When I began my adventure into large format photography I started with a big heavy Calumet metal C400 4×5 and learned quickly I did not want to travel very far with it. For a brief time I was able to use a Shen Hao 4×5 wood field camera which I really liked. My first wooden field camera purchase was an Ikeda Anba which is very small and light for hiking. I really like this camera but it has some shortcomings. Recently I purchased the Chamonix 04N2 4×5 wood field camera for some of the features missing in the Ikeda Anba. Below is a comparison of my two woodies and one may be up for sale soon.
The Anba folds up into a tiny block while the Chamonix is a good bit thicker. When opened the difference in height between the Anba and Chamonix is noticeable. the area below the rear standard has more space due to the focus mechanism. Notice the Chamonix comes standard with a Fresnel ground glass, the Anba has an after market satin snow. The Fresnel is brighter but harder for me to focus on. The Anba has traditional spring clamp which are tight, while the Chamonix is much less springy. Both rotate.
The next notable difference is the knobs. The Anba’s front knobs are tiny and difficult to work with in gloved hands. The Chamonix knobs are much larger and knurled for easier grip. The Anba has separate knobs for front rise/fall, front tilt, and for forward or backward extension plus a knob to lock it all down. The guides on the Anba’s standards have positive stops for vertical. The Chamonix has fewer knobs and some control multiple functions like Rise/fall and tilt or Swing and Shift. The rear standard does
not have a positive stop which slides out for vertical under the base and one can use the built in levels.
The front standards both require use of the Technica style lens boards. The Anba has a sliding bar to lock the board in vs the Chamonix uses two teeth which rotate in to hold the board. The front standard of the Chamonix has more movements than the Anba. You can also see the base is made of wood on the Anba vs carbon fiber for the Chamonix.
When extending the camera the Anba will max out around 295MM, while Chamonix has a max bellows of 395MM and more if using an extension board. The Anba is more suited to wide angle, however the Chamonix does allow for a wider lens if you move the rear standard forward. The abba standard can also be moved forward using the middle knob and pressure. Min bellows on Anba is 65MM racked all the way in, 52mm on the Chamonix. I recommend a 72mm or 75mm wide angle for the Anba if you want movements.
Focusing the Anba requires using either the front base knob or rear base knob and they do lock down once focused. The Chamonix has a geared screw which does not lock down but is tight enough it stays in place (so far).
Folding the cameras requires a bit of work on both. The Abba front standard must be loosed so it drops behind the metal arms. The Chamonix front standard must be removed from the focusing rail then pushed into the back. The back then folds down over the front standard. On the Abba the lens board holder must be in the down position too.
I like both of these cameras for different reasons. The Abba is perfectly capable for 95% of the shots I want to take. Its small form factor makes it easy to pack and leaves room in the bag for extra holders. Its knobs do tighten down well and make the camera sturdy. The Anba’s design flaws are tiny knobs, short bellows, and minimal movements.
The Chamonix has the larger knobs but the multi-functionality makes setting up the camera a bit fidgety.
Lacking the positive stops also leads to some potential errors as the front and rear may not be aligned. But I do like the longer universal bellows on the Chamonix and will get used to moving the rear standard forward for wider angle lenses since I tend to shoot a lot with my 65mm.
If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment section below. You can find more information about Chamonix cameras on their website. For Anba search the Large Format Forums or other websites. A similar camera to the Anba is the Nagaoka field camera and its instructions and specs are very similar.