View Full Version : Tachihara

Paul Cocklin
18-Jun-2005, 18:33
A general question for anyone that may have experience with these matters. I searched the archives but could not find any information on the Tachihara 45GF. Any opinions on this very inexpensive (but all I can afford right now) field camera would be greatly appreciated. For starters, how durable is it? How stable is it, at only 3.5 lbs?

I was looking at the Shen-Hao, also, which I have heard good and disparaging things about. Granted, I don't expect a whole lot out of a $600 field camera, but I do expect it to work for a reasonable amount of time before it falls apart.

Any and all opinions on either of these two cameras would be greatly appreciated. I'm shooting with an old Calumet monorail right now, and lugging it into the field is killing me. (although, I almost cried when I saw the transparencies for the first time; Ektachrome 100VS, see shot below)


Thanks a bunch!

18-Jun-2005, 18:54
Hello Paul

Like the image especially seeing snow tops now that it is 100 degees in Florida!!!

I can say that I like my Tachihara very much and it has not fallen apart in the 4 years I have been using it. It does now show a bit of wear but that is from use not sitting around. My model is a 4x5 Calumet Woodfield XM by Tachihara. Came with a fresnel lens and gridded cover glass installed and uses the very common Wista/Linhof lens board. I bought it from the original owner who in turn purchased it from Calumet in the mid-1990's so it is about 10 years old now.

You will like the Tachihara if you have one in your hands. It is not cheaply built. Nor is it a view camera. The movements are limited but there. If this is your first field camera it might become your only 4x5!


Dean Tomasula
18-Jun-2005, 19:09
Paul -

Don't believe any of the BS about the Shen-Hao falling apart after a few weeks of use. It's just not true.

They are capable cameras that will give you years of great service. The Shen-Hao offers more movements than the Tachihara, but is about 1.5 pounds heavier.

Both cameras will fulfill your needs and exceed your expectations. Unfortunately, you have hard decision to make between the two.

My vote is for the Shen-Hao. Others will vote for the Tachihara. Both are very capable cameras. Now you'll have to decide.

For more infor on the Shen-Hao, check out the Shen-Hao Users Group forums.


Jon Wilson
18-Jun-2005, 19:21
I truly enjoy my Tachihara! I have never found it to be too fragile or loosen up with use. I have used my Tachihara for about 8+ months, but purchased it used. I even picked up a 5x7 expander unit for my 5x7 shots. It which works nice and hope to pick up a 5x7 enlarger I have been eyeing (sp) at the local photo store so I will not be limited to 5x7 contacts or have the local lab do a drum scan of the 5x7 trannies. I graduated from a 4x5 Korona to my 4x5 Tachihara and find it very sturdy, but still light. The only short comings I have found would be the fact that although it will accept my Fujinon 90mm, the short lens are typcially focused without a the rail, but a smooth glide of the lens toward the ground glass. Also, the bellows are not long enough for a 300mm plus lens which is focused for a 1:1 exposure, e.g., flowers. It works great for landscapes and p0rtraits. I finally decided that if I needed to focus even closer, I would use my 8x10 w/ a reducing back or just as an 8x10.

Dave Moeller
18-Jun-2005, 19:23

I'm not sure what you consider "a reasonable amount of time", but I've been using my Shen-Hao quite a lot for the last two years and it's as good as new. There's been no wear and tear on the camera that's noticeable, it still locks down as well as the day that I got it. I expect that it'll last for quite a long time.

The down side to the Shen-Hao is the weight. It's considerably heavier than the Tachihara. Neither of these cameras is a bad choice, and in fact they're both quite amazing given the price point at which they're available.

If you want a camera with a Graflok back and as many movements as you can use, without weight being a consideration, the Shen-Hao's a fine camera. If you want to reduce the weight and don't need the extra movements and can work with a spring back, the Tachihara's a fine camera.

If you search the web for reports on any particular model of automobile, you'll find that the vast majority of the posts you read are about how awful the car is. The reason's pretty simple: People who have bad experiences want to share their pain. Whether to blow off steam, to "warn" others, or to attempt to hurt a manufacturer who they feel has hurt them, people who have bad experiences tend to communicate them. People with good experiences, on the other hand, tend not to say much of anything. Excepting, of course, when the inevitable discussions start between people who are emotionally tied to their purchase feel they're being ridiculed for their choice by those who have had a bad experience. Such is the nature of the Internet. Search out reports on anything and you'll read a lot of bad and very little good. Add to this the "my choice is better than your choice" arguments that happen in almost any field (Canon versus Nikon being the best example in photography) , and you'll find that you end up not wanting to buy anything.

