110mm could be used. That’s not true.

The widest lens I currently have is a 120mm Hugo Meyer Weitwinkel Aristostigmat but even with this lens, I have to use indirect movements of the standards to focus for infinity (that means, tilting the rear standard to the front, shifting the front standard upwards, and then tilting the front standard to be parallel to the rear). In this position, the bellows compression is so great, that employing any more movements at all is hard to impossible, and sometimes I can not bring the lens to infinity-focus at all. Therefore I have prepared an eccentric lensboard for the Meyer lens, which I can mount on the front standard in any of the four directions to get approx. 1cm of shift/rise without the need to move the whole standard.

But anyway, the 120mm lens is practically the widest lens one can use with this camera and a flat lensboard.

Now, what about a recessed lensboard? That would be a good solution (I don’t have one, though). But only in regard to easing the use of front movements. I don’t think it would allow using a lens wider than the stated 110mm, because either parts of the front standard, or the camera bed would block the view.


4. „Spacer“ or insert: from a piece of wood and 2 sheets of aluminum, I have made a spacer for the back to allow my using regular 5×7″/13×18cm film holders. This spacer is easy to remove and install, and is light-tight as far as I can tell (although if there is a bright source of light hitting the camera from the side, I cover the rear standard with darkcloth during exposure, just in case my solution would not be 100% lighttight).

Update in 2014: I have stopped using the „spacer“ to allow for using 5×7″/13×18cm holders, and have instead ordered a separate 5×7″ back. It’s obviously a better way to shoot both formats (5×8″ and 5×7″), but it adds another ~200g of weight to carry.

4×5″ reduction back for Chamonix 5×8″ – II

Categories: English, Technika, Výbava
Comments: Comments Off
Published on: 12.12.2008

Part I – first impressions.
Part II – 4×5″ reduction back I, 8month long experience
Part III – 4×5″ reduction back II. (you’re here).
Part IV – 3 years (and several hundred exposures) later.
.
Equipment.
Lenses.

This is a short update on my completing the Chamonix 5×8″ camera kit.

As was written previously, I have the Chamonix camera in light maple wood, the 4×5″ reduction back was sent to me made from the dark wallnut version. As I quickly found out by mailing Hugo Zhang, there has been a mistake while packing the parcel, and I was sent the wrong back. We agreed, that the factory will send me the correct one. Until it arrives, I’ll use the dark one. When it get’s here, I’ll send the dark one back to China, and deduct the cost of the shipment from the price of the back…

That is a very good service, though… Mistakes happen, and what is important is, how well they can be solved…

On the technical side, the back is same as the dark one, so no change on using it.

? Technika

4×5″ reduction back for Chamonix 5×8″

Categories: English, Technika, Výbava
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: 23.10.2008

Part I – first impressions.
Part II – 4×5″ reduction back I, 8month long experience (you’re here).
Part III – 4×5″ reduction back II.
Part IV – 3 years (and several hundred exposures) later.
.
Equipment.
Lenses.

At last. Today, after almost 8 months of waiting I have finally received the 4×5″ reduction back for my Chamonix 5×8″ camera. I’m very happy, because that will allow me to shoot some color too – I have color film only in 4×5″/9×12cm size, not in the larger 13×18cm/5×8″.

Well, the back…

It came very well packed, undamaged. The back even has a ground glass protector made from carbon fiber (the same material used on the Chamonix holder’s darkslides).

The back is very well made, with great precision and attention to detail. It is an international (graflok) back, which would allow me to use graflok accessories in the future. The ground glass has markings for smaller formats (6×9cm, 6×12cm), and is very bright thanks to the included Fresnel lens. It’s much brighter than the 5×8″ ground glass. The back has 2 bubble levels for precise leveling, as seen here:

Overall, the build quality is excellent, with great attention to details – as was the case with the camera itself.

