View Full Version : 4x5 field choice Ebony or Shen Hao?

R Mann
21-May-2005, 05:27
I am having a hard time making a choice between a Shen Hao or an Ebony purchase. I do not need a lot of movements, so the Ebony RW45 seems like a good fit for what I intend to be doing. But, the Shen Hao also seems to be an attractive camera with more movements than I would probably ever use in the field. This would be my second view camera, I am looking for something to take into the field and would be using lenses from 90 to 210 for mostly landscape work. I have an 8x10 that I use for studio, still life, etc. that has plenty of movements that these would not have.

So, would I be making a good decision if I went Shen Hao, and later upgraded to something like the Ebony? Or, should I just go with the Ebony?

Some of the issues would be-

Is the Ebony Universal bellows really better than the two Shen Hao bellows? (Regular and Bag)?

Does the type of wood and metal make much difference?

Is the feel of the controls different on the Ebony, enough to regret going with the Shen Hao if that was what I decided to do?

I can not get to a dealer to touch both of these before making a decision, so any input would be appreciated.

Juergen Sattler
21-May-2005, 05:51
I can't give you the direct answer to your question (I am metal camera guy), but I would recommend a call to Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange. They carry both cameras and he is great when it comes to these type of questions. He will explain the differences and I am sure he'll ship you a camera that you can try out and exchange for another if it doesn't "feel" right. I have no association with Jim other than being a satisfied customer.

Brian Ellis
21-May-2005, 06:35
I've owned two Ebony cameras, the SVTe and SVTi. I haven't owned the RW45 or the Shen Hao though I've played around with one. I always hesitate to answer a question that wasn't asked but frankly I don't understand why you aren't considering a Tachihara rather than either of these. It's 2 pounds lighter than the Shen Hao (don't know the weight of the RW45). While it's missing a couple movements that the Shen Hao has these aren't movements you'd likely need for your intended use. It also doesn't require a bag bellows to use lenses as wide as 65mm and will easily handle your 90mm lens . Its 13 inch bellows will be more than enough for your 210 lens and anything else up to and including a 300mm normal lens or 400mm telephoto. It's well built, costs about half of what the RW45 would cost, and seems perfect for your situation.

However, to give my opinion with respect to the questions you asked, as between the two I'd get the Shen Hao. For half the cost of the RW45 it's a bargain. Its principal problem, and the reason I often don't recoomend it, is the 12 inch bellows, which restricts your longest normal (i.e. non-telephoto) lens to about 240mm (the 14 inches some owners claim is achieved only by using a combination of front base and front axis tilt). However, that length will be fine with your 210mm lens.

The Ebony is a fine camera but for double the money it's difficult to see how it provides you with something you need and that the Shen Hao doesn't have except for the possibility that the bag bellows would be needed every time you used your 90mm lens with the Shen Hao. I'm not familiar with the widest lens the Shen Hao would accept without a bag bellows but if it requires the bag bellows for a 90mm lens then I might spring for the extra money and buy the Ebony. I had a bag bellows on my Ebony for my 80mm lens (I didn't have the univesal bellows) and hated it.

I don't think the wood makes any difference, at least I didn't notice any diffierence between the SVTe and other wood cameras I've owned. I also don't think the metal makes any difference. It's a camera, not a rocket. However, I'm not a wood or metals expert and others may differ on both of these points.

Dan Neilson
21-May-2005, 09:16
I had the Shen-Hao for a while. I was quite impressed with it, especially considering the cost. I used a 75mm lens on it without a bag bellows. It will handle your 210 lens with ease. It will take a 300 lens, although I really didn't like the way you had to extend the front standards to do it, and the front tilt just wouldn't lock down tight when it was extended with that big of a lens on it. It also seemed quite heavy for a wood camera.

For the price, I think that you would be happy with the Shen-Hao. Although I haven't owned an Ebony, I have seen a few and talked to their owners. Nobody ever says anything bad about them. If it were me and the price wasn't the deciding factor, I would go with the Ebony.

Dave Moeller
21-May-2005, 09:31
The Shen-Hao does not need a bag bellows for a 90mm lens. I use a 90mm Super Angulon on mine with the standard bellows. The bellows are compressed, but still allow for all of the movements that I've needed. If I needed more movements I'd go for a recessed lens board rather than the bag bellows, as I'll probably never go wider than 90mm.

The bellows on the Shen-Hao will handle a 250mm lens without resorting to the "front tilt" trick, but make no mistake: the Shen-Hao is plenty solid even when you move the front standard forward to get the maximum bellows extension (360mm - plenty enough to handle a 300mm lens comfortably). My 4x5 lens kit includes 90mm, 135mm, 150mm, 210mm, 250mm, and 305mm lenses. I don't have a bag bellows, and the camera's always been rock solid regardless of which lens is on it or how far out the bellows are extended. (The 250mm lens is a Fujinon f/6.3; not exactly a lightweight lens, and I've used it with full bellows extension.)

I went through exactly this same decision making process a few years ago (Ebony, Shen-Hao, or Tachihara), and I went with the Shen-Hao. The Ebony is a wonderful camera, but didn't feel like it was worth the price difference. The Tachihara is lighter, but is more limited in the movements it provides and didn't feel quite as sturdy to me as the Shen-Hao when it was extended. I could have lived with that, but the the Shen-Hao has a Graflok back while the Tachihara has a spring back...so I was willing to trade the weight gain for the extra movements and the Graflok back. I've not regretted my decision.

As to whether or not the quality difference between the Shen-Hao and the Ebony is enough for you to pay the extra money for the Ebony: Only you can make that decision.

Be well.

Dean Tomasula
21-May-2005, 09:52
It always amazes me how people who've never owned a Shen-Hao, but have only handled one in the store, never fail to put it down and recommend something 10 times the price over it.

There is nothing wrong with the Shen-Hao. In fact, it can do everything the Ebony can do, and for much less money. You can easily use 300mm lenses. You don't need a bag bellows for a 90mm lens. The normal bellows is a quailty product. Sure, with a universal bellows you don't have to switch the bellows when using very short lenses, but the Shen-Hao bellows takes like 5 seconds to disconnect and re-attach.

The Shen-Hao offers plenty of movements (probably more than you'd ever need). It weighs a bit more than other cameras in its class, but it is very stable and better built than most of the others (Tachihara, Osaka, Ikeda Anba, etc.) The teak wood and titanium are just beautiful and very durable.

The camera easily fits into my Mini Trekker backpack with three lenses, Readyload holder, film, loupe, dark cloth, filters, spot meter and other small accessories.

Check out the Shen-Hao Users Group forums for the correct information about this camera from people who actually have used it in the field, not just in the store.


Mike Lopez
21-May-2005, 17:04
I agree, Dean. The Shen-Hao is an outstanding and inexpensive way to break into large format. I've used mine for two years now and can't see myself ever parting with it. I'd like an 8x10 at some point, but that wouldn't be the end of my Shen-Hao.

Brian Ellis
21-May-2005, 17:56
"It always amazes me how people who've never owned a Shen Hao but have only handled one in a camera store never fail to put it down and recommend one 10 times the price over it."

I believe that everyone who has responded here has recommended the Shen Hao as between it and the Ebony. Who put it down and recommended something that cost 10 times more?

Doug Howk
21-May-2005, 18:01
I've had a Shen-Hao 4X5 for about 6 mos - best investment I've made. Another member of our LF camera club has an Ebony, and except for the bellows extension its practically the same camera at more than double the price. Bought mine from Jeff at Badger Graphics - a good source.

21-May-2005, 21:35
Although I've never even touched either Shen Hao or Ebony, it appears both of them are well-regarded (and perhaps flawed) cameras from the user comments. What about going back to basics? You indicated the movements needed (landscape) and the range of lenses (90-210mm). Functionally, either of the two cameras will do (and more). Would the extra couple of pounds (I think) of Shen Hao be an issue in the field for you? Do you think you will want to use longer lenses later and pay double for the added belows extension now? Beyond the basic functionality, to me it's like choosing between a Land Rover and a Chevy (or a Ford) pickup to get to the location. I don't think either is right or wrong. It's a matter of taste (and disposable income).

Personally, I followed Brian's logic and chose Tachihara because of the overall cost-performance. If I had the money to spend for an Ebony and had to choose between the two, I'd go for Shen Hao and also get another lens like Nikkor 300mm M, 400mm Tele Congo, or some such. You can use the lens with your *next* camera and have a bit of money left for films to boot!

Jeffrey Sipress
22-May-2005, 00:27
If this is your first LF field camera, then the Shen Hao or Tachihara is a wise choice. When you feel comfortable with the large format process, then you may want to appreciate the finer craftsmanship and operation of the Ebony.

