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Thread: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

  1. #1

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    Oct 2006
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    Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    I know this question has probably been asked repeatedly, but bear with us please. My wife (Angie) and I (Nick) are new to LF. We love landscape photography, and travel the world each year as much as we can, in the pursuit of beautiful landscapes and scenes to photograph. We are looking to buy our first 4x5 and have narrowed the field down to the 2 obvious new cheaper field cameras:

    Tachihara 45BR WoodField and the Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A.

    We have already purchased a couple of good condition second hand lenses:
    Schneider-Kreuznach Angulon 90 / 1:6.8 and a Schneider Symmar-S 5.6/210mm, and will more than likely further this small colllection once we have found our LF footings. We also have lens boards for these lenses, a swag of double darks and a tripod with ball head, etc, so the camera is likely to be the final purchase in the setup.

    We, well in particular, I have spend the last 3 months reading and reading about LF, techniques, cameras, etc, including a few very passionate postings regarding camera choice. I love the look of the Tachiharas, in particular the black rosewood 45BR, and from what I can read, has movements that are more than adequate for general photography and in particualar landscape. It is also very lightweight which will be a great asset in our travels, especially considering the fact that with 2 of us fighting over the LF, we will definately have to have an SLR or dSLR with us, and all of the other paraphenalia that you naturally take with you.

    The Tachihara was my definate choice until reading the forums here last night, and reading about the Shen-Hao 6x17 roll back, and that got us very interested. We love the work of Ken Duncan and the likes, and feel that this format could be great fun to experiment with. This has suddenly opened up the possibility of the Shen-Hao once more.

    The Shen-Hao, has wider range of movements, which could be useful, especially if we start to take a closer look at architectural photography. The thing that bothers me are the comments regarding build quality. As this is our first camera, I am not sure that we will notice any failings as it will be the 1st LF that we will have played with, or even held for that matter. (We live in Australia and there seems to be very very little in the way of new equipment to buy, and the stores have to order in specially for you)

    So, I am starting to waffle on a little, so I will call it a day here, apart from to ask the question, what do you all feel to be the pros and cons of each camera, and is it worth chosing the Shen-Hao over the Tachihara primarily so we can play with the 6x17 roll back.

    Thanks very much for you patience in reading this post, and we look forward to your comments

  2. #2

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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    I was in the same dilemma for a very long time. My decision came down to non photographic Social/Political issues: Shen Hao (China), not my friend. Tachi (Japan), my friend.
    I'm very happy with the Tachi and for landscape photography it has more than enough movement.

  3. #3
    grumpy & miserable Joseph O'Neil's Avatar
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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    I faced the same choice last year, but in my case I've been shooting 4x5 for ten years now. Anyhow, I did like both cameras very much. I eventually went Tachihara. Shen-Hao does have better range of movements, but in my case I found that when I need that many or that extreme movements, I pull out my old mono-rail.

    For field work, the Tachihara works just fine for the movements I need. Another issue is weight. When backpacking, the lighter weight of the Tachihara - at least to me - makes a big difference.

    The last factor that swayed me over to Tachihara was the bright screen it has, much brither - IMO - than the Shen-Hao. I have two F9 lenses I use (Apo artar and G-Claron) and for slower lenses like that, the bright screen of the Tachihara makes a big difference, especially in lower light situations.

    Oh yes, before I forget, I did lay down the extra money and get the black Rosewood version, with chrome hardware. I think it's a much more beautiful camera than many other field cameras out there, but that's just a personal feeling.

    Lens boards between Shen-Hao and Tachihara are basically identical, so that works for you. Also, the Shen-Hao is a wonderful camera, from the ones I have seen. I'm just personally happier with my Tachihara. My one fault with the Tachihara is that I have an older 15" Wollensak Tele-Raptar that is both too large and too heavy for the front standard of the Tachihara, and if you ever plan on buying some *big* lenses, the Shen-Hao would be better. But again, in my case, the Tele-Raptar is so large I do not backpack with it. I have pretty much two sets of lenses - one large set for my monorail, and small lenses (like the F9s I mentioned) for travel & backpacking.

    Hope that helps.
    joe
    eta gosha maaba, aaniish gaa zhiwebiziyin ?

