View Full Version : Choosing an 8x10 field camera

3-Apr-2005, 10:01
I know I haven't been active here in a while, but I'm a senior in high school, and between my classes, college applications (and acceptances, thankfully), AP classes, and EMT school, I don't have much time to surf the 'net. It appears I'll be going to RIT. And, as a graduation gift, my parents are going to buy me a field camera. I currently shoot with a Cambo 810N, which I love, but will be impossible to bring with me to school. Unless I choose to sleep on top of the box...

As much as I love Wisner's cameras, and think he's a great guy, $3000 is too much for a graduation gift. I've been looking at some of the cheaper alternatives, in the $2000 and under range, and it seems like a Wista or the like is the only option in the new market.

I have nothing wrong with a used camera, but it would have to be in good condition. My main concern is strength and flexibility with lenses and movements. I know Wisner is the only one (at least that I've seen) with an interchangeable bellows, but the TF is much too expensive for me.

And so...let the onslaught begin. Opinions, please?

Dave Moeller
3-Apr-2005, 10:09
Although I have no experience with it, I've read posts by people who are happy with the Shen-Hao 8x10. (I have the 4x5. It's an excellent camera at an astoundingly low price. It doesn't have the cachet of an Ebony, and may not be as precise an instrument, but those things don't show up in my photographs.)

If you're willing to go for used, 2 grand will buy you a very nice Deardorff plus some film holders and perhaps even a cheap lens.

Ted Harris
3-Apr-2005, 10:30
$2000 is a respectable sum. It should put in range of a used Canham or Phillips or a Wisner if you want one bu8t I'd go for the former two.

Gudmundur Ingolfsson
3-Apr-2005, 10:35
The Tachihara 8x10 is probably as much of a camera as you can have for 1300 $ new!
I can only recommend it!


Gem Singer
3-Apr-2005, 10:43
Hi Jason,

Congratulations on your acceptance to RIT. Lots of luck with your career as a professional photographer. You certainly deserve a new camera, and $3000 may sound like a lot of money now, but consider it to be a long- time career investment.

For an 8X10 camera that will fill the bill for both comercial and personal fine art photography, in your price range, consider the Canham 8X10's. The all metal JMC 8X10, or the lightweight wood and metal Traditional 8X10's are excellent choices.

Both Canham 8X10 models fold compactly and are easy to transport. As for price, the JMC is under $3000, new. The Traditional is just over $3000, new. Good previously owned ones are difficult to find. However, a new 8X10 Canham is a good investment. Service from Keith Canham is outstanding and resale value is high. Good luck with whichever camera you end up choosing.

Eric Leppanen
3-Apr-2005, 11:15
The Wehman 8x10 camera is another good option, price is $1,850. Here are some links:

www.wehmancamera.com/camban.html (http://www.wehmancamera.com/camban.html)

largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501192.html (http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501192.html)

www.largeformatphotography.info/cameras/wehman.html (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/cameras/wehman.html)

3-Apr-2005, 11:26
hi jason -
good luck next year & good luck dealing with a bad case of senioritis :)

i am not sure if it is in your $-range,
but shen-hao sounds like a pretty good deal.

- john

Dominique Cesari
3-Apr-2005, 11:32
I second Gudmundur with a vote for the Tachihara 8x10 : nothing more than that you really need in field, but all that you need. The 70 mm front rise and 40 mm fall are easily expanded with some tilt. The double bed, priced at 1300 $, is limited to 550 mm extension, but this is enough to accomodate a 450 mm if you don't shoot close up.
Very well built, light, and a clear screen. Really better built than that you may imagine considering the price tag.

Jim Galli
3-Apr-2005, 11:35

Donald Hutton
3-Apr-2005, 11:53
The really obvious advantage of the Tachihara over the Wehman (apart from a cool $500) is the Wehman's limited movements - if you intend shooting architecture, I am pretty certain that you will find the limited rise of the Wehman seriously compromising. As a "landscape only" camera, it's tough to beat. I suspect that as you have been using a monorail, your subject choice has not been compromised by the camera - you will need to consider this carefully when moving to a field camera - they all have design compromises.

3-Apr-2005, 12:00
Take the Cambo. You won't be sorry.

