View Full Version : Shen-Hao 8x10 - Word to the Wise

Ken Lee
25-Feb-2005, 11:48
I finally got around to developing my first photos with my new Shen-Hao 8x10. Everything is great, except that almost every negative has a light leak.

The spring on film back is a bit loose: tight enough to keep the film holder secure, but when you remove or insert the dark slide, you can inadvertantly open the back enough to let in a little light.

Solution from Richard Ritter: whenever inserting or removing the dark slide, keep your thumb on the back, to prevent it from opening.

Michael Kadillak
25-Feb-2005, 13:23
I would add to your comments to include re-inserting the dark slide perfectly square to prevent light from leaking past the light trap. If an edge of the dark slide leads the process, the same net effect can quickly take place.


MIke Sherck
25-Feb-2005, 13:27
When you remove or insert the dark slide, try (from a right-hander's point of view,) holding the back against the back of the camera with the forefinger and thumb of your right hand. As a user of older (ok, ancient!) cameras I just sort of got into the habit of doing that as a matter of course. Just making sure that everything stays in position as the slide is going in or coming out.

MIke Sherck
25-Feb-2005, 15:03
Umm... make that "the thumb and forefinger of your left hand." :)

David F. Stein
25-Feb-2005, 16:46
I would also recommend making or buying an exposure shroud that you put over the dark slide end. It takes plenty of time for the camera to settle down, adjustments, etc. and even with the back snug I think there is potential for light leaks.

domenico Foschi
25-Feb-2005, 17:26
why do you remove the dark slide?
If you just slide it until it doesn't cover the area of the negative, you will also be spaired the possible annoing problem of dust or debree that could be released from the action of re-enserting the slide.
How do you like your camera?
Is it rigid?

Ken Lee
25-Feb-2005, 17:40
Thanksto all -

Domenico, I will try your suggestion.

The camera is quite rigid, light enough for me to walk around with comfortably in the woods. The Shen Hao case holds only the camera, but does that very well. The rest of my gear goes over the other shoulder, in a small athletic bag I got at WalMart for less than $20. (I've learned a lot from this list).

I have to say that is requires a little adjustment to consider my 450mm Fujinon C as only a moderately long "portrait" lens. My arms aren't long enough to easily reach the lens and view the GG at the same time. On the other hand, I no longer need reading glasses under the darkcloth: to see the 8x10 image, one needs to stand back.

Graeme Hird
25-Feb-2005, 18:14

Don't you still need to remove the slide to flip it, indicating the holder has exposed film in it?


Michael Kadillak
25-Feb-2005, 19:15
I completely agree Graeme. Seems to me like at the very least it is a double exposure accident waiting to happen.

Plus you have added an 80 square inch wind sail to the side of the camera during the most critical period of making a photograph.

I was instructed a long time ago to use my LF equipment as it was intended and I still say that is very sound advice. There is a reason that a light trap is built into the film holder on each side and one side of the dark slide is white and the other black. But I guess if it works for you then go for it.


Herb Cunningham
25-Feb-2005, 20:16
you know, I got rid of a SH 4x5 because of the weak springs. I think a trip to Ritter or someone to put strong springs and a bail would be a good idea.

domenico Foschi
25-Feb-2005, 20:54
When i expose a sheet, i stick on the slide a red dot sticker for N-1 , a blue dot sticker for N + 1 and a white one for normal development, thus giving me informations for development and status of the film.

Frank Petronio
25-Feb-2005, 21:53
Unless you are a precise person, not pulling the darkslide out risks having the edge of the slide infringing onto your film too.

Until you get to Ritter or better yet, Shen-Hao sends you stiffer springs - you might devise a way to use stout rubber bands to pull the back tighter.

Now I'm getting tempted by 8x10 chromes...

David F. Stein
26-Feb-2005, 00:02
Freestyle used to sell some frozen past-due Fuji E-6 film in 8x10 - great value - but I haven't seen it lately. Still there?