Most people who drive BMW's probably once drove a Toyota or Honda. They all get you to the same locations. The Ebony is a similar class act. You need to appreciate it. It has finer subleties. The ultimate LF machine (probably among others in the same category).

R Mann
22-May-2005, 09:18
I would like to thank everyone who have responded - I really appreciate the first hand experiences you have related about either of these cameras. I have not made a final decision as to which one I will go with, but I do seem to be leaning towards the Ebony because of weight, bellows and comments about "quality" of finish. Although the Shen Hao users do seem to be making a strong case that it would be a wise choice also.

Dan Jolicoeur
22-May-2005, 11:16
If you are buying a camera on a weight issue of 2 lbs I personaly think you are making a mistake. What difference is that going to make unless maybe you are hiking for several days away from civilization, 2 (16oz) bottles of water? If you look at the total weight of of a packing trip the camera weight is negligaible. A matter of fact there is a post some where on here of the break down of a common pack and the small difference camera weight actualy plays. If i find it I will show you the link to it. Or if anybody else remembers the thread maybe they could show my argument also.

Good luck,

paul owen
22-May-2005, 16:14
Prepare for battle! Shen Hao or Ebony ... hmmmm ... Ebony? I've just spent the weekend on the UK LF Workshop where participants were able to compare Ebony and Shen Hao cameras "in the field". First evening we had a hands on "demo" where cameras from Ebony, Toyo and Shen Hao were available to be handled by everyone - unanimous verdict, the winner - Shen Hao! Well, it had to be - only 500 UK pounds - a real bargain? There were quite a few "interested" parties and potential purchasers too!! They all agreed the Ebony was better made - but questioned the price - doesn't everyone! Then 2 days of field trips and the "novelty" of the Shen Hao started to wear off. By the end of today the verdict was reversed! Shen Hao - rubbish! Best of the bunch - Ebony! (although there were still grumbles about the price!) Reasons given by testers - poor build quality, plastic washers on locking surfaces, sloppy play developing on most controls over the 2 days of use, no confidence in the camera surviving "12 months" of normal use, paint flaking off metal components and knobs - all this after 2 days! And a total of no more than 8 hours use!! So the question posed was this - Is the Shen Hao a bargain or simply false economy? The verdict of the majority - false economy! I appreciate that Shen Hao have their "fans" but in all reality - you CANNOT compare them to an Ebony camera. By all means if you have to have a Shen Hao then get one, but be prepared to write it off as a loss within 12 months and get something else - even if its not an Ebony! Another interesting point was that several non-LF users who had come along to get a feel for LF all agreed that they would happily spend more on an Ebony (after having the chance of actually using one in the field) as their first camera.

Dan Jolicoeur
22-May-2005, 17:25
Paul I am not going to do battle with the shen-Hao vs ebony. By all means anyone should get what they want, not what someone else on the internet is telling them to buy. But, come on Paul;

I appreciate that Shen Hao have their "fans" but in all reality - you CANNOT compare them to an Ebony camera. By all means if you have to have a Shen Hao then get one, but be prepared to write it off as a loss within 12 months and get something else - even if its not an Ebony!
1st point how many used shen-hao's do you see on the market! Lets be fair about the brain washing that can go on at a workshop also Paul. These people are there with open minds and willing to believe anything they are lead to believe. I'll shut up know,but i find this by no means some scientific type of study as you protray it to be. It was a work shop!
Best wishes,

Dan Jolicoeur
22-May-2005, 17:27
Paul I am not going to do battle with the shen-Hao vs ebony. By all means anyone should get what they want, not what someone else on the internet is telling them to buy. But, come on Paul;Quote

I appreciate that Shen Hao have their "fans" but in all reality - you CANNOT compare them to an Ebony camera. By all means if you have to have a Shen Hao then get one, but be prepared to write it off as a loss within 12 months and get something else - even if its not an Ebony!
1st point how many used shen-hao's do you see on the market! Lets be fair about the brain washing that can go on at a workshop also Paul. These people are there with open minds and willing to believe anything they are lead to believe. I'll shut up know,but i find this by no means some scientific type of study as you protray it to be. It was a work shop!
Best wishes,

Dan Jolicoeur
22-May-2005, 17:30
Sorry for the double post everyone, I wish i could delete one!

Dean Tomasula
22-May-2005, 19:20

The Shen-Hao you (and apparently everyone else) used at your conference is NOT REPRESENTATIVE of how a Shen-Hao will perform under normal conditions. That model you were using has probably been beaten up by a number of conference participants over the past few years.

For the individual user who buys a Shen-Hao and even gives it hard use, you will not see any of the problems you mentioned from the conference camera. You can use the Shen-Hao for days on end without a problem. Sure the materials are not made of "gold" like the parts of an Ebony. But they are durable. The plastic washers do their job well. The pieces fit together nicely and stay where they are supposed to stay.

You can beat up a Shen-Hao and beat us an Ebony equally, and they will both have the problems you described. The Ebony is not immune from problems.

Take reasonable care of a Shen-Hao (as you would any camera you own) and it will serve you well for years.

paul owen
23-May-2005, 02:36
I knew I'd ruffle a few feathers! But, in reply to some of those (Dan) defending the Shen Hao - the Shen Hao used at the workshop was new - in fact all the cameras were new and unmarked at the start of the weekend! Two days later they were all returned (to me) in the same condition - apart from the Shen Hao!. I am not suggesting that Ebony cameras are immune from problems (what is?) - but the Shen Hao did NOT inspire confidence in any of the participants after they had chance to actually use it! Its all very well slating cameras that you've never seen let alone handled, but people were actually able to put film through the cameras, carry them around to locations, set them up and break them down - scientific maybe not, but a good test of real life use? They were also able to COMPARE them with other makes! This is an important point - if the only camera you had seen/handled/used was a Shen Hao then you would have nothing to compare it to and so in my opinion you would be happy with it? As far as brainwashing participants - you should try it with the group that took part! I began Friday evening by openly slating Shen Hao but praising both the Toyo (which I do like) and the Ebony cameras (of course) - I was shot down in flames!! I was slated for being elitist and not recognising value for money - fine by me because I have first hand experience of using and handling these cameras!! I instinctively knew that time would tell!! (Smug I know!). The problems reported by the participants were fact - not science! You do not need to be a scientist to see flaking paint, feel loose movements and see plastic components! These people simply used a range of cameras and reported their findings - sure the overwhelming positive in faour of the Shen Hao was the price, but everyone agreed that it would be false economy to invest in a Shen Hao because these people (who had used it) didn't think it would last "12 months" - their words not mine! In reply to Dean - how long have you owned/used a Shen Hao or an Ebony? How can you claim that a Shen Hao will last as long as an Ebony - do you have scientific proof? No! The only way a Shen Hao would not wear out was if the owner NEVER used it! I challenge any (sane) person to prove to us here that the build quality is any where near that of the Ebony! IT ISN'T - simple fact, whether we like it or not! It was even commented by one person that the baseplate of the Ebony was better put together than the whole of the Shen Hao! As far as using the Shen Hao for days on end without problems - that's what ALL cameras should be able to do! I sold a 4 year old Ebony that I used on a weekly basis, in all sorts of weathers for 150 less than the price of a new one - the reason - it still looked and worked lke new! Try that with a Shen Hao! Two of the workshop participants are engineers. They initially praised the Shen Hao when comparing build quality to price - they both did U-turns after using it and they pointed out many failures in the cameras build - they could not find any similar problems with the Ebony or the Toyo! APART from the absolute rubbish called the Toyo 45CF - a real mickey mouse camera and even worse than the Shen Hao!! Science? No. Real life use? YES! Many postings on these forums make me smile! People quickly comment on cameras/equipment that they have never seen let alone handled! They "hear it throufh the grapevine" - I HAVE handled/used/carried/set-up and broken down these cameras so I feel that I am able to add my comments - yes they are my own personal feelings/findings but when 16 other people, who initially slated me, end up in agreement, this proves the argument better than any scientific proof - Shen Hao are NOWHERE NEAR the build quality, stability, smoothness of use as an Ebony - (hard) fact!

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 12:06
Paul, I never said the Shen-Hao will last as long as the Ebony, nor that it will never wear out. What I said was that with reasonable care, it will last a long time and serve you well. This is the argument all those "blinded" by the light of the Ebony make about the Shen-Hao cameras to bolster their untenable arguments. They twist what others say to support their arguments because they can't come to grips with the fact that a $600 camera can take just as good photographs as their $3,000 camera.

Here's a scientific fact for you. Your Ebony will not last forever.

