I love the look that the images shot with a large format camera give you. My old wooden Tachihara camera had lots of adjustments, leaky bellows and needed to be shot on a tripod only. So I wanted something which is large format but light, simpler, fixed lens and still can be shot handheld.
A quick web search returned some 3d printed 4x5s. Most of them looked ridiculous but I also found a Chroma camera website, where the large format cameras looked slick and even sported some elegant carbon fibre details.
The Chroma Snapshot particularly caught my attention but it still had bellows and a set of pins enabling the use of different focal length lenses without having to carry interchangeable cones.
I wanted to simplify it to be even more compact and light and be able to shoot wide angle lens zone focusing and handheld. I wrote about it to Steve at Chroma camera, and to my surprise he was on board with my idea. Another slight design tweaks included a carbon fiber front plate for extra weight saving but also for better looks. Another tweak was making do without one of the Chroma grips. I have decided that I would like to use my woodworking skills and make a wooden grip later.
Originally I went with an excellent in every way 65mm f/5.6 Schneider Kreuanach lens. In hindsight I should of course send it to Chroma camera to get the correct distance between the lens and film plane to achieve a perfect focusing.
When the camera body finally arrived and the lens was attached to it, it appeared that the lens could focus as close as 1ft but maxed out at about 20ft (which is great for most situations. However I still wanted the camera to focus to infinity. The solution was either to send the camera and lens back to Chroma camera so that an exact new cone would be printed, or to replace the lens with the one with slightly longer focusing length. Since I found the 65mm was a bit too wide for my tastes anyway, I went for a 75mm f5.6 Schneider Kreuznach.
I was able to calibrate the camera focusing on the ground glass and using tape measure for distance.
What can I say, once I had done the calibrating and setting up, this camera shooting it is almost as easy as any 35mm rangefinder. I marked the helicoid at 1 m, 2m, 3m, 5m and infinity and it works perfect for me.
More often than not I achieve perfect focus while shooting at aperture settings between f22 and f32. Of course it is also possible to use sunny 16 for even more convenience but I always carry my Sekonic light meter for precise exposure measuring.
The Chroma camera uses the standard graflok system which allows the use of both standard 4×5 film holders and medium format backs.
When I was ordering this camera from Chroma I thought it would be more like a toy for creative experiments with 4×5. As it turned out, the camera is capable of performing more serious tasks and produces quite remarkable results. Overall I am really pleased with this camera. I have been shooting it for over a year and even using it for my upcoming photobook “Hollywood Sunset”.
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