Here's my advice (which is worth less than you paid for it): Decide on the set of features you'd like and what your budget will handle. This will narrow down the field dramatically. If possible, get your hands on the cameras you're interested in. (Finding other, helpful, photograpers near you is a good way to do this.) When you're ready to buy, buy from a reputable dealer who will stand behind the product. I've had very good luck with both Midwest Photo Exchange and Badger Graphics in this regard. When you get the camera, go over it carefully to make sure it's in good shape and then start using it. If it starts to show problems, contact the retailer you purchased it from as soon as possible and work out a solution. (This is the reason that I love working with Midwest and Badger: They'll both work with you after the sale.)

Every manufacturer makes lemons, not just automobile companies. If you get one, exchange it for another. You'll be fine, and you'll end up with a good camera.

Best of luck to you.

Jon Wilson
18-Jun-2005, 19:28

Here is a "quick" portrait I took of my daughter using my Tachihara and a Goerz 81/4" (210mm) f9 APO red dot artar in a compur shutter. You can find it at: http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?topic_id=1481&msg_id=00C7ar&photo_id=3341325&photo_sel_index=0

It is tough getting my kids to sit down for a meal, much less for a LF photo shoot.

18-Jun-2005, 19:38
Paul, another quick note, I just saw the Tachihara 45GF. There is one at that auction place with several images. It is the same identical camera as mine! Which I sort of suspected anyway but I happen to stumble over it just now and wanted to point that out.

Paul Cocklin
18-Jun-2005, 20:08
First, let me say 'thanks so much' to everyone that responded. I think it's pretty obvious that I'm fairly new to LF, and I have to say that I don't think I ever would have made the step up if it hadn't been for the accessibility and overall friendliness of this forum.

Paul: if it's any consolation, it will be close to 100 degrees here (Sacramento) in a day or two. Thanks so much for pointing out the one on 'that which is not named', too. I had actually bookmarked that item before posting this thread (it's what got me researching the Tachihara) and it's possibly a sign from someone that the seller is in the same city I am.

Dean- I've actually enjoyed viewing the Shen-Hao forums, and they were one of the factors in my decision to consider the Shen-Hao. Weight concerns me, so if I can shave 1 1/2 lbs off and get a comparably made camera, I probably would.

Jon: thanks for the info and the opinions. Happy owners are who I like to hear from.

Dave: Thanks for all the great considerations; I have a question for you, and everyone, farther down.

Jon: Great shot and a very pretty young lady you've got there.

Can anyone tell me what the back on the Tachihara is and how is it different from what I have now on the back of my monorail. (I believe it's called a Graflok)
Right now, when I insert my polaroid 545i or Readyload, there is a silver bar that I pull back that separates the gg holder from the back and allows me to slide in the film holder. How would the Tachihara's be different?

Thanks again to everyone!

P.S. I think no matter what I will be keeping the Calumet for still lifes and studio stuff. Let me know what you think of this one...


Paul Cocklin
18-Jun-2005, 20:32
Okay, so the Tachihara is a 'spring back'. I've seen some concerns in the archives that a roll film holder (I have the Calumet C2) will not work with this type of back?

If that's the case then the Tachihara is right out, and I guess I'm going with the Shen-Hao. I shoot a lot of 120 with the C2 on my Calumet, and I would need it for the field camera.


18-Jun-2005, 20:41
I think the flat style calumet backs would work a polaroid and my Kodak sheet holder work fine??? My Graflex rollfilm graflok style holder do not but any flat one should??? You got me why a C-2 type holder would not work if it truely does not? Anybody use a Calumet roll film holder with their Tachihara???

Jon Wilson
18-Jun-2005, 20:54

My fuji quickload work w/ my spring back Tachihara. So does my polaroid 545 back. I believe my calumet 6x9 back will work w/ my Tachihara, although I have not tried it. I does work w/ my Korona 4x5 w/ a spring back.. I honestly do not believe you will go wrong w/ either the Tachihara or the Shen hao (sp) 4x5. I am a newbie to LF having only been w/ it for about 2 yrs, I definitely enjoy it over MF, provided I have the time to dedicate to it. Otherwise, when I have a "snap and shoot" situaion, I will either carry my Bronicas ( ETRSi or S2A) or my Bessa I. Since starting in LF, I have acquired two 8x10s, 2 1/2 5x7s (counting my extension back for the Tachihara) and love all of it. If figure I can legitimately write it off at my work and it provides a positive return....more so than counseling....lol , it is well worth it. BUT, I am afraid to count my lens......and definitely can not tell my "better half". Take care, JW

Ellen Stoune Duralia
18-Jun-2005, 20:58
Paul, if you do go ahead and decide on the Shen-Hao, do yourself a favor and get it from Badger. A quick troll through the 4x5 threads on the Shen-Hao users forum will be very educational.