Richard Årlin
26-Feb-2005, 04:04
I have a Shen-Hao HZX810-IIAT. It is a very fine piece of equipment. Indeed compared to the Ebony upon it has been copied it has a few minor drawbacks. I have a SV45TE to judge by. The only possible lightleak (improbable as it be) and risk of shifting the plane of focus is the not so tight sliders for the groundglass assembly. There is a simple remedy for this to put an adhesive 1mm foamrubber lining tape on the rescessed surface of the camera where it goes. Also I put some slightly thicker washers underneath the nuts that lock the rear shift making them tight before reaching the sideposts. I have no problem with lightleaks like the ones you mention.

Cheers, Richard

Ken Lee
26-Feb-2005, 05:18
I'm glad to know that this is a common feature of Shen-Hao cameras - I didn't get a "lemon", as they say.

The first time I inserted a film holder, I was delighted how easy it was, compared to other cameras... Surprise !

For now, I will try the thumb technique, and let you know how it goes.

Michael Kadillak
26-Feb-2005, 17:20
I shot today with my 8x10 Canham and was pleasantly reminded (with this post in the back of my mind) of the marvelous design of the ingenious designed variable tension back springs on this camera along with other user friendly features. No, it is not the cheapest camera in this format, but the thing just works like a champ each and every time I use it.

It is rather disturbing to hear that any feature that prevents the camera from performing as intended is considered "normal". If the manufacturer cannot make it right immediately, I would ship it back to them and get my money back.

Personally, I would rather pay more and not worry about using the camera than take a risk with critical images. More often than not, what you get is proportional to what you pay for it.

Good Luck!

Ken Lee
4-Mar-2005, 10:36
The plot thickens....

I went out shooting in the frozen woods, bringing my left thumb along to keep the film back pressed against the holder.

Good news: I made several really nice images. Bad news: They all have the same light leak as before.

ShenHao promised me free lifetime repairs, but shipping the camera back Shanghai is a prohibitvely expensive.

We live and learn.

Next step: Richard Ritter in Vermont.

Michael Kadillak
4-Mar-2005, 16:51
What the hell good is the warranty if they will not pay for shipping and it is to much to ship back to them?

I send an 8x10 metal camera to Tokyo Japan in five days with 11 heavy lens boards for $100 last month with the regular postal service.

Use the old flashlight inside the bellows in a dark room with a film holder inserted. If light can get out, then it surely can get in at the same places.

If you cannot see what is wrong with the camera with the assistance of your many years of photographic experience then what Richard Ritter may find will clearly be very expensive. Not his fault. Any craftsman commands a price for his experience. But this is not a 70 year old Korona that needs help. A new camera should work perfectly out of the box every time for years without this kind of stress.

Cut your losses. Get rid of this mess by shipping this camera back to them and ask for your money back plus shipping. Even a used camera is not this much hassle. You will very likely always lack confidence in this camera's ability to perform as intended and eventually it will be in someone elses hands and you will be moving on to another more reliable 8x10.

Like I said earlier, thank God for Keith Cahnam. Put a new fresnel in my older wooden 8x10 and it was back in my hands five days after he got it and he was busy as hell at the time. I was back to precision trouble free shooting in virtually no time.

Good luck!

Ken Lee
4-Mar-2005, 19:37
Michael - Which Canham 8x10 do you have ?

I didn't realize that one can send something overseas for such a "reasonable" price. So if it ends up costing less money, I will let Richard fix the back and get on with my life, as it were. Otherwise, I will send it back to ShenHao.

Am I in my rights to request that they pay to send it back to me ?

Michael Kadillak
4-Mar-2005, 20:10
I have the standard wooden Canham 8x10. They come up on the used market
occasionally at bargain prices and that is how I got mine. Takes the
standard Toyo 6x6 lensboard.