Now the nasty surprise. The back is not made from the same light colored maple wood, but instead, it is made from the dark hazelnut variant. That is very sad to me, as when I put it on the camera, it does not look good. It looks like something hitchhiked from some other camera, from something else. And that’s very sad, especially when I encounter such mishaps with the only real photographic equipment I bought new. Every other single photographic equipment (- with the exception of Minolta Dimage A200 digital camera, which I don’t count in the „real photographic equipment“ category. It’s more a toy to me) I have was bought second-hand. But it is certainly true that it does not hinder the usability of the back. It only does not look so good.

Surely, I’m going to try to solve this problem somehow…


Important update: is here.


Now, as I’m writing about the camera, I’ll also add some notes on it after using it for roughly 8 months:

Chamonix 5×8″ camera – update on use after 8 months

In the months since I got the camera, I have used it to burn more than 130 sheets of film. I’ve used very different lenses with it, be it the G-Claron 150mm on the wide end, and the Apo-Ronar 480mm, or Symmar 300mm/500mm convertible lens on the long and heavy end.

I still love the camera, using it and handling it. It is still as tight and solid as it was after I unpacked it, with the exception of the focusing helical worm – that one got a little loose, especially when a heavy lens was used and if the camera was tilted downwards. But a simple tightening of one screw was enough to fix it.

I have found only one not so significant drawback with the camera – the minimum bellows extension and bellows compression. The minimum extension is around 120mm, but even if I use the G-Claron 150mm, thanks to the bellows compression and stiffness, the movements possible (rise, shift, tilt) are very limited. Therefore I don’t intend to add a wider lens to my repertoire, as my shooting style involves movements, especially rise and tilt.

Bag bellows could be used to overcome the bellows compression (the bellows is not fixed), but because of the construction of the camera, it would not be possible to use lens shorter than around 115mm/120mm (focused at infinity). A shorter lens would have to be focused closer…

The camera is made and intended to shoot mainly the 5×8″ format with the Chamonix 5×8″ holders. But I have made an adaptation to the camera, to let me use also ANSI standard 5×7″/13×18cm (and also HalfPlate) holders in it – making the camera extremely versatile. And the modification? Since the height of the 5×8″ and 5×7″ holders is same, it’s very simple. It is only a small push-on gizmo blocking part of the rear opening so that the short holders can be used easily. It can be put on and taken off in mere seconds in the field. And it allows me to shoot 4 different sizes of film: 5×8″, 5×7″, 13×18cm, 4¾×6½” with no added weight (well, maybe some 50grams at most). Isn’t it just great?

I could also complain a bit about the stability of the camera with the heavy Ronar 480mm lens, especially when focused closer (to maximum extension). But I have not seen any other camera with such a large/heavy lens, so I don’t know if I’m just asking too much or if it is normal – when there is some wind (not just a light breeze), the stability is not perfect…

Concerning the groundglass: When I compare the 4×5″ back with included fresnel lens, and the 5×8″ back, it’s very important to use a darkcloth for the larger one. Because the groundglass is not very bright. It’s very difficult to focus it in the daylight. So I think it’s very important to use a darkcloth…

But all in all I’m very happy and content with the camera. I don’t regret the decision to buy it in the slightest…

? Technika

Chamonix 5×8″ camera

Categories: English, Výbava
Comments: 8 Comments
Published on: 11.2.2008

Part I – first impressions (you’re here).
Part II – 4×5″ reduction back I, and 8month long experience.
Part III – 4×5″ reduction back II.
Part IV – 3 years (and several hundred exposures) later.
.
Equipment.
Lenses.


 

This is a short description and first impressions of a Chamonix 5×8″ camera I got from China with the help of a fellow member on LargeFormatPhotography.info forum, Hugo Zhang. His help was considerable and coming to a deal with him is straightforward.

First, why I chose this camera in a strange and uncommon 5×8″ format (I’ve spent more than a month seriously considering the purchase and at least one more month just toying with the idea). From my photographic experience, I „see“ in panoramas. A lot of my photos are composed for a panorama. I can and do compose in other more square formats, but at this time I feel most at ease with panoramas. At first I was thinking of getting a 5×12″ camera, but the unavailability of film and price for the camera forced me to abandon that one. (4×10″ is too small for me and the ULF size of 7×17″ is way too expensive and problems with film availability are same as for 5×12″).