If my Shen-Hao does not last as long as your Ebony, I can go out and buy a new one, and I still wouldn't have paid as much as you did for your Ebony.

I have never compared the life of a Shen-Hao to the life of an Ebony, so I couldn't say how they fare. All I said was that the Shen-Hao is a good, useable camera.

I think it's unfair to compare cameras used at a workshop and claim that they are undergoing "real life" usage. That's far from a real life situation. Did each participant have their own Shen-Hao, or did they have to share? Was there only one Shen-Hao available? Is it possible that that one camera was a lemon and not representative of the entire company? If each participant had a Shen-Hao and at the end of the conference all 16 cameras had the same problems, then I'd say maybe the camera is not all it's cracked up to be. Do you share your Ebony with other photographers on a daily basis? Did they take reasonable care with the camera or do they treat them like rentals, not worrying about banging them into trees and such?

How many of us use our LF cameras intensively every day, or even all weekend long? Not many. Some, sure, but not a whole lot. Most of us use them a few times a month for a few hours in a day, or maybe over a weekend. The Shen-Hao is not bullet proof. Neither is the Ebony for that matter. Granted, the Ebony is a quality camera. And I hope it's fit and finish is better than the Shen-Hao because it costs three times as much. It better have a quality finish.

I'm not sure what you mean by the participant's comment about the Ebony baseplate. A single piece of metal is not "put together." And you can't compare a metal baseplate to an entire camera. Again, using these kind of ridiculous comments and opinions to bolster your argument that Ebony is the pinnacle of camera design and everyhting else is trash is not helpful or intelligent.

Donald Hutton
23-May-2005, 12:32

If anyone has missed the boat with objectivity, it is yourself. Paul is relating a real experience where he and others had the opportunity to compare both cameras - you are not - you sound like you are just trying to publicy justify your purchasing decision. Everyone here has different criteria for choosing a particular piece of equipment. Evryone knows that a particular camera will not make better photographs than another. But, specs are not the only criteria when doing an objective comparison (i.e. it's like comparing a Chevy Malibu to a luxury German saloon where the only things in common are horsepower and 4 wheels - they will both get you to the office at the same time: but some of us enjoy the "driving" too). I didn't chip in on this thread because I have never used a Shen Hao; although I have used and owned many other 4X5 cameras (including the RW45 which is up for discussion). The fact that original question mentioned both as potential choices means infers that the $1500 for the Ebony is not beyond the budgetary consideration (which is often the key criteria when purchasing a camera for amateurs).

Paul seems to be the only contributor here who has direct experience with both cameras. There's no "blinding by the light" - I suspect that there is a lot more "blinded by my own criteria and cannot imagine why anyone would spend more on a camera than I did".

My Deardorff 8X10 is 40 years old - it doesn't look new, but it functions little differently to how it must have 40 years ago. I wonder how many 40 year old Shen Haos will be making the rounds 40 years hence? My Ebony is 3 years old and functions and looks like new - despite frequent use and trips to four continents. I'm not suggesting that it represents the best value for money in a 4X5 (we all know that $100 Crown Graphics on Ebay probably win that) - but it is a very well designed and executed camera.

R Mann
23-May-2005, 13:07
Wow, this is generating more feedback than I expected on the merits of these two cameras.

Paul, I really appreciate the description of the workshop users who were using both of these cameras. It was interesting the way you describe a group who were impressed at first and then found that their first reaction to the Shen Hao had to be tempered after exposure to both cameras. While, I can understand some passion about what choice/purchase someone has made - I was really interested on how these compared from the viewpoint of someone who has used both of these brands, or at least seen them both.

To me it does seem to be a question of the quality of Ebony's products and probably a one time purchase vs the cost of the Shen Hao - and the decision to either upgrade at a later date or deal with some defects/repair issues.

Again, my thanks to all who have shared information.

23-May-2005, 13:27

And in that thread Paul mentions his Ebony

"A few years ago I found my SW45 to be sloppy"

Which echoes the comments of several other users in the thread. They then go to discuss having to adjust the screws.

I wonder if he had offered his sloppy Ebony to the people at the work shop what the choice would have been?

If you're going to say it's not fair to pick Paul's sloppy Ebony to represent every product produced by the Ebony factory then I'll assume you'll extend the same to the Shen Hao Paul couldn't keep working for a weekend.

paul owen
23-May-2005, 13:58
Nick I think you're missing the point! ALL Ebony cameras are constructed so that the user can adjust the rails as humidity varies - try finding other cameras that allow the user to make adjustments! They are designed so that sloppiness through humidity can be adjusted. I throw down the gauntlet and extend this challenge to anyone (that is as long as he/she is in complete control of their faculties!! )The challenge is this ... set up a Shen Hao HZX45 alongside an equivalent specified Ebony - which would be the SV45TE and tell me which is the better camera! In fact put the entry level RW45E alongside the Shen Hao and do the same. Set the cameras up, focus, apply movements, break the camera down, etc etc and YOU tell us the result! In reply to Dean's comments - have you ever seen an Ebony? Probably not from your comments! In fact, have you ever seen/handled a Shen Hao - probably not! For those who have seen/handled/owned an Ebony will concur that even the baseplate oozes quality! This comment was made by a participant - not me, although I agree totally with him! This whole debate about Shen Hao being an equal to an Ebony or any camera for that matter is complete rubbish! It is generated by people who are envious of those of us who have made sacrifices (like not smoking/drinking etc) and bought the very best wooden camera available!! By the very fact that they cost 500 it is obvious that they are not built to the same standard - and don't give me the standard reply that "its because Chinese labour is cheaper" - the simple, truth is this ... Shen Hao cameras are NOT well made - they are simply "cheap" to buy! The old saying "you get what you pay for" could have been designed for the Shen Hao! Another point, I also recommended to participants that if money was paramount then get a Shen Hao - they are good value for the money ... but as good as an Ebony? Get real!

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 14:29
Paul, I think you need to change your reading glasses. And take an economics class.

I never said the Shen-Hao is equal to the Ebony. All I said was that it is a capable camera that should not be dismissed out of hand by people like you who are Ebony snobs. You just proved it by your BS comment that "Shen-Hao cameras are not made well - they are simply cheap to buy." That makes me wonder if you have ever really used one, or are you guilty of what you accuse me of.

The reason they are cheap is, as you so dismissively say, "Chinese labor is cheap." This is a "scientific fact" as you love to point out. They are not just cheap. Are teak wood and titanium cheap materials? Is ebony wood so much better that teak. And what kind of metal does Ebony use platimum? Gold? What makes their raw materials better than Shen-Hao's?

Yes I own and currently use a Shen-Hao HZX45-IIA. If you would ever "lower" yourself to check out the Shen-Hao Users Group forum you would know that. And yes I have used an Ebony.

I am not putting down the Ebony. They are great cameras. Well made, quality instruments. But I do think they are overpriced. I also know that Shen-Hoas are well made as well. They may not be as fine-tuned as the Ebony is, but thay are no less capable. They certainly are not in the same class as the Ebony in terms of price. But I do think they can perform capably alonside the Ebony and hold their own. Maybe they won't last as long as the Ebony will.

But as I've said before, place a photo taken with an Ebony alongside one taken by a Shen-Hao and see if you can identify which photo came from which camera. Normal people can't. Though I suspect you think that you can.

23-May-2005, 14:55
Paul my 50+ year old Ansco doesn't need to be user adjusted. It's well made. User adjustable is a nice term. What it really means is the camera isn't designed very well. Sorry but wood moves. Everybody who has ever worked wood knows that. If you can't build something that doesn't need user adjustment then you should stop using wood. Worse we're talking cameras that tend to get babied. Nobody is going to stick an Ebony next to a big wood stove and let it dry out. Why is that the only part of my Shen Hao that needs adjustment are the screws for the sliders on the graflok back?

Paul at 500 GB pounds the comparable Shen Hao is the 5x7. If you want to compare apples to apples then compare the ones with the same price point. So take the Shen hao 5x7 and compare it to the 500 GB pound Ebony. Comparing the 4x5 which costs all of $600 or 300 GB pounds doesn't make any sense to me.