Have fun - good luck - and thanks for sharing the studio shot; Very nice!!

Jon Wilson
18-Jun-2005, 21:10
Paul- Ditto, it is a nice studio shot. I do not think you will acheive that w/ either a Tachihara or a Shen Hao (sp). Thanks for the compliment on my photo. My youngest has grown up....hope she matures quickly and not w/ the school of hard knocks!...AS I know all of us hope and pray for when it comes to our children and loved ones. JW

Ernest Purdum
18-Jun-2005, 21:25
Paul, a "Graflok" back can be loaded two ways. You can slide a hollder in between the groundglass and the camera body or you can remove the groundglass (easily, it snaps right out) and secure a holder in place with two slides much like the familiar slides that hold many lensboards in place.. The holder can be very thick like the Graflex and Horseman roll film holders. The C-2 holder was particularly made so that it could be used on cameras without a Graflok back. It will work on practically all modern 4X5s.

Historical note. Most of the Grafles SLRs used a back which had slides to hold a thick holder like the old Graflex bag magazine holders. Other Folmer & Schwing products mostly had spring backs. The Graflok is sort of a combination of the two types.

Paul Cocklin
18-Jun-2005, 21:36
So the spring back would work just like my graflok in that all I need to do to insert a film holder is gently pull it back and slide the holder in? Sorry I'm being so dense about this.

Also, on the Tachihara, how easy is it to switch from vertical to horizontal and back, versus the Shen-Hao?



Oren Grad
18-Jun-2005, 22:03
Paul - The Calumet C2 and C2N roll holders were designed to be used either with the Graflok clips on an international back, or as a slide-in holder in backs that don't have Graflok fittings.

With most field cameras the only potential issue is how tightly the back is sprung. I've seen 4x5 cameras where the back simply wouldn't open far enough to accommodate the thickness of a C2. Slide-in holders do work easily with my 4x5 Nagaoka, which is another inexpensive wood field camera. I would be surprised if there isn't somebody here who's tried a C2 in a Tachihara, but if not, ask the folks at Midwest or at Badger - they should be able to tell you.

Paul Cocklin
18-Jun-2005, 22:38
Well, thanks to all who provided information. I went ahead and did it. $405 for a like new Tachihara off that bad, bad evil auctionsite that has cost me so much in the last year.

It's a local seller, so hopefully I'll be shooting with it tomorrow night!
Thanks again, all.
Good light


Antti Aalto
19-Jun-2005, 02:44
I use a Tachihara with a Calumet C2 holder with no problems. Only problem I've had was with lensboard fit. It takes Linhof lensboards, but the one I've got has three protusions on the back. A circle on top and to small bars at the bottom. It helped to cut in shape and fit the board with a couple layers of thin cardboard with holes for the protusions (leveling the back). Also P-profile weather strip with the tail cut off makes a neat additional light seal at the rim.I haven't used the Shen-Hao, but I don't think switching from vertical to horizontal could be made any easier on the Tachihara.

Dave Moeller
19-Jun-2005, 04:33
Congratulations Paul. The Tachihara is an excellent camera.

I didn't get back here in time to answer your questions about back accessories, but I think you understand that all of the accessories that you own will work fine with the spring back.

Regarding your studio camera: I still have my old Cambo SC monorail camera, and I plan to keep it. It's easier to leave it set up in my home studio than to set up a field camera every time I want to do "table top" work. Also, your monorail has more movements than the Tachihara, which will be important for studio work...so keeping your monorail.

The steel bar that you mention on your current camera is known as a "bailing arm"; it makes lifting the ground glass holder away from the camera easier. The Tachihara does not, I believe, have one, but that won't matter as wooden field cameras are generally easier to pull open than metal studio cameras. (As others have described, the Graflok back can be removed completely using a couple of sliding arms, and a different piece can be locked in place of the ground glass. This is how the old Singer and Graflex backs mounted to the Graflok back. Those backs tend to be much less expensive than the Calumet C2, but since you already own the C2 that's of no concern to you.)

