Shen Hao - best value?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by mobtown_4x5, Jun 17, 2004.

  1. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Well guys- I'm at a crossroads here, and I need your help. I can't lug my Graphicview monorail around any more. I just need something lighter, but I NEED my movements- *read- nutcase doesn't think he's really shooting LF unless the camera is twisted up like a pretzel*- buget is limited (under $1000)...

    So, this led me to the Shen Hao HZX 4X5-IIA from Badger Graphic. It seems to have very extensive movements, yet be fairly light and compact. it also supposedly comes with a "case" I don't know what that looks like...

    Long story short, the camera and a gitzo 3-way head that Jeff recommended are to be purchased- or something else based on your feedback- I trust this forum implicitly, I've never been steered wrong yet!

    Anyone have this camera? Thoughts on rigidity - build quality - movements - precision - focusing - (go for the Beattie?) ?????

    Is there something else I should be looking at- feedback would be appreciated, this is a very important purchase for me...

    Thanks guys!!!
     
  2. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I'm sure you'll get some extremely useful feedback about this, but if you want some info right now, there are several threads on the 'large format' forum that already offer a good bit of Shen-hao discussion plus some pros and cons about other choices. good luck!!
     
  3. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I bought the Shen-Hao after owning a Graphic View II. I have not found the movements limiting and the bulk is much better. I do not tend to twist my camera up - front or rear tile and a bit of rise/fall are what I commonly use.

    The one thing that took me some time to get used to is that the front tilt is not axial like on the GV. Also the Graphlock back is not as nice.

    I have no problems with the ground glass either (even with a 65mm f/8), but brighter would always be better.
     
  4. Ken Lee

    Ken Lee Member

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    One consideration with Field Cameras like the Shen Hao is bellows draw: there are limitations if you like rather long or short lenses.
     
  5. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Shen Hao 4x5

    If you have some really large coverage 4x5 lenses (XL's etc.) the Shen Hao wouldn't have adequate movements, especially in the shorter lenses. That being said, I've owned mine for upwards of 2 years now and am pleased with it. It is not an Ebony by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a well made camera with more features than a Wista or Tachihara entry level model. If you use long lenses, you'll need an extension or a tele lens. I would think you will be pleased with the purchase as it goes for about $600 (US).
     
  6. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Larry,

    How is the back inferior to the GVII?

    Matt
     
  7. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    On the Shen-Hao the back has a screw sticking out of the top and bottom of the frame. This is fit into a slot on a spring and hold. To remove the back you need to pull both the top and the bottom spring back at the same time and slide the frame out. On the GV you just push on the arms and the frame easily slips out. Also the graphlock slides on mine loosen up and then drop down in the way of the film holder (I think putting my dark cloth on causes this). I have tightened them now, so that problem is reduced, but now they are a bit stiff to use for their intended purpose.

    It is still a great camera, and I would buy it again. But if you think you will use the graphlock slides alot, I would consider other options.
     
  8. wdemere

    wdemere Member

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    Gowland All-movement

    I just bought a used Gowland 4x5 on EBay for $300. It weighs 4.5 pounds (it is less than my Meridian 45B) and has all the movements. Might be an alternative to your Shen Hao if you can find one. If you want to buy new, then I think it is $1045 on www.petergowland.com

    good luck,

    William
     
  9. fingel

    fingel Member

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    I got a very good deal (about $1100) on a Canham DLC on ebay a couple of years ago. It is a great camera, very light and has tons of movements, tilt, swing, shift, rise, no rear rise though, lots of bellows extension, and did I mention it is light. About 4 lbs, I use it on a Bogan 3001 tripod with out any problems. If you are patient, you could probably find one on ebay for about what you want to pay.
     
  10. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Yes - they're good!

    Hey Mobtown. Had my Shen-Hao for about 6 months and I'd agree mostly with noseoils comments. Unfortunately as this is my first LF, my experience is limited but it certainly seems well made considering the price. esp by comparison with the big name brand models. Typical of Chinese manufacture, it is basic but very functional, with adequate aesthetic appeal (you can take some furniture polish to it and is comes up sparkling - much to my wife's amusement).

    As primarily a landscaper I find the movements more than adequate. If I shot more architecture, I might find the rise and fall of the lens std a little limited and as L Gebhardt pointed out, the front tilt is not axial and takes some getting used to. But with practice, setting the plane of focus seems to come quite quickly.

    A couple of things to mention re the bellows: it definately limits the focal length you can use - up to approx 210mm max I think from memory. The camera may be able to be modified to allow longer focal lengths but this would involve lengthening the focussing rail, so would not be a minor change. Also, it didn't take me long to discover I needed a soft bellows for my 80mm. These are a fairly expensive addition, but nice quality being leather. I now leave mine on the camera all the time. If you also shoot mainly between 80-160, then you might consider asking Jeff to replace the paper bellows with the soft bellows with your initial order. would cost extra, perhaps $200.