If you look at the 5x7 you won't have to settle for the floppy Ebony. You won't have to settle for the poor design choices. Metal spacers next to wood? Is this Ebony's idea of planned failure? What kind of warranty does Ebony provide? Sooner or later those metal spacers will damage the wood. That has to be intentional on thier part. Shen Hao was nice enough to use plastic. I'd rather replace a spacer then a whole camera body.

paul owen
23-May-2005, 15:02
Dean you seem happy to take this to a personal level so fine! In my opinion Shen Hao cameras are CRAP! Simple! Sure they have their followers but so does Holga/Lomo and they are crap too! As far as lowering myself to checking out the Shen Hao users group I have done but your name doesn't stick in my mind - should it? In fact, if YOU look into recent user reviews on THIS site you will be able to read the recent "glowing" report I wrote on the Shen Hao/Art Panorama6x17 roll film back! So as far as being a snob is concerned ... here is proof that you are wrong in this respect. My snobby Ebony quite happily carries a Shen Hao film back!! You claim to have used both an Ebony and a Shen Hao. Simple question ... can you HONESTLY say, hand on heart that they are anywhere near the same league - that's my question! NOT which takes better pictures etc etc but a simple answer to my question! In your posting you also claim that I reckon that "everything else is trash" - when have I said that? Get your facts right, stop living in your "Shen Hao" dream world - Shen Hao make cheap, poor quality cameras. An intensive workshop is probably the best way of checking out a camera too! These were "ordinary" people, some of whom had never handled a LF camera let alone heard of Ebony/Toyo/Shen Hao - they simply went on THEIR findings over the weekend - is this so hard to accept? It's not a scientific experiment - just reality!How many of us are fortunate enough to have a range of cameras to try in "real life" situations - you know, going out and taking pictures! Before deciding which is better? These participants did and they reckoned the Shen Hao was cheap and cheerful but nowhere near the quality of the Ebony - proof! I was there! I have used theses cameras to take pictures - do you? Don't kid yourself that you are using a "working class" camera and so are in some peverse way superior to the rest of us! You have chosen to use a Shen Hao - that's your mistake.

paul owen
23-May-2005, 15:10
Nick - get a life! How do you know how people "treat" their Ebony cameras? Simple you don't - you assume! Mine has been out in all conditions and weathers! FACT! What point are you trying to make with the 5x7? Makes no sense to me! I said to compare the Shen Hao with a similar specified Ebony or for that matter the entry level/cheapest Ebony the RW45E! Have YOU seen/handled an Ebony - clearly not! There is no metal washer-to-wood contact ! GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT! As far as a warranty - there isn't one! The simple fact of the matter is that Ebony cameras are created by craftsmen who take a pride in their work - if there's a problem then Ebony will fix it!

Donald Hutton
23-May-2005, 15:52

Everything I have read states that the Shen Hao HZX4X5-II utilizes stainless steel - not titanium as you have asserted twice in this tired thread - is everything I have read incorrect or are you just overstating the truth?

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 15:53
Paul, you obviously haven't read the Shen-Hao Users Group Forums very closely. If you have you would have noticed that I am the administrator of the forums. So, yes, my name should have stuck in your mind.

I'm glad to see you use the Shen-Hao panorama back on your Ebony. You obviously realize that it's a quality piece of equipment. I just wish you weren't blinded to the fact that the Shen-Hao cameras are capable as well.

Paul, isn't the whole point of photography the pictures? The "quality" of the equipment used is irrelevant.

I don't pretend I'm a working class photographer. In fact, the only one pretending is you. Pretending you know what you're talking about when it comes to the Shen-Hao.

Not that I need to justify my camera purchases to you are anyone else, but I use a Shen-Hao because I like the camera and I can easily afford it. I also use a Speed Graphic and a Cambo. I suppose those are crap too? Afterall, they're not of the same quality as the Ebony.

paul owen
23-May-2005, 16:28
Dean - sorry but it's not important to me whether you are the administrator or not! I'm not blinded to the fact that Shen Hao are capable - its just my impressions on using this camera and comparing it to others too, NOT just to Ebony (as I made clear in my posts!). Of course the photos are important, but to many of us so is the equipment - we are all consumers after all and therefore each is different! If you read my posting I never said you were a working class photographer! I said you kid yourself that you are somehow special because you use a "working class" camera and that you are therfore superior to the rest of us! Your argument smacks of the old Leica vs every other 35mm camera debate that used to rage! This was fuelled by people who secretly longed for a Leica but always made do with a Pentax! Kidding themselves that "my camera is just as good as a Leica" - yeah right!! As far as "pretending to know about the Shen Hao" - its a camera ... what is there to know! What do you know that the rest of us, me included, don't know?????? I HAVE used it and think its crap - simple, my opinion and the opinion of many of those who used it on this workshop! Some were kinder and said that it just wasn't in the same league as far as quality/stability as other cameras they used / handled during the weekend - some as blunt as me - I'm sorry to have hurt your feelings but that's life! I will repeat the fact that I have NEVER, anywhere, said that any camera other than an Ebony is crap! Read my earlier post - I LIKE the Toyo 45A ... I repeat, in my opinion the Toyo is a very fine camera! So are many others too! But some are crap! Speed Graphics are also fine, capable cameras. They are very well built and have stood the test of time - are they better quality than the Shen Hao?? The Cambo Wide DS is a great camera too, I've been fortunate enough to use one of these too! But I have also seen first hand the crap build of a Cambo "Explorer" (I think it was called - monorail camera, loads of plastic, hopeless!) In fact the owner of this particular camera struggled with it on an F32 workshop so much that he quickly bought ... an Ebony! And he'll be the first to agrre that his photography has improved too!!!!!! If you're happy with a crappy Shen Hao then fine - stick to moderating the forum and convincing yourself and other guillable souls to part with their cash on crap cameras - whilst I sit here in the smug satisfaction that my Ebony will long outlive me and give me years of enjoyable photography!

Matt Powell
23-May-2005, 17:10
Backtracking a bit - Wouldn't the equivalent (in features, size, design if not money) of the HZX45 be the RW45 rather than the SVT?

Juergen Sattler
23-May-2005, 17:10
I think we need to get the emotions in check here - I also think that you guys are indeed not comparing apples with apples. This is like inviting 18 year old kids who have just passed their driver's exam to compare a Kia and a Maybach/Mercedes. The kids will initially be excited by being able to test drive both cars but clearly could never afford to own the Maybach. So they are all for the Kia, but once they get to drive those two cars they clearly see the better quality in the Maybach and end up talking the Kia down.

It seems to me that's exactly what happened at your workshop (I don't own either a Shen nor an Ebony -I am a metal guy). I don't think that it is fair, nor justified to call a camera that so many people, incl. professionals are using "crap". Obviously they do take great pictures and most of their owners must be happy with them, otherwise they would not have so many supporters. On the other hand it is pretty clear that the Ebony is the better built - higher quality camera, BUT that does not translate into better pictures.

If we are all a little bit more careful with the words end expressions we are using on this forum we could certainly avoid most of the verbal abuse that seems to be creeping in more and more.

We are all passionate about our hobby/profession and that includes our equipment and for someone to come along and say that this euqipment is crap is just not fair. Only because some of us can't afford the Maybach does not make the Kia a bad car, but we should at the same time admit that there is a difference in the two cars.

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 17:11
Paul, you're right. Whether or not I'm the administrator of the Shen-Hao User Group Forums is irrelevant. I only mention it because you said you were there and my name is not familiar to you. It should be, because I'm all over the place there. And I don't think the registered users would appreciate being called names just because of your smug, wrongheaded attitude about anything that is not Ebony.

I never said I was special or better than anyone else. In fact, you're the only one who ever mentioned it.

Don't worry, my feelings are not hurt.

I've never lusted for Leicas. I'm quite happy with my Nikons.

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 17:16
Bravo Juergen. Well said.

Donald Hutton
23-May-2005, 17:19

Are you avoiding my question? Does the Shen Hao use titanium or stainless steel - if it is the latter, you should correct yourself as you are providing people with incorrect information about a product which you claim to be well aquainted with.

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 17:25
Don, no I'm not avoiding your question. And why all the hostility on this forum?

To answer your question, the HZX 45 uses stainless steel. The other cameras use titanium.

Donald Hutton
23-May-2005, 17:28
Well, then I am a little surprised that you have twice asserted on this thread that the 4X5 Shen Hao is made from teak and titanium... Why provide misleading information to people considering the camera?

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 17:37
Seems like a small detail to quibble over. But, ok, I apologize for giving out misleading information to anyone interested in buying a Shen-Hao.

Dan Jolicoeur
23-May-2005, 20:09
I believe Nick tried to straighten this out buy comparing the higher end Shen-Hao (which is made of titanium)with the higher end Ebony mentioned, but no one was interested in listining to his rationality. Made sense to me. Whether you are talking about either model it makes no difference at this point. Not one of the Shen-Hao "fans" put down the Ebony have they? It has been just the opposite. This whole thread has been a setup from the start; come on now fess up! Buy the way anyone interested in a Shen-Hao; The plastic washers that are constantly mentioned are teflon and a good design feature of this camera. All your mechanical engineers can not argue that. It is just a cheap shot way to bash someones camera. Juergen you put it well.

