LF Newbie & Shen-Hao HZX 4X5-IIA
I'm new to this forum and a real LF newbie in the purest sense.
The only exposure that I've had with this format was back in the '70's in a photography class in Southern California. I now live in the Sacramento, CA area and have been considering a 4X5 camera. According to Ansel Adams book the "Camera," he recommends a monorail type design. However, these tend to be expensive, especially for a first camera. So, I've been looking at the Shen-Hao HZX 4X5-IIA. I believe my Berlebach wooden tripod would be a good support platform for this camera.
Does anyone know if any of the retailers of LF cameras would consider trading for something of equal value?
Anyway, would like hear feedback on Shen-hao or comparable cameras.
at least on the used equipment market to my knowledge it's the other way round. Field cameras are significantly more expensive than monorail cameras. Which type of camera will suit you best largely depends on your photographic interests and your requirements in movements, bellow draw, portability and the like. For my needs the Chamonix 45N-1 turned out to fit my needs best. It's a very popular folding field camera (the iPhone of the LF-scene so to say) which shares some properties of monorail cameras.
Take a look at the Toho - monorail camera. Just 'google' it and also read what Kerry Thalmann has to say about field cameras before you make a purchase. I really like mine.
The reason many monorails are cheaper than field cameras is that they're not getting used in the studio like they were intended for, and most folks who try them in the field find them to be something other than ideal for that purpose.
A Shen Hao 45hzx AT II is a great starter camera. I have one myself, and although I've moved on to other larger formats, I have no plans to get rid of it. It can handle wide-angle lenses quite easily, and with a bag bellows, you can use as wide as a 58mm lens on a flat lensboard. It does have a maximum 12" (300 mm) bellows, but this has not been an issue for me when shooting landscapes. When shooting portraits, it has been more than enough while using a 210mm lens, or even a 240mm.
Why not a Sinar F. Not as small as the ShenHao, but very easy to learn LF shooting with. All the Sinar F (and P) cameras include some kind of help for finding the correct tilt/swing angle plus a built in depth of field scale. You can live without these gadgets, but they are from time to time very handy and a great asset for getting started.
Also, there are lots of Sinar cameras and parts in circulation so finding one shouldn't be a problem.
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I was thinking of using the 4X5 for landscape photography to get started, so portability would be a major concern. This is why I was thinking a well constructed field camera might be a good choice. I purchased my berlebach to support a 90mm refractor weighing aprox. 9 lbs, and I believe the berleback is rated for loads up to 100 lbs. which means just the tripod alone is gonna be a load. Although, I do have a manfrotto 055XPROB that can handle 15-16 lbs. which could be an alternative.
I'll look at the Sinar and Toho. Thanks for the suggestions.
The Shen Hao is what I started on, and 4 years down the road it's still my only LF camera, and I still love using it. The Toho interested me when I was buying, but price was a huge factor for me, so the Shen Hao won easily in that regard. It also helped that Badger had a great intro kit with pretty much everything needed to start.
If I was buying now however, I'd more than likely go for the Chamonix for a similar price. I haven't used one, but the weight difference seems pretty significant and it just looks better made with better knobs etc. Still, the Shen Hao's still going strong for me, so it's not exactly made poorly. Basically the weight is the luring factor for me.
When considering a camera, think about how you will use it including transporting it. A heavy monorail (Arca Swiss or Toho are not heavy) is fine if you are going to shoot mostly out of the car. If you plan to carry it any distance, consider something that is easy to transport and set up. I learned on a Tachihara and it wasn't hard to learn on at all.
Your choice will depend of what kind of pictures you will take.
In the studio and for close-up's a monorail has the advantage: the lens-object distance determines the size of the object in the photo, focussing is done with the back-standard.
If you just want to photograph landscapes and architecture a camera like the Chamonix is great.
Look for a camera that has interchangable bellows: most of the mono-rails have aswell as the Chamonix (on my wishlist).
Once you want to use wide-angle lenses these bag-bellows are a blessing, I hardly use the standard bellows on my Sinar P2.
I actualy did a lot of architecture with the P2, never went hiking with it though.......: too heavy for that.
Good luck and welcome to the club,
I bought an HXZ45A-II a few years ago from Badger Graphic Sales in Wisconsin. While I have owned and used many cameras, this was the first one I had purchased brand new. There are many used camera choices on the market, and some great deals, but for me it felt like a better decision to be the original owner. I did start off with a used lens, and most of my other 4x5 gear is used, though I felt that was more careful shopping. Honestly, if that Shen-Hao is the camera that catches your eye, then I suggest you start saving up to get one.
Gordon Moat Photography