3-Apr-2005, 12:08
One more vote for adding Wehman to your list under consideration. Reasonable price, reasonable weight, and bomb-proofness are its strengths. Frequent users of rear swing may appreciate its unique approach to that movement. Its limitations are only moderate movements and bellows extension, which have never affected me in the field.

On a personal note, I could have spent a lot more on an 8x10, but have never regretted choosing a Wehman, nor ever considered upgrading/replacing it.

A search of this forum for a particular brand name (and "8x10") will provide you with lots of personal opinions and exerience. Most opinions tend to be cheerleading to reinforce the writer's choice, unfortunately, so take them (including mine) with a grain of salt.

Dean Tomasula
3-Apr-2005, 13:42
All great choices. But you can't go wrong with a Shen-Hao. Sure it's not an Ebony, but neither is a Wisner, Canham, Wehman or Tachihara. Only an Ebony is an Ebony. Besides a view camera is only a holder for a lens and a bellows. They all do the same things, with varying degree of dificulty.

Go for the Shen-Hao.


Armin Seeholzer
3-Apr-2005, 14:30
Hi Jason

After studying and reading many really good things from users the Wehman would be my choice this days. If I would shop for a 8x10 field.
I'm in no way connected to mister Wehman or his company, but I heard only good things about him.
If I remember correctly you have a 30 days sending back chance if you are not ahppy with the camera.
And do not any business with Wisner otherwise you get your camera in 3-4 years!
After you paid already.

Donald Hutton
3-Apr-2005, 14:49

I know you are the moderator of the Shen User's group forum - perhaps before recommending that anyone buy the 8X10, you should read exactly what's posted in your forum for the 8X10 - the only actual owner of an 8X10 appears to be Ken Lee and his problems relating to the camera are documented on your forum. Seems like a very strange recommendation to make based on the user's feedback, don't you think?

David Flockhart
3-Apr-2005, 15:43
The Kodak Mater (or Masterview) 8x10 is an outstanding camera. It is solid, has tons of movements, reasonably light and packs up compactly. Good used ones seem to go for 1200 to 1500 on eBay. Even if you had to replace the bellows you'd still be within your budget. They are metal and should last indefinitely.

David Schaller
3-Apr-2005, 16:18
Hi Jason,
Congratulations! I recommend the Deardorff. I got one on *bay for around $1400, and love it. There are usually several for auction, or you could talk to the good folks at MPEX or other reputable dealers.
Best of luck at RIT.

Dean Tomasula
3-Apr-2005, 16:50
Don -

I made the recommendation on the fact the Shen-Hao builds good cameras and they have excellent customer service, and on the fact that I use one. While it's true that Ken has had problems with his, I hardly think one person's bad experience is a reason to write off an entire camera model. It is possible that Shen-Hao is lousy at building 8x10 cameras and that Ken's experience is not an isolated incident. Ken is free to chime in here and trash his Shen-Hao 8x10 and the company if he wishes. If I had his experience with my camera I'd do just that. I bet you can find people that have bad experiences with other cameras as well, even Ebony!

That's not to say that Wisner, Canham, Tachihara etc. are lousy cameras. They certainly are not. But I have more experience with Shen-Hao than the others so I feel more confident in recommending them based on what I have seen and experienced.

But based on Shen-Hao's reputation, the quality of their other cameras, and my experience with the 4x5 model, I feel confident in recommending them. I have no connection to the company. The Shen-Hao Users Group is not affiliated with the company in any way. We're just satisfied users of their cameras.

Ultimately Jason will have to make his own decision about which camera to buy. I'm just trying to give him some feedback based on actual use and experience. He's free to consider it or ignore it if he chooses.

Dean Tomasula
3-Apr-2005, 17:06
Just so you don't think I'm a shill for Shen-Hao, I have a Cambo SC monorail that is an awsome camera. But Jason asked about field cameras, not monorails. If he did, I would recommend the Cambo without hesitation.

Ken Lee
3-Apr-2005, 17:12
"Ken is free to chime in here and trash his Shen-Hao 8x10 and the company if he wishes. If I had his experience with my camera I'd do just that."