Sorry I couldn't shut up, and said I would. One more point;never mind it's not worth it, But if you are seroius about buying a shen-Hao there are some other things to note. Just ask one of the many people who own one, and have had other large format cameras. For some reason It is being portrayed that if you own a Shen-Hao it is your 1st LF camera. Not so!

Donald Hutton
23-May-2005, 21:15

I have no personal gripe with Shen Hao cameras - any way that people can be enticed into LF photography for $600 get's my blessing...

This thread was really about why you would or would not choose a Shen Hao over an Ebony RW45. Paul is the only contributor here who seems to have used both cameras and his endorsement is evidently the Ebony. Obviously, it costs more - I think everyone knwo's that. I still fail to understand why the moderator of the Shen Hao Users Group would chime in with inaccurate information about the camera being discussed about which he professes to have extensive knowledge (once may have been an oversight - twice is dishonestly misleading; especially as he actually has a posting attributed to his namen on the esteemed Shen Hao User's Group listing the construction materials and specification of the camera under discussion).

I really don't care what camera others choose. However, if they solicit my opinion, they will get it - but, my response will be honest (...) and based upon my experience and criteria. I don't know Paul personally, but it would seem that he is offering an opinion based upon his personal experience relating to the two products discussed. That really places his views in a different league to every other person posting an opinion on this thread thus far. Many will not share his views - so be it.

"This thread has been a set-up from the start, come on now fess up!" - this was when I truly realised that you were missing the boat or had another agenda. This thread is about someone wondering wether or not to shell out $600 or $1600 for a 4X5 camera - not "setting up" owners of a brand of camera nor "fessing up" to who knows what... Let me guess - you are into conspiracy theories too?

I have two 4X5 cameras because I have not managed to find a single camera which fits my personal criteria. One happens to be an Ebony; the other happens to be a Toyo. I really don't care if anyone feels that my cameras suck... - they work well for me and my ego does not drive me to defend my choices in public - I know why I made them and I'm pretty comfortable with them.

Dave Moeller
23-May-2005, 21:40
Well, why not step back into this to see whose feelings I can hurt. :)

Seriously...as someone who extensively handled the Shen-Hao, Tachihara, and Ebony before I made my purchase, I do have some insight into this whole discussion. Perhaps not as much as someone who might actually have owned both cameras for an extended period of time, but enough that I feel my opinions has some merit.

As I stated earlier, I bought the Shen-Hao. I've not been particularly gentle with it, and I've used it a lot over the last two years. In fact, my other two 4x5s (a Cambo monorail and a Crown Graphic) see almost no use these days. The Shen-Hao has held up very well, and has not lost any of the solidity it had when I bought it. Is it perfect? Absolutely not...no camera is. But my complaints about the Shen-Hao are small points, and easily corrected. I didn't like the knobs that control the front axis tilt...so I went to the hobby shop and bought some rubber tires made for model cars to stretch over the knobs. Voila - a $3.00 fix for the biggest problem I had with the camera design. One of the springs on the back developed a stress fracture (I've assumed that it was a problem with the material and not with the manufacturing, as the fracture started in the middle of the metal and not on the edge where a manufacturing defect would likely start.) I emailed the factory and had a new set of springs in about a week at no cost. Other than that, the camera's been perfect. It's rock solid no matter how far I extend the bellows, it's still perfectly aligned, it's easy to set up and take down, and it does everything I ask of it without complaint.

Now, this is my experience with my camera. A sum total of one data point. But lots of people on here are making sweeping generalizations based on just as much data. One camera used at a workshop for a weekend is no inidcation that a particular model of camera is "crap." What it shows is that the single camera in question is crap. My camera, which has held up very well under serious use in all kinds of weather conditions, bouncing around in my car and in my backpack, is not proof that the Shen-Hao is not crap. It's just proof that my particular camera isn't crap.

I doubt that anyone would argue that the Shen-Hao is as well made as the Ebony. The point that most of us who are happy with the Shen-Hao try to make is that the camera is sufficiently well made to be a useful tool for photography, at a significantly lower price than the Ebony. When I bought my camera (and for that matter, today as well) I could easily have paid the price for the Ebony. But I couldn't see any valid reason to do so. Handling the two cameras over the course of a few months, I found that the Shen-Hao was as good for my needs as the Ebony. The Ebony was smoother in operation, but in the end I could get the standards to where I wanted them on both cameras with no fuss. I could use all of the movements without being bothered by the controls (with the noted exception of the front tilt knobs, which I knew I could fix easily).

So, is the Shen-Hao better than the Ebony? Is the Ebony better than the Shen-Hao? Is a banana better than an orange? Who knows? But for each of us there is a set of criteria that we place importance on. For me, the Shen-Hao was more than good enough, and it's proven itself over the last two years to be a camera with enough quality to meet all of my needs. Would the Ebony have been better? I don't believe it would have for me and for my needs. It would certainly have been good enough. It would have felt smoother and looked nicer, but I don't place value on those things. If you do, then the Ebony is the right camera for you. Of the three cameras I tested, the only one that I think wouldn't have been good enough was the Tachihara, and that's just because it seemed a bit flimsy when the bellows are well extended which is how at least 50% of my images are made. For someone who does a lot more work at infinity, the Tachihara would be just fine too.

At this point I've put my Shen-Hao through a couple of years of pretty intensive use, and it's held up very well. I fully expect that it will continue to do so. Am I trying to justify my purchase to prove something to someone? No, but I am pointing out that my purchase was a valid one for me and that saying my camera is crap because of a single weekend's experience with the same model doesn't make my camera any less valueable, and it doesn't lessen the positive experiences I've had with my camera.

If you want to believe that the Shen-Hao is crap, go right ahead and do so. If you want to think that the Ebony is overpriced, that's your right too. But a little thought on all sides would point out the only meaningful data point in this whole discussion: both Ebony and Shen-Hao have sold a lot of cameras, and the number of complaints that you read about both cameras on the web don't rise above the level of background noise. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of owners of both cameras are happy with their decisions. Perhaps Ebony owners look down on Shen-Hao owners for their unwillingness to fork over the money for the Ebony, and Shen-Hao owners look down on Ebony owners for their foolishness in forking over the same money. Perhaps that's the real root of a lot of these arguments. But generalizing from one single data point is a fool's game...and one that's easily defeated by anyone who's studied statistics at even a cursory level.

So there it is. I'm happy with my Shen-Hao. I used the money I saved to buy good glass. The Shen-Hao is my third 4x5 camera, and is by far my favorite. Take from that what you will.

Dean Tomasula
23-May-2005, 22:15
For the record, I never said the HZX45-IIA was made with Titanium. I was talking about the Shen-Haos in general in comparison to the Ebony. Maybe it was not a fair comparison since Paul was talking about the HZX and I was using the other cameras as a comparison. OK. Fine. I'm sorry. My mistake. I'll be more careful next time to spell out exactly what I'm talking about, so the 12 year olds out there can understand it.

And Don, I was not intentionally being misleading or disingenuous. If you believe that I was, fine. Nothing I say will convince you otherwise. While I never "professed" to have "extensive" knowledge about Shen-Hao cameras (there are plenty of people out there with more experience with them than I have) I do use one on a regular basis and am more familiar with them than any other LF camera. If that qualifies me as a Shen-Hao expert in your eyes, I'm flattered.

But apparently anyone who uses a Shen-Hao and has the temerity to actually express their appreciation for the cameras is a moron, hard to understand, misguided, stupid, disingenuous, misleading and unaware that they use crap equipment. I'm sure glad there are people like you here to put me straight on this.

Anyway, to spare those of you out there who appreciate the Shen-Hao and are not afraid to say so any more of this nonsense, I'll shut up about this now. This thread has degenerated way too far already (and I realize I'm partly to blame for this).

To those of you who are happy living in your LF fantasy land where only Ebony cameras exist and the landscape is littered with crap (you know who you are), enjoy yourselves and your expensive, well-made, highly machined, tightly fitting cameras. Make great photographs and share them with us. It'll make those of us with those cheap, crappy Chinese cameras jealous. After all, our cheap, crappy cameras cannot make photographs anyway near as artful as your expensive, precision machines.

Donald Hutton
23-May-2005, 23:59
Sorry Dean

You implied twice that the $600 4X5 Shen Hao (the only model mentioned in this entire thread and the very model you own which "can easily accomodate both a 300mm and a 90mm lens") was made from titanium and teak. There's no confusion about what you said nor implied - you even re-iterated it... so that the twleve year olds didn't miss the lie! As your cliche goes... for the record....

I note that between yourself and the Dan you account for well over 1/3 of all postings on the "Shen Hao User Group" forum. I trust your disburse more honest information on that forum.

