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.
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:
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…