Shen Hao - best value?
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...
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!!
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.
One consideration with Field Cameras like the Shen Hao is bellows draw: there are limitations if you like rather long or short lenses.
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).
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How is the back inferior to the GVII?
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.
Originally Posted by mobtown_4x5
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.
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
"I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." -- Alexis de Tocqueville
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.
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 .