Chamonix 45n-2 Mini-review
I just spent a very intense week with my Chamonix 45n-2. This was a week where I was introduced to the basics of cameras movements, setup and operation.
During this time, I shot approximately 44 sheets of film. I say approximately because out of a total of 50 sheets:
1 - sheet was sacrificed to the "How to load film in a Film Holder Gods"
1 - sheet was sacrificed to the "How to test to see if the Fixer is any good Gods"
2 - sheets were sacrificed to the "You loaded 2 Sheets in the same holder God's
and finally, 2 sheets were sacrificed to the "You forgot to stop down the Len's God's."
I did get in some very nice shots for which I am extremely happy with and of course the veritable, “one that I didn't get to shoot, or the one that got away."
At the moment, I'm recuperating and thinking about what I'd like to say. My intent on submitting this review is to add my thoughts and experience to and hopefully constructively augment the fine review submitted by Steve Brot on the LFPF http://www.largeformatphotography.info.
As in Steve's case, I'm a LF newb, so please, take my comments with a grain of salt.
I would like to add that Steve did a fine job giving the reader a well-rounded introduction to the Chamonix 45n-2. It does not bear repeating; nor do I wish to indulge discussion of the bubble levels. During the week that I used this camera, I used the bubble levels as rough indicators, relying instead on the levels of my Manfrotto tripod and 210 jr. geared head. I had few or very minor problems with respect to leveling the camera and getting a shot.
For example, on the morning of July 23, 2010, at approximately 6:00 am PST, I was able to setup and level both tripod and camera, install lens board and lens, focus, insert film holder and fire off 2 shots in less than 8 minutes. The subject was the Pasadena, California City Hall shot from curbside to capture a symmetrical image of the building's facade just after sunrise. I mention this example specifically because I was 30 minutes late arriving to the site and was rushing to get a shot of the building while it was still lit by several exterior light fixtures.
IMHO, the Chamonix 45n-2 mounted on a Manfrotto 210 jr. geared-head is a match made in heaven. That’s just my view. I don’t work for Manfrotto. This is my own personally biased opinion.
I actually shot a total of 4 sheets of Pasadena City Hall. The last two were not quite as rushed but also were not quite as good as the rushed shots taken under 8 minutes. Was I lucky? - you bet! But I got the shot I was after.
I have negatives but I haven't had an opportunity to scan them. I also don't have a very good scanner.
OK – Here are my thoughts on the Chamonix 45n-2:
Firstly, if you own one, or have had the opportunity to have seen one and handled it, you know it's a well-designed, light- weight little camera.
While in the Los Angeles area on Friday, I stopped into Freestyle photo to pick up some mat board and saw a Wista on display. I don't know which model Wista it was but this particular Wista sported a price tag of around $1499, plus tax. From what I could see of the Wista, - the Wista can't touch the $800 Chamonix 45n-2 in looks, price or performance-- no way!
Now I realize that there are die-hard LF photographers out there that will say: "You don't need no stinkin user guide,” but for us newbs on the block -- Please Chamonix, give us a user guide. I'm not talking about a How-to-shoot large format photography guide," I'm saying a user guide on how to use the various control features the Chamonix 45n-2 offers to set adjustments and a diagram depicting the various knobs and what adjust they’re used for.. Case in point: The ground glass protector. On the surface removing and replacing the ground glass protector looks simple enough but "looks" can be deceiving. There is an inordinate amount of fuss and fumble factor with this seemingly gizmo. I would spend an extra $22 and purchase the optional leather protective jacket and forego the fumble factor entirely. I'm sure there something obvious about installing the protective plate - but being intuitive ain't one of them.
If you simply can't justify the $22, then I suggest you do the following sometime before you remove the ground glass protector and start using the camera:
With the ground glass protector still in place, orient the camera so that the rear standard is facing away from you, and you’re looking at the front standard. Take a scripto pen or other suitable marking pen and write on the protective place a letter corresponding to its orientation to the camera itself, e.g. "T" for top in the center, "R" right side, "RS" for rear standard, "L" for left side and finally "FS" for front standard. Marking the protective plate in this way will remove the fumble factor. You'll know exactly how to orient the plate to the camera itself.
Camera set up:
Another area where documentation would enhance the learning and use enjoyment of this camera falls under the area of collapsing the camera for transport.
The Chamonix 45n-2 comes standard with a Universal Bellows. If the camera is not folded in the proper sequence, the camera will not fold. You can also mess up the accordion folds of the bellows material itself. This latter issue creates a slightly curved raised area that will appear on your negative as a result of the bellows material blocking incoming light. To check for this, mount a lens on the camera and set it to its largest aperture. With the lens wide open; look through the lens at the ground glass area. You should be able to see all four corners of the ground glass. If you can't, there's a good chance the bellows is not folding and opening properly.
Also, with a 210 mm lens mounted on this camera, the bellows tends to sag when the bed is extended and must be supported somehow to avoid vignetting or other problems. In my case, I used a sock folded in half and placed under the bellows for support. Not sure what causes that sag except to say it may be related to the way the bellows material folds when the camera is collapsed for transport.
An engraved scale would greatly improve the photographer’s ability to set focus on the Chamonix 45n-2 and improve near-far focusing operations. I had to use a pencil and mark these positions on the sliding focusing mechanism. This operation using the pencil to establish near far positions actually takes two people to perform: one to focus the camera on the near far areas, and someone to make a pencil mark on the focusing rail. Not good.
Rear- Tilt / Rise-Fall:
It would be nice if this operation incorporated some type of notched detent or click-stop mechanism.
There are those out there that going: “What do you expect for $800?” My response is, these are just observations and suggestions based on daily use over the period of a week, averaging 4 or more shots per day. I’m not saying give me this and that feature but keep the price at $800.
With continued use of the Chamonix 45n-2, I’m sure that I and others like me will discover other areas that might benefit from improvements to the existing design. The ones I’ve mentioned are on my short list of improvements I would like to see. Make no mistake – the Chamonix 45n-2 is a great camera at a great price for the newbie or seasoned LF photographer.
Thanks for the review! I just got on the waitlist to get one of these from the next batch in April.
The only thing I'm a little concerned about is the bellows sag @ 210mm. How significant of an issue has this been to you? Do you think that using a standard bellows instead of the universal one would help to alleviate it?
I hear their passionate music, and read the words that touch my heart. I gaze at the feverish picture, oh the secrets that set them apart. When I feel the powerful visions that their fire made alive, I wish I had that instinct, I wish I had that drive.
Nice camera ..... (and car)
the wista can't touch the Chamonix? I've had mine for over 25 years and it still works as the day I bought it
let's see how the 45n holds up in the next 5 years
With respectful use and not abuse, I have no doubt that it will exceed 5 years and beyond in excellent condition.
Originally Posted by Peter Schrager
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