New Chamonix 045F-1: First Impressions

07th February 2013
In: Gear, News, Blog
Some of you will have noted with interest that Chamonix announced a new model in January, to add to their already popular line of 4x5 and larger cameras. I'd been toying with the idea of getting one of the existing models (the 045n-2) for a while for longer lens work than my Ebony RSW45 will allow, but always managed to talk myself out of it. But as more details of the new 045F-1 surfaced on the internet it became clear the camera was boasting rear asymmetric tilt - the very feature that plenty of large format users are happy to pay top side of £4k for a top-of-the-line Ebony. But not only would the new Chamonix model have asymmetric tilt, the price premium compared to the existing 4x5 model was only about £70, so that was it, I emailed to put myself on the list for one, and I was emailed a couple of weeks ago to say they had an early batch available and I would be receiving one.

Chamonix 045F-1 just off the plane from China - still jetlagged poor thing.

I've not had it out of the house yet but initial impressions are favourable. It is light, rigid, small, and the asymmetric tilt seems to work a treat. It also had massive available extension, about 400mm, which means I can focus a 240mm lens down to well under a metre.

Its arrived nicely in time for my trip up to Northumberland next week, and luckily without UK customs taking their pound of flesh, so I will hopefully be able to post up a full review/field-test in due course. Anyone remember Galen Rowell's "Round The World Shakedown With A Nikon F4"? Might be a bit like that bit with more castles. If anyone wants to lend me an Ebony 45Su or SV45U to compare with then get in touch. I may have to get Adam out with his Linhof Technikardan 45 to have some kind of landscape shootout.

One thing I have done before I even take it out to use it is swap the ground glass out for the Maxwell screen I already owned, which as you can imagine makes a massive difference. The only downside to this was I lost the asymmetric tilt lines (as these are etched onto the Chamonix screen) so I had to draw it on the cover glass with permanent marker, hence the photo below.

Chamonix 045F-1 just stretching its legs.

So far the only thing I'm not totally ecstatic about, as predicted, is the issue of properly zeroing the front and rear swing movements. The swing on the Chamonix are done in a kind of "free and easy" way which gives you tone of flexibility and movement, but will require some care when setting up, especially with wide lenses. I'd be interested to hear from existing Chamonix owners how they go about this in the field. Its a bit of a stark contrast compared to the pull-it-out-of-a-bag-and-shoot setup of the Ebony RSW45 but I'll just have to see how it goes.

Anyway, check back in a few weeks for a full report.


Photo comment By Tim Parkin: Look forward to seeing the review... interest compound movements on that last image - I think the plane of focus just entered Alderaan! As for the centered swing, I've never really had a problem with it, just check you're focused in the middle and then swing until the edges are OK. Typically they're pretty good out of the bag by eye (having played with tilts for a while I think you can get it zeroed to within 0.1 or 0.2 of a degree by eye). You could see it as a bonus because otherwise you'll assume that things are square when they more often than not aren't ;-)
Photo comment By Will: Looks cool! Can't wait for mine. So the maxwell screens are substantially better than the chamonix ground glass eh? I was wondering, how exactly do they do the asymmetric tilt? From pictures it looks like you have the option of base tilt. Does the grey knob allow you to select base or asymmetric tilt? Or could you actually do a base tilt and then add an asymetric tilt on top of that (not that I could see why you ever would)?
Photo comment By Ian Johnson: Hi Dave Was wondering how you're getting on with the Chamonix. I've owned a 45n-2 for about 18 months. Although I've not used any other LF camera so have nothing to compare I think that, for the money, they are very hard to beat. Was talking to Tim Parkin about this the other day and he was very complementary about them. I noticed on the LF forum that you were going to get one with assymetric movements and wondered how useful this would be. Since these movements could only previously be found on the likes of the Ebonys it would be a substantial decision to go down that road. With this introduction it is within everyone's grasp. Hope you're enjoying it and look forward to reading the next instalment. Ian
Photo comment By Dave Parry: Will: Yeah its basically got the normal rear base tilt of the standard 045n models, plus the rear asymmetric tilt. Hence you can use both movements in combination to get you an extra couple of centimetres of extension! The small grey knobs in the photo lock the asym tilt, and the big black ones lock the normal base tilt. And yes the maxwell screen is leagues better than the stock Chamonix screen - I have some comparison photos I may post up.
Photo comment By Jack Symmar: Truely the new 045F-1 model is handy, light and rigid. I can apply Scheimpflug Principle easily and obtain tack sharp images quickly by adjusting the impressive grey knobs at the rear standards. Apart from the 5X4", I am going to get a 8X5" camera from the Chamonix.
Photo comment By Nick Dando: Please could you tell me if the cable release in the top photo is a Gebrüder Schreck 8cm extension? It looks as though it's easier to use the lens as the fiddly bit is done only the once.
Photo comment By Dave: The extensions I use are from Robert Whites - I've no idea what brand they are, it doesn't say on their site or on the extensions themselves. They do make attaching a cable release much easier, I used to keep one on every lens but I found eventually this made the tips of the cable releases break due to the leverage and having them wrapped around the lens in the camera bag.

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