My 8x10 has finally gotten back to Shen-Hao, after waiting for weeks in customs. (I made the mistake of stating the full replacement value on the Fed Ex paperwork, and Chinese customs wanted 20% import duty. I failed to mention that the camera was being returned for repair.)

Mr. Zhang Fuming of Shen-Hao managed to circumvent this obstacle, and has been very keen to repair the camera. While using the camera, I was pleased with its operation. I am confident that once it comes back from repairs, I will have nothing but positive things to say.

As Dean has pointed out, mistakes do happen.

Brian Ellis
3-Apr-2005, 17:23
Is anyone actually selling the Shen Hao 8x10 in the U.S.? I thought I read somewhere that Badger and other dealers weren't importing any until the bellows problem was fixed?

In any event, I like the Tachihara 4x5 cameras but the 8x10s wouldn't be my choice. The double extension has too short a bellows and the triple extension weighs too much (all my opinions of course). A new Canham Traditional is out of your $2,000 price range. For under $2,000 I'd either buy a metal Canham, a Wehman, or spend some time looking for a good used Deardorff. I've had two Deardorffs and they're great cameras but you need to either buy one from a reputable dealer or be very careful about what you buy on e bay. Many Deardorffs have seen heavy use by pros and are more than thirty years old so you have to be careful. But a good one is a thing of beauty and a joy forever (until they get too heavy and you sell them as I did : - )

Donald Hutton
3-Apr-2005, 17:45

From what I have been told, the reason they are not being imported is the price point - around $2500. That's a far cry from the price point of the 4X5 model and I do realize that it is a better spec'd camera than the 4X5.

Dean, my point was two-fold: firstly, it's not in Jason's price range at $2500 and secondly, that it makes sense to wait until teething problems have been ironed out on a new product before jumping in. I am sure that Ken's camera will get sorted out (I certainly hope so) and I look forward to his thoughts on his camera when he has finally managed to get out and do some successful shooting with it. But, Ken is paying the price for being an "early adopter" of a new product... Shen Hao seem to be able to produce loads of decent 4X5 cameras so I can't see why they wouldn't be able to produce a good 8X10. But, it's a new project for them...

I do have another little issue with Shen Hao - they sell a copy of an Ebony SW45 which I managed to get a first hand look at a little while ago when I was contemplating an Ebony SW45. It looks great and is really cheap (around $750). It is a copy - I'm not sure what intellectual property rights anyone has over anything in this area, but it is an exact copy and it did strike me at the time that if I were Hiromi (maker of Ebony cameras) and had spent years perfecting what is a very clever concept for a non-folding field camera, I'd be pretty annoyed that my idea was being churned out, like so much else, in a cloned form from some factory in China. However, upon closer inspection, it became clear that the Shen Hao clone has some huge drawbacks. The Ebony SW45 relies on very supple bellows - you can then use any lens from a 47mmXL on a flat lensboard and do pretty much whatever contortions you like with it. The Shen Hao has very stiff bellows which become almost unusable with a 65mm lens on it. So this camera which has been designed around easy use of wide angle lenses has a huge flaw... You get what you pay for.

Ralph Barker
3-Apr-2005, 18:23
Not to throw a wet blanket on things, but taking a "dream camera" to college may not be consistent with the security environment. I'd check out the security possibilities before making any decision.

Neal Shields
3-Apr-2005, 19:29
You may want to wait till you are enrolled. Some of the major manufacturers used to have some pretty sweet student discounts on 4x5 outfits, I don't know if that also goes to 8x10.

Beyond which you may want to get an idea of how much film your assignments will cause you to burn. You may want a 4x5 or at least a 4x5 back with the 8x10.

I love my Deardorff but it was recently rebuilt by Jack Deardorff with new bellows and all. Repairs to a Deardorff can be very expensive and if the bottom is split it can be a major problem. So if you go the used camera route do it with caution.

Tony Karnezis
3-Apr-2005, 21:48
"An 8x10 kit for under $900?"