    Build quality is good. (Though once again my experience of comparisons is somewhat limited). As with any wooden camera you can't throw it on the rocks and expect it to continue to run like a well oiled machine. But it's light. Comes with a good Pelican style hard case (which I hardly ever use now). Mainly truck mine around with lenses, film holders, tripod etc in pack for landscape work.
    Re precision; it has a focussing scale which I never use. Has levers to allow fast movement of the focus rail and a knob to allow fine adjustments (as do most I guess). The focussing knob allows fine enough adjustments. When everything is locked down properly seems stable. I've bumped mine a few times hard enough to move the tripod then gone back and checked the camera setup which has held fine.

    All in all, three of us here in NZ have bought Shen-Haos from Jeff based on the features/apparent build quality vs price and we hav'nt been disappointed. And you can spend what you save on an extra lens or two (if needed)!!!!
    Good luck - John.
    Hey what happened to the Avatar. Well the new one is pretty sexy :wink: .
     
  11. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Bright screen

    Oh - and just ordered a Fresnel screen. Lately found focussing with the Rodenstock APO Sironar S 150mm/5.6 difficult in dim light. Have a friend who went with the Nikon 90/F8 and he has real problems in low light. But for reasonable light conditions (i.e. up to 1/2hr before sunset), havn't had problems focusing with the slowest lens (5.6).

    The air between the lens and film in a Shen-Hao is the same as that in an Ebony :cool:
     
  12. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Thanks for the feedback so far- I am a little surprised at the 210mm bellows limit, I have a 12 inch Artatr that I use quite a bit, when I mentioned it to Jeff at Badger he didn't bat an eye. Are you sure this sucker is that short? That's a major bummer if I can't use that lens, maybe a showstopper in fact. Otherwise the camera sounds great all in all.

    Matt
     
  13. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Mine easily streches out to the 360mm that the camera can extend. The bag bellows is limited to about 200mm (I never measured it). I hardly ever use the bag bellows, even with a 65mm lens. This is because I can't get a recessed lensboard for this lens (size 00 shutter) and without it has no real room to move in the frame of the camera. With a 90mm I usually get enough movement without the bag as well. I eventually plan on getting a light weight 300mm (12in) lens, but I expect this will be pushing the limits of the camera.
     
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  15. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Best check with Jeff at Badger specifically about the max focal length Matt. I would hate to put you wrong. My longest focal length is 150 so it's never been a problem for me. (sorry if I've mislead). J.
     
  16. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Short focal length.

    Maybe mine shrunk in the rain. :tongue:
     
  17. sanking

    sanking Member

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    If you go the Shen-Hao website (www.shen-hao.com) you will find that the maximum bellows extension for the 4X5 Shen-Hao is 360mm. That should allow easy use of a 300mm lens.

    If you need more bellows draw consider buying a 5X7 Shen-Hao with a 4X5 reducing back. The 5X7 model has 605mm of bellows extension which would allow focus of lenses at close distance of up to about 480mm. An additional advantage of using a reducing back on a larger camera is that internal flare is reduced.

    For what it is worth I recently purchased a 5X7 Shen-Hao directly from the factory and am very, very pleased with it. For the money there is no doubt in my mind but that it offers more value for the money than a new 5X7 Tachihara or a used 5X7 Deardorff. The quality of finish is very high and it is one of the most stable field cameras I have ever used, and if you need them it has more movements than most other field cameras. The only 5X7 to match the Shen-Hao in stability and movements is the Ebony, but at about 3.5X the price. Note however that the 5X7 Shen-Hao is a different design than the 4X5 model.

    Sandy King
     
  18. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Pardon my ignorance Sandy but what do you mean by "internal flare".
     
  19. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Internal flare is caused by reflections off the bellows. The closer the bellows is to the film the more likely it becomes. In theory you will get less flare when shooting 4X5 film on a 5X7 or 8X10 camera with a reducing back than with a 4X5 camera. Depending on a variety of factors, such as lighting conditions, size of camera, type of lenses and internal bellows material, flare could range from too little to be of any consequence to fairly significant.

    Sandy King
     
  20. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Well, I did it. The 4x5 (Jeff doesn't carry the 5x7). I'm not sure how close I will be able to focus with the 300mm, after infinity, I will have another 60mm of extension. Is there a formula for this?
    I skipped the extra screen, I haven't had problems with ordinary GG on my GVII so I am going to wait and see on that.
    I'm leaving for a once-in-a-lifetime oppurtunity tommorrow night, the camera is supposed to be here Fedex tommorrow, but I will be at work, I'm not sure if I will be able to get it before I leave or not, maybe for the best. Ineed to get these shots and learning a new camera could put a kink in the works...on the other hand It could be magic I just don't know...

    Thanks for all the responses.

    matt
     
  21. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Good onya Matt, looking forward to seeing the results.
    p.s.
    I hear the weather is good on Mars this time of the year :D.
     
