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Thread: SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

  1. #1

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    OK, I met with Perry (Shen Hao?s international sales rep) and played with his ca mera today. Wow, it?s so small and beautiful! I?m still excited and don?t know where to start my reporting. The model I played with was a Shen Hao HZX-2A, their most advanced and most expensive model (still under $500). Here?s little background about the camera factory. Shen Hao is basically a one-man operation , pretty much like Mr. Canham. Camera parts are made by his contractors and as sistants, Mr. Chang does his final assembly and tests. Seagull sales team helps selling his products. Mr. Chang only maintains a small inventory. In other wo rds, his production level is depending on order volumes. He also does modificat ions on his models upon customer request. Shockingly, he never heard of Wisner, Canham, Ebony, Lotus, Deardorff, and Gandolfi, but he is familiar with Linhof, Toyo, and Wista. He does not speak English.

    The wood is teak (other hard wood materials available on request) and all metal parts (except focusing track gears) are made of stainless steel. The standard b ellows is synthetic, the bag bellows is probably leather. I have seen many woode n cameras, new and old, and I think I can safely say that the wood work and coat ing finish work are superb! The metal parts are finely brushed, and the finish is not up to par by my standards, as compared to Linhof. All washers for contro ls are made of Teflon. The dimension of this camera is 6.5?x6.5?x4?, and the we ight is 4.8 lbs. Perry would like to thank Mr. Andrea Milano for his comments a nd suggestions. Mr. Chang has paid special attention on camera finish this time .

    Let me start from the back. The back frame is not revolving type, but does rota te. It has a Grafloc type back, the ground glass is not very bright, but exchan geable. The back can be easily removed off the frame in seconds, and one can mo unt roll film holders. Mr. Chang offers a 6x12 roll film holder (it works smoot hly, but does not look pretty though). The folding focusing hood can be attache d to the back in a snap, and can be swung out of the way when someone needs to k iss the ground glass, just like the way Ebony backs do. With the wooden back in place, Polaroid sheet film holder and Fuji Quickloader can NOT be used. One can only use a regular sheet film holder or a Polaroid pack film holder. The spring controlled tension is perfect. The back standard has the following movements: rise 46 mm, symmetrical swing 20 degree left and 20 degree right, shift 42 mm le ft and 41 mm right (with marked scale). Base tilt forward 90 degree, and backwa rd 30 degree. Center tilt 10 degree each direction. The back standard can not be moved backward ( I wish it could), but can be moved forward as clearly indica ted in John?s four scans. None of these movements are geared, but all controls and lockings are very positive, which reminds me my Gandolfi Variant L3. The ba ck swing is controlled by two levers conveniently located under the back frame, whereas the shift is controlled by only one lever at a hard to reach place. Onc e all knobs and levers are tightened, the whole back standard is VERY solid. I wish Mr. Chang had put some bubble levels on the back standard and on the back f rame.

    The camera bed is made from one piece of teak. Both ? and 3/8 threads are there . The bellows is not as flexible as ones from Lotus or Canham, but still works well. One can use a 58 mm lens on a flat lens board with this bellows, but don? t expect any movements. On the long end, the bellows can be extended to about 3 75 mm with movements. In contrast, the bag bellows is very soft, excellent for wide angle lens work, and can be extended to about 210 mm.

    For the front standard, the focusing mechanism is surprisingly smooth, and can b e easily compared with Lotus? silk smooth. The focusing track can only go forwa rd. But the front standard can be set backward by releasing two ?brakes? at the two corners (like Wista) and then simply pushing it backward. There is a pair of internal tracks which allows one to slide the front standard up and down wi thout causing any center tilt. The front movements include rise 37 mm, fall 32 mm, swing 17 degree each direction, no shift, base tilt forward 90 degree, backw ard 40 degree, center tilt limited by the bellows. The center tilt zero indenta tion is a bit too strong. The front standard accepts Linhof Technika 4x5 type l ens board (mounting hole off center), and the fit is very precise. A Toyo clon e adjustable lens hood (quite bulky and heavy) is offered, and it can be securel y attached onto the front standard.

