Entry Into Large Format: Chamonix 45F2 Initial Impressions.
I've been fooling around with small and medium formats for a while now, and while I've been really happy with the results I've been getting, I've always been curious about larger formats. I decided it was time to dive a little deeper, and buy myself a large format camera. A 4x5 field camera specifically.
I asked some friends in the film community for their thoughts and received lots of good recommendations. Probably the most repeated one was for a Crown Graphic or Speed Graphic camera, which are supposed to be a great value for someone getting started with large format. In the end though, I decided I wanted something else, I wanted something small and light, that I could take hiking or traveling, and something without the myriad of technical issues that can be present on older cameras. I spent some time looking at Toyos, and lusting after the beautiful brass hardware of Tachiharas but I eventually wound up purchasing a Chamonix 45F2 from Nico Llasera at his recommendation.
I was attracted to the Chamonix for a few reasons, notably the wide range of camera movements available, the relatively light weight, and the fact that they can be purchased brand new. They ship factory direct, and it only took a few days to receive my camera in Canada.
While Chamonix may be a french name, its actually a Chinese company. That said, the fit and finish of the 45F2 is quite nice. The camera comes with a ground glass protector, and a lightweight carrying case, which doesn't offer much protection, but would keep the camera safe inside a larger case or backpack. That's perfect for what I need. I also opted for the added Fresnel lens on the ground glass which was about an extra $30.
To round off the package I picked up a Fujinon W 150mm f5.6, a handful of various film holders, and a BTZS focus hood, which was rather expensive by the time I got it into Canada, but those are the breaks I guess.
So far I've taken 6 exposures with this setup, though I've yet to have any of them developed. As far as initial impressions go everything on the camera seems well thought out, and they've packed a lot of movements into a fairly light package. I'm especially fond of the large focus knob on the rear of the camera.
My biggest gripe so far is that the front standard does not fold out like it does on some field cameras. Rather, it must be screwed into the base plate using a thumbscrew. While this was obviously done to allow for front swing, it does make setting up the camera a bit slower and more cumbersome. Ultimately though I feel like this is a minor issue as one generally doesn't get into large format for its speed.
Overall I feel like this setup is going to be a good fit for me and the type of shooting I'd like to do. And while I'm certain there were cheaper ways to get into the format I'm happy I spent the extra money on something that I could grow into, without getting frustrated by light leaks, breakdowns, or faulty focal plane shutters. Still, it's hard to write a comprehensive review of the camera without spending some time behind it, so I'll follow up with some more thoughts after a few months of use.