Bernard Languillier
24-May-2005, 02:48
Dear all,

Long time no see. Just a quick addition to confirm that Ebony's are indeed very fine LF cameras.

I have been a 45SU owner since last November, had the chance to meet several time with the Ebony folks here in Tokyo and am just thrilled with the camera. I'll be using it this coming weekend again for a trek in the Japanese Alps, can't wait for it... :-)

This being said, it is indeed pricey, and a Shen Hao is probably a very good idea for someone not willing to spend this much.


paul owen
24-May-2005, 03:10
Dean, YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT!!!!!!! I have only said, right from the beginning, that IN MY OPINION, having used both cameras - the Shen Hao is crap (my opinion only) no one else said it - so how do "Ebony users look down on Shen Hao users"????? Get a life! If you are happy using a Shen Hao then fine - I won't look down on you or anyone else for that matter! All I have offered is my personal opinion - in answer to a question from someone who is noy able to get to a dealer and handle both cameras! I am in a position to answer him in an honest way BUT IT IS ONLY MY OPINION! All I did was report actual facts - never claimed them to be scientific - that was brought up by a Shen Hao user! I also made it clear that I advised participants on this workshop to buy a Shen Hao if money was tight - but not to be "tricked" into thinking that they are as well made as an Ebony/Toyo or any other camera - but they are cheap! As far as Ebony owners "living in a fantasy land where only Ebony cameras exist" - what planet have you sprung from? Where's your proof? Give us some examples? As a citizen of the UK I am entitled to freedom of speech! I hereby use this gift and publically declare "THAT IN MY PERSONAL OPINION, HAVING USED A VARIETY OF LARGE FORMAT CAMERAS, BOTH WOODEN AND METAL, THAT DESPITE THE SHEN HAO BEING OFFERED AT AN EXCELLENT PRICE, I STILL THINK IT IS A CRAP CAMERA AND BUYING ONE IS FALSE ECONOMY, AND FURTHERMORE I ALSO PUBLICALLY DECLARE THAT I HAVE NEVER AND WOULD NEVER LOOK DOWN ON ANYONE WHO USES A CAMERA OTHER THAN AN EBONY" HAPPY NOW!!!!!

Bernard Languillier
24-May-2005, 07:25
Wow, I am away shooting for a few months, come back here, and the place has turned into a copy of Dpreview in its worse days... :-)

Gentlemen, relax, I am sure that your misundestandings are mostly due to the medium, not the ideas!

This being said, I love Ebony... :-)


24-May-2005, 07:52
"The simple fact of the matter is that Ebony cameras are created by craftsmen who take a pride in their work "

Sorry Paul but from your comments I believe the Ebony is crap. Any camera that needs to be fiddled with isn't worth the time. You slammed the Shen Hao because you said it fell apart. Fact is your Ebony needed a repair.

The point about the 5x7 was you're talking about a 500 pound camera. That's almost twice the price of the Shen Hao 4x5.

From your use of Britsh pounds I'm guessing you're in the UK. If the camera can't handle UK weather without needing to be fixed it'll fall apart having to deal with Canadian forced air heating.

paul owen
24-May-2005, 08:23
Nick, do yourself a favour ... get your hands on these cameras before you slate them! I slate from my personal experience - not from hearsay/gossip. What "evidence" do you have that Ebony cameras are crap? Please tell us, we're all waiting for your words of wisdom! Have you ever seen an Ebony let alone take a picture with one - obviously not! I have NEVER suggested that the "Shen Hao fell apart"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't put words in my mouth. If you're going to take part in this discussion then get your facts right before you chip in - otherwise butt out! As for my Ebony needing a repair - get real :) It took at the most a millimetre turn on 2 screws - hardly a repair now is it - your comments are now bordering on the infantile. Obviously you are free to take part in this discussion but do yourself a favour and either say something relevant or keep quiet.

Dean Tomasula
24-May-2005, 11:06
I know I said I'd shut up about this, but I couldn't resist.

Paul, yes you do have freedom of speech and a right to your opinion. But your opinion does not add anything to the discussion.

You claim you have used the Ebony and the Shen-Hao and that after using the Shen-Hao in a workshop, the entire line of cameras is "crap." How can you possibly form an opinion about something after only using it for less than eight hours? I'm sure you did not use the Shen-Hao all weekend and let your beloved Ebony sit on the sidelines. And the Shen-Hao you did use was probably a demo. I'm sure you did not go out and buy brand new cameras before the workshop.

So quit the BS. If you have something substantive to add to the discussion we all welcome your opinion. if not, let others who do have something meaningful to say say it. Base your opinion on facts and hands-on experience. Using something for ten minutes (or worse, watching someone else use one) does not qualify you to make judgements about it.

You're quick to twist everyones words than backtrack and hide behind "it's only my opinion." Well your opinion is meaningless because there are no facts behind them. Don't pretend to be the voice of wisdom when you have no idea what you're talking about.

Here's an example: "The simple fact of the matter is that Ebony cameras are created by craftsmen who take a pride in their work." And how do you know this? Do you personally know an "Ebony craftsman"? Do you know what their working conditions are like? And how do you know that Shen-Hao craftsmen do not take ride in their work?

Ebony makes fine cameras, there's no question about that. But so do other companies. Every camera has its faults, Ebony included. It's not the perfect camera. Calling an entire line of cameras "crap" after hearing someone complain about it is not helpful, and worse not meaningful. It doesn't help anyone trying to decide which camera to buy to pretend you know what you are talking about and just spew garbage under the guise of your opinion and your extensive experience over one weekend.

OK. Now I'll really shut up about this.

paul owen
24-May-2005, 12:54
Dean, do yourself a favour and take some of your own advice! I have never said that "the entire line up is crap"? I only have experience (bad) of the HZX45 - so I made comment on THIS camera! I don't pretend to "know what I'm talking about" - I simply offered my experiences and those of participants on a LF workshop - some seasoned LF users and others complete newcomers. Maybe YOU should keep quiet on this forum until you have got your facts right or until you have something meaningful to say! LEARN THIS LESSON BEFORE CONTINUING - IF YOU WANT TO QUOTE PEOPLE - GET WHAT THEY SAID RIGHT!! - have you decided what the HZX is made from yet? Titanium - yeah right! And you think Ebony cameras have parts "made from gold" ... worrying. I took the time to have a look at the SHUG web site - very sad! Proof that you are all constantly trying to comfort each other after wasting your money on a Shen Hao ... "and proud to let people on other forums know" - you pompous fool! Who else feels the need to create a web site to "worship" a brand of camera! Answer - no one !! I see I've been mentioned too! Probably be burned at the stake by the "Followers of Shen Hao". And some of YOUR postings are laughable e.g. "How do you pronounce Shen Hao?" Do you now know how to "call" your camera? But best of all is the section on "Shen Hao Faults"!!!!!! You have really set yourself up on this posting!! Dug yourself a deep hole and can't get out! Wait for some Shen Hao Back-Up!! If you do get out ... Get out more and take some photos rather than worrying about people not respecting your choice of camera!!

Dean Tomasula
24-May-2005, 14:11
Paul, I really do not want to make this personal, so I will ignore your insults.

I've admitted my mistake about the titanium analogy twice now and see no need to keep apologizing for an innocent slip of the tongue. The part about Ebony using gold was meant to be ironic. Obviously you are incapable of seeing past your own bias about this camera.

And for your information, the SHUG forums were established for people interested in the Shen-Hao cameras, both seasoned and newbie. So some of the postings may seem sad to you, but many users want this information. Since the forums are new, I felt the need to stimulate some conversation by starting some posts. Sorry if you feel that is laughable.

Also, if you know how to do a Google search, you'll find that there are many newsgroups and forums dedicated to a single camera line. There are Nikon forums, Hasselblad forums, etc.

By the way, there is no "section" on Shen-Hao faults. There are some posts pertaining to that subject, however, proving that the Shen-Hao, unlike the Ebony, is not perfect. (That was irony again, just so you know).

I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say you have been mentioned on the SHUG forums. Certainly not by me. I would hope than anyone who does mention you (or anyone else for that matter) will be civil and adult about it.

That's advice you'd do well to remember. Calling people names will get you nowhere. It certainly doesn't bolster you position any.

Actually, we do agree on one thing. We all should get out more and photograph, rather than wasting time like this yelling at each other.

