PDA

View Full Version : New Monorail, a Toho rip-off ?



paul owen
17-Aug-2005, 09:16
Just to prove I ma not a complete Ebony-nut, I thought that some of you may be interested in the latest offering from Shen Hao. It is a metal monorail very similar to the Toho 45. Full details are listed on Robert White's web site (www.robertwhite.co.uk) .

Specifications SR45 II
Camera Type Lightweight 5x4 monorail type camera
Materials Used Anodised alloy and steel
Format Standard 4x5 inch spring back. All International Standard sheet film holders may be used : Polaroid 405, 545, 550.

Focusing Rear only by Rack and Pinion
Lensboard Circular type
Camera Back Standard spring back, ground glass with 10mm grid
Movements With film back in landscape orientation:
Shift: Front 18mm left and right. Rear: 20mm left and right.
Rise: 24mm
Fall: Front 21mm. Rear 6mm
Tilt: 30
Swing: 25 each way.
With film back in Portrait orientation:
Shift: Front 18mm each way. Rear 20mm each way.
Rise: Front 13mm. Rear 24mm.
Fall: Front 32mm. Rear 6mm.
Tilt: 30.
Swing: 25.
Bellows Extension 46-360mm
Weight 1.5Kg

Best of all is the price ... a shade over 500 plus VAT!

Scott Schroeder
17-Aug-2005, 09:21
Looks just like my TOHO FC45X...............

John_4185
17-Aug-2005, 10:26
It does not have a Universal back, does it? What a shame if that's true.

tim atherton
17-Aug-2005, 10:40
I don't think the Toho does etiehr does it? It's how you save weight - the universal back is nice and occassioanlly ahndy, but it's an extra bunch of weight and bulk that can be done away with in the compromise for weight savings

Bruce Watson
17-Aug-2005, 11:09
That is a complete and utter ripoff of the Toho. At that price, I doubt it's under license. If it's not, it's theft, pure and simple.

If we don't give companies like Toho a chance to make a profit on their R&D investment, they aren't going to invest any more effort in LF. Why would they? It's unethical, immoral, and just plain bad to support a company what steals another company's design.

Mike Gudzinowicz
17-Aug-2005, 11:46
Are the cameras identical and made by one manufacturer with different distributors?

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 11:47
Bruce beat me to the punch on this one, and I agree with everything he said 100%. This camera is a blatant copy of the Toho FC-45X. They didn't just copy the design, they cloned it. Of course, without testing the camera, I have no idea if the materials, fit and finish and overall quality are as good as the Toho. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. To me, it doesn't really matter. I'd rather support an innovative company like Toho than save a couple hundred bucks and support a company that rips-off others' designs.

Not only does such blatant copying hurt Toho, it hurts all of us in the long run. If this is allowed to continue, and is supported by members of the large format community, it will stifle innovation in LF camera design. What incentive will there be for Toho to come out with a new improved model if a lower priced clone appears on the market six months later? And if that's true for Toho, it's also true for other camera makers as well, and that's really sad. I love to see new, creative designs, like the Toho, the Canham DLC, the Wehman, the Linhoh Technikardan, etc. appear on the market. Even though we won't all buy these particular models, we all benefit from the competition between these manufacturers trying to one-up each others' latest and greatest design. This competition to design and build a better camera can works best when there is a level playing field. Stealing somebody else's design is not my idea of a level playing field.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 11:49
Are the cameras identical and made by one manufacturer with different distributors?

No, the original is made in Japan and the clone is made in China.

Kerry

paul owen
17-Aug-2005, 12:18
Shen Hao are known for ripping off other designs. I am pretty sure there was a legal "battle" with Ebony over the non-folding Shen Hao which was an exact replica of the 45SW. Shen Hao do not now make their "version". The reason I bought it to the attention of the forum is that it is a cheap camera - the one thing everyone seems concerned about when looking into getting a LF camera - what's it going to cost? As far as not buying Shen Hao, one could argue that at least they are ploughing ahead and producing affordable cameras - how many contributors here have shown an interest in the ULF cameras that they have in the pipeline? Should we not support a company that is ACTUALLY making LF cameras and equipment. I'm not suggesting that ripping off people's ideas is a good thing - but don't ALL cars nowadays look the same? As an aside, lurking in the back of my mind is a though that didn't Badger "commission" a copy of the Toho too? Was it the M2? In reply to Kerry's post (whom I deeply respect!) - I believe that manufacturers who are ACTIVE will sell cameras ... maybe Shen Hao got tired of waiting for Toho to bring out an improved model and jumped in with their copy? The Toho has been around for some time now and remained unchanged, maybe if Toho were "actively" designing/producing cameras then such blatant copying would be less likely? I'm not sure the price of a new Toho these days? But if Shen Hao are offering an exact copy at a reduced price people are more likely to vote with their wallets. In some respects they are simply giving us what we want - affordable cameras. As for their quality - I am an avid "disliker" of the Shen Hao cameras I have used - for these reasons! Bit it will be interesting to keep an eye on what happens with their latest offering? Just some thoughts.

Matt Powell
17-Aug-2005, 12:25
I e-mailed Badger about their clone right after it was discontinued (Jan. or Feb.), they said there were problems with the supplier. I'm guessing that they were getting them from S-H, or S-H is using Badger's old supplier now.

Ron Marshall
17-Aug-2005, 12:46
I would never knowingly buy stolen camera equipment, no matter how much of a bargain it was.

Essentially the new Shen Hao is stolen goods.

All monorail designs must look similar to some degree, but this is not a case of innovation or modification, or approximation; it is a copy.

Scott Fleming
17-Aug-2005, 12:54
Ron, Kerry and Paul are RIGHT!

Jeff Moore
17-Aug-2005, 13:16
Unfortunately, this is to be expected in today's China. The country is the world's biggest thief when it comes to pirating of software, CDs, DVDs, etc. Words such as patent, copyright, and intellectual property rights have virtually no meaning in China. Which is why (among other reasons) I try to not buy anything made in China.

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 13:19
As far as not buying Shen Hao, one could argue that at least they are ploughing ahead and producing affordable cameras - how many contributors here have shown an interest in the ULF cameras that they have in the pipeline?

Paul,

I'm not calling for a boycott of Shen Hao. I almost added another paragraph to my original post (guess I should have). In addition to cloning other people's designs, Shen Hao is perfectly capable of producing cameras of their own designs. I truly wish they would focus on this area of their business and not devote resources to blatantly copying other people's products. As far as I know the popular HZ45x-AII is an original design. It may have features common to other wooden field cameras (most do), but isn't a blatant copy of anyone else's product. They are also the only company currently producing a 5x12 camera. Again, is has features common to other wooden field camera designs, but as they are the only one making anything in this size, it's obviously not a clone of a competitor's product. I definitely support Shen Hao in their efforts to bring affordable cameras to the market - as long as they aren't blatantly copying anyone else's designs.

Should we not support a company that is ACTUALLY making LF cameras and equipment.

Toho is still in business - making and selling LF cameras. Don't they deserve our support?

I'm not suggesting that ripping off people's ideas is a good thing - but don't ALL cars nowadays look the same?

Many cars may look similar, but they certainly aren't identical. Look at the photos of the Shen Hao SR45 and then compare them to the photos of the Toho FC-45X (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/toho.htm) on my web site. This is not a case of two products that look similar. The SR45 is a blatant clone of the Toho down to every last detail. Most wooden field cameras look similar, but they are not all the same. Most have unique combinations of features/materials/price/quality that set them apart from the others. This is not the case with the Shen Hao clone of the Toho. No effort what-so-ever was made to distinguish the copy from the original.

As an aside, lurking in the back of my mind is a though that didn't Badger "commission" a copy of the Toho too? Was it the M2?

I don't think Badger commissioned it, but they did sell it - briefly. They stopped selling it and removed it from their web site several months ago.

In reply to Kerry's post (whom I deeply respect!) - I believe that manufacturers who are ACTIVE will sell cameras ... maybe Shen Hao got tired of waiting for Toho to bring out an improved model and jumped in with their copy? The Toho has been around for some time now and remained unchanged, maybe if Toho were "actively" designing/producing cameras then such blatant copying would be less likely?

Define active. Toho is still in business and making cameras. The FC-45X IS a new and improved model. Their original ultralight monorail was the FC-45A. It had a completely different rail design (fixed length) and the front and rear function carriers were also different. I believe the FC-45X came out in 1998 or 1999. I got the first one Badger imported into the US - it was in August or early September of 1999. So, it's not that old of a design as far as large format cameras go. It's much newer than the Linhof Technikardan and newer than the Canham DLC. Just because it's a few years old does not give some one the right to blatantly copy it. I have no idea if Toho has any patents on their design, but patent protection typically runs about 20 years (the exact length depends on the type of patent, when it was filed, where it was filed, etc.). Also, Toho HAS introduced a new design, the Toho FC Mini, in the interim. So, the whole argument that Toho is not active in the LF business is nonsense.

I'm not sure the price of a new Toho these days?

$1195 USD.

But if Shen Hao are offering an exact copy at a reduced price people are more likely to vote with their wallets.

Unfortunately, you are probably right. I voted with my wallet and bought a Toho. Of course, that was nearly six years ago - long before the lower priced clone was available. Still, if I was making the purchase today, I'd still pay the difference (~$200) and buy the genuine article - both to get known quality AND support the designer/manufacture whose vision brought us this unique, ultralight field camera.

In some respects they are simply giving us what we want - affordable cameras.

In some respects they are - the HZ45X-AIIA, for example. In other respects, they are ripping off the competition and benefiting from someone else's vision, innovation and R&D costs. I support the former, but not the latter.

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
17-Aug-2005, 13:49
Before we start bashing Shen-Hao in earnest over this, maybe we should consider the fact that, one, there is no mention of the camera anywhere else on the Web, or even on the Shen-Hao web site. It only appears on the Robert White site. Two, Shen-Hao is looking to get out of the low-priced camera business, so why introduce another low-priced camera, particularly after the $1,800 8x10 they just introduced. And three, if this is a Shen-Hao, it would be priced a bit lower than the $950 Robert White has it for, at least here in the US.

Seems that these days any camera made in China is automatically assumed to be a Shen-Hao. Maybe we should find out who makes it before jumping to any conclusions.

Let the flaming begin.....

Nick_3536
17-Aug-2005, 13:51
Why isn't the camera on the Shen Hao website? Even the 5x12 is. It wouldn't be the first camera called a Shen Hao that wasn't.

BTW comparing the Robert White price for the HZX45 IIA the US price for the monorail is going to be a lot less.

