This isn’t so much of a review, more of a first-impressions-comparison. My experience with different 4×5, large format cameras is minimal, having bought an MPP Mark VIII a few years back and stuck with it. I’ve explored alternatives and considered changing, the potential of a focal plane shutter in a Graflex Speed Graphic or the light-weight body of an Intrepid but I could never bring myself to switch.

My subjects are mainly landscapes with the occasional portrait and although the MPP is technically a press camera it has worked out ok for me, it is heavy, the movements are stiff (or non-existent) but I can focus fine and it holds the lenses I am using.

Then along came the Chroma Kickstarter.

The Chroma 4×5

Scanning over the description, one item stuck out. “Choice of opaque gloss acrylic colour – Red“.

Sh*tting RED. Backed it.

For some reason all the other information on the screen seemed completely irrelevant, I just knew I needed a red camera.

Now, you might think this is ridiculous. And I suspect it is. But now it has arrived it makes perfect sense. Just. Look. At. It.

Testing the Chroma 4×5

In an ideal world, my first use would have been out in the field as this is where I’m used to shooting but I’ve been darkroom-bound the last week and so an impromptu still life was set up. One subject, one light and a RED Chroma.

The camera comes packed in it’s closed state and like all large format cameras of this type, requires a few steps to set up ready for use.

Loosening all the thumb screws (rubber, grooved and easy to turn) the rear standard folds up, followed by the front as you rotate the front standard. Easy.

The front snaps vertical thanks to a very satisfying magnet and on my first time setting it up, a treat was revealed: a pinhole lens board (0.4mm – f/255 at 90mm according to the info provided).

Here it is in action:

Film Photography Camera GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

…and if you’re not a fan of the GIF (click/tap to zoom):

Size comparison, movements and magnetism

I keep the lens on the MPP when transporting. It requires no setup, I just pull it out of my bag and I’m good to go. So, the unfolding and lens attachment of the Chroma 4×5 is new to me. The lens board is really easy to change, a hinged lever at the top of the front standard folds up to release the board (see the gallery above). Once the board is out, slide in a new one and fold the lever down. It locks into place with another satisfying magnet.

I’ll have to get used to this additional setup time but relative to the time taken for an average large format shot, it’s fairly irrelevant.

Still on the subject of my MPP, folded down, the Chroma is a little smaller and weighs a little less (according to my arm-scales). When opened up, the Chroma allows for greater and more precise adjustments (movements) of the front and back standard. Each movement is independently controlled and I look forward to making the most of these in the field.

The front standard has control over the usual suspects – rise/fall, tilt and shift – all with handy groove markers in the acrylic – the only thing missing is a marker or lock position for the left/right shift. It’s no biggie.

The adjustment knobs are all decent in size and very easy to lock/unlock. An absolute dream compared to the MPP which I only ever did a small and fairly uncontrollable, amount of tilt with.

The size of the adjustment knobs means that are very easy to locate while you’ve got one eye stuck to your loupe on the ground glass. I did experience a couple of them move slightly after locking, even though they felt tight, how much to tighten them is going to take a little getting used to.

The back of the Chroma detaches completely and can be rotated for either portrait or landscape shots. Guess what it’s held in place with?

Magnets. Satisfyingly strong magnets.

Good old ground glass

The ground glass is protected by a piece of acrylic during transport – and ‘cause I’m a sucker for customisation, I went for the engraved version. (Bonus internet points if you can name the movie quote without googling it)

The screen itself is fairly bright but a dark cloth is definitely needed until there’s a hood available. If I’m being picky, it would have been nice to have a grid.

The back is released by sliding two metals clips and space opens for a DDS (sheet film holder) to slide snugly in. The DDS is held in place by two “arms”. It felt a little tricky getting the DDS in the first few times, as it seemed to get stuck. A little wiggle and it soon went into place.

My first frame

And here it is, my first shot taken with my Chroma 4×5 and 210mm Sinaron S at f/5.6 (for those who care for such details). Technically it was my second frame, as I messed up the development on the first but in the spirit of “firsts”, here it is.

The front standard was tilted and shifted to try and get the focal plane running through the bottle front-back. It wasn’t quite enough at the bottom (you can see the plane intersecting the cloth in front of the bottle).

In conclusion

At a base price of £250 this is an incredibly affordable, well made and striking large format camera. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to get outdoors with it and try the pinhole lens board that shipped with it – something I’ve never done before.

Steve Lloyd is the man behind the Chroma, you can find out more info over at the official website and the Q&A.  He now has the mammoth task of putting together all the Kickstarter orders. after which then I believe they will go on general sale.

And finally…

To top it all off, Steve has been prototyping some exciting additions for the magnetic-back design including panoramic 120 film, Instax and Wet plate backs (am I allowed to mention that?)

Amazing. Let’s hope they are available in red. Red is my poison.

~ John

Chroma 4×5 technical specifications

Lens board: Linhof/Wista compatible. Pinhole and spare board included
Bellows min extension:85mm
Bellows max extension:300mm
Front rise:25mm
Front fall:25mm
Front tilt:
45 degrees backwards or forwards
Front swing:Only limited by lens coverage
Front shift:30mm left or right
Rear rise:20mm
Rear fall:20mm
Rear tilt:17 degrees backwards / Front tilt only limited by lens coverage
Film holder:Embedded magnetic rotating back for standard 4x5 DDS sheet film holders and QuickLoad holders.
Ground glass:Included bright ground glass screen
180 x 210 x 117 (mm)
7 x 8.2 x 4.6 (in)

Open (no bellows extension):
180 x 210 x 235 (mm)
7 x 8.2 x 9.2 (in)

Open (full bellows extension):
180 x 330 x 235 (mm)
7 x 13 x 9.2 (in)
Weight:1.592kg (3.5lbs)
Body + pinhole lens board + grounds glass

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About the author

John Whitmore

UK photographer, shooting on film because I’m drawn to the pace, tangibility and aesthetics. B&W Landscape and documentary photography are what I generally pursue but always like to experiment with different subjects, films and processes.

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