  4. #4
    Scott Davis
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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    I have been a very happy Shen-Hao user for about six years now. I have had no issues whatsoever with build quality on mine. It has been toted through all kinds of weather conditions in a wide range of climates. The comments about the factory ground-glass are correct- it is dim. However, it is a very simple matter to swap this out for something brighter. You can order a Satin Snow ground glass for something finer and brighter if you are in a budget crunch. If you feel like indulging yourself, get a Canham 4x5 ground glass/fresnel set. That is what I have on my Shen-Hao, and it fits perfectly and works wonderfully. I have a single set of lenses for my Shen Hao, from a 75mm f6.8 up to a 300 f8 Telephoto, all mounted on flat lensboards. I can use the 75 and the 90 with the bag bellows with full movements, and I can even focus the 75 to infinity with no movements using the standard bellows. The Shen is a bit heavier than the Tachi- 6 lbs (3kg) vs 4 lbs (2kg). When you only have a two lens kit, the extra kilogram will not be noticeable. The payoff with the extra weight is better durability, and greater stability in wind.

  5. #5

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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    Not owning nor even using one of these cameras I don't have a dog in this fight. I can say that as primarily a landscape and broken down building photographer a lot of movements are overrated. A light weight camera and lenses are far more important to me. In fact, my main 4x5 does not have any back movements at all. I don't seem to miss them either.

    I do have a 4x5/5x7 Deardorff that I can use if needed. But frankly the 5x7 back has not been removed in two years. When I'm close to the Jeep the 5x7 is used. When I have to walk it's a 3.6 lb. 4x5.

    Sign me, Old, fat and lazy.

  6. #6

    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    I have had a Tachihara 4x5 woodfield for just over a year now. I have no complaints so far. I went with the Tach. simply because it was much lighter than the shen. I do a lot of long hikes here in the southwest and weight is a major issue. I've also accompanied this camera with lightweight lenses, a couple i might suggest: rodi sironarN 135, fuji 240A, nikkor 300M. Just last weekend a friend was using a tecknikardan and picked up my camera and was astonished by how light it is. It is true that the shen is more rigid, but the almost 3lb weight difference more than makes up for this. The range of movements on it is far more than i've ever needed so far. I use exclusively rear movements and have never come close to maxing them out, although architectural shots may. I'd suggest the gold plated finish. I've heard the other may flake off. Be prepared to get some folks stopping by to talk about it, its an eye catcher, but I kinda like the attention if i'm not too hectic!

    BTW, isnt 6x17 wider than 4x5? I looked up the 6x17 back for the shen but couldnt find much about it.

    Adam

  7. #7

    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    Ah ha! I found it. I see, it has an extra bellows to move it back away from the back standard to allow the image to "grow" to 5x7 proportions.

  8. #8

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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    I own a Shen-Hao since one year and I'm very happy with it. Very good buil quality. Very rigid for a wooden field camera. Lots of movements.
    It is only heavier than the Tachihara (2.4kg = 5.3lbs instead of 1.7kg=3.8lbs). If you travel a lot better buy light lenses like the Nikon 90 f8 and replace the ground glass of the Shen-Hao wit a good Fresnel model.
    On the other hand, the 6x17cm Shen Hao back work on any 4x5" camera with a graflock back (Linhof, Toyo, Horseman, Ebony...). It would then also work on the Tachi , but you have to verify the weight to be sure it is not too heavy for this last camera.
    Finally, the Shen-Hao draws less attention than some red and golden Tachihara models.

  9. #9
    Is that a Hassleblad? Brian Vuillemenot's Avatar
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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    [QUOTE=Chris Heusquin;229987]
    On the other hand, the 6x17cm Shen Hao back work on any 4x5" camera with a graflock back (Linhof, Toyo, Horseman, Ebony...). It would then also work on the Tachi , but you have to verify the weight to be sure it is not too heavy for this last camera.
    QUOTE]

    I'm pretty sure that the Tachi does not come with a Graflock back. I would go with the Shen myself, since it is sturdier than the Tachi. The panoramic back only works in the 6X17 configuration with lenses between about 90 and 150 mm. There is not enough clearance to focus shorter lenses, and with longer ones you start to get vignetting. However, you can pop in the 6X12 or 6X9 masks and get 4 formats for the price of one! The back is a bit crude and not the nicest thing to look at, but mine is light tight, easy to use, and gets the job done for a fraction of the other 6X17 or 6X12 alternatives.
    Brian Vuillemenot
    Images of Enchantment
    http://www.imagesofenchantment.com

  10. #10

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    Re: Which camera to chose? Shen-Hao HZX4x5-II A or Tachihara 45BR WoodField

    Hi Nick,

    I was in your shoes very recently and I went with Shen-Hao, mostly for technical reasons (movements, interchangeable bellows, graflock back, etc.), but also for some esthetic ones. Tachihara is indeed a beautiful camera to look at and it does attract attention more than Shen-Hao, and attention is exactly what I don't need when I take my camera out! Not that I mind chatting, but on those occasions I'd prefer to take pictures, not talk about my camera. That's what this forum is about...

    But seriously, each has its own set of strengths and limitations, and you will probably be happy with whichever you choose.

    Welcome to the club and enjoy!

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