Paul Butzi
17-Aug-2005, 14:34
I agree wholeheartedly with Kerry on this one. Examining the photos it's abundantly clear that, regardless of who is manufacturing the camera, it's an out and out copy, right down the the smallest detail.

With regards to saving a little money - remember this: the clone company has a business model which amounts to 'find a profitable product we can manufacture cheaply. Clone it and sell the clones." They are doing no market innovation, they're doing no research. When the large profit margin that they get by cloning camera designs dries up, they'll switch to cloning something else. It might be vacuum cleaners, or electric fence transformers. But they won't be making cameras, and photographers will be the losers.

-Paul

Donald Hutton
17-Aug-2005, 14:51
Dean

"Shen-Hao is looking to get out of the low-priced camera business"

Where did you get that information from?

Brian C. Miller
17-Aug-2005, 15:01
Cloning products has a long tradition.

(from an interview with Harley Davidson's retired head mechanic)

During WWII, the US Army decided that it wanted an opposed twin motorcycle. Indian and Harley-Davidson were asked to produce a prototype. The HD prototype was based on the BMW boxer twin. They bought a BMW, disassembled it, measured it, and then produced their version with all of the nut sizes in SAE instead of metric. Then their head mechanic took it on the train down to the Army's test site. The Army officer wanted the motorcylcle driven across a mostly dried river bed. At that time the venerable Jeep was also in testing, and would lead the motorcycle to tow it out if it got stuck. As both vehicles were crossing the mud, the Jeep got stuck. The mechanic brought the motorcycle to the front of the Jeep, and they tied a rope from the motorcycle to the Jeep. The motorcycle was used to tow out the Jeep, and the mud was sometimes deep enough to cover the cylinders.

The Army went with the Jeep instead of the motorcylce. The mechanic, however, was very impressed with the German design.

Japan, in the late 1800's, imported a steam boat in order to reverse engineer it and produce it for the local market.

And as far as cheap LF is concerned, there is the used market with lots of great deals.

Mike Gudzinowicz
17-Aug-2005, 15:19
>>Are the cameras identical and made by one manufacturer with different distributors?
>
>No, the original is made in Japan and the clone is made in China.
>
>Kerry

Thanks, Kerry. I thought I'd ask since many Japanese products are actually made in
Korea, China and other SE Asian countries.

Toho may be protected by patents, design patents and copyright, however, it is up to them
to enforce sales restrictions assuming they have a legal basis to do so. Does anyone know
their position or even if they are aware of the clone?

Some time ago I found out that I was the author of three analytical chemistry books
translated into Chinese without my permission. Since they were ten years out of date
by that time, I felt flattered by the theft, but really questioned their judgement. Since
the books aren't exported, there's little that I can do other than update my resume.

Mike

Amund BLix Aaeng
17-Aug-2005, 15:28
It`s not listed on Shen-Haos website, it could be that Robert White has made a mistake....

Ron Marshall
17-Aug-2005, 15:46
It could be that Shen Hao hasn't updated their website yet.

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 16:25
Before we start bashing Shen-Hao in earnest over this, maybe we should consider the fact that, one, there is no mention of the camera anywhere else on the Web, or even on the Shen-Hao web site. It only appears on the Robert White site.

The Shen Hao web site seems to often be out of date, and it's always difficult to navigate. But, you're right, the only reference to this camera is on the Robert White web site. They call it a Shen Hao SR45-II. I would expect them to know who they are getting the camera from.

In any case, I never even mentioned Shen Hao in my original post. Whether the camera is made by Shen Hao, distributed by Shen Hao, or has nothing to do with Shen Hao has no bearing on my feelings on the blatant copying of another companies product. It's wrong and destroys innovation, no matter who's doing it. I'm not bashing any particular company, just objecting to a practice I find offensive.

Two, Shen-Hao is looking to get out of the low-priced camera business, so why introduce another low-priced camera, particularly after the $1,800 8x10 they just introduced.

That's the first I've heard of this. What is your source for this information? Does this mean they are going to discontinue their HZ45X-AII? Seems like an odd business decision as it's no doubt their biggest seller by far. Their main competitive advantage is their low prices. Seems like an unusual decision to throw this advantage away when it's what got their foot in the door in the US LF market in the first place. Of course, it wouldn't be unprecedented. Kodak has made many similar decisions in recent years to throw away their competitive advantages in one area in favor of competing in other areas where they clearly have no such advantages. In any case, this is a separate issue from blatantly copying a competitor's product.

And three, if this is a Shen-Hao, it would be priced a bit lower than the $950 Robert White has it for, at least here in the US.

I'm not sure how this is relevant. Robert White's price on the HZ45X-AII is also a lot higher (~$895) than what it sells for in the US.

Seems that these days any camera made in China is automatically assumed to be a Shen-Hao. Maybe we should find out who makes it before jumping to any conclusions.

Agreed, but it matters little to me. I have no axe to grind in the Shen Hao vs. The World debate. It is the general practice of ripping of a competitor's product by blatantly copying it that offends me - no matter who is doing it. I'd be just offended no matter who was doing the copying.

Let the flaming begin.....

I see no "flaming" in this thread - just people expressing their opinions. It is possible to disagree, even in an online forum, without resporting to insults, foul language and personal attacks.

Kerry

e
17-Aug-2005, 16:28
I think Shen-hao is going to take over a very large part of the LF market in the next few years. They have a 7x17 coming out later this year for $2700.00 in teak and titanium. The 12x20 due in after that probably won't be much more. Who will compete with these prices? Canham? Wisner? Ebony? I don't think so. There will be some LFer's who vote with their pocketbook but most will not. Some LF companies will either experience reduced sales in certain lines or go out completely. There is not much anyone can do about it. It's a shame but that's business reality unless the smaller companies turn up the heat by new patented innovations, increased quality or lowered price points. Emile/www.deleon-ulf.com

Nick_3536
17-Aug-2005, 16:35
Kerry if you look at all the cameras Shen Hao has released in the last year or two none of them are low priced. They are all more expensive then the low end cameras. Any one buying the 5x12 is going to spend a fair bit for just film holders. The cameras are cheaper then something from Ebony but they aren't low priced. In every case you could get something from Tachihara for less money. No one is buying the new models on price.

Dean Tomasula
17-Aug-2005, 16:49
Kerry,

I agree with you concerning the baltant rip-off of someone elses design. I sincerely hope Shen-Hao is not involved in this.

"I see no "flaming" in this thread - just people expressing their opinions. It is possible to disagree, even in an online forum, without resporting to insults, foul language and personal attacks."

Obviously you weren't here for the last Shen-Hao debate that Paul and I participated in.

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 16:50
I think Shen-hao is going to take over a very large part of the LF market in the next few years. They have a 7x17 coming out later this year for $2700.00 in teak and titanium. The 12x20 due in after that probably won't be much more.

Emile,

THIS is what Shen Hao should be concentrating on doing - not blatantly cloning other companies' existing products (if, indeed they are the ones producing or distributing the SR45-II). Still, I'm not ready to concede the large format market to Shen Hao - or anyone else. For one thing, their choice of materials makes their cameras heavier than much of the higher priced competition. Some people will choose to spend more for a lighter camera, or perhaps a camera with a longer bellows, or different features, etc. Those are some of the trade-offs that ensure multiple products from multiple manufacturers in the market.

Who will compete with these prices?

Jim Chinn's new 7x17 will supposedly be lower priced AND include two film holders in the price of the camera. Richard Ritter's new 7x17 is only $300 more, but at 10 lbs. will be significantly lighter than the 7x17 Shen Hao (heck, it's over a pound lighter than the 5x12 Shen Hao). So, still plenty of room for competition. And this brings us full circle to my original argument - healthy competition is good for the marketplace. It drives innovation and drives down prices. Better products at lower prices are good for the consumers, but also good for the industry as more people enter the market as the cost of entry is less. Blatant copying of your competitor's products is NOT healthy competition. If Shen Hao, or anyone else, can take over a large share of the market because they have better products and/or lower prices more power to them - as long as they can do so without cloning other people's products. Theft is not a form of "healthy competition".

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 16:57
No one is buying the new models on price.

Isn't the 5x7 Shen Hao about the same price as the Tachihara? This makes it basically tied for the lowest priced new 5x7 camera on the market. Also, I'd guess they sell a LOT more 4x5 cameras than all the other formats combined. So, while their large format cameras may not be the cheapest on the market, they still derive a large portion of their income from "low priced" cameras and roll film backs. I don't se them abandoning these low priced products anytime soon. In fact, I think it would be foolish to do so as the profits made on these products can be re-invested in DEVELOPING (not just copying) new higher-end products.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 17:05
Obviously you weren't here for the last Shen-Hao debate that Paul and I participated in.

Different thread, different topic.

As I said, I'm not here to bash any particular brand, or get in a shouting match with any fellow forum participants. The only reason I jumped in here with both feet is that somebody (perhaps Shen Hao, perhaps not) is producing and selling a blatant copy of the Toho FC-45X. Even if I didn't own a Toho, I'd be offended by this practice. I'd be just as outraged if it was a Canham DLC or Linhof Technikardan that had been cloned. I just wanted to point out that purchasing such blatant copies, while it may save you a couple hundred bucks in the short term, hurts the LF market in the long run. That, and not reviving some old Brand A vs. Brand B flame war, was my whole point.

Kerry

Nick_3536
17-Aug-2005, 17:09
The difference is the Shen Hao requires paying Fedex to ship it from China. My Fedex bill was over $200 IIRC. I don't know what Badger would charge but I bet it'll be less. Also the Tachihara prices seem to have crept up lately. I'd blame it on the weak US dollar but the Yen hasn't been that strong.

Dean Tomasula
17-Aug-2005, 17:28
Kerry, et al:

I am not here to revive any old flame wars, on this topic or any other.

My whole point was that there seems to be a rush to judgement when it comes to Shen-Hao and this notion that the company blatantly rips off other manufacturers' designs and sells them as their own. Their own designs like the HZX454-IIA and the HZX57-IIAT seem to be overlooked or dismissed in favor of bashing the company and branding them as evil. I think this is unfair treatment for any company, particularly since the accusation is unproven.

If it turns out that this camera is in fact a Shen-Hao, is in fact a blatant detail-for-detail copy of the Toho monorail and manufactured without the consent or license of Toho (or anyone else), I'll be the first to denounce Shen-Hao. But until we know for a fact that Shen-Hao is trying to sidestep the R&D process and just stealing other designs, we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

If it turns out that they are blatantly copying other proprietary designs, then its OK to demonize them and we should protest by not buying their products.