Again, congratulations. I'm looking forward to seeing your first shots with the new camera!

Brian Ellis
19-Jun-2005, 05:09
There is a review of the Tachihara on my web site www.ellisgalleries.com, click on "Equipment Reviews." In a nut shell, it's an excellent camera as long as you don't need to use a normal lens longer than about 300mm or a telephoto lens longer than about 400mm.

19-Jun-2005, 07:14
Way to go Paul, when you have had a chance to shoot some film and use a lens or two with your new Tachihara, come back and post an update for us to hear how you feel about the beautiful light weight camera.

BTW you got a nice price too!

Hope that the community here was of some benefit for you, Paul

19-Jun-2005, 07:21
Hey Brian,
Just wanted to say you have a nice web site and I enjoyed the visit and your work is excellent. Also, I see you are a fellow Gator Alumni "Go Gators!". . . Paul

Paul Cocklin
19-Jun-2005, 07:22
Thanks, Antti, your reassurances give me peace of mind.

Brian, beatufiul website and again, thanks. I'm still very new at this and can't tell you how much I appreciate folks who post information like this.

Dave, I'll definitely be keeping the Calumet, at least until my girlfriend starts screaming at me to get 'that damned camera and tripod out of the living room!'. I have a feeling that a year from now I will own a large number of LF cameras and lenses. <sigh>

Paul, Glad to hear it; I wasn't sure whether this was a good price or not for a used one; it was a good price for me though. I was prepared to go a little higher, and now the money saved can buy film! :-)

I have gotten so much from this forum that I must ruminiate on how I can give something back to it...
Will definitely keep everyone updated when I shoot some through the Tachihara

Thanks again all!

Alan Davenport
19-Jun-2005, 10:42
I got into this thread a bit late I see, as you (Paul) already made the purchase. You won't be disappointed!

I have the Calumet-labeled Tachihara. I use regular film holders, the Calumet C2 roll holder, and a Polaroid 545i, all with no trouble.

Changing from horizontal to vertical is about a 5 second operation; you slide 2 latches out with your thumbs, tip the back out and lift it from the bottom, turn it 90 degrees and reverse the removal process. It's so simple and obvious that you'll wonder why any manufacturer would make it more complicated.

David Starr
19-Jun-2005, 16:18
Dave, I'll definitely be keeping the Calumet, at least until my girlfriend starts screaming at me to get 'that damned camera and tripod out of the living room!'

A Tachihara on a wood tripod could be considered a work of art in itself.

bruce turner
19-Jun-2005, 20:10
Great that you got that 45GF Tachihara. I lugged one all over the eastern sierras (I lived in Bishop for a few years), and it worked great the whole time--with pleanty of real abuse. I am very hard on my cameras, they are constantly falling over--my last Rochester even took a swim downstream because one of my tripod legs lost its setting and shortened enough to topple over. Anyway, I never had to worry about that little Tachihara being light tight, or shifting once I sinched down any movements. With even my kind of care, your Tachihara will last a life time. Bruce.

Paul Cocklin
20-Jun-2005, 01:13
lol...thanks bruce, that's good news. While I try not to drop my cameras in large bodies of water, I'm not exactly ginger with them, either.

Alan, thanks for the words of reassurance. As long as my 545i, readyload and C2 work, I'm a happy camper. I'm looking forward to 10 days along the Oregon Coast soon, as well as maybe two weeks (probably more like one) in the Eastern Sierra near Mono Lake and into Yosemite. I can't wait to get out there with a camera I can lift! :-)

Good light, all


Eric Biggerstaff
20-Jun-2005, 14:34

This is late and I only want to add to what the others have said in that this is an excellent little camera. I have used and abused mine for over 10 years and it keeps on going. They are wonderful cameras and should last you a very, very long time.

Have a great one.


Paul Cocklin
20-Jun-2005, 20:44
I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but I had so many helpful replies that I figured I would keep everyone up to date. I hold in my hand, one of the most beautiful (kinda like a first love) field cameras I have ever seen up close. This Tachihara is in excellent condition.

Now for the heartbreaking news...does anyone have a lensboard? ;-)

I ordered one from Badger Graphic, but it'll probably be a week before it arrives. I went to two different stores in the Sacramento area following leads, but nobody had one. (CameraArts had a used Linhof board for $50 but the hole was offcenter and I wasn't sure it was copal-1 anyway. )

Does anyone know of another LF camera store in the Sacramento Valley? I'll drive two hours (might as well go to San Francisco :-( but I'd love to start shooting with this camera soon.