    Seagull offers two lenses for this camera: 150 mm f5.6 (6 elements in 4 groups) in Copal 0 shutter and 180 mm f5.6 (4 elements in 3 groups) in Copal 1 shutter. The 150 mm lens is plasmat type with IC = 175 mm, and the 180 mm lens is Tessar type with IC= 190 mm. Both lenses are single coated, accept 52 mm filters, cos t $420 each (not good value).

    Ok, I think I have covered pretty much I can remember and in my notes. Here?s w hat I like and what needs improvement, in descending order. Likes: Great price, superb wood work, small size, excellent overall build quality, smooth movemen ts, light weight. One thing I did not mention before is that, when you open the camera, both front and back standards ?spring? into their zero indentation posi tions. Cool! Future improvements: add bubble levels to the back frame and both front and back standards, incorporate a longer bellows, add a revolving back, a dd front shift, and lower the price even more :-)

    If I had to rate this camera, I would say this is a Minolta if you think Linhof is Leica. Certainly I would not have any problems recommending this camera to a nyone who wants to use a 4x5 camera. If you look at the performance/cost ratio, I don?t know whether any cameras I've known so far can beat it!

  2. #2

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    Geoffrey, I am very happy that you wrote this review,I will read it carefully but at first site there is one thing or two which puzzles me, as you know I bought 4 cameras and I am trying to sell them, I was as excited as you are about the cameras when I saw them at the Fotokina. I must say that when I got deeper into the Shen Hao , I developed also a few critic notes but will talk about it in a later stage. My cameras are The HZX-IIA 4"x5" in the Titanium coat version and the Crome coat version, the metall is brass (cannot be copper....)and it is plated-coated with either Titanium nitride or Chrome, there are certain parts made of stainless steel but certanly not all the metal parts ! I would have been delighted of the contrary, did you perhaps mistake chromed brass for stainless stee, or did Mr Chang change something in the making of this camera? The wideangle bellows isn't made of leather but rather of leatherette (Sky plastic with some sintetic canvas backing). I am very happy to hear that Perry Wang spoke to you about my advice and hope in future to be able to give , together with you and all the other contributors, more feedback to improve this already great camera! My best regards

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    Does Mr. Chang make a 6x9 version? Can specs and pictures be found on the internet?

  4. #4

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    If he does, it is not on the web or in the catalogue, There is another thread on the SHIRON which is a 6x9 wooden field

  5. #5

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    Does anyone know where these are sold in the US? Does anyone have any pictures of them on the web?

  6. #6

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    For pictures, look back a few days for a thread entitled something like "Shen Hao cameras at PMA." There are links to the pictures on my web site and the link to a copy on the LF site. (They won't stay on mine long, although I imagine they'll stay a few weeks.)

  7. #7

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    Hi Guys,

    My email box has been flooded with messages regarding the Shen Hao 4x5 cameras. I thought I might group those questions and answer them to my best knowledge in this post. Before I begin, I would like to personally thank Mr. Andrea Milano for introducing this camera to us.

    1. Where can I buy this camera? Are there any US importers? If you are in Europe, please contact Mr. Andrea Milano. If you are in US or else where, your best bet is to contact Seagull at seagull@camerachina.com and address attention to Perry Wong. He is the associate director of Seagull's international marketing group. Consider language difficulties, write your message as simple as possible. If you have questions regarding their Shen Hao catalog, I'd be glad to assist you. A few translation errors have contributed to quite some confusion.

    Currently, there is no official US importer to represent any Shen Hao products. Some New York dealers are interested in those products, but have concerns over potential legal issues and upsetting some US camera makers. One Atlanta man is more serious about importing Shen Hao cameras, and wants to sell them between $1000 - $1500 in US. "They sure beat those Ikea furnitures", he joked. He's working with his lawyer(s) to check out those claimed potential patent issues.