Donald Hutton
17-Aug-2005, 17:44
Dean

In case you hadn't noticed, there's a pattern here:

1. The camera under discussion which appears to be a "copy" of a Toho.

2. The newly announced 8X10 FCL810-A which appears to be an exact "copy" of Dick Phillips' 8x10 (which is quite a revolutionary design, so there's no confusion here).

3. The TFC45, now discontinued is an Ebony SW45 "copy" - Hiromi evolved this design over many years (Shen Hao did completely cocked it up - they didn't realize that the bellows were the key to the design being "useful")

In addition, the HZX810-IIAT is pretty much a clone of the Ebony SV810 - although the design issues here may not be quite as clear as the other three examples, because the SV810 is a "more generic" design than the other three.

You don't see a pattern here Dean?....

Oren Grad
17-Aug-2005, 18:08
The newly announced 8X10 FCL810-A which appears to be an exact "copy" of Dick Phillips' 8x10 (which is quite a revolutionary design, so there's no confusion here).

Don, it's not an exact copy, not by a long shot. The front standard is structurally different, and there are many other differences of greater or lesser significance in the execution of the design. I have little doubt that it's a ripoff of Dick's cameras because the elements that are borrowed are so distinctive to the Phillips design, but overall the new 8x10 isn't a direct clone in the same way as the new Toho copy seems to be.

Donald Hutton
17-Aug-2005, 18:45
That's fair enough Oren - I actually have not seen one in the flesh yet, and while I don't own a Phillips, I do admire them both for the innovative design and craftmanships with which Dick builds them. My comments were based around viewing a web sized image of the knock-off and memory of the last time I saw a Phillips. I have however compared the TFC45 to an Ebony SW45 and it is an exact copy - mm to mm - with both inferior workmanship and materials.

My point was really that Shen Hao are in the business of stealing ideas... This camera is not their first attempt. I'm astounded that Dean has a view of the company which is different from "a company which blatantly rips off other manufacturers' designs and sells them as their own".

Oren Grad
17-Aug-2005, 19:22
Don - Yes, I too share the concerns that Kerry spelled out so well.

Frank Petronio
17-Aug-2005, 19:25
I don't condone the Chinese copies, but it is ironic to see the Japanese getting ripped off for a change. Anyone remember the Canon and Nikon rangefinder copies of Leicas and Contaxes? The Toyo G plastic knob version of the Sinar Norma? The Toyo version of the Super Graphic? The Rittereck - faux 5x7 Technika? Or the hybrid Linhof L-standard and Sinar F = Horseman? It serves the Japanese camera industry right!

FWIW, the China machinists seem to be making some inventive and useful little LF gadgets judging by the Panoramic Roll backs, Linhof Technika Focusing Lensboards, Sinar to Technika Adapters, and faux-Telefinders listed on eBay. Some of them might be copiers but others are pretty innovative.

Mark_3899
17-Aug-2005, 20:18
I don't condone the Chinese copies, but it is ironic to see the Japanese getting ripped off for a change. Anyone remember the Canon and Nikon rangefinder copies of Leicas and Contaxes? The Toyo G plastic knob version of the Sinar Norma? The Toyo version of the Super Graphic? The Rittereck - faux 5x7 Technika? Or the hybrid Linhof L-standard and Sinar F = Horseman? It serves the Japanese camera industry right!

Good point!

In reading this thread I suddenly realized that I haven't seen Eugene Singer's name in months. Anyone know what happened to him?

tim atherton
17-Aug-2005, 21:14
"The Toyo version of the Super Graphic? "

I always understood Toyo paid for that/bought the jigs/parts etc? all they did over time was change most of the nuts and bolts to metric

Frank Petronio
17-Aug-2005, 21:41
Yeah, I know Graflex sold their tooling to Toyo when they got out of the business. I don't know the histories of the other manufacturers, but it seems like emerging industrial super-powers need to go through a copy-cat phase - before they mature and surpass their mentors.

When I was in China last year the photo magazines were full of Linhof, Leica, Alpa and other European camera porn (the best word to describe it) and I think a lot of the newly rich Chinese have a fetishism for nice cameras. They don't like Japanese brands as much, but that is more of a historical hatred of all things Japanese.

In fact, I bet the Chinese especially don't lose any sleep about screwing a Japanese company...

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 21:48
Frank,

Are any of the examples you mentioned actual clones of the originals? Sharing a few comon features, or even a lens board size is not the same as an exact replica of the original (sorry, I'm not familiar with Leicas and other 35mm rangefinders).

As Tim mentioned, Toyo legally obtained the rights to the Graphic name and design. Perfectly legal and ethical.

The Rittreck/Wista, while it is a metal technical camera, is not an exact copy of the Linhof. The model you refer to did not have a rangefinder, had totally different back movements, came in different sizes and I believe took different lens boards than the Linhof (unlike current Wistas - and many other field cameras). It also had a shorter max. bellows extension. In short, it was a totally different design than the Linhof.

I'm not familiar with the Toyo model you compare to the Sinar Norma, but I have never seen a Toyo that even takes the same size lens boards as a Sinar, let alone is an exact clone.

Finally, as you mention the Horseman monorails share features with multiple cameras. By definition, they aren't a clone of either. And while the Horseman lens boards and bellows may be compatible with the Sinar cameras, the rails and standards are not.

The SR45-II being discussed in this thread didn't just borrow design elements or features from other cameras, it is an EXACT copy of the Toho. You could take each and every part from the SR45-II and use it as a replacement on a genuine Toho. It truly is a clone and a blatant rip-off of the original design.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 21:55
In fact, I bet the Chinese especially don't lose any sleep about screwing a Japanese company...

But that doesn't mean we have to help them do it by supporting blatant rip-offs of innovative designs. If we do, we end up screwing ourselves in the long run and get what we deserve when there are no new innovative designs coming to market.

Kerry

tim atherton
17-Aug-2005, 22:05
this is the toyo super graphic - which was pretty obviously made with singer graflex parts/machining - had a chance to buy one once - whish I had. Handling it "in the flesh" it is almost identical to the super graphic

http://www.cosmonet.org/camera/super.jpg

according to the site, singer graflex stopped production in 73 and Toyo started the Super Graphic in 79 (to 85), which sounds about right

http://www.cosmonet.org/camera/super_e.htm

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 22:16
One nice side effect of Toyo buying the rights to the Super Graphic design is that they continue to offer new, well-made Graphic lens boards (I have a couple and they fit my Crown Graphic perfectly) and lens board adapters. I'm not sure, but I think they still service the Toyo Super Graphics and stock spare parts. At least they did a few years ago.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
17-Aug-2005, 23:14
P.S. The problem of conterfeit Chinese products is certainly not limited to large format cameras. Software piracy is rampant in China, and Chinese companies rip-off designs and violate patents in other industries as well. Before anyone calls me racist or anti-Chinese, please don't shoot the messager. I have nothing against Chinese companies or products, as long as they play by the same rules as everyone else. When anyone, regardless of nationality, starts ripping-off other people's designs and violating patents, I have a problem with it.

Here's a link (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/236892_snowshoe17.html) to a story about Chinese made counterfeit outdoor gear.

Kerry

QT Luong
18-Aug-2005, 01:59
So would you never buy the product from other than the legitimate innovator, or would you still consider buying
from the copycat if the price difference was large enough, or if, in another context, the unethical company managed to achieve quasi-monopoly ?

It is not that sure that buying from the copycat would in the long run stiffle innovation. One could argue that if the innovator do not have the means to compete on price with the copycats, its only way to fight back would be to keep innovating so as to present a "moving target".

paul owen
18-Aug-2005, 02:15
Not wishing to get into the politics of selling/buying to the Chinese, the crux of this appears to be that (agreed) the Chinese are happy to blatantly copy good ideas. However, if these copies are of comparable quality then chances are people will buy them. I am not "up" on Toho cameras - I didn't realise that they had upgraded their 45! But maybe that's part of the problem? Toho appear to be a "quiet" company. They are not "seen" or advertised in many places - maybe this elusiveness gives the impression that they are NOT an active/innovative company - otherwise wouldn't they have a "range" of cameras that most photographers were familiar with? Despite the fact that I personally dislike Shen Hao (for quality reasons) I must admit a little admiration for the fact that they are "doing the business" so-to-speak!

John_4185
18-Aug-2005, 06:06
QT Luong: "It is not that sure that buying from the copycat would in the long run stiffle innovation. One could argue that if the innovator do not have the means to compete on price with the copycats, its only way to fight back would be to keep innovating so as to present a "moving target"."

Presuming first that the product in question is covered by patents, yours argument is merely excuse for theft, and of course theft is not justified in certain economies.

The spirit of patent protection is to encourage innovation, and to help cover R&D investments by giving the inventor certain temporary exclusive rights. If the innovator hasn't the means to compete on price, then it probably doesn't have the means to continue innovating! R&D is expensive.

The Chinese development model is, in part, government Sponsored and Supported business, where the government will underwrite not-so-short-term losses in order to overwhelm the business models of some other economies, such as found in the West and from there we get into global political arguments, virtual economic wars.

Dean Tomasula
18-Aug-2005, 07:03
It looks like our beloved Shen-Hao may unfortunately be on the wrong side of this argument.

I e-mailed Robert White to find out if indeed the camera is a new Shen-Hao or just a misprint on their web site.

Here's Matt Sampson's response:

>Dear Dean

>Thank you for the email. It is definitely a Shen Hao. Like many things in this world it is a Chinese 'version' of >the Toho. It doesn't have quite the same quality of finish but works just as well. It is supplied with a single >Copal 1 panel.

>If I can help further let me know.

>Regards
>Matt

The e-mail however doesn't explain if the camera is a "legal" copy or just a blatant rip off, though it intimates the latter. It seems the consensus here also is blatant rip off. I'm still holding out hope you guys are wrong on this.

Frank Petronio
18-Aug-2005, 08:39
It sounds a lot like those $35 North Face jackets...

Sal Santamaura
18-Aug-2005, 08:51
"I'm still holding out hope you guys are wrong on this."

After 27 years of approximately 100-mile round trip commutes, observing all the bumper stickers displayed on other vehicles, my favorite read as follows:

"I feel much better since I gave up hope"

Mike Cockerham
18-Aug-2005, 08:54
Is anyone familiar with the history of Apple and Windows. It was a direct ripoff of the IBM windows system. So are we going to throw away our computers.

The Japanese have been backwards engineering products for years and American companies do it to, it is called industrial espionge.

Mike

John_4185
18-Aug-2005, 09:12
Mike: "Is anyone familiar with the history of Apple and Windows. It was a direct ripoff of the IBM windows system. So are we going to throw away our computers. "

Yes, I am familiar with it and you are clearly not! Apple's Macintosh was, of course, the first commercial system with true windowing, and Apple got it from a Xerox PARC and paid Xerox for it. The mouse was an invention made ten or fifteen years earlier at Stanford. Apple also commissioned Sony to invent the small 'floppy' disc.

I'd say if you can't get your history straight, maybe you should return to the command-line.

John_4185
18-Aug-2005, 09:16
oops - Apple had the Lisa before the Mac. Same difference, but more reasonably priced. :) The current Macintosh is Jobs' reworked 1985 NeXt interface over BSD Unix. No relation to either Apple or IBM.

Finally, who do you think own the IBM PC now? China!

Ed Richards
18-Aug-2005, 09:21
Just to stay really off topic, the Xerox Star was the first, running Smalltalk, which both Microsoft and Apple used for their windows systems. The original mouse had 3 buttons.

Back on topic - how long has the Toho been out? The big difference between patent and copywrite is that patent is intended to be a limited protection. While it has been extended a lot over the years, it was only intended to give an edge to a new design.

fred arnold
18-Aug-2005, 10:37
An obvious, and probably idiotic, question:

If you're going to make a copy/knock-off of a camera, why not copy Burke & James (or Deardorff) in LF-wood, or Graflex SuperGraphics, in metal/technical cameras? They sell well on the used market, are instantly identifiable, and there is no parent company to go yelling to their local version of The Feds about being copied. I have a hard time believing (though I'm undoubtedly wrong) that Toho has such a large and loyal following, that it's worth copying a design from a live, lawer-equipped, company, as opposed to a classic with identical functionality but no political heft.

On the other hand, I don't make my living building cameras, so maybe nobody would buy a brand-new B&J at Shen-Hao prices.

Bruce Watson
18-Aug-2005, 10:47
Another data point. I emailed Robert White about this, and got an email reply from Mark Sampson, a Robert White employee I presume.

He says that this is definitely a Shen Hao, and that the Shen Hao copy is not made under license. There is no doubt that this is an illegal copy. And that Robert White knows this and apparently doesn't care.

Shame on Robert White. This is not the behavior I need from them if they want to do business with me. Because if they are perfectly willing to screw Toho, what will they do to their customers?

Bruce Watson
18-Aug-2005, 11:03
It is not that sure that buying from the copycat would in the long run stifle innovation. One could argue that if the innovator do not have the means to compete on price with the copycats, its only way to fight back would be to keep innovating so as to present a "moving target".

QT, I beg to differ. It is, in fact, well documented that design theft does stifle innovation. This is the foundation upon which the patent system was built. The purpose of a patent is to give the innovator an opportunity to make enough money to payoff their R&D and to make some profit on top of that -- to incent innovation.

It's easy to make a low cost copy of someone else's design. If you didn't expend any R&D, then you don't have to pay off any R&D, therefore your expenses are lower. You can see that how unfair that is, can you not? And this is the unfairness that patent system was designed to correct.

Paul Butzi
18-Aug-2005, 11:42
It is not that sure that buying from the copycat would in the long run stiffle innovation. One could argue that if the innovator do not have the means to compete on price with the copycats, its only way to fight back would be to keep innovating so as to present a "moving target".

And what will the original innovator use for capital to fund this ongoing innovation if not the proceeds of past innovations?

Or, to put it rather bluntly, I hope you won't mind if I take your entire library of wonderful images and start marketing them at a very low price and keeping the proceeds, Tuan. Look at the bright side - the fact that you're not making any money from them any more just means that you'll have to keep innovating so as to present a moving target.

With all respect, Tuan, I think you haven't really thought this through. Intellectual property rights exist in our society not because they benefit the individual (although they do) but because, on the whole, they stimulate innovation and our entire society benefits.

John_4185
18-Aug-2005, 12:01
RE: The question which asks why not copy an expired patent wood camera, or metal field camera, rather than a current camera -- the design of many things is somewhat directed by the tools and material of the time that are most economical. The Toho design reflects such an influence; it uses common, conventional machinery, nothing special, so the recent knock-off by Shen Hao fits off-the-shelf machines so well it's a no-brainer to just copy. OTOH, setting up to make a Linhof Super Technika would be a challenge, and spendy as heck.

Wood cameras - well, we already see how Shen Hao chooses and makes wood parts - not very well at all, IMHO. No disrespect to those who find them pretty, and of course being pretty is not even neccessary to function, but it's very clear why the Shen Hao is a cheap camera - it cannot compete with better craftsmanship.

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 12:22
But maybe that's part of the problem? Toho appear to be a "quiet" company. They are not "seen" or advertised in many places - maybe this elusiveness gives the impression that they are NOT an active/innovative company - otherwise wouldn't they have a "range" of cameras that most photographers were familiar with?

Paul,

Toho makes two 4x5 models, a 5x7 and an 8x10, along with several accessories. No, they don't advertize in any photo magazines that I know of, but then neither does Shen Hao. They do have a web site that describes their products and they publish printed brochures. How much or little a company spends on advertising and marketing should have no bearing on whether or not it is legal and ethical to rip-off their designs.

Despite the fact that I personally dislike Shen Hao (for quality reasons) I must admit a little admiration for the fact that they are "doing the business" so-to-speak!

Ironically, Shen Hao's advertising and marketing strategy is also a near copy of Toho's. They don't advertise in any photo magazines, but instead depend on a few dealers and end users to spread the work about their products. In fact, they have relied on the exact same dealers Toho used to intruduce their products in the US (Badger Graphic) and Europe (Robert White). An interesting parallel, but it still doesn't change the fact that stealing a competitor's design and selling lower priced knock-offs is unethical, potentially illegal and harmful to the companies that actually spend time and money on R&D to bring better products to market.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 12:35
Like many things in this world it is a Chinese 'version' of >the Toho. It doesn't have quite the same quality of finish but works just as well.

He says that this is definitely a Shen Hao, and that the Shen Hao copy is not made under license.

It seems the consensus here also is blatant rip off. I'm still holding out hope you guys are wrong on this.

Dean,

Time to wake up and smell the coffee. It is not "you guys" who are in the wrong here. Shen Hao definitely crossed a line this time and should not be rewarded for this behavior. I've often recommended their HZX45-AII as a good entry-level 4x5 for those on a limited budget. Given their current business practices, I can no longer recommend their products. Too bad, there is a definite need for affordable entry-level large format cameras. Shen Hao got their start by doing a good job fulfilling that need. Choosing to rip-off other companies' designs is a BAD business decision IMHO and a business model I choose not to support.

Note: I'm not calling for a boycott of Shen Hao. In a free market, people are allowed to make their own buying decisions. We're all adults who are capable of making our own decisions and understanding the consequences of those decisions.

Kerry

Ken Lee
18-Aug-2005, 12:37
Could it be that Robert White is now selling a Toho re-branded as a Shen Hao ?

Could it be that someone in China has been making the Toho all along - and someone in marketing decided to sell the same camera, with a few changes, under a different brand ?

I don't have a clue, but such things happen all the time, by mutual agreement. Products are designed in one place, manufactured in another, assembled at another, and "branded" in yet another.

When I visited Mexico I was amused to see advertisements for a soap called "Nordika", which I had know as "Irish Spring" in the USA... Heaven knows what they call it in Norway or Ireland ;-)

Has anyone bothered to ask Robert White ?

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 12:40
He says that this is definitely a Shen Hao, and that the Shen Hao copy is not made under license. There is no doubt that this is an illegal copy. And that Robert White knows this and apparently doesn't care.

I find this very disappointing. What are the folks at Robert White thinking? I've been a customer of their's in the past, always reiieved excellent, friendly and prompt service and have ethusiastically recommended them to others. The choice to sell this rip-off of the Toho design seems totally out of character for them.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 12:45
Has anyone bothered to ask Robert White ?

Ken,

See Dean and Bruce's posts above. They both asked Robert White and were told it is copy of the Toho, not a licensed product. The folks at Robert White even admit that the quality level is not up to that of a geniune Toho. So, it's obviously not made by the same people in the same factory. It is a blatant rip-off of another company's clever design.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 12:50
I have a hard time believing (though I'm undoubtedly wrong) that Toho has such a large and loyal following, that it's worth copying a design from a live, lawer-equipped, company, as opposed to a classic with identical functionality but no political heft.

As a long-time Toho user and supporter, I have a hard time believing Toho sells enough cameras to make stealing their design worthwhile. While I love my Toho for backpacking, it is definitely a niche product (even by large format standards) and clearly not the camera of choice for most large format users or applications. Of course, Toho is a very small company with no US or European distributor. So, perhaps they were an easy target.

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
18-Aug-2005, 12:51
Actually Kerry, I don't think it's time to "wake up and smell the coffee," or Chinese tea in this case, just yet.

Just because one dealer (Robert White) says it's a Shen-Hao, that does not convince me. When I see it on the SH web site and the other dealers start to carry it, then I'll (reluctantly) admit that Shen-Hao are thieves. Until then, I'm still going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 13:20
Just because one dealer (Robert White) says it's a Shen-Hao, that does not convince me.

What motivation would the folks at Robert White have to lie about where they are getting this camera? Especially when they openly admit it is an unlicensed copy of another company's product.

When I see it on the SH web site and the other dealers start to carry it, then I'll (reluctantly) admit that Shen-Hao are thieves.

The Shen Hao web site is usually not up to date. Products are mentioned in the "About Us" section that can't be found anywhere else on the web site. This includes the FCL717-A and the supposedly discontinued TFC45-IIA Ebony clone.

And do you really think other dealers are going to start carrying this camera given the fact that it's a rip-off of a competitor's product and the negative reaction to that fact in this thread? If I was a LF equipment dealer, I wouldn't touch this product with a 10 foot pole (regardless of who it's made by).

If this new Toho clone is indeed a Shen Hao product, the smartest thing for them to do would be to pull it off the market, never mention it on their web site, not attempt to sell it through any other dealers and in the future only manufacture products of their own original designs - not blatant copies of others' products.

Until then, I'm still going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

You are a very forgiving person. This is not the first time Shen Hao has attempted to copy a competitor's product, and as long as people are willing to continue giving them the benefit of the doubt, it probably won't be the last.

From past posts here and on your SHUG forum, I know you're very defensive when it comes to criticism of Shen Hao. You also seem to think there is a large contingent of Shen Hao bashers who miss no opportunity to unjustly criticize Shen Hao products. I can assure you that I am not a member of any anti-Shen Hao faction. In fact, prior to this thread, I have never said anything remotely negative in public or private about any Shen Hao product.

Kerry

paul owen
18-Aug-2005, 13:22
So this seems to be the deal ... Shen Hao HAVE ripped-off Toho (Dean, you may have to accept this unsavoury fact otherwise you will wait a long time to see it on the SH web site!) this is not a first, they ripped off Ebony, now Toho, who's next?

In defence of Robert White, I find it hard to believe that "he knows but doesn't care". His business is to sell cameras, NOT to check that copyright/patents have or have not been infringed!

If it transpires that Toho, as Ebony did, take action to prevent manufacture of this camera then Shen Hao may be forced to stop making it. But whether this will prevent Shen Hao from "borrowing" other manufacturer's designs in the future remains to be seen.

paul owen
18-Aug-2005, 13:43
Woah! I take it all back, the 2 cameras are NOT identical. The Toho has 400mm of bellow extension whereas the SH has only 360mm AND the SH weighs 1.5kg wheras the Toho weighs only 1.4kgs. Phew! We can all relax!

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 14:47
Woah! I take it all back, the 2 cameras are NOT identical. The Toho has 400mm of bellow extension whereas the SH has only 360mm AND the SH weighs 1.5kg wheras the Toho weighs only 1.4kgs. Phew! We can all relax!

Paul,

I assume you were being facetious, but in case your weren't...

The manufacturer's spec for max. bellows extension on the Toho is 364mm. The rail extends to 400mm, but the max. extension is limited by the bellows and the position of the film plane with respect to the end of the rail. On my Toho, I was able to stretch the bellows out to about 390mm, but at that point they were so tight no movements were possible and I was worried I'd rip the bellows from the frames. I wouldn't recommend stessing the bellows like this on a regular basis. 370 - 380mm is a more realistic maximum.

Regarding the weight, I suspect the slight difference is due to materials. Perhaps Toho uses a better grade of aluminum alloy. Also, the ground glass frame on the Toho is made out of some type of plastic - no doubt to save a little weight. Perhaps the counterfeit version uses a diferent, slightly heavier material for this part.

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing this is the same camera Badger Graphic briefly sold as the M2. Intellectual property issues aside, if it is, potential buyers might want to consider the differences in quality of material and construction and if these differences and associated problems are worth saving $200. Here's a couple quotes I found online describing problems with the M2:

"A was getting lots of light leaks in the beginning, and attributed them to my used film holders until, much to my surprise, I took the camera into a darkroom and looked at it with a flashlight inside the belows. My first discovery was leaks in the bellows attachment. At all for corners of the rear board the bellows was not glued down sufficiently. It was a relatively easy fix with super glue once I discovered the problem.

More light leaks were driving me mad, and I discovered that light was leaking through the spring back attachment - though the L-shaped rail that guides the film boards into place."

"I sent back my Badger m2 last week and replacing it with the TOHO. The bellows were coming off the back standard! So Never buy a Badger M2."

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
18-Aug-2005, 15:18
Kerry, I'm glad you're open-minded enough not to totally write the company off because they may have "copied" a camera or two. As someone noted earlier (it might have been you) the HZX45-IIA is a proprietary design, and a cheaply produced one at that.

If indeed this camera is a rip-off of Toho and no dealer will touch it, why is Robert White so eager to sell it? I would think a dealer of their reputation would not want to be involved in promoting intellectual property theft.

paul owen
18-Aug-2005, 15:18
Kerry, you're probably correct - this is most likely a re-badged M2? I also agree with the quality issues of some of Shen Hao's products. Having said that these issues are with the 5x4 field camera - I have had no problems/issues with their roll-film holders. If Badger were "duped" by SH then it is likely that Robert White has suffered similarly?

Kerry L. Thalmann
18-Aug-2005, 15:48
If indeed this camera is a rip-off of Toho and no dealer will touch it, why is Robert White so eager to sell it? I would think a dealer of their reputation would not want to be involved in promoting intellectual property theft.

Dean,

Remember the chronology of the events. My comment about no other dealer touching this camera with a 10 foot pole was based on the negative responses in this thread. The folks at Robert White didn't have the benefit of that feedback when they decided to sell this camera. People make mistakes, and like you, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to correct their error. I'm hopeful that the folks at Robert White will eventually come around and do the right thing. Based on my past experience, I think they will (they're good folks).

Kerry

Donald Hutton
18-Aug-2005, 19:31
Dean

"If it turns out that this camera is in fact a Shen-Hao, is in fact a blatant detail-for-detail copy of the Toho monorail and manufactured without the consent or license of Toho (or anyone else), I'll be the first to denounce Shen-Hao. But until we know for a fact that Shen-Hao is trying to sidestep the R&D process and just stealing other designs, we should give them the benefit of the doubt."

"Kerry, I'm glad you're open-minded enough not to totally write the company off because they may have "copied" a camera or two."

???? You been drinkin'??

Dean Tomasula
18-Aug-2005, 19:42
"???? You been drinkin'??"

No. But it has been a long day.

Donald Hutton
18-Aug-2005, 20:04
You see - everyone needs a darkroom with a big "film fridge"....

QT Luong
19-Aug-2005, 00:24
Or, to put it rather bluntly, I hope you won't mind if I take your entire library of wonderful images and start marketing them at a very low price and keeping the proceeds, Tuan. Look at the bright side - the fact that you're not making any money from them any more just means that you'll have to keep innovating so as to present a moving target.

Well, since you don't have my transparencies, no I don't mind if you travel to the 58 national parks, backpack
for a week in trail-less terrain above the Arctic circle, or down and up from the rim to the River in the Grand Canyon in hot weather, and take exactly the same images that I did and then try to market them for cheaper than I do. Indeed in the while, I'm moving on to a new and ambitious project of a more international nature, and that's OK if I am pushed a bit :-)

More seriously, I am not condoning rip-off of ideas or designs. All I am saying is that I am not so sure it always has an adverse effect on innovation (I am sure in some cases it does) esp. in a context when things move at a fast pace. Even copied by a company that would save on R&D, the innovator still has the advantage of being first to market. During the period before it is copied, it can make more than enough to recoup its R&D and make profits. By the time competitors copy it, it can move to the next big thing. If it cannot, it was just a one-time innovator, and might indeed disappear. This happens all the time in the computer industry. Apple doesn't have the means to compete in price, it's designs are innovative and invariably copied, yet it remains an innovative company.

Many seem to find that aggravating that the copycat company has duplicated the design to the point where
all the parts are even interchangeable between the original design and the copy. I'd say that since they are going
to rip-off a design anyways (which, I repeat, I find unethical) at least by making an exact copy they are not producing incompatibilities. For instance, since I use both systems, I hate it that on Windows cut/paste/copy is activated by Control-X/C/V, while it was, and still is, Alt-X/C/V on the Mac.

paul owen
19-Aug-2005, 02:37
As an aside, I'm just curious as to why the title of my original thread has been changed with the addition of (New Shen Hao Monorail) "a Toho rip-off?" This suggests that I started the thread as a confrontational one as it is well known that I am NOT Shen Hao's biggest fan! I was just making participants in this forum aware of a new camera.

Donald Hutton
19-Aug-2005, 06:51
QT

I think your example of someone having to go and retake every shot you have is not an applicable comparison - how about I buy one copy of each of your images and then copy them and sell them on as my own for much less than you charge? Still feel that would be OK?

Mark_3632
19-Aug-2005, 07:49
In this digital world it is quite easy to rip off an image and mass produce that image under a different name. To imagine otherwise is plain ignorant.

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 07:54
"For instance, since I use both systems, I hate it that on Windows cut/paste/copy is activated by Control-X/C/V, while it was, and still is, Alt-X/C/V on the Mac."

Q.T. you've got that backwards. There is no "Alt" key on a Mac. I've been using them for nearly 20 years (and am using one right now).

Bruce Watson
19-Aug-2005, 08:56
QT,

I don't think you got what Paul meant. I think he meant something more along the lines of seeing one of your prints at a friends, borrowing the print, putting it on the dupe stand under the polarized lights, and make a duplicate on film. Then printing that, and selling it under another name.

That is, you did the foot work of hiking around in trackless wilderness, while someone else sells a copy of your work as their own. Sure, the quality isn't the same, but it's close. And hey, I can under cut your prices because I don't have to finance that trip to Alaska, or pay you for your photoshop work on that image.

That's what we're talking about here. You seem to be OK with that, and I find that attitude puzzling.

Bob Salomon
19-Aug-2005, 10:01
Bruce,

You just described what a gray market dealer does.

he has no investment in the promotion of the product. He does not provide factory trained warranty technicians, he does not provide the factory literature, he maintains minimum or no stock, he trains no dealers, he provides minimum or no technical support and he sells for less then dealers who do support the authorized product.

What is really the difference between a factory copying some other factory's product and a dealer who makes his sales by riding on the coattails of legitimate factory authorized suppliers?

John_4185
19-Aug-2005, 10:17
Bob Salomon: What is really the difference between a factory copying some other factory's product and a dealer who makes his sales by riding on the coattails of legitimate factory authorized suppliers?

That reads like the "Is a glass half-empty or half-full" question. The answer is, "Depends upon whether you are drinking or serving."

Seriously, is not the theft of design more serious? The manufacturer loses everything. In the grey market case, they still make their money regardless. Don't they?

Donald Hutton
19-Aug-2005, 10:31
Bob

Grey market dealers are not "copying" other peoples work - they are providing a reselling service. What they offer typically is better pricing and less service. They import the orginal article and resell it - completely legal. Where there is duty payable, they pay it. Comparing copying of a product to a grey market dealer is ridiculous. Back in the days when it was extremely difficult to ship items abroad for service and communication and shipping was slow and expensive, "authorized suppliers" were a little more relevant. I'm afraid that the global economy has changed that and those who do not change with it will over time, find themselves completely marginalized.

When I buy a grey market Rodenstock lens, it's still a Rodenstock made in their factory in Germany - it's not a copy. The difference is that it is provided to me a little cheaper because I don't derive the benefit of having the after sales "service" available to me on the lens from HP Marketing. I can still send the lens to Germany if I need to (and may even experience faster turnaround....). I am able to buy the "grey market" lens for a saving because I am not supporting the same bunch of intermediaries (which in this case, is of great pleasure to me...).

Paul Butzi
19-Aug-2005, 10:53
Well, since you don't have my transparencies, no I don't mind if you travel to the 58 national parks, backpack for a week in trail-less terrain above the Arctic circle, or down and up from the rim to the River in the Grand Canyon in hot weather, and take exactly the same images that I did and then try to market them for cheaper than I do.

Why should I bother visiting all those parks? That's the 'development' cost, and I want to avoid that.

It would be simpler if I just paid the folks doing your scanning to send a copy to me when they send a scan to you. Or, maybe, when the printing folks make prints for you, they make one and send it to me, I can scan it, and market away.


More seriously, I am not condoning rip-off of ideas or designs. All I am saying is that I am not so sure it always has an adverse effect on innovation (I am sure in some cases it does) esp. in a context when things move at a fast pace. Even copied by a company that would save on R&D, the innovator still has the advantage of being first to market.



So, then, I'm free to have the scanning folks give me copies? And to knock off your website as well?

Apple doesn't have the means to compete in price, it's designs are innovative and invariably copied, yet it remains an innovative company.

Invariably copied? Last time I checked, no one was making iPod clones that were exact matches (down to part interchangability) with Apple iPods. And I'm sure that if some company in China starts doing that, you're going to see some action on Apple's part. Likewise the Mac - seen any Mac clones out there?

We're not discussing copying of design in some general sense, we're talking about either stealing the mechanical drawings or else buying a camera, measuring the parts, and producing a perfect clone.

Bob Salomon
19-Aug-2005, 11:40
"In the grey market case, they still make their money regardless. Don't they?"

The grey market item isn't always sold by a factory to a grey market dealer.

Where there are contracts between the factory and a local distributor in another country the factory would not sell directly to a dealer in that country as that would break the terms of the contract and most factory's are not in business to sell one up items at retail. That is one of the reasons why they have a distributor. The distributor buys in quantity from the factory.

Instead the grey market dealer buys product from a retailer in a country who then repackages the items the grey dealer ordered and exports that package to the dealer or to a grey distributor in the other country. If it went to a grey distributor he then breaks the contents up to ship to grey dealers. If it went directly to the grey dealer then he then breaks the contents down to ship to his customers.

As the profits for a grey dealer are heavily controlled by the exchange rate it is possible when the value of the $ is low that there is no benefit to buying grey.

Currently one grey dealer is selling the Linhof MT Classic for more then the US list price of the camera. At least that is the price on his web site as of yesterday. Of course customers may not always check this and always accept that his price is lower because it was at other times. And, of course, no camera store sells product at the list price. They all discount. So, in this case, the grey camera is several hundred dollars more then the smae cameraa through authorized sources.

Donald Hutton
19-Aug-2005, 12:11
Bob

Sorry, but grey market Rodenstock lenses are Rodenstock lenses. They originate in the same factory and if there are all sorts of legacy marketing arrangements, then so be it. I'd suggest that you spend the time examining how to restructure your business into a more relevant enterprize than bothering with trying to compare grey market products and dealers to patent and copyright infringement.

QT Luong
19-Aug-2005, 12:38
Why should I bother visiting all those parks? That's the 'development' cost, and I want to avoid that.

The "innovation" here is the "vision" if any. It doesn't consist in visiting the parks, which anyone can do. It consists in taking those particular images.

Or, maybe, when the printing folks make prints for you, they make one and send it to me, I can scan it, and market away.

Realistically, the way you would acquire prints would be to buy them full price. Interestingly, I am exploring the
idea of a venture in China, and one of the concerns that came were the possibility of people acquiring prints to
rescan them. This concern was raised by the Chinese partner, as I hadn't thought of the possibility myself.

So, then, I'm free to have the scanning folks give me copies? And to knock off your website as well?

I'll repeat for the THIRD time. I would find that unethical. But even assuming you could do that, you wouln'd put
me out of business. It would take a while for you to gather enough images if you have to wait for prints to be actually available. After knocking off my website, you'd still have to promote it, and it would take you a while to reach half a milion monthly visits. In the while, I will have introduced new features on my site to raise traffic by a few factors.

Likewise the Mac - seen any Mac clones out there?

They copy designs elements, which, as I explaned, I find even more annoying.

Q.T. you've got that backwards.

You're of course right. I use a Microsoft keyboard :-). But you get the idea.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 12:39
The grey market item isn't always sold by a factory to a grey market dealer.

But, it is MADE by the factory. And that's what makes your statement "You just described what a gray market dealer does." incorrect. There is a BIG difference between gray market (parallel import) and black market (counterfeit).

In the case of gray market goods, the products are still made by the same peolpe in the same factory as those that are imported by the official distributor. The difference is not in the product, but in the level of pre and post sales support. Some consumers may not need or want that pre and post sales support and are free to choose to pay less for gray market products.

The Shen Hao clone of the Toho FC-45X being discussed in this thread is a TOTALLY different scenario. The Shen Hao camera is an unauthorized copy (counterfiet) of the original product. This discussion isn't about pre or post sales support, or gray market vs. factory authorized distribution. The Shen Hao SR45-II is not made in the same factory by the same people as the Toho FC-45X. It is not even made in the same country. Toho gets no proceeds from the sale of the SR45-II. In fact, for every SR45-II that is sold, they potentially lose a sale of a FC-45X.

Your implication that gray market goods are the equivalent of counterfeit products is an apples:oranges comparsion and totally misleading. Gray market goods are the genuine article, they just took a diferent path from the factory to the end user.

Currently one grey dealer is selling the Linhof MT Classic for more then the US list price of the camera. At least that is the price on his web site as of yesterday. Of course customers may not always check this and always accept that his price is lower because it was at other times.

Gray market dealers aren't the only one's who rely on uneducated consumers to charge exhorbitant prices.

And, of course, no camera store sells product at the list price. They all discount.

This is getting way of topic, but I am geniunely curious...

So, why then, do will still have this antiquated system of "list prices" in the forms of things like MSRP (manufacturer's suggest retail price) and MAP (minimum advertised price)? The entire system seems designed to confuse the consumer. If the selling price is ALWAYS less than the list price, why even have a list price? Why have things like MAP that prevent dealers from listing their actual selling prices in their ads? I hate those ads that say "call for price". If you can't tell me your price up front, I don't want to waste my time calling you (and all the other dealers whose ads say "call for price").

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 13:12
"The Shen Hao camera is an unauthorized copy (counterfiet) of the original product."

At the risk of getting back on topic here, do we know this for sure? Has anyone contacted Shen-Hao and/or Toho to find out if the alleged Shen-Hao monorail is a counterfeit Toho. Isn't it possible it's a licensed copy? Or are we going to take the word of the one (and apparently still only) dealer in the world who sells this camera.

BTW, Shen-Hao updated their web site. They've included a page with their new 8x10 camera, but curiously, no monorail.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 13:34
Or are we going to take the word of the one (and apparently still only) dealer in the world who sells this camera.

Dean,

Are you calling the folks at Robert White liars? They seem to be the only ones with first hand knowledge of this product. They certainly know where they are getting it. They said they are getting it from Shen Hao and that it's an unauthorized copy of the Toho. As I have seen no evidence to the contrary, I have no reason to suspect they are lying.

BTW, Shen-Hao updated their web site. They've included a page with their new 8x10 camera, but curiously, no monorail.

Yes, but they still have information on the supposedly discontinued non-folding Ebony clone - click on the "Professional Accessory" link and scroll down for phots and specs on this supposedly discontinued product.

Kerry

Bob Salomon
19-Aug-2005, 13:48
"The entire system seems designed to confuse the consumer. If the selling price is ALWAYS less than the list price, why even have a list price? "

A manufacturer or distributor can not tell a dealer what price the item must be sold at. Talk to your government if you want to change that.

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 13:49
"It is definitely a Shen Hao. Like many things in this world it is a Chinese 'version' of the Toho. "

Kerry,

They never said to me that they got it from Shen-Hao and they never said it was an unlicensed copy of the Toho.

They could be mistaken.

Nick_3536
19-Aug-2005, 14:06
The only difference between grey market is people don't think the rights of the legal importer matter. That's it. You can dance around the issue. If somebody pulled a work print out of your trash and turned around and sold it for 10% less then you do it would be no different. Some one would be saving 10% in return for getting a lesser product. Most companies know that they're selling a complete product including after sales support. Grey market products that don't provide the same level of service hurt the company. Every time a grey market buyer doesn't get proper after sales support who do you think gets a bad name? They undercut a companies ability to provide service. Isn't this thread basically about companies not being to provide R&D etc because of knock offs? No difference.

Kerry you're claiming Robert White is selling an illegal copy. You think that a company that would import and sell an illegal copy is above lying? From what is known so far the only people we know who might be breaking the law is Robert White. For all we know the product was commisioned by Robert White and built to thier specs.

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 14:52
Does no one else find it odd that the only dealer of Shen-Hao cameras apparently in the world that has this camera is Robert White? Who doesn't Badger know about it? Why isn't it on the Shen-Hao web site?

"The Shen Hao clone of the Toho FC-45X being discussed in this thread is a TOTALLY different scenario. The Shen Hao camera is an unauthorized copy (counterfiet) of the original product. This discussion isn't about pre or post sales support, or gray market vs. factory authorized distribution. The Shen Hao SR45-II is not made in the same factory by the same people as the Toho FC-45X. It is not even made in the same country. Toho gets no proceeds from the sale of the SR45-II. In fact, for every SR45-II that is sold, they potentially lose a sale of a FC-45X."

I have seen no evidence of this. Where's your proof? Do you know for sure it is an unlicensed copy? Do you know for sure it is not made in the same factory? Is there any evidence of wrongdoing here, or is this just more Shen-Hao bashing? No one has even taken the time to try to find out the answers to these questions, instead they are quick to label Shen-Hao criminals.

Let's try a novel expirement. How about someone in Dorset in the UK take a stroll into Robert White and actually look at the camera in person. See if there is a Shen-Hao label on it anywhere. Take a good look and see if it is in fact a detail-for-detail copy of the Toho. Everyone here is working form a single photograph on the web, not the actual camera.

Ken Lee
19-Aug-2005, 15:02
How about if someone who speaks Chinese, give Shen-Hao a call ?

Or someone who speaks Japanese, call up Toho ?

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 15:06
They never said to me that they got it from Shen-Hao and they never said it was an unlicensed copy of the Toho.

Jeez Dean, in your rush to defend Shen Hao, you seem to have totally ingnored Bruce's post above. Bruce did email Robert White to ask them about thios new Shen Hao Toho clone, and since you missed their response to him, here it is again:

"Another data point. I emailed Robert White about this, and got an email reply from Mark Sampson, a Robert White employee I presume.

He says that this is definitely a Shen Hao, and that the Shen Hao copy is not made under license."