Kevin Kemner
3-Apr-2005, 22:37

You leave it kind of open as to what your expectations are for your purchase. Are you looking for the ability to do architectural work? Landscape or nature? Portaiture? I think answering these may help guide your decision. A couple cameras that haven't been mentioned are a Toho 8x10 or a Wista wood field. You can read about the Toho on Badger Graphic's website if you're not familiar with it. The Toho new is about $2300 and the Wista is about $1800 on MPEX's site. You don't say where you are located, but, if you're close to Columbus Ohio a drive to Midwest Photo might be worth your time. Otherwise if you give them a call you will get a lot of help that may not be available over the web. While I haven't dealt with him directly I have also heard that Jeff at Badger Graphic will also provide you with excellent advice during your decision making process. For what its worth I used to shoot 8x10 on an 80 year old Gundlach field camera that cost me a total of $600. To this day you can't tell which photographs were taken on it and with some much more expensive equipment that has passed through my hands. Good luck in school and give those guys a call.

Other forum participants may know of some other regional stores that may be helpful for Jason.

Steve Hamley
4-Apr-2005, 06:09
Just a note on weight; if you think a triple extension cherrywood camera is too heavy, a triple extension teak camera is considerably heavier. I would expect teak to be about as heavy as ebony, and an ebony wood Ebony 8x10 (of which the Shen hao is a copy) weighs easily 15-16 lbs. A Deardorff is light in comparison, and a Canham traditional, Wehman, Phillips, or mahogany Ebony are featherweights.


4-Apr-2005, 10:18
Ted, Wisner (on his web site) lists his least expensive 8x10 for $2800. If I got a Wisner, I'd just HAVE to add the 40% for custom woodwork. The Technical Field is about $4000. Canham's cameras are very nice, the metal 810 (JMC, I believe?) is very nice, and Keith was nice enough to demo it for me last year at Photo Plus. Right now I guess that's the front-runner.

Bill, I love my Cambo. If I could, I would. But there's NO WAY I can store the camera in a dorm room, and I don't have the money to rent a storage unit for it. Maybe, best case scenario, I'll leave it home and bring it up when I finally get an apartment.

Armin, not only do I know many, many satisfied Wisner customers, but I've met Ron on two occasions and consider him to be an exceedingly nice gentleman. I am in no way worried about his business practices, and I do not live in Asia with a dead phone number...or whatever that situation was.

Ralph, I would hate to lose a camera. However, all of my equipment is insured and if it comes to it, I'd need to place a claim. Besides, I doubt anyone other than the most educated theif would pass up the Hassy to grab a wooden box that they can't seem to get open.

Neal, I'm dedicated to 8x10. The school has many 4x5 kits, and I'm sure I'll use them (or maybe a 4x5 back for the 8x10). But for my own work, I use 8x10.

Kevin, I'm into architecture but mainly portraiture and even more so landscape. I just wanted to witness the debate without steering it in any direction.

Thanks for the advice. We'll see what happens, and I'll watch the used market - and shoot off an email to Keith Canham.

Brian Vuillemenot
4-Apr-2005, 11:30

If you want a Wisner, go for it- there have been quite a few 8X10s going dirt cheap on E-Bay lately- traditionals and TFs for around $2000 and even less in near mint condition.

paul stimac
4-Apr-2005, 13:23
My vote is for the Wehman 8x10 - if you're not doing architecture. VERY strong, stable and portable. THE best warrenty and service. It can take lenses from 120mm to 1200mm teles. You can't change the bellows though. For interiors, you'll need bag bellows - but you already have the Cambo for that. I'd take the cambo along with your new field camera to school.

If you have to take just one then I'd Ebay for a Wisner if you really need the bag bellows. A Mint one just ended at $2025.

Have fun.

Kevin Crisp
4-Apr-2005, 13:32
Jason: If you want to talk to Mr. Canham, call him, don't email him. I am very pleased with my JMC, you should look at it. I'm not familiar enough with all the other options to comment, though a Deardorff should be a less expensive viable option, so long as you get one in good shape with a bed that is tight.

Kevin Kemner
4-Apr-2005, 14:18

I have THE solution. You just gotta be open minded. The answer is the venerable Calumet C1 or C2. The black or green beasties are are surprisingly capable with movements that come close to a monorail, are indestructable, have some parts still available from calumet, and best of all DIRT CHEAP. In fact one is available as a buy it now for $500 on ebay. There are currently three listed. As a kind of endorsement, this is still the camera Cole Weston uses (or at least his Ries ad in View Camera sez). I used one for a while and other than the fact that they are heavy as skunk it is still one of my favorite cameras. Buy one of these and you'll have enough money for some really sweet glass which we all know is the most important thing. With this camera you can do architecture, portaiture and landscape, if you're the kind who works reasonably close to the car.