I think I'll take your advice and do just that. So this is absolutely my last word on this subject. You can continue hurling insults and spouting your uninformed garbage if you like. Good luck to you then. Enjoy your Ebony and take great photos with it. I hope it'll serve you well for years to come.

paul owen
24-May-2005, 14:50
Dear RMann, in reply to you initial question - unfortunately, as you have witnessed, evryone has differing views on which camera will suit your requirements! Fortunately by using this forum you can (sometimes) get helpful advice from people who have experience using the cameras you are interested in. If you are already using a 10x8 then I would probably be correct in assuming that you are not a newcomer to LF! For this reason do you feel you need a camera that you will quickly need to replace as you upgrade? I would suggest not. Therefore, taking into account all the variables, such as build quality, stability, bellows, brightness of screen etc my advice would still be to buy the Ebony :). However, also take a look at Wista as they also represent a good alternative to the makes you have named. Good luck in your quest. Paul

Bernard Languillier
24-May-2005, 16:50
Here's an example: "The simple fact of the matter is that Ebony cameras are created by craftsmen who take a pride in their work." And how do you know this? Do you personally know an "Ebony craftsman"? Do you know what their working conditions are like? And how do you know that Shen-Hao craftsmen do not take ride in their work?

--Dean Tomasula, 2005-05-24 10:06:02

Hi Dean,

Well, I personnally do know the Ebony guys after having met them a few times in Tokyo, and Paul is totally correct in his description. I might actually meet with them this very Sunday again if wheather prevents me from hitting the peaks... :-)

The Shen-Hao people might be the same though.


R Mann
24-May-2005, 19:12
As I was the one who started this thread with the questions about comparing these two cameras all I can say is there certainly alot of information and emotion here to digest.

I am not a pro - I have been doing "things" photographic for about 35 years. I enjoy the slow pace of large format and currently work with a Deardorf 8x10 which I am finding just too much to take out. My questions were about adding a smaller camera that I would enjoy using - I know I could not wear either of these out, but was curious about the newer camera from China as so many things seem to be on the market from China in other areas. I feel that some of the comments were a little over the line due to a passionate position about a personal choice, for that I hope everyone can find a satisfaction that there are others who share their positions. I also am quite gratefull that so many took the time to join the discussion - there were a number of valid points about each of these that I have found very interesting. As I am in upstate NY where there are not a lot of large format dealers, it was my hope that I could get some information to either make a decision or to be able to ask a somewhat intelligent question of a salesperson. I do have an interest in the gear I use as well as the end result - and enjoy the process probably more than the final product. Based on what I have seen here and on other internet sites I have decided to get an Ebony RW45. I think many of the points raised were valid but as money is not a huge barrier, I think at this stage of my life I will go with something that seems to give some pleasure to its users and is regarded as a fine working camera for what I wanted to use it for. Again, Many thanks to all who have responed here.


Juergen Sattler
24-May-2005, 19:30
Robert, you certainly cannot go wrong with an Ebony and given that money is not a huge concern you probably made the right choice. Enjoy your new 4x5 and let us all know how you like it once you had a chance to put some film through it. Congratulations!

Scott Davis
24-May-2005, 19:46
As someone else who would like to make a CONSTRUCTIVE contribution to this question, I'll chime in as a Shen Hao user. I was just at the big View Camera Conference in Springfield, Massachussetts, and I got to put my hands on an Ebony. It is certainly a very high-quality piece of equipment, and if I had the cash, I'd probably own one.

That said, I'm very happy with my Shen Hao, which I have had for over two years now, and have had no problems with it at all. Yes, it is a bit heavy, but it is made of teak. Teak is a heavy tropical wood that is remarkably stable dimensionally. I have had no problems with the mechanical functioning of the camera. It has more movements than I can possibly use. I have used it professionally, for architecture work (some shots done with it were published in Metropolitan Home, January 2005 issue). I feel confident enough using it that I would (and have) staked my professional reputation on its performance.

Is it perfect? No. My biggest quibble is that the zero detents for the rear movements are not as absolutely positive as I'd like them to be. Other than that, it is very easy to work with. Bear in mind that my previous 4x5 was a Sinar, so I do have experience with other "precision" camera gear.

Steve Daniels
24-May-2005, 20:47
What a load of crap!!!

Paul is still the crazy old man he has always been, and still dishing out his camera snobbery. Disagree about the slightest detail and he explodes. He is irrational. I wouldn't take his advice on anything.

I have used both the Ebony SW45 and the Shen Hao (TFC45-IIA, not the HZX). I have also used around 15 other brands in the past 30 years. I now have the Shen Hao. So I WILL SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE.

Side by side, and have had them both on tripods at the same time, the Shen Hao IS EQUAL TO IN ALMOST EVERY RESPECT to the Ebony. The materials and workmanship are near identical. I would be hard pressed to say that either camera would hold up better under hard use. The TFC is user adjustable, just as the Ebony. The camera, properly adjusted, is rock steady. In fact, (Paul is slitting his wrists about now because I am saying this) the Shen Hao is ACTUALLY MORE RIGID THAN THE EBONY WAS.

The metal is mixed (Shang Fuming tells me that the standards are stainless steel painted black and the rest is titanium). None of the paint has come off, even with hard use.

It is STUPID to say that the mounting plate on the Ebony is made better than the entire Shen Hao camera. It is a piece of metal, and cannot take pictures.

This thread turned to crap as soon as Paul entered it.

I agree that Ebony makes great cameras, as everyone who handles one agrees. But I think Paul should go to his room and take his Ebony with him.

Dave Moeller
24-May-2005, 21:13

Congratulations on making your choice. As I stated in an earlier post, no camera is perfect for every person, and it's what we as individuals value in the camera that makes us happy with it. Although you and I value different things, I believe you've made your decision for the right reasons for you, and I'm sure you'll be very happy with your camera. I hope you'll share your thoughts on the camera once you've had a chance to use it for a while. (I'm always interesting in hearing what people think of the equipment that they've chosen, especially LF equipment.)

Now...perhaps in a few weeks you can come back and ask about lenses...and start some real flame wars. :)

Be well.

paul owen
25-May-2005, 02:17
Steve (Daniels) - get real - You've just shown what a fool YOU are! I compared the Shen Hao HZX 45 - NOT the TFC - so what's your point?????????? I commented on THIS camera and not the whole Shen Hao line up - those words were put into this thread by Dean NOT ME ... get your facts right befor chipping in with BS! The comment on the mounting plate on the Ebony was made by a workshop participant after HE had handled both cameras - he commented on the "confidence" that even the Ebony plate gave you as to build quality and that there was nothing on the Shen Hao that inspired the same confidence! LETS GET THIS STRAIGHT FOR ONCE - EVRY REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO THIS FORUM KNOWS THAT I AM AN AVID EBONY USER - BUT I DON'T EVER SAY THAT EBONY IS THE BEST AND THE REST ARE RUBBISH!!!!!!!! The original post asked for comments - I gave my personal comments and because the Shen Hao followers didn't like it they fly off and accuse me of being a snob! Dean "you should know me cos I'm the SHUG moderator" Tomatsula made the biggest faux pas when he called me a snob and failed to look back over a thread on his own SHUG site, that HE initiated, linking to a review that I HAD WRITTEN, on this forum regarding the SHEN HAO 6x17 film back - how the %^&* am I a snob - you tell me ... I'm interested! If you bothered to read these somewhat lengthy postings then you'll also see that I RECOMMEND the Shen Hao if money is tight - me a snob/Ebony-or-nothing ... I don't think so! I also commented on the build quality if the Toyos too!!!!!!!!!!! READ THE THREADS BEFORE YOU SLAG PEOPLE OFF!! In fact, read the SHUG forums and you'll see that I'm noth the only one who questions the mindest of the SHUG web site users! OH YEAH, Dean - yes I know you're still lurking (licking your wounds) as moderator of SHUG check the postings for this week where your "followers" are encouraged to bombard me with emails in 12 months time!! You ARE a sad bunch!! And Steve ... me old? well if 40 is old then the rest of the workshop participants/most LF users should all be 6 feet under!!

Dean Tomasula
25-May-2005, 09:44
Paul, this is getting very tiresome.

I have no idea what you are referring to when you say I am encouraging "my followers" to email you in 12 months time. I have never mentioned you anywhere except here in this thread. The fact is I don't know you personally and have nothing against you. So why would I encourge people to flame you?

In case you're interested, i'm 46 years old, not a 12 year old. So I don't encourage people to do juevenile things.

I did a search on SHUG for your name and came up with nothing. So I don't know what you talking about. If you saw a post mentioning you, I suggest you take it up with that poster.

Please find the post where I encourage my "followers" to email you and post it here for all the world to see. However, you won't be able to because I have never mentioned you anywhere by name on SHUG. I did post a link to this thread, asking people to read it and try to answer the question that RMann originally asked about the real differenced between the Ebony and Shen-Hao. But nowehere did I mention your name or encourage anyone to email you.