What I like about it: it weights 9.5 - 9.75#. All of the places where a
conventional wooden camera maker would use a steep pitch wooden screw that
can work its way loose over time requiring a bigger screw, Keith Canham uses
thru bolts and nuts with some super glue. Base plate is metal. Two wing nuts
on the front standard so you can adjust the rise and simply push the lens
panel in on the bottom for front tilt back and forth with finger pressure
and it holds with adjustable friction. Sweet. Great fresnel that Keith
personally researched. Mine came with the older version of the fresnel that
had a center "hot spot" so I changed it out to the new even version and it
is simply great. Lastly, I got to meet Keith and talk to him several times
over the years and when I look in his eyes, I see a caring passionate
individual that cares immensely that his products work and who will do
anything in his power to make it right for you. Makes me feel good that I
can get service, parts and other accessories that I may want/need
immediately in stock.

I wish that the front standard did not need to be folded out from under the
side rails when it is unfolded/folded, but that is a small price to pay.
Also, a set of the tightening bars can get under the rear standard but they
can be reached.

Yes, you are perfectly in your rights to have them send it to you postage

I hope that you figure this one out quickly and without much cost. The
alternative really sucks.

Ken Lee
4-Mar-2005, 21:18
Here's an example:

The light leak is on the lower left. Doesn't look too bad on this one, anyway.

At least the Fujinon 300A is working as designed

Richard Årlin
5-Mar-2005, 01:34
Ken, looking at your picture... how com the lightleak extends to the surrounding black border. It would certainly not come from a leak in your camera. Are you sure the filmholder istn't cracked or something ?

Very sad you are not confident with your camera,

cheers (and cheer up) Richard

Ken Lee
5-Mar-2005, 02:11
Richard - You may be right !

In every image, the light leak extends to the surrounding film edge.

All my film holders were purchased used, from 2 separate parties. Most of them appear in like-new condition - and since the leak takes almost the same shape in every image, I doubt they could all be damaged in the same way.

All my photos were made from the same box of film: TMax 400. The box was sealed when I bought it. Does Kodak make mistakes like this ?

I could develop a blank sheet and see if the "leak" is already on the film.

Here are another 2 shots which better illustrate the leak:

Ken Lee
5-Mar-2005, 02:14
I forgot to point out: The vertical banding comes from my scanner. (Don't ask, please).

Richard Årlin
5-Mar-2005, 02:32
What's your procedure loding film ? I would certainly try to develope an unexposed sheet. Just make sure you give the film a chance to be exposed sufficiently from any leak since it may not be enough to reach zone 2 without the added light from taking the picture, Richard

Dave Moeller
5-Mar-2005, 04:03
Three things I would do at this point, in order:

1. Develop a sheet straight from the box. Make sure the film's not fogged in the box. If it is...who knows what might have happened? Something at Kodak? Is there a pinhole in the box? Might you or someone else have fogged the film at some point? Doesn't really matter...if it's the film, you'll know.

2. If step 1. doesn't show anything, load up a film holder on both sides and place it in the sun for a while (5-10 minutes would be about right, I think). If you have any particular habits, like leaving your holders on the kitchen table when you're packing your bag, slapping the film holders into your palm before you load them into the camera, or something like that, include these in this test. Then develop the film without getting it near the camera and without removing the dark slide. This should tell you if your holders have a problem. (If the film holders are old and of the same type, it is possible that they all have a similar failure, especially if they've all been handled since they came into your possession. Any chance a large dog might have stepped on a stack of them? Did someone place a heavy piece of luggage on them in the trunk of the car? Again...doesn't really matter, if it's the holders you'll know.)

3. If both of these tests are negative, the next thing I'd do is to load up a holder, put it into the camera (outdoors in the light), mount a lens (assuring that the shutter is closed), then pull the dark slide and wait 5-10 minutes. Replace the dark slide and flip over the film holder. Do the same test on the 2nd side of the holder, but this time quickly cover the place where the dark slide was removed from the film holder with your dark cloth and/or a changing bag. Keep track of these when you develop them. If they're both fogged, it's the camera. If only the 1st is fogged, it's the light trap on the film holder. Having these all go bad in similarly aged film holder isn't unheard of. Depending on the holder type, it can be a simple fix.

