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Thread: 4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    173

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    I am having a hard time making a choice between a Shen Hao or an Ebony purchase. I do not need a lot of movements, so the Ebony RW45 seems like a good fit for what I intend to be doing. But, the Shen Hao also seems to be an attractive camera with more movements than I would probably ever use in the field. This would be my second view camera, I am looking for something to take into the field and would be using lenses from 90 to 210 for mostly landscape work. I have an 8x10 that I use for studio, still life, etc. that has plenty of movements that these would not have.

    So, would I be making a good decision if I went Shen Hao, and later upgraded to something like the Ebony? Or, should I just go with the Ebony?

    Some of the issues would be-

    Is the Ebony Universal bellows really better than the two Shen Hao bellows? (Regular and Bag)?

    Does the type of wood and metal make much difference?

    Is the feel of the controls different on the Ebony, enough to regret going with the Shen Hao if that was what I decided to do?

    I can not get to a dealer to touch both of these before making a decision, so any input would be appreciated.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Posts
    486

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    I can't give you the direct answer to your question (I am metal camera guy), but I would recommend a call to Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange. They carry both cameras and he is great when it comes to these type of questions. He will explain the differences and I am sure he'll ship you a camera that you can try out and exchange for another if it doesn't "feel" right. I have no association with Jim other than being a satisfied customer.
    Juergen

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Location
    Baraboo, Wisconsin
    Posts
    7,697

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    I've owned two Ebony cameras, the SVTe and SVTi. I haven't owned the RW45 or the Shen Hao though I've played around with one. I always hesitate to answer a question that wasn't asked but frankly I don't understand why you aren't considering a Tachihara rather than either of these. It's 2 pounds lighter than the Shen Hao (don't know the weight of the RW45). While it's missing a couple movements that the Shen Hao has these aren't movements you'd likely need for your intended use. It also doesn't require a bag bellows to use lenses as wide as 65mm and will easily handle your 90mm lens . Its 13 inch bellows will be more than enough for your 210 lens and anything else up to and including a 300mm normal lens or 400mm telephoto. It's well built, costs about half of what the RW45 would cost, and seems perfect for your situation.

    However, to give my opinion with respect to the questions you asked, as between the two I'd get the Shen Hao. For half the cost of the RW45 it's a bargain. Its principal problem, and the reason I often don't recoomend it, is the 12 inch bellows, which restricts your longest normal (i.e. non-telephoto) lens to about 240mm (the 14 inches some owners claim is achieved only by using a combination of front base and front axis tilt). However, that length will be fine with your 210mm lens.

    The Ebony is a fine camera but for double the money it's difficult to see how it provides you with something you need and that the Shen Hao doesn't have except for the possibility that the bag bellows would be needed every time you used your 90mm lens with the Shen Hao. I'm not familiar with the widest lens the Shen Hao would accept without a bag bellows but if it requires the bag bellows for a 90mm lens then I might spring for the extra money and buy the Ebony. I had a bag bellows on my Ebony for my 80mm lens (I didn't have the univesal bellows) and hated it.

    I don't think the wood makes any difference, at least I didn't notice any diffierence between the SVTe and other wood cameras I've owned. I also don't think the metal makes any difference. It's a camera, not a rocket. However, I'm not a wood or metals expert and others may differ on both of these points.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  4. #4

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    I had the Shen-Hao for a while. I was quite impressed with it, especially considering the cost. I used a 75mm lens on it without a bag bellows. It will handle your 210 lens with ease. It will take a 300 lens, although I really didn't like the way you had to extend the front standards to do it, and the front tilt just wouldn't lock down tight when it was extended with that big of a lens on it. It also seemed quite heavy for a wood camera.

    For the price, I think that you would be happy with the Shen-Hao. Although I haven't owned an Ebony, I have seen a few and talked to their owners. Nobody ever says anything bad about them. If it were me and the price wasn't the deciding factor, I would go with the Ebony.

  5. #5

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    The Shen-Hao does not need a bag bellows for a 90mm lens. I use a 90mm Super Angulon on mine with the standard bellows. The bellows are compressed, but still allow for all of the movements that I've needed. If I needed more movements I'd go for a recessed lens board rather than the bag bellows, as I'll probably never go wider than 90mm.