  22. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    To follow up on my first post, the 300mm lens on a Shen Hao is (I think) the upper limit of reality. You would be limited in trying to focus too closely with a lens that long. I was thinking of the Fujinon 300mm tele lens, as it only requires a focal length of 195mm for infinity focus (plenty of room with the standard bellows). I now have an 8x10 with the 300mm Symmar-S and a 4x5 reducing back, so I opted out of the Fujinon. The shutter on the Symmar is a Copal 3, so I'm not planning on mounting it on the Shen Hao. I use a 180mm lens for close up shots and have had no trouble with running out of bellows, but I'm not trying to do macro work.

    As a (former) cabinet maker, the woodwork is very well done on this camera. Fit and finish are excellent and better than I had hoped for at the price. Teak will take an oil finish and is pretty stable as far as weather is concerned. The camera weighs 6 pounds.

    My friend in town just got his Ebony (I'm still a bit green) but the Shen Hao had better features and stability than his Wista and was much less in cost. All in all, I'd still do it again if I needed to replace this one.
     
  23. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I agree with noseoil.

    I am a happy Shen-Hao user who switched from a Wista 4x5 Field camera. The Shen-Hao will focus my 55mm Apo Grandagon mounted on a flat lens board without including any of the camera in the picture (the Wista would not). Most of my Shen-Hao photography is with lenses in the 55mm to 180mm focal length range, with an occasional 300mm shot.

    I'd do it again.
     
  24. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Nit-Picks

    I didn't take the Shen-Hao to my out of town project this weekend, (didn't want to be learning a new camera under pressure- turned out to be a smart move) So I just opened the box last nite... first impressions and very picky nitpicks:

    Well, I have to say all in all, it looks pretty good. Well, better than pretty good, pretty damn nice!!! There are some really neat design features, and it is very well put together in most areas. You bang into this sucker or drop it once and it's all over, though. Definately more fragile than my monorail. The lensboards are nice stiff metal, and the movements/focussing are pretty smooth. The joinery work is nice. It folds nicely with my 150 Nikkor reversed on the board. Awsome. I can't believe how much smaller it is than the GVII.

    A few "nit-picks":

    1. The back. The design worries me. The GG is held on to the springs (which are finished like the other black hardware which leads me to believe that they are not real spring steel- only time will tell on that one) by two tiny srews, under lateral tension when you pull it away to insert film holder- seems like a weak design.

    2. Also, the GG on mine is not quite the right size, so it can shift around inside the frame , apparently this happened in shipping, and I cannot get the &*^%$ grid (hate 'em) lined up perfectly level. This is driving me nuts. I might ask Jeff for a new back.

    3. The bellows is made of very thin paper that looks and feels like, well, paper. :sad:

    4. There appears to be no finish/oil/wax of any kind to protect the wood from mosture. Easily remedied, but curious.

    5. I got a great low-profile Gitzo with a huge footprint, but the Shen-Hao only contacts about a 2 inch circle because the bottom plate (the 2" circle) with the screw hole in it is raised- so the camera is balanced on that- I am going to find a way to get it resting on the large padded plate of the Gitzo, I'm not sure how...It definately would be much less prone to vibration that way. I'm a little bummed about this, maybe all folding fields are that way I dunno.

    Well, these items are pretty minor, considering the overall build quality and the price. I may look into replacing the back and bellows to upgrade the camera a little bit, we'll see. The back is a little cheesey, but it may work just fine. I will definately have to be carefull with this thing, it's no "Graphic View", but it also is about 1/4 the size and weight (thank God!).
    I'll let you all know how it goes when I start shooting this evening. Thanks to all...

    Matt
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2004
  25. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    I had pretty much decided upon the Shen-Hao as a package deal from Badger Graphics which includes the Nikon 150 W. Then I see Badgers Brand 4X5 for a couple hundred dollars less and this package includes a Rodenstock 150. Without any experience with 4X5 I wonder about the two lenses -- how would they be different?

    One benefit I have found with either lens is with the purchase of a small
    step-up ring I can use my 55mm B+W filters & polerizer that I use with 35mm
    cameras.

    I see nothing wrong in buying a camera based upon lens criteria but trying to
    understand a lens's characteristics without using it is subjective and
    argumentative and requires a leap of faith.

    So, if any of you were to choose between the Nikon W f-5.6 @ $530 and the
    Rodenstock APO-Sironar-N 150mm/5.6 @ $575, in terms of corner to corner
    sharpness, contrast and resolution would you opt for one over the other?

    The pictures that I have made that I like the best are made with with a Zeiss
    Planar design. This represents the ultimate lens design to me.
     
  26. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I would go for the Rodenstock. Nikons are not bad, I have a 210 and a 65, but IMO for some reason the german lenses have more zap to them.....of course this is purely subjective an only my opinion...please no flames aimed this way, I have had enough for a couple of days..:smile: