View Full Version : Quasi-Shenhao vs. Super Graphic

Yu Lu
22-Jun-2005, 16:07
Hi there,

I am currently a graduate student at University of Washington, in Seattle WA. I've taken landscape photos for a while and am thinking about trying out LF photography due to the much bigger film size and the controls provided by the camera movements. I believe I am a "slow shooting" type of guy. You may want to take a look at my photos:

Since I am wondering which 4x5 camera I should get for the first step, I am looking at either a Graflex Super Graphic, or a Kuo's from Shanghai, China. I am not sure whether you guys have heard of the Kuo's. It's kinda similar to Shen-Hao, but said to have more easy-to-handle rear standard and a little less expensive than the shen-hao. A new Kuo's would cost around $450 plus shipping from China to the States (for a package around 3kg).

As you might understand, as a student, i have only limited budget to buy camera and lenses etc. So my concern would be mainly the price, the stability, and the portability, plus sufficient movement for the type of photos that I've been taking. Personally I won't buy a camera simply because it is made of wood (I am not a big fan of wood; I prefer metal or even engineering plastic). However, it is nice to have the light weight provided by wood cameras. And I'm quite concerned about whether the front movements by Super Graphic are sufficient for landscape/flower/cityscape photos.

Your opinions are highly welcome and thanks a lot for your inputs!

Vick Vickery
22-Jun-2005, 17:00
I have used a Super Graphic for many years, and find that their movements, while definately limited, are sufficient for most outdoor work EXCLUDING architectrual photography. You will find these cameras fine for most landscape and flower (moderately close work) photography; you will find that the moderate rise, shift, and tilt of the front standard to be somewhat limiting for architectural work.

My real recommendation to you would be to look at the fairly inexpensive Burke and James Orbit/Calumet/Kodak view camera (the same camera under all three lables). These cameras in good condition are often sold on eBay in the range of $100-$125. This would leave you money for a couple of inexpensive "starter" lenses (Optar/Ektar, etc.), some film holders, and a suitable tripod. While many folks feel that monorails are too heavy or clumsy for field use, I have never had difficulty getting mine (a Cambo) anywhere I needed it to go, and I'm not a spring chicken (58 years young) anymore!

In lenses, there are hundreds of good possibilities, but two fairly inexpensive lenses that I find I still use a good bit are a 100mm Wide Field Ektar and a 135mm Optar; combine these with a -3 lens for portrait use (the supplimentary lens will degrade the image slightly) and you've got a pretty versatile setup.

Good luck...hope you enjoy LF!

Eduardo Aigner
22-Jun-2005, 17:36
If you prefer metal, just like me, go for a Toyo 45 CF. It is light, easy to use and cheap (600 USD).

Dave Moeller
22-Jun-2005, 18:05
Check out:


for information on enhancing the movements on a Super Graphic. The downside is that Super Graphics just aren't that cheap right now. Check recent eBay completed auctions for some idea of the prices. If you can find one in your price range, though, the modifications outlined on the CameraQuest page might get you what you want.

Good luck.

Dean Tomasula
22-Jun-2005, 18:38
Why go for a wannabe when you can have the real thing?

I'd go for the Shen-Hao if it's in your budget. The rear standard is not a problem to"handle." Whoever told you that never used one. In fact the entire camera is easy to handle and performs well.

You can ocassionally find an SH used, but new ones are only $625 from Badger Graphics or MPEX.

Check ou the Shen-Hao Users Group Forums for all the infor you ever wanted on the camera.


Arthur Q
22-Jun-2005, 18:39
For $450.00 plus shipping from China, you could get a Shen Hao or Tachihara from Midwest (speak to Jim, as everyone will tell you - he is knowledgable, honest and will give you as good a deal as you will get anywhere), AND you will get after-purchase customer support if something goes wrong. As someone famous once said, "The only thing worse than paying too much, is paying too little".

Paul Fitzgerald
22-Jun-2005, 18:46
Hi there,

Look at the GraphicView II, longer than the GraphicView I, all metal mono-rail, axis tilts, all the movements you can use, fairly cheap on ebay and locally. Only drawback is it won't use lenses much shorter then 100mm. The perfect student camera.

Have fun with the hunt.

Nick Morris
22-Jun-2005, 19:21
Hello Yu:

I have a Super Graphic that I used for a number of years before moving to an 8x10. I often thought about buying something else (in 4x5), but could never justify it. I found the Super Graphic a very good camera for a variety uses. From looking at your pictures, I believe you would find it very functional. I have 4 lenses, 100mm & 135mm WF Ektars; a 203mm Ektar, and a 250mm tele-Optar. The Ektars are excellent; the Optar makes a good portrait lenses. I have a nice field setup in a small backpack, which holds the camera, film hoders, a meter; a pack of filters; notebook, etc. I usually carry the 135mm WF and 203mm Ektars. I would recommend the Presslock tripod spacer that is used to provide clearance for rotating the back when on a tripod.