    The bellows on the Shen-Hao will handle a 250mm lens without resorting to the "front tilt" trick, but make no mistake: the Shen-Hao is plenty solid even when you move the front standard forward to get the maximum bellows extension (360mm - plenty enough to handle a 300mm lens comfortably). My 4x5 lens kit includes 90mm, 135mm, 150mm, 210mm, 250mm, and 305mm lenses. I don't have a bag bellows, and the camera's always been rock solid regardless of which lens is on it or how far out the bellows are extended. (The 250mm lens is a Fujinon f/6.3; not exactly a lightweight lens, and I've used it with full bellows extension.)

    I went through exactly this same decision making process a few years ago (Ebony, Shen-Hao, or Tachihara), and I went with the Shen-Hao. The Ebony is a wonderful camera, but didn't feel like it was worth the price difference. The Tachihara is lighter, but is more limited in the movements it provides and didn't feel quite as sturdy to me as the Shen-Hao when it was extended. I could have lived with that, but the the Shen-Hao has a Graflok back while the Tachihara has a spring back...so I was willing to trade the weight gain for the extra movements and the Graflok back. I've not regretted my decision.

    As to whether or not the quality difference between the Shen-Hao and the Ebony is enough for you to pay the extra money for the Ebony: Only you can make that decision.

    Be well.
    Dave

  6. #6

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    It always amazes me how people who've never owned a Shen-Hao, but have only handled one in the store, never fail to put it down and recommend something 10 times the price over it.

    There is nothing wrong with the Shen-Hao. In fact, it can do everything the Ebony can do, and for much less money. You can easily use 300mm lenses. You don't need a bag bellows for a 90mm lens. The normal bellows is a quailty product. Sure, with a universal bellows you don't have to switch the bellows when using very short lenses, but the Shen-Hao bellows takes like 5 seconds to disconnect and re-attach.

    The Shen-Hao offers plenty of movements (probably more than you'd ever need). It weighs a bit more than other cameras in its class, but it is very stable and better built than most of the others (Tachihara, Osaka, Ikeda Anba, etc.) The teak wood and titanium are just beautiful and very durable.

    The camera easily fits into my Mini Trekker backpack with three lenses, Readyload holder, film, loupe, dark cloth, filters, spot meter and other small accessories.

    Check out the Shen-Hao Users Group forums for the correct information about this camera from people who actually have used it in the field, not just in the store.

    http://www.phpbbforfree.com/forums/?mforum=shug

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    132

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    I agree, Dean. The Shen-Hao is an outstanding and inexpensive way to break into large format. I've used mine for two years now and can't see myself ever parting with it. I'd like an 8x10 at some point, but that wouldn't be the end of my Shen-Hao.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Location
    Baraboo, Wisconsin
    Posts
    7,697

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    "It always amazes me how people who've never owned a Shen Hao but have only handled one in a camera store never fail to put it down and recommend one 10 times the price over it."

    I believe that everyone who has responded here has recommended the Shen Hao as between it and the Ebony. Who put it down and recommended something that cost 10 times more?
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Posts
    505

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    I've had a Shen-Hao 4X5 for about 6 mos - best investment I've made. Another member of our LF camera club has an Ebony, and except for the bellows extension its practically the same camera at more than double the price. Bought mine from Jeff at Badger Graphics - a good source.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI USA
    Posts
    219

    4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

    Although I've never even touched either Shen Hao or Ebony, it appears both of them are well-regarded (and perhaps flawed) cameras from the user comments. What about going back to basics? You indicated the movements needed (landscape) and the range of lenses (90-210mm). Functionally, either of the two cameras will do (and more). Would the extra couple of pounds (I think) of Shen Hao be an issue in the field for you? Do you think you will want to use longer lenses later and pay double for the added belows extension now? Beyond the basic functionality, to me it's like choosing between a Land Rover and a Chevy (or a Ford) pickup to get to the location. I don't think either is right or wrong. It's a matter of taste (and disposable income).

    Personally, I followed Brian's logic and chose Tachihara because of the overall cost-performance. If I had the money to spend for an Ebony and had to choose between the two, I'd go for Shen Hao and also get another lens like Nikkor 300mm M, 400mm Tele Congo, or some such. You can use the lens with your *next* camera and have a bit of money left for films to boot!

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