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).
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.