This baby has it all, Movements, Indestructability, and CHEAP. Think of it as a Ford F350 in world dominated by bimmers.

Hell, I bet you could use it as a car jack.


Kevin Crisp
4-Apr-2005, 17:46
If Cole Weston is still using his Calumet 8x10, then it must be more portable than I thought. You can take it with you.

Ken Lee
4-Apr-2005, 18:51
You can take the camera, yes... but fresh film: that's another question entirely.

Jay Lnch
4-Apr-2005, 18:53
Jason, this looks like an eBay deal... other wise I second the Kodak Master View 8x10. If you are very lucky you may find one for $1000



Dave Moeller
4-Apr-2005, 23:09
If a used camera is an option, then I'll second the suggestion of the Calumet C1. (Both the Green Monster and the Black Beast are C1 models; the Calumet C2 is a rollfilm holder.)

The magnesium C1 is not unreasonably heavy. (They're green, but not all of the green ones are magnesium...all of the black ones are aluminum and heavier...Calumet continued to use green paint for a while after they switched over to aluminum.)

I have one, and it weighs only a pound more than my Korona Pictorial View. In fact, I have three 8x10s but the only one I use is the Calumet C1. It's very flexible, has fantastic bellows draw, and can be locked down rock-solid to the point that you can shoot in winds that will cause problems for other cameras. You can make lensboards with a few dollars worth of hobby plywood. The knobs are, for the most part, very large and easy to use with gloves on.

If weight is an issue, look for one of the newer ultra-light cameras. But if you can put up with 15 pounds worth of camera, a good-condition magnesium C1 is hard to beat.

(Oh...and $500 is a bit too much to pay for one. I paid around $300 for mine, and other than some very limited paint wear it looks almost new. I got lucky...but you should be able to find one for $400 without too much trouble.)

6-Apr-2005, 09:25
There has been some talk here about the Canham metal (a great choice), which has been imprecise as to the cost. Badger lists it for $2600.

I assume you are going to hang on to your Cambo, even if you acquire another camera? If that is the case, my recommendation is to leave the architecture to Mr. Monorail, and get something light, compact, and portable to compliment him. Then you would have something handy to use most of the time, and something awkward to use when absolutely necessary.

Most architecture shots are not going to get away; that is, if you find one that exceeds the abilities when out shooting with the field camera, you can come back another day with the monorail. Furthermore, you can generally drive pretty close to the subject, so transportability is less of an issue.

I believe Linhof has some student deals you may wish to look into after registration.

Steve Daniels
7-Apr-2005, 12:21

Ebony cameras are great, but...

I have one of the Shen Hao wide angle 4x5's, the TFC45-IIA. There are two models. The I and IIA. The IIA has interchangeable bellows, so it is EXTREMELY wide angle capable. I have used both the Shen Hao and the Ebony, and with very minor exceptions, there are few differences.

With the interchangeable bellows, I believe this is an improvement of the design. Since no international patents are in place (even by Ebony's admission), I don't see a problem.

I do not believe that the enormous price that Ebony commands is in line with the actual quality of the product. Although they are VERY nice cameras, and if the price was right I would have bought an Ebony, they are not worth what Ebony charges for them anymore than Mercedes could charge $300,000 for a $60,000 car just because it had the name Mercedes on it.

The bottom line is, the price is set at what the market will bear, and I have a camera that, after comparison, is only slightly inferior to an Ebony for 1/5 of the price.

By the way, I drive a $26,000 Saturn, not a $60,000 Mercedes, and I still get to anywhere I want to go.

As to the others who admonish Dean for recommending a Shen Hao while moderating a forum dedicated to the product, everyone here with a recommendation has based it on personal experience with the brand and model. Why should Dean be any different? He uses a Shen Hao, he likes it, and he tells people about it - just like everyone else here. What's the problem?