Yu Lu
22-Jun-2005, 21:21
Wow! Thanks for so many suggestions in such a short time. :)

I actually believe an inexpensive mono rail view camera (the old Graphic View, for example) will also be on my shopping list later should I find the lf the way to go. But for now I guess I'd rather stick to a light-weight field camera.

For those who used the old Ektars&optars: will the narrow coverage by these old performers be adequate for the limited movements of super graphic? thanks again for all the replies!

Yu Lu
22-Jun-2005, 21:21
btw, the Kuo's that I mentioned previously is not a "wannabe". Its manufacturer, the Kuo's company, is indeed owned by the original designer of the Shen-Hao GJ model. His name, in Chinese, is Guo Jia-Ping, thus the model name GJ. Just for your reference. :)p

Although I may stick to the Super Graphic for now, I think it worthwhile to let you guys know that the Kuo's 4x5 has the following specs after I called Mr. Guo a week ago. (again, not an ad, just for information purpose)

1. The camera spec: LXWXD=165X165X100mm, weight=2.2kg (4lbs14oz)
2. movements: front rise/fall, tilt/swing, no shift moving; rear tilt/swing.
3. improved stability (compared to Shen-Hao) and simplified rear operation.
4. lens board: linhoff style
5. included items: one lens board (select from copal 0, 1, or 3), one film holder, one focusing hood (around the back to help focusing w/o the black cloth) and one fernesel screen
6. material: hard wood/yellow copper with titanium coating
7. price: Renminbi (Chinese Yuan) 3700, or US$447.
8. time available: if order within a few days (i guess till the end of this week ok), this batch will be completed by the end of july

For the shipping fee. I checked the usps.com, and found that airmail parcel fee from US to China costs around $44, or EMS for around $48. So the total would be ~$500 including shipping fee.

Paul Fitzgerald
22-Jun-2005, 23:30
Yu Lu,

The Ektar 127/4.7 and the Rodenstock 135/4.5-Graphic 1000 just cover straight on, all the rest should give you enough movement with a SuperGraphic. They all have more coverage stopped down. The Raptars / Optars are the same lenses, different name plates, fine performers, under rated and under priced.

Have fun with it.

Edward (Halifax,NS)
23-Jun-2005, 06:44
What tarriffs will they add when the camera comes into the US? Also, I am surprised that shipping is so low. I expected it to be much higher.

Yu Lu
23-Jun-2005, 09:14

You may be right about the tariff thing since I didn't think about this... also, for the shipping, they just said that I could estimate based on the package weight (~3kg).

Yu Lu
23-Jun-2005, 09:15

Thanks for the info!

Dan Fromm
23-Jun-2005, 11:45

You have to remember that Edward is in Canada and that Canada has different customs rules than the US. If you buy the camera and it is sent by mail from Shanghai, you will probably not have to pay duty. Here's an example: a couple of years ago I imported three aerial cameras, and later four more, from Germany. In both cases, declared values around $US 600. No duty.

Good luck, have fun,

Joseph O'Neil
23-Jun-2005, 11:49
I have three Graphics myself, a Crown, Super Speed and a Graphic II monorail in mint shape. Would not give up on any of them. The monorail is the one for archecture, but I find I use my Super Speed Graphic 90% of the time. Portable, built like a tank, and remember, your lens is just as important as your camera.

The only real drawback, as others have pointed out, is all graphic cameras, especially ones in good shape, command a pretty penny. If you can find one that is. A lot of used Graphics I have seen in the past couple years for sale often look like they need some TLC, if not outright repair.

Good luck, but if you find a decent used graphic, go for it.

Paul Ewins
23-Jun-2005, 16:49
It's strange that people consider any of the Graphic cameras to be expensive. I've been looking at Super Graphics on eBay for the last couple of months in a semi serious way and have seen a number of them in reasonable condition sell in the $250 -$300 range. Sure, you will get dreamers wanting $800+ for a Super Speed Graphic with the 1000 shutter, but nobody seems to be buying them. Granted, a Super D is a pricey beast, but that's the only one.

By comparison, that $300 will buy you a well worn Pentax 6x7 with a lens or maybe the newer version without a lens. I don't check Hasselbald or Rollei prices, but I don't imagine that you'll get more than a bare bones camera there either. Ditto for an F3 etc. When you start comparing LF lenses to MF lenses or the "pro quality" 35mm lenses there's not a lot of difference there either.

Naturally you will pay more at a bricks and mortar store, but you do get a chance to look at it first and usually there wil be a guarantee too. The only part of 4x5 that I have found to be really expensive is colour film and as you tend to shoot less of it even that balances out.

23-Jun-2005, 17:22
Yu, do you happen to know if there are any photos of the Kuo online? I've been planning to buy a Shen-Hao from Badger or MPEX (though I keep postponing by a couple of weeks), but this also sounds interesting.

Yu Lu
23-Jun-2005, 19:29
Hi there,

The Kuo's company link is below.


and here you can find photos of the current batch in production. (there are quite a lot Chinese LF lovers interested in buying these).

Unfortunately, both sites are in Chinese ONLY and I kinda doubt whether you will be able to contact them via phone in English. :p