One thing that confuses me about your samples: the tree-lined road is vertical, whereas the other two shots are horizontal. It's hard to tell from the monitor I'm on what the real shape of the light leak is (both due to an uncalibrated monitor here and to the quality of your scans). If indeed the light leaks are exactly the same regardless of the position of the back, then it's likelier to be the camera. (Pay special attention to make sure the bellows are mounted correctly on your camera.) If, on the other hand, switching orientations changes the basic shape of the leak (i.e., if it's more a "bottom-up" leak on the vertical versus a "left side-inward" leak on the horizontals, then it's likelier to be the film or the holders.

As a side note: I don't own the 8x10 Shen-Hao but I do have the 4x5, and I've never had a problem with loose springs and I've never lost a shot to a light leak in the camera. The springs on mine are at least as strong as the spring on my Cambo monorail...but one of them did break once due to a manufacturing defect in the metal. (A crack started in the middle of the metal and spread outwards, so the metal apparently had a weak spot in it.) I notice others in this thread who feel that they have weak springs on their cameras. When my spring broke I wrote to the email address on the Shen-Hao site and they mailed me out new springs without question. I suggest if you think you have weak springs that you email them to see what they'll do. My guess is you'll get new springs in the mail without any hassle. You don't really have to send the entire camera back (in fact, they didn't ask for the defective part back from me)...just let them know what's wrong and see if they'll take care of you. This is a company that, in my experience, really does want to make it's customers happy.

Richard Årlin
5-Mar-2005, 05:17
Ken, what are the springs like anyway ? Mine are like those on an old horsecarriage or a vintage car with four successively shorter leafs fastened with 2 screws an inch or so apart. While not the neatest springs they keep me fully confident viz. their functon and strenght. My camera was probably manufactured in 2002.


Ken Lee
5-Mar-2005, 05:42
Hej Richard - The springs on my camera are of the same design as yours.

I poked around with a flashlight in the dark, and checked the lens boards, the back, the bellows. I don't see a leak, except when I pull the slide out - and even then, I have to handle the slide very badly to get the holder away from the back.

I am going to follow Dave's recommendations, and find out if it's the film.

Many thanks to all who have offered such good advice and perspective - This forum is invaluable !

Back in a few days when I can get to the darkroom.

Ken Lee
8-Mar-2005, 14:05
I took a sheet of film from that box, and developed it this morning. It came out perfectly clear, with no trace of a light leak.

So at least I know that my darkroom is OK. It must be the camera.

I will send an email to Shen Hao, with a link to this page.

Ken Lee
9-Mar-2005, 16:45
I hope I'm not beating extending this discussion past its lifetime of interest, but I decided to do one more test, before sending the camera all the way around the world.

Following Dave Moeller's excellent advice, I loaded a holder, and left the holder around the house for a while, even leaving it in the sun for a half-hour. Then I placed it in the camera. The shutter was closed, and the lens cap was also on. I removed the dark slide and left if off for a few minutes. I never took a photo.

Upon developing the 2 negatives, I found that the one where the slide had never been removed, was perfectly blank. The other negative, where all I did was remove and then replace the dark slide, is pictured below.


I referred the nice people at Shen Hao to this discussion, and they have been very willing to repair the camera and return it to me, for no charge.

Thanks to all !

Clayton Tume
22-Mar-2005, 01:22

your Shen-Hao looks like it has a light leak similar to mine, I suspected it was the film holders but eventually found it was a design flaw in the camera. I managed to repair it myself quite easily but it was frustrating trying to find it in the first place. I was almost tempted to send it back.

If you have a look on Apug you'll find the thread and some photos of the problem area.

hope it works out ok for you


Ken Lee
22-Mar-2005, 04:44
Clayton -

I am unable to find your posts on APUG. I searched for "Shen Hao", but didn't find anything.

Perhaps you could tell me your APUG username, or give me a link to the thread.

Thanks a lot !


Ken Lee
22-Mar-2005, 04:52
I found it: Should filmholders be light tight with darkslide removed? (http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=13619" TARGET="_BLANK)