So please stop making acccusations that are not true and the personal attacks about people you do not know. A civil, spirited debate and difference of opinion is one thing, but you are now bodering on the psychotic.

paul owen
25-May-2005, 10:39
Jeez this is tiresome!! You're like a midge at a barbecue! OKAY TRY THIS

- Posted: Mon May 23, 2005 9:36 am Post subject:


Ok when every one gets to a little over a 12 month period on there Shen-Hao why don't you all email Paul Owen on the large format forum let him know whether or not you think you bought a peice of junk and if it held up.
"Ruffle my damn feathers", yes you did Paul. Comparing use of a camera at a workshop with everyday use. With that mentality I wouldn't be surprised if that whole thread, AS WELL AS THE CAMERAS, where set up because Ebony's sales are down because of Shen-Hao. Oh, and by the way the peice of plastic that everyone refers to on your shen-Hao's is called teflon. Which has a high tensile, and yeild strength. Or should I say great mechanical properties.
Good Day,
Dan Jolicoeur


and the link YOU posted regarding MY review of a Shen Hao product!

Posted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 8:29 pm Post subject: New Article on Panoramic Back


A new review of the SH panoramic back has been posted on the large format photography site.

It's entitled "The Shen Hao 6x17 Roll Film Back and Ground Glass Viewer - A User's Review"

Dean T - Moderator/Administrator
Proud owner of a Shen-Hao HZX45-IIA
(and not afraid to let those on other forums know it)


The whole point of a forum is to discuss - thankfully! All I did when I got involved in this thread was report facts from MY OWN experience - this obviously "upset" Shen Hao users - but that's life? I made no wild claims just the truth. The thread deteriorated from Dan's posting where he talks of brainwashing and suggests that I claim "scientific" support of my "findings"? All I did was report back my findings - nothing else. Yet all of a sudden I'm accused of making claims about the whole Shen Hao line up being crap! (cameras I have never used!) and then I'm subjected to a load of abuse ... so I retaliate! Then some guy called Steve Daniels enters the arena - makes a load of accusations and then disappears back into cyberspace - so yes this thread has deteriorated somewhat! However, I still stand by my original report! Granted a weekend is not a lifetime of use - but it was clear that things were "not right" when the Shen Hao showed this number of failings after just a few hours "continuous use". Don Hutton then enters the arena and picks YOU up on a MAJOR mistake concerning the material used to build your camera - yet you happily shrug this off and suggest that it's not important and that you would apologise just to keep the 12 year olds happy!!!! MORE ABUSE and then you complain that I am hurling abuse/being personal!! I would think that a mistake between titanium and stainless steel is pretty damn big - how many people have you misinformed on this in the past? How many have purchased this camera only to realise that its steel and teak?? You are simply NOT in a position to offer advice or criticise others when you are making such basic but major errors - are you? You are obviously an ardent Shen Hao supporter - this is a general LF forum ... do you think you are in the right place when you are here? We (happily) discuss all manner of LF ideas/thoughts/equipment/practices not limit ourselves to ONE brand. In short, stick to SHUG.

Dean Tomasula
25-May-2005, 11:09
And your ardent support of Ebony is fine? But because I support Shen-Hao I should go somewhere else?

Paul, you are a moron. Plain and simple. You are an uneducated, juevenile moron.

I will not refute your accusations point by point anymore because you do not warrant the time or effort.

As I have said before, you certainly are entitled to your opinion and to express that opinion, as am I. If other people's opinions bother you, then it's too damn bad. Deal with it. You are not the only person in the universe and certainly not an expert on anything.

If you have a problem with Dan's posting, go take it up with Dan, not me. I had nothing to do with that post. I certainly didn't encourage anyone to email you.

And I linked to your article on the Shen-Hao back because I thought it was a good article that Shen-Hao users should know about. If you like, I can remove the link. I wouldn't want any lowly Shen-Hao users to actually think you know what you are talking about.

I'm sorry to have to stoop to your level and resort to name calling. But you brought it on yourself because you are incapable of a having a civil online discussion with anyone who disagrees with you. It's a shame because you sound like you have some real hands-on experience with the Ebony that others can benefit from. But your attitude about anyone who disagrees with you prevents you form offering anything intelligent, other than namecalling and your judicious use of the caps lock key.

Feel free to keep calling me names and making yourself sound like a bigger moron than you already are. I will not be replying to any more of you irrational ravings about me, the Shen-Hao or the registered users of the Shen-Hao Users Group Forums.

paul owen
25-May-2005, 11:13
PHEW!! And they all lived happily ever after!

Dean Tomasula
25-May-2005, 11:24
I didn't say I was leaving, just that I wouldn't reply.

I've made my point.

paul owen
25-May-2005, 11:38

paul owen
25-May-2005, 11:42
Okay enough is enough!! I would (seriously) like to apologise to all the "regulars" for the way that this posting has deteriorated into this mud-slinging contest. I am, as you will all agree, partly to blame for this :) However, in the spirit of this forum I will cease this childish behaviour and hopefully this post will now finish? I sincerely hope that I haven't caused offence to anyone!

Sal Santamaura
25-May-2005, 11:47
Moderators: I count 65 posts in this thread, inluding the one you're now reading. Of those, 33 deserve to be deleted as utterly inappropriate. Another 14, although reasoned replies to some of the "deletion-worthy," ought to go because they'll make no sense without the missing posts they responded to. That leaves 18 posts valuable enough for the archives.


Dean Tomasula
25-May-2005, 12:16
Paul, apology accepted.

And I too would like to apologize for prolonging this thread and helping it deteriorate into mudslinging.

Timothy Gurney
26-May-2005, 17:01

Well we have a real dedate going on here...

I have a Wista SP, this was preceeded by a MPP VII. The SP is great, stable and delivers the goods. What is wrong besides the weight? No soul in the cold metal.

Sitting here in the UK I am a phone call away from ordering my Ebony. I have seen, felt, tested, questionned.....as all of us before an important purchase. I consider that buying any field camera is a serious commitment to our passion.

I have my shortlist now:

RW45e, the ebony at a decent price and not too heavy, but will it have enough movments?
RW45, the ebony craftmanship without the ebony and light enough, enough mouvments and will the wood deliver the same soul?
SV45te, all those movments, the soul and its weight..but will I use those mouvments?

I would not go for the SV45ti just seems wrong doesn't it?

I have the budget and lack the last spark to make that call, any advice but please not on my lack of decision just on the cameras.....

And yes I picture landscape and abstract, want to do some still life also when I find the time.

Thanks and cheers,


paul owen
27-May-2005, 03:14
Pssssst ... get the RW45E - the universal bellows make a real difference! The build quality of the 45E is that of the other folding Ebony cameras, the "look" of the camera (if that is important) is very fine and as long as you can live without rear rise/fall you will be sorted! It is a very stable camera even when its extended to its maximum bellows extension and handles a good range of lenses - it will handle a 65mm (but a recessed panel will give you more flexibility). There were "complaints" from some regarding the original RW45 - concerning the fact that the bellows were standard pleated and not very flexible. As far as I know the current RW45 (mahogany) version has the Universal bellows shared by the RW45E and other SV Ebony cameras. I don't know how "easy" it is to get the mahogany version (RW45) as I understand that unless weight is an absolute issue/problem, most opt for the ebony wood version. Robert White lists the RW45E on his web site but does not list the mahogany version - but I am sure that they are easy to get hold of from source! The RW45E is basically a slightly-les specified SV45 - but an excellent buy nonetheless! Good luck! Paul

John Layton
1-Jun-2005, 18:44
Psssst! Seeing as this enlightening and entertaining text has been archived - maybe I can get away with this! Then again, maybe nobody will see it! But for those who make it this far - try this - http://www.laytoncamera.com ....gotta be sneaky sometimes!!

1-Jun-2005, 19:33
Shameless self promotion eh?

20-Jul-2005, 07:37
I checked out this forum for the first time. Man, you guys need another hobby!

I have been a large format photographer for 19 years and have owned Linhoff (technikardan), Sinar (Norma), Wisner (Technical field), Calumet (C1), Toyo (810M, and 45A).

What caught my eye in a positive way is that this camera had zero detents. My Wisner did not, and I hated it. I use a 45A for field use, and love that the camera has adjustments for precision alignment so that the backs a parallel when "snapped" in to the zero position (as checked with a zig align).

I personally don't care about finish as much as fit. Is this, or the ebany, a precision camera? You can put the best glass on the camera, but if you constantly have to frig around with non-zeroable (nice word huh) standards by trying to make sure that the corners are in focus...

Does anyone have experience in checking the alignment of the camera with a zip align (or other) system?