Which to choose?? [Ritter or Chamonix, 7x17 or 12x20]

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by coriana6jp, Feb 17, 2008.

  1. coriana6jp

    coriana6jp Member

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    Hi All,

    Been shooting 8x10 for a couple of years now, and have been very happy with my contact prints and budding alt processes I have been trying, but yearning for something bigger. Currently I am looking at either a 7x17 or 12x20. . Both have a certain appeal, but I am still trying to decide which is the better format. Currently hanging a piece of paper of each size on the wall, trying to decide which is best, but I digress.

    I have narrowed down the choice to either a new Ritter or Chamonix. Though in different ULF formats, I have been lucky to play with both, and they are both nice. Everyone has been raving about thier new Chamonix cameras and they certainly seem very nice. The only thing that has stopped me from getting the Chamonix is that it seems very difficult if not impossible to do verticals, whereas the Ritter can do it with ease. As well as the Ritter can easily accommodate different formats. I really don’t care about aesthetics, functionality is more important to me that looks.

    If anybody has any advice or opinions I would love to hear them!

    Thanks very much.

    Gary
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I'm fairly sure you can order a Chamonix with a reversible back. The ultra lights are fixed which I guess lets them use smaller bellows and rear standard. All saving some weight.
     
  3. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    The Chamonix don't have a reversible back in their banquet size cameras like a 12x20 or 7x17. You have to hang them on their side. Unless they have changed their design and I'm not aware of it.
     
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  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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  5. Zebra

    Zebra Member

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    Hi Gary,

    I will throw out more questions than answers but here goes.

    I shoot four formats above 8 x 10--

    10 x 12 which I find to be a perfect marriage between size and portability. Especially in my Wet Plate Collodion work I find this size to have more of a presence than 8 x 10 yet still be very manageable. Film is available if you order when Ilford or on the odd occurrence that Kodak offers a yearly run of film. All of my 8 x 10 lenses worked on the format as well so that was an added bonus.

    To the panoramic formats you mentioned choosing from I chose 7 x 17 over both 8 x 20 and 12 x20 for the same portability issue. I travel quite a bit for work and both the 10 x 12 and 7 x 17 can fit in a home configured garment bag that will slide easily into the overhead bin of planes. I didn't feel 8 x 20 or 12 x 20 would do that as easily as often as I travel. Of course anything can be accomplished but for me the 7 x 17 was the best in regard to the ease of constant travel, as I have never been asked to check it etc due to its size. I love having it on the road with me as my down time then becomes a joy instead of more CNN or other mindless road fare. I also love the ability to still be able to view the prints 'in hand' which becomes more difficult as you go up in size. They tend to be wall prints above that to my eye anyway. Having seen prints from both those formats though you could hardly make a bad decision as it basically comes down to your lifestyle etc in regards to how you shoot and process. I'll state the obvious disclaimer here--7 x 17 is easy on the sink, trays, need for new lenses (anything that will cover 11 x 14 will usually work for 7 x 17 as a general statement) etc front as there are many options listed here in the archives. 12 x 20 starts to be a 'lay siege on the mountain' assault full of new trays, more chemicals, maybe even a new sink although there are usually ways around that, lenses to cover the format, darkcloth etc etc. I also ended up getting a 20 x 24 with a 16 x 20 reducing back so I know those waters and all their undertows!! I set my photographic life up for both the travel and when I am home (I shoot the smaller formats when I travel the bigger when home) If I had chosen just one format thought to work with instead of the sickness i seem to have I would go with the bigger format and never look back. When I'm not traveling I love to see one of the big negs coming out of the tray.