While asking around for the price of 5×12″, I came across the 5×8″ camera on offer from Chamonix. The film for this camera is readily available (it’s standard 8×10″ film cut in half in darkroom), there are a lot of choices, both in black and white and in color (should I venture so far). The film format is of similar aspect ratio, as standard 35mm film. And if I want to crop for a wider panorama, I have enough film area to do it. If I want to go for the common aspect ratio of 1:2.5 and crop the picture, I’ll get image of 3.2×8″ (or for us metrically inclined, 8.2×20.5cm). That is more than 40% more image area than from a 6×17cm roll film image.

The other nice option is, that with very simple modification, the camera accepts standard 5×7″/13×18cm holders. Also, I have ordered a 4×5″/9×12cm reduction back, which should arrive in 2 months. That would further broaden the usability of the camera.

But back to the camera itself, and also to it’s parameters. I have a camera with reversible back, the factory also offers a non-reversible 5×8″ horizontal only camera (that would be lighter and a bit smaller, but does not accept a 4×5″ reduction back). The camera is made of maple wood and black metal parts (painted aluminum?). The weight of the camera (with 5×8″ back and also with my Manfrotto quick release plate, without lens or lensboard) is around 2450g. Folded, it measures 26×29×11.5cm (30×29×11.5cm with the protruding knobs on the sides).

Setting the camera up is quick and easy. First the back:

then screwing the front standard in one of the 4 prepared holes:

Zero positions for most movements are marked with small dots, and it’s easy to align it. But the alignment can only be visual, there are no zero position locks or dents.

The groundglass is very bright and it’s on springs. It’s not international back, so roll film holders (for 6×17cm format) are not usable. (But I do not plan to use them anyway).

Focusing is done by this helical worm screw, and the rise of the spiral is chosen well. It’s steep enough for setting up quickly (for finding the rough focus), and also sensitive enough for the perfection of focus. It’s very easy to work with

Here you can see the way I masked the rear opening for use of my 13×18cm holders. The holders are about an inch shorter. Logically, it’s for a 5×8″ holder and film. I’ve used some balsa wood of correct thickness that I painted black, and electricians tape to fix it. This way it can easily and quickly be removed and fixed again even in the field, allowing me to change the format I shoot very quickly. I do plan to make same push-on modification, so that it would be even easier and less messy, but so far, it works well.

Now, the lenses that can be used with the camera. The camera uses rather large lensboards, Sinar/Horseman type ones in the size 139×139mm. Minimum bellows extension is around 112mm, which means that the widest lens that can be used on standard lensboard is a 120mm one. Using bag bellows is not an option, as the limiting factor is the construction of camera itself, not the bellows (it can be seen in the picture, to focus the lens both beds are at the extreme positions)

Maximum bellows extension is around 625mm, I have managed to focus my 300mm/500mm convertible Symmar to around 75 or 100m well. Update 2008-05-31: the Symmar needs longer extension than would be expected for 500mm (nodal point being in front of the lens) – I can well focus my 480mm ApoRonar to about 3m (with indirect movements even to approx. 2m), or 305mm Repro-Claron close (or maybe a little more than) 1:1 magnification.

Even when fully extended, the camera is very stable and rigid (at least my first tries have shown that, but I have not tried it in strong winds yet). My first impressions of the camera in the field are very positive, it’s very light to haul, very good to set up and use, and is very stable.

I have yet to use the 5×8″ holders from Chamonix, as they arrived late (they forgot to include them with the camera, but they were sent the day after I complained about the omission. They arrived today. I have to cut the film in the darkroom and then try them out. I will add my impressions on them later).

Update 23.8.2008: I have added some impressions after 8 months of using the camera, and also on the new 4×5” reduction back for the camera. You can read it here.

? Technika

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