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 15:11
Or someone who speaks Japanese, call up Toho ?

I don't speak Japanese, but I did just send Toho an email asking if the SR45-II being sold by Robert White is an licensed copy of their FC-45X. Give the language difference, time difference and the fact the it's the weekend, I don't expect a response for a few days. When I get it, I'll post what I learned (one way or the other).

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 15:34
Actually Kerry, I didn't miss it. I got a reply from Mark Sampson as well, but he failed to mention these two points to me. He told me it was a Shen-Hao and a Chinese copy. He never mentioned anything about it being licensed or not. It seems to odd to me that a reputable dealer would be so quick to promote and sell an unlicensed copy of a legitimate product. Not only that, but to openly admit that they are selling a counterfeit copy seems suspect.

Look, my point is that this whole deal sounds fishy to me. Here we have a camera that is called a Shen-Hao, but no one knows about it, not even Shen-Hao. Only one dealer has it and they admit that it is a counterfeit. It looks for all the world like a detail-by-detail copy of a Toho, but no one has actually seen one in person yet. If Shen-Hao has been ripping off field camera designs for years, why start with a monorail now? Have they run out of field cameras to copy?

No one has yet provided proof that this is in fact a Shen-Hao camera. It may very well be a Shen-Hao. It could be a legitimate, licensed knockoff, or it could be a blatant counterfeit. But no one here knows for sure yet. Unless someone here is an employee of Shen-Hao, or Toho, we have no way of knowing the truth until Toho sues Shen-Hao for intellectual property theft, Shen-Hao suddenly pulls the camera from the market, or Shen-Hao more widely distributes the camera and it makes it way to other dealers. Then we can actually see one in person and judge whether or not it is a Toho clone.

Yes, Kerry, I do defend Shen-Hao every chance I get. Apparently there are very few of us fans out here. There seem to be plenty of detractors though. But I am not blindly defending the company. If they are proven to be counterfeiters (and by proof I mean real, hard facts, not just the anti-Chinese, anti-Shen-Hao, 'gee their cameras look just like XYZ's cameras' B.S. that passes for proof here) then I'll have to rethink my loyalty to the company. If someone can show me that Shen-Hao's X camera is exactly like Y camera and there is no licensing agreement between Shen-Hao and the other company, or the other company's camera is protected under patent and is not in the public domain, then I'll have to admit Shen-Hao is not operating above board. Until then, I'll remain in the minority here and defend them when necessary.

Yes, I know, I'm a stubborn S.O.B.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 15:37
Does no one else find it odd that the only dealer of Shen-Hao cameras apparently in the world that has this camera is Robert White?

No, not at all. It's a brand new product that Robert White just started carrying. Do you also find it odd other Shen Hao dealers don't carry other Shen Hao products? I see no menetion of the HZX57-IIAT, the SH512-IIAT or HZX810-IIAT on the Badger Graphic, Midwest Photo Exchange or View Camera Store web sites. Just because no other Shen Hao dealer is carrying this new model does not mean it is not a Shen Hao product.

Who doesn't Badger know about it?

Actually, Badger did briefly carry a Chinese made clone of the Toho. They sold it as the Badger Brand M2. They wisely stopped selling it. I sincerely hope Robert White will do the same.

Why isn't it on the Shen-Hao web site?

Are you saying the Shen Hao web site is 100% up to date and lists every product they make, sell or distribute? If so, how do you explain the fact that they still feature photos and specs of their supposedly discontinued non-folding Ebony clone on their web site.

Do you know for sure it is an unlicensed copy?

No, I only know what the people selling it have said and they said:

"this is definitely a Shen Hao, and that the Shen Hao copy is not made under license."

I have also written Toho to ask if the SR45-II is a legally licensed version of their FC-45X.

Do you know for sure it is not made in the same factory?

I do know for a fact that the Toho is made in Japan, but once again I must rely on the dealer selling the SR45-II when they say it is made in China. Do you have any evidence that it is not?

Is there any evidence of wrongdoing here

Yes, actually there is. The people at Robert White have stated that the camera is a Shen Hao and that it is an unauthorized copy. Just how credible that evidence is and whether or not you wish to believe it is totally up to you. Is their proof beyond a shadow of a doubt? No, there is not. However the only evidence we have says that it is a Chinese made Shen Hao camera that is an unauthorized copy of the Toho FC-45X. Do you have any evidence to refute anything the folks at Robert White have said on this issue?

Take a good look and see if it is in fact a detail-for-detail copy of the Toho. Everyone here is working form a single photograph on the web, not the actual camera.

Actually, there are two photos that show the camera from two different angles. The Toho is such a unique design, I can't really believe you can look at those pictures and say the SR45-II is anything but a blatant copy of the Toho FC-45X. You can believe what you want about whether or not it's a Shen Hao, but there can be absolutely no doubt what-so-ever that the camera shown on the Robert White web site as the SR45-II is a COPY of the Toho FC-45X and not an original design.

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 15:38
BTW, I e-mailed Shen-Hao and asked if the SR45-II is their camera and if it's a licensed Toho design.

I'll report their answer, when (and if) I get one.

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 15:50
"Is there any evidence of wrongdoing here
Yes, actually there is. The people at Robert White have stated that the camera is a Shen Hao and that it is an unauthorized copy. Just how credible that evidence is and whether or not you wish to believe it is totally up to you. Is their proof beyond a shadow of a doubt? No, there is not. However the only evidence we have says that it is a Chinese made Shen Hao camera that is an unauthorized copy of the Toho FC-45X. Do you have any evidence to refute anything the folks at Robert White have said on this issue? "

Then why is Robert White selling an illegal product? And why do they openly admit that it is an illegal product?

If Shen-Hoa is wrong to sell a blatant copy of a Toho camera without permission or license, isn't Robert White wrong to sell the same product? Shouldn't they refuse to carry it if they know its an unlicensed rip-off of a Toho? Tells you a lot about their ethics, doesn't it?

"Actually, there are two photos that show the camera from two different angles. The Toho is such a unique design, I can't really believe you can look at those pictures and say the SR45-II is anything but a blatant copy of the Toho FC-45X."

I agree. The photos do show a camera that looks an awful lot like the Toho, down to the smallest detail. But I am not willing to condemn a company based on two photos on the web. If I could see it in person, or get details from someone who has actually seen one, then I could make an informed decision about the product.

Yes, we can agree that the camera looks for all the world like a detail-for-detail copy of the Toho. But that does not prove it's an illegal copy. It may very well be an illegal copy as Robert White says. But until that is proven, I will refrain from condemning Shen-Hao as criminals.

Hopefully our e-mails to Shen-Hao and Toho will help solve the "mystery" one way or the other.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 15:54
Unless someone here is an employee of Shen-Hao, or Toho, we have no way of knowing the truth until Toho sues Shen-Hao for intellectual property theft, Shen-Hao suddenly pulls the camera from the market

Dean,

You seem to apply the criminal standard (proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) to this issue. In fact, in a civil case the standard is different (a preponderence of the evidence) - I know, I served jury duty in federal court a couple months ago.

Obviously, I am not an employee of either Shen Hao or Toho, and even if I was that doesn't mean I would necessarily tell the truth (remember Enron?).

I seriously doubt Toho has the time or the resources to sue Shen Hao over this. Why,? Because they would be a Japanese company suing a Chinese company for selling a product in Great Britain. It would be VERY expensive to pursue this to conclusion through the courts. Unfortunately, it is for this reason that counterfiet products exist. Heck even a company with the financial resources of Microsoft has a hard time preventing people in other countries from selling illegal copies of their software.

Given your conditions (being an employee of Shen Hao or Toho, and/or a verdict in a civil case), I don't think you will ever be satisfied with any evidence showing Shen Hao is wrong in this instance. That's your choice. Just because I disagree certainly doesn't make me anti-Chinese, or even anti-Shen Hao. If they indeed are involved in this, I'd be willing to forgive them if they pulled the SR45-II off the market and went back to making and selling cameras of their own design.

We obviously have two different points of view on this issue. You see Shen Hao as the victim. I see Toho as the victim.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 16:01
Then why is Robert White selling an illegal product? And why do they openly admit that it is an illegal product?

Dean,

There is a difference between "unauthorized copy" and "illegal". Perhaps Toho didn't bother to patent their design in Great Britain. Even if the copying doesn't violate the letter of the law, it violates the spirit of intellectual property rights. Just because something is unethical doesn't necessarily make it illegal. I have not called the folks at Shen Hao criminals. I do, however, object to blatantly copying the the designs of others, even when there is a loophole that makes it technically legal to do so.

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 16:08
Kerry, I don't think we are so far off on this one.

If it can be shown that Shen-Hao is doing something unethical (namely selling an unlicensed copy of the Toho) I'll be the first to condemn them and call for them to withdraw the camera from the market.

My conditions are not so stringent. All I ask is that either Shen-Hao acknowledge the camera is not a licensed copy, or that they in fact made it under license from Toho (I don't think I'll hold my breath for this one however), Toho acknowledge that their design was ripped-off without permission (they don't need to sue for this, just a statement here or a press release will do), or someone actually gets a look at the camera in person and reports back as to the "Toho-ness" of the design (they do not need to be a Shen-Hao or Toho employee).

We're all going on third-hand evidence here. Until someone sees the camera in person, or one of the companies either admits to or complains about the "alleged" infringement, I think we should give Shen-Hao the benefit of the doubt.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 16:16
Hopefully our e-mails to Shen-Hao and Toho will help solve the "mystery" one way or the other.

Assuming both are truthful in their responses.

Rather than continue to beat this poor deceased equine, I'm willing to wait for the responses from the two companies.

The dispute seems to involve three issues:

1) Is the SR45-II shown on Robert White's web site a Shen Hao product (to me that means is Shen Hao involved in any way in the manufacture, sales or distribution of this product) ?

2) Is the SR45-II an authorized copy of the Toho FC-45X?

3) Is the SR45-II a blatant detail-for-detail copy of the Toho FC-45X? There seems to be less contention on this popint ("Yes, we can agree that the camera looks for all the world like a detail-for-detail copy of the Toho").

So, I think the real keys are 1) and 2) - and if it turns out Shen Hao isn't involved AND it is an unauthorized copy, then the issue becomes who is behind this and are they planning to copy other LF camera designs.

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 16:25
Kerry you're claiming Robert White is selling an illegal copy.