    2. Are you a Seagull salesperson, and trying to sell us some shit? No, Sir! I'm not affiliated with Seagull in any way, nor with Shen Hao. I do not take any promotion fees or commission from them, either, by writing my first impression report and posting it on this forum. True, some products made in China are not very good as you have seen in the US market. But the market demands some "not very good products" being made for those poor people like me. I bet you paid over $100 for your very good Nike basketball shoes, even though Nike paid less than $3 a pair to the shoe factory in China. You idiot!!! FYI: there is a upper class shop in New York city. They only sell products made in China at Saks Fifth Avenue prices. They have been in business for almost 20 years. Come and See.

    3. Have you used those Seagull lenses? Any good? No. I have not used them. The prices are too high. Seagull might have paid 150% import taxes on those Copal shutters, thus they can not reduce their lens prices. Their barrel lenses are very cheap. So You'd better hold on to your Schnikofujistocks.

    4. Would you personally buy a Shen Hao camera? Yes, I will buy TWO. But I will not do mail order. I want them custom made for me with front shift on 4x5, and rear shift on 8x10, all metal parts made of stainless steel and finishes up to my standards. If my schedule permits, I will go to the Shen Hao factory, and spend a week with Mr. Chang in terms of spec, material selection, and finish requirements.

    5. Any warranty policy of Shen Hao products? Shen Hao is thinking of offering life time warranty to original owners of their cameras. No definitive date is set.



    Finally, I'd like to address Andrea's question. The HZX45-2A camera I played with was pristine, and did not look like a demo unit. No ding, no dent, no scratches. I know, as a fact, they took your advices very seriously and have been trying to make improvements. Maybe the camera I played with yesterday was a new prototype based upon your suggestions. I might have mistaken about white chrome plating over brass. But who would then brush the white chrome?

    I'll be in New Orleans for the weekend, thus I can not answer your emails until next Wednesday. So hold on, please. Cheers!

  8. #8

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    There is an internet site for the cameras with specs under "camerachina.com/frame/frame-p-1-new.htm" It includes the 8x10 camera.

  9. #9

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    Geoffrey and John,

    Thanks for all the information you've provided us on these cameras. The brochure scans and the hands-on review are very helpful.

    Dave

  10. #10

    SHEN HAO 4x5 wooden camera: Love at first sight!

    Dear Geoffrey, Thanks for your extensive review , I find very little to add to your perfect introduction to these cameras, thanks a lot for mentioning my name and indicating me as a European reference for these cameras. I am more than happy to share the credit with you to have brought these fine pieces of skilled photographic craft to the attention of the large format public. Inspite of a few discrepances between the cameras you saw and the ones in my possession, I would like to point out that the cameras with the titanium nitride coating are slightly more expensive than the ones you saw and that my cameras fit a Polaroid 545 holder (you gave me a fright, I went to check immediately!) and I see no reason why they shouldn't fit the quickload(I don't have one so I cannot check...). I had a good reason to doubt your otherwise very accurate judgement, I seem to recognize the similarities between the Shen Hao and another camera which I've owned.

    I've owned a Horseman Woodman 45, this field camera is marketed by Horseman but I have my reason to think that the camera might just possibly come from the same hands who build the Shen Hao. The camera back and few other details of the front are virtually the same(having owned and used a Woodman I knew that that camera takes Polaroid 545). The GG is very similar to Horseman's and , surprise surprise, if you get an Horseman GG(Sinar, Bromwell, Inka and many more) it fits like a glove! I am having Bosscreens for Horseman fitted to Two cameras(this should also take care of your doubts concerning the GG). Somehow I don't quite understand your remark about the back which cannot be moved back but I will investigate a little further before I say anything foolish about it. If I would be able to have my say about this camera I would indeed improve the finish here and there , but that seem to be done already, take a look at some movements and last but not least take a deep look at Wista's wideangle bellows or Walker's and more importantly would look long and very carefully at their similar recessed lens board. Personally, I have my reservation thinking that Shen Hao was made without any liberal inspiration to better known brands and if that would be the case I wouldn't find it any strange! The nice thing about a flexible company such as this, is that you can have your camera custom made and if you are prepared to think with them and master the Chinese language (and I am afraid I don't!) you might open their horizonts to a lot of Large format application.I'll be glad to hear any comments from you and any contributor .

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