Chamonix 45n-1 first look

I had written in a previous post of the Chamonix 45n-1 lightweight field camera I had on order. It finally arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to share some first impressions. Thanks to the press of life’s other, less important events, I’ve made only about a dozen exposures with it, so I’m still learning the lay of its land. A full review will have to come later.

The most striking first impression I had of the camera was its tiny size. It arrived—along with lensboards, Sinar lensboard adapter, and folding groundglass viewing hood—in a box about the size of two shoeboxes side by side. In my mind’s eye I’d expected it would be a much larger, heavier box.

Opening the box, I was amazed at just how compact the camera is. Folded, it’s about three or four inches thick, and not much larger than the 4×5″ image it produces. Upon lifting it from its styrofoam cradle, I was amazed at its featherweight lightness—so much so that I thought something must be missing. Its baseplate is made of carbon fiber composite, making it very light and rigid; the front and rear frame elements are made of a beatiful dark walnut and carbon fiber composite material. I mean, this camera is LIGHT. My Contax 645 with lens and grip outweigh it; the RZ67 I recently borrowed from a friend dwarfs it.

The controls are simple and for the most part well laid out; I’m still getting up to speed with them as I learn the camera so I’m a bit awkward yet. Given that it’s a compact field camera designed for portability, it lacks some of the movements that a technical monorail camera would offer—but that’s not an issue for me.

So my preliminary review is Four Flashbulbs—a winner. Now, if I could only afford an Imacon to do the negatives justice….(Maybe there’s a high-end-scanner bailout program or stimulus package I could tap into.)

My wife will kill me.

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