    Wish I could help with the actual manufacture question but alas I haven't seen those cameras in person. Just wanted to add some of the thoughts I didn't think about as I was thinking of all the joys of bigger formats. I can't say I regret any of it just would have been nice to have thought about all the things involved as I was making some choices.

    best,

    Zebra
     
  6. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    Nick, Chamonix will make a reversible in the more square formats like 16x20 or 20x24. But their banquet size cameras don't have that option. Now I'm sure they would make a 12x20 reducing back for a 16x20 or a 20x24 which would give you that option but it would require buying a larger format. The Ritter on the other hand will allow you to take the back off of a banquet size and turn it to the verticle or horizontal position and reconfigure it without having to use a larger format and a reducing back.
     
  7. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    Chamonix makes a beautiful camera. If money is no option buy the 20x24 and you can have reducing backs made to shoot every ULF format out there. But as Stripes points out a 7x17 is nice for traveling and Sandy King says the Chamonix 7x17 is so light that it easily can be turned on its side for a verticle. Also Lotus makes a bracket that allows you to turn the banquet size cameras on their side and still keep it centered on the tripod. Personally I have my sites set on a 16x20. That is as large as I can go and still have lenses that will cover.
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Hopefully Hugo sees this and comments but that's not the feeling I got.

    I'm till waiting for the upcoming 11x14 but at times I'm considering the 12x20 with reducing backs. The impression I got was either could be built with reversible backs. It would mean different bellows then the stock models.

    Even the 12x20 seems lighter then my first 8x10 so the added weight isn't an issue for me.
     
  9. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Have struggled with the same thoughts over the last year or so, and have been lucky to go out with someone that has used both 7x17 and 12x20 (scootermm). So here are my impressions from watching him work (and he makes it look easy). The 7x17 is a pano format, it feels wide, yet Matt managed to shoot both horizontal and vertical. With the 12x20 (very close to the golden mean BTW) the format does not feel as wide. Both 'look' good when printed.

    You mentioned that you are also using some of the alt process, does this include plt/pld, if so consider the amount of metal required to coat a sheet of paper, size of contact printer - I would not recommend a split back contact frame for 12x20, a vacuum frame for sure. Trays for the 'big' prints, negative sleeves, etc all need to scale up.

    Not trying to discourage you at all, more of what to expect with the step up - you may need a new darkcloth, bag to carry it in as well as new lens and tripod. A Fuji 450C or Nikkor 450 and a 355 (g-claron maybe) would work great for 12x20 or 7x17. In the end, I opted for 7x11 - because I like a slightly smaller format - it works for me, but I do like the perspective of the 7x11. Monty's thoughts about 10x12 are very good...it would actually give you a 5x12, 7x11, 8x12 and 10x12 or just about anything else smaller just by cutting the film down or having a back made for the camera.

    The Ritter or Chamonix would be an excellent purchase. Noted that you are in Japan, so the issue of what to do if you want something modified, or if something breaks is not the same as it would be here in the US. Richard sales a DVD instructional video that details how to take one of his cameras from horizontal to vertical, it's pretty cool how he designed the cameras. Changing formats is pretty simple too, like a Canham you just change out the back and bellows. If it were me and I could afford the camera, film, filmholders and had the room, and the back to haul it all...I would go with the 12x20 - then you would have a large number of formats to work with. With 7x17 you have 7x17 and 7x11 and say 3-5x7's per sheet.

    Good luck, and have fun..
     
  10. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    Well, I can only speak to the 7x17, but it would seem to me that much more managable, both in the field and darkroom. The 7x17 for me anyway is certainly 'doable' in the field (albeit not a 'backpacking' camera, although some probably do). I have a very small darkrroom and with seed trays its very managable. You can check out my website www.scottpetersphotography.com, link below for an idea on the panoramic format in that size. The 7x17 is nice on the wall for sure, and also, a size that I think is nice for holding in your hands for personal viewing.
     
