I just received a Shen Hao 4x5 a few hours ago. My co-worker is from Shanghai a nd brought one back for me on her last trip. I'm not extremely experienced with LF, so take my report with a grain of salt.
I got the top of the line HZX 45-2A camera with a wide angle bellows. She broug ht all this back in one of their flight case style cases.
The case is nice, but I wouldn't consider checking it like I might a real flight case. It is fairly tight fitting with no room for anything but the camera.
The wide angle bellows is made of a simulated leather/vinyl and looks like it wi ll work well.
Switching bellows is quite easy. The front is released with a slide similar to the one that releases the lensboard. The rear is released by turning two knobs on the back to unscrew the screws holding the bellows in place.
The workmanship of the camera is quite good. The finish is kind of a light waln ut matte finish. I don't know what type of finish it is or how it is applied. I don't intend to take the camera out in St. Louis thunderstorms, but I hope it will stand up to use.
The movements are all very logical. The front standard can be slid forward and locked in place with two levers. Likewise, two levers loosen the standard for s wings. Rise/fall and tilt are similar to other cameras.
The rear standard is interesting. There is a non-geared vertical rise, a center tilt, and a base tilt. All work fine. You loosen 2 knobs for vertical rise. One of these knobs does double duty controling the center tilt.
I am having some problems with rear shift and swing. There is a post screwed in to a round nut that you loosen to swing and shift the rear. When the round nut is tightened all the way, the post is perpendicular to the plane of the film. I can't loosen it more than 80 degrees because there is a screw in the way. This isn't quite enough for easy swings and shifts. I tried turning the round nut o ver and playing with it, but it didn't work. I am probably going to have to rig something here or go to a machine shop and pay them to tap the round nut in ano ther place so it will work better. The control is a good concept, but it wasn't carried out well on my sample. I've emailed Perry Wang in China and Andrea Mil ano in Europe for help.
The back can be turned vertically or horizontally just like the Tachihara (the o ther camera I've used). I wish Shen Hao had put some sort of brass reinforcemen t on the corners of the back so it wouldn't take so much of a beating switching it from vertical to horizontal. The back can also slide out and a roll film hol der locked into place.
I'm still assembling the rest of my kit, so I haven't actually used the camera. Once I've put it though its paces, I'll post again.
I can't say whether I'm pleased with the purchase because of the problem with th e rear swing and shift. If I can't make it workable in some way, I'll be aggrav ated. I don't like the idea of forcing a camera to shift and swing. I really w ish the corners of the back were reinforced with brass. I've been very careful , but I can see that they are going to wear a lot as the back is rotated.
Although it's not perfect, it's a reasonable camera for the price you pay in Chi na. If I were given the choice of a new Shen Hao for $1000 or a new Tachihara f or $600, I buy a used Tachihara for $400-500. At least based on my first impres sion.