<sigh> ah well. Patience is a virtue.

$%$ ^&* $&^$ &*%&&@##$$% lensboards!

Thanks again to all for the help and info!

good light

20-Jun-2005, 21:10
Paul, off center boards are fine you can always adjust to centerline the lens and groundglass. There must be a half dozen different brand names you can put on these Tachihara. Wista, Toyo, Linhof then B&H have a generic and Midwest Photo Exchange sells a generic I think? Find a thin sheet of metal and have it cut and drilled it would take 15 minutes or so to do.

bruce turner
23-Jun-2005, 19:13
I think Paul is very right, be alittle bit more inventive, and have someone prepare one for you. Go to a cabinet shop and have a wood one made, they should even have a selection of wood types and stains for you. This is what I have always done in the past, and it is certainly much cheaper, too. If you wish to purchase one, my first choice would be e-BAY, in that some of the people who auction off lens boards also can make them to your specs., and they would certainly be cheaper than $50.00 per board, also. I must add, I lived in Sacramento for a number of years, and I really enjoyed shopping CameraArts--though I think they were very expensive. Also, I lived in Toledo, OH, and have a number of occassions to visit Midwest Photo (which is south in Columbus)--and that is a really, really, super store, with so very much to look at for older LF. stuff (which is what I am into). Regards, Bruce.

Paul Cocklin
25-Jun-2005, 18:18
Thanks Bruce, I stopped at CameraArts and drooled for about half an hour, but the Irish in me prohibits me from spending $50 on a lensboard. The cabinet shop is a great Idea and one I think I will follow up on for my other two lenses.

Thanks again to all who went through this purchase with me.


Ernest Purdum
26-Jun-2005, 14:21
The cabinet shop may give you a much better price if you make it easy for them by providing the material. Check out www.micromark.com. They have a nice selection of mahogany, cherry and other woods in a wide variety of thin sizes. Another good possibility, if less traditional, is the thin plywood sold at your local friendly model shop. You could combine the two if you like with a basically plywood board faced with a thin hardwood facing.

Wooden lensboards can be too thick for some modern lenses. The solution is to have a recess routed into the back.

10-Nov-2007, 05:52
Here is an example of a professional Photographer who has been using a Tachihara for years:


As you can see, he roughs it with his camera.

I've had a Tachihara and a new Shen Hao about 3 years ago. Got the Shen Hao from Badger graphics.

I was more concerned about the sturdiness and longevity of the Tachihara compared to the Shen Hao. The Shen Hao was nearly twice as heavy as the Tachihara. I don't think I ever could have damaged the Shen Hao without great intent or serious abuse.

I now have a Calumet (Gowland Pocket branded Calumet). A little monorail that breaks down into a two pound package and has the Graflok back.

For the price, the Tachihara AND Shen Hao seem like good values. The Tachihara is also built in a couple of other MFR names, but can't recall. All priced nearly the same.

I have to say that if weight were not a significant issue, I'd lean toward the Shen Hao, just because I am a little ham-handed and think I could hurt a Tachihara easier than the Shen.

10-Nov-2007, 05:55
Oh, and by the way.... Internet viewing does not even begin to do justice to Bruces Images. His images are tack sharp up to 24X30 and beyond. He's been using that Tachihara as long as I've known him, which is at least 15 years.

john borrelli
12-Nov-2007, 08:54
Good luck with your new Tachihara. As others have mentioned,the generic metal lensboard versions for this camera are very inexpensive and easy to find. The camera is light and beautiful to look at. The groundglass is bright and sharp. I purchased a new one which unfortunately broke after a few uses. The problem was in the arm that connects to the rear standards, the arm tapers to a wire thin spring which provides tension to hold the standards in position when tilting. In my sample the wire broke, the store repaired it for me but I returned the camera as I was concerned about it happening again as there are more than one of these springs. Apparently this rare problem happened to someone else as he had posted pictures on the internet which showed the same problem. Other similar designs like the Wista or the Shen Hao don't use this same spring construction. Luckily you will have a back-up camera if needed(which from your pictures seems to be producing excellent results for you). Lately I have been thinking about trying another Tachihara because it is so light and has an excellent fresnel/groundglass. One thing to practice, particularly if you are use to a monorail, is closing the camera. It is very easy to catch the bellows when closing the camera, this can lead to bellows creases or pinholes down the road.