  11. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    I currently shoot 8x20 and 12x20. With any ULF format I find it requires a little more planning and causes you to slow down a little when composing your shots. Most of the time I will visit where and what I will be shooting before ever taking the cameras out. After you've been shooting with these large cameras for a few years you will become very creative on how you get you camera and gear from point a to point b. Even though my 8x20 Wisner Expedition weighs only 14 lb and is very packable on a pack frame, I'm a firm believer in wheeled carts, strong photo assistants, ATVs and pack mules. My last shoot involved a 47 ft. Coast Gaurd ship and a full 5 man/woman crew. We had a ball and I never lifted one case. They even loaded all the gear in the truck at the end of the day. It cost me 2 cases of beer and I had to be ready to go with a 2 hour notice but it was well worth the time and effort. This involved dropping me, an assistant and all the gear on a Lake Erie breakwall and then picking us up when we called and jumping eveything over to another breakwall. Then returning again at the end of the day and bringing everything back in. They commented that they wished we had some larger gear to make it more challenging. They were a very professional bunch of young men a women and a lot of fun. I only wish all my shoots could go so smooth. For many years I supervised the erection of skyscapers and bridges. This involved a lot of logistical planning, whether it was working in the confined space of a downtown setting or spanning a river in the middle of nowhere. An old ironworker told me something many years ago that still sticks with me today. The Law of the 7 P's: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. So no matter what size the gear is there is usually a way to get it to where you want to go. I just prefer to use my head more than my back. As far as format size goes that all is a matter of taste. Just keep in mind when you turn a camera on its side for a vertical it changes all your movements, front swing becomes tilt, tilt becomes swing, rear swing becomes rear tilt...ect...ect. Not hard, just takes some getting use to is all. What is good to see is the continued growth of interest in ULF.
     
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  12. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    Life is much simpler when your greatest film dimension doesn't exceed ten inches.

    With larger formats you will find that every aspect of your photography takes on added complications and expense. But don't let that dissuade you.
     
  13. jonw

    jonw Member

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  14. coriana6jp

    coriana6jp Member

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    Hi All,


    Thanks for the helpful insight. You have given me lots to think about. I have pretty much decided that it will be Ritter due to the overall flexibility of the design.

    As far as size goes, I looked at 8x20, but decided that if I was going to go that big, I would go all the way to 12x20 instead. Though I admit I thought briefly about 16x20, but only briefly. Now I just have to decide on the size, I might buy a 7x17 for now and add the 12x20 back later..............lots to decide!

    Thanks again for all the help! Its greatly appreciated!

    Gary
     
  15. coriana6jp

    coriana6jp Member

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    Scott,

    Thanks for sharing these. I really like your work!


    Gary
     
  16. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    Thank you for the compliment! good luck with your choice. Please keep us posted on your progress.
     
  17. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Gary,

    When you order your camera, give Richard a call and talk to him about your future plans. Richard will tell you if you are thinking of a size larger than 7x17 in the future, to order that size now with a 7x17 reducing back. This will save you the cost of another bellows. While a 12x20 bellows can be used with a 7x17 back, a 7x17 bellows CAN NOT be used with a 12x20 back!

    I own a Ritter 7x17 and just love it. You will not be sorry you decided on a Ritter camera. As a matter of fact, I like my 7x17 so much that I have also ordered one of Richard's new 8x10 Carbon Fiber Cameras. That will lighten my 8x10 kit by about 6 lbs. :smile:
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    I have not heard of any 7X17, 8X20 or 12X20 Chamonix cameras with reversible back. No doubt they could make one custom for you, but this would add a lot of size to a banquet camera. A reversible back is more realistic for the 11X14, 16X20, 14X17 and 20X24 formats.

    My 7X17 Chamonix is beautiful and well made. It is fairly light so hanging it on its side is feasible. But working with the camera on its side for vertical compositions presents a number of complications. It is OK for a shot now and then, but frankly if I planned to use a banquet camera a lot for vertical shots I think you would be much better off with one of Richard Ritter's cameras.

    Sandy King
     
  19. coriana6jp

    coriana6jp Member

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    Hi Sandy,

    Thank you for your comments. Thats exactly what I had wanted to know. I read all the comments about your 20x24 and was impressed. You have helped my make my decision, a Ritter it is.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Gary