Nick,

NO, I AM NOT! Please don't put words in my mouth. I never accused Robert White of doing anything illegal. I have no idea if Toho has any legal protection (patents, or otherwise) on their FC-45X in Great Britain. Even if this camera is an unauthorized copy of the Toho product, that doesn't necessarily make it illegal to sell it in Great Britain. I may find it personally offensive to sell a blatant copy of another company's products without paying a licensing fee or royalty to the orignal designer, but that is a long way from accusing anyone of breaking the law. I personally would never buy such a product, even if it was technically legal, but that just my personal choice - not the law of the land.

Kerry

paul owen
19-Aug-2005, 16:27
I think Dean is being very naive! It obvious that ShenHao have cloned the Toho! They already cloned an Ebony - a fact ... proven! If you want proof from Shen Hao don't rely on their site - you'll wait a heck of a long time for their web-site to be updated ! But have they actually done anything illegal? That is the important question! It would appear that in today's consumer-driven world that it is "accepted" that copies will be made of all sorts of things, from watches to clothes and cameras! But if patents are not filed and copies don't break the law then its a free marketplace - whether we like it or not. Yes its morally wrong, but in all honesty can you see the LF world rushing to knock down Shen Hao's door to buy cheap, (often) poor quality equipment - I think probably not. I'm fairly sure that Toho will not suffer from the latest offering from Shen Hao. Word gets around, potential camera buyers ask for opinions (on forums like this) and products get withdrawn (like the Badger M2). At the end of the day, if Shen Hao have, in your personal opinion, broken a moral code then don't buy their goods - simple! But if you want cheap, large format cameras (with some quality issues) and have little or no conscience or concern about world trading practices then you have one choice.

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 16:27
Exactly.

As I've said, on point #3 we agree. It looks to me like an exact duplicate of the Toho as well.

The main point is if its an unlicensed copy, who is behind it. It doesn't matter if its Shen-Hao, or Canham, or Wisner, or (dare I say it?) Ebony. Unlicensed copying, while technically not illegal, is highly unethical. In the end it hurts the entire market, both manufacturer and consumer.

However, if Robert White had identified the camera as a Layton, or a Linhof, rather than a Shen-Hao, would we still be having this discussion? I wonder. It probably would have rated a reply or two or three, but that's it. However, it seems when it comes to Shen-Hao, there are very strong feelings on both sides of the argument, which leads to these marathon threads.

At least this time Paul and I weren't yelling at each other.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 16:34
A manufacturer or distributor can not tell a dealer what price the item must be sold at. Talk to your government if you want to change that.

Bob,

I have absolutely no problem with that, and I never said I did. It's a fundamentantal tenent of a free market economy that prices are dictated by an acceptable agreement between a buyer and a seller. I have no desire to change that and have no idea where you got the notion that I did. In fact, what I asked was 180 degrees out of phase with your answer. My question was, why even have "manufacturer's suggest list prices" if they have no bearing what-so-ever on actual selling prices? Why go to the trouble of publishing "suggested" retail prices if those suggestions are routinely ignored? Those questions are directed at you, not my government. I'm sure they have more pressing issues that need their attention.

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 16:39
"I think Dean is being very naive!"

Jeez, Paul. And here I was being nice to you.

I sort of agree with you (not about the naive part!). If Shen-Hao consistantly acts unethical, or worse, illegal, then you shouldn't buy their products. While I don't know the facts behind "Ebony Clone-gate," I'll take your word for it that Shen-Hao is guilty.

But, are they the only company that has ever done anything unethical? You would think so by reading this forum. One cloned camera does not a pattern make. But, if it is shown that the new monorail is a Shen-Hao camera and a cloned Toho, then I will have to admit that the company has a propensity toward taking the low road and stealing other manufacturers' designs. However, I don't think we've established Shen-Hao's involvement here yet. There may be plenty of circumstantial evidence against them, but we haven't built a case yet.

At least I haven't.

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 16:48
However, if Robert White had identified the camera as a Layton, or a Linhof, rather than a Shen-Hao, would we still be having this discussion? I wonder. It probably would have rated a reply or two or three

My stance on the issue would not have changed one iota. As I stated in an earlier reply (way up there somewhere), I have no axe to grind in the Shen Hao vs. The World debate. I have never participated in those threads in the past, have never bashed any Shen Hao products, and have recommended their products on several occasions. I've even featured some of their products in articles I've had publised. My participation in this thread has nothing to do with the allegation that the SR45-II is a Shen Hao product. I would have jumped in with equal fervor regardless of who allegedly was making it.

I do, however, own a Toho. So, I'm not 100% without bias on this issue. Regardless of who is behind this (if indeed, it is an unauthorized copy and Toho is receiving no compensation), I feel bad for Toho. They are a very small company, yet they have invested significant resources in designing and bringing unique and innovative products to market. I'd hate to see them go out of business because someone (anyone) has stolen their design and is selling a knock-off for $200 less.

Kerry

Dean Tomasula
19-Aug-2005, 16:57
"I'd hate to see them go out of business because someone (anyone) has stolen their design and is selling a knock-off for $200 less."

I think large format photography lovers would hate to see this happen, myself included. But don't you think you are being a bit dramatic? Is Toho so precariously situated that an illegal copy of one of their designs would push them over the edge?

As Paul said, I think the market will ultimately decide about the clone. If it turns out the camera is an unlicensed copy and that Shen-Hao (or anyone else for that matter) is responsible, then the market most likely will vote against the company by not buying the camera. It will eventually languish on Robert White's shelves unsold (and probably end up on eBay for about $250).

Kerry L. Thalmann
19-Aug-2005, 17:55
I think large format photography lovers would hate to see this happen, myself included. But don't you think you are being a bit dramatic? Is Toho so precariously situated that an illegal copy of one of their designs would push them over the edge?

Dean,

I don't think I'm being dramatic at all. Toho is a very small company and the FC-45X is their biggest seller. It is also a VERY specialized product. I have no idea how many they sell per year, but I'd be surprised if it was very far into double digits. I have no sales data on the Toho, but Gandolfi used to boast on their web site that they have never sold more than 50 cameras (total for all formats and all designs) in one year in the 100+ year history of the company. And Gandolfi has more products in their line, more dealers selling them, and their products are a more conventional design that appeals to more users than the Toho. Another LF camera maker once told me any camera that sells 40 or 50 units in a year is considered a runaway best seller - something the Toho definitely isn't. So, if Toho only sells 10 - 20 cameras per year (just a semi-eductaed guess, and that may be on the high side) and the majority of them are the FC-45X, every sale they lose to a cheaper clone has a significant impact on their bottom line, and ultimately their viability as a company.

At the very least, it reduces the likelyhood that they will continue to introduce new, improved products. For one thing, it takes away revenue that could be re-invested in the R&D of new products. It also reduces the incentive of spending time and money to develop new innovative products if some one else is just going to steal your design and undercut you on price six months after your new design hits the market.

Kerry

Frank Petronio
19-Aug-2005, 20:39
It's a shame the Chinese don't copy Wisners instead, it would solve a whole slew of problems...

paul owen
20-Aug-2005, 10:17
One for Kerry! I've had a thought - dangerous I know! But from what I understand the Toho uses circular lens panels? Where are purchasers of the Shen Hao version going to get circular lens panels from? Toho? I don't see any Shen Hao circular panels listed.

Dean Tomasula
20-Aug-2005, 10:52
Just got a reply from Shen-Hao. They say the camera is NOT made by them.

Here's their reply:

"Dear Sir:
We are not make SR45-II VIEW.Thie camera no our make.
Some person is imposture.Thank you tell me this news.
Regards,
Zhang fuming"

Apparently, Robert White is mistaken (is this possible?!!!!)

Donald Hutton
20-Aug-2005, 11:47
Dean

Have little think about this - if either Robert White or Shen Hao are being less than truthful here, in whose interest is it to be less than truthful? I can understand why Shen Hao would be keen to say they didn't manufacture it - I'm not sure why there would be any reason for Robert White to say that they (Shen Hao) did, if the camera was in fact not manufactured by Shen Hao. As I pointed out previously, they have a "habit" of copying the ideas of others...

It's one thing sticking you neck out and proclaiming the Shen Hao 4X5 to be a great entry level camera; it's quite another trying to convince yourself (and others it would seem) that they are an ethical organisation when all evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

David A. Goldfarb
20-Aug-2005, 12:40
Well, one question is--how many Chinese manufacturers are there in the LF camera business, and which is which, and who really makes what?

There seem to be a number of items described as "Shen Hao" that may be made by another manufacturer. These cheap 6x12 and 6x17 backs, for instance, seem to come in a number of slightly different variations under the brands "Shen Hao," Da Yi (which seems to be changing its name to "Focus" for the Western market), and Kang Tai--which seems to be a Hong Kong based business. There is some other company making inexpensive wideangle helical mounts on Technika lensboards and a few other items. There is another company making an all metal wideangle camera of its own design. There is another company making inexpensive lens shades, Nikon accessories, and step rings.

Is the situation that there are one or two main shops, like Shen Hao, and lots of subcontractors who may be spinning off their own products? Does Badger deal directly with the factory or maybe through some exporter who markets items from various sources as "Shen Hao," because it is now a recognized brand?

If there is someone in China or with good contacts in China who can sort all this out, it would make a good article for the lfphoto.info page.

John_4185
20-Aug-2005, 14:18
Goldfarb: If there is someone in China or with good contacts in China who can sort all this out, it would make a good article for the lfphoto.info page.

Yes, I have good contacts in China but the overwhelming copycat industry makes it rather uninteresting for them to investigate. It would be like asking a college student to voluntarily make a report on cheating; it's trivial, uninteresting and unprofitable. Won't happen, Professor.

If I get the grant I'm working on, I will be doing a sabbatical in China next year and maybe look into it as the last order of business.

Maybe the next time you visit Poland you can tell why so much exotic used Linhof stuff is coming from there from a particular source.

Dean Tomasula
20-Aug-2005, 14:30
"Have little think about this - if either Robert White or Shen Hao are being less than truthful here, in whose interest is it to be less than truthful?"

Don -

As I see it, it's in the guilty party's interest to be untruthful. If Shen-Hao indeed made this rip-off camera, then of course they would not want to admit to it. But on the same token, if Robert White is selling an unauthorized rip-off camera and they know it, would they want to admit it? I don't think so.

I knew there would be some people here that no matter what would not believe what Shen-Hao says.

I have no way of knowing who is telling the truth and who isn't. All I'm doing is reporting back what Shen-Hao told me. I'm inclined to believe Shen-Hao is telling the truth. But that's just me. It's possible Robert White was given false info by their supplier.

None of us has any way of knowing who is lying and who isn't here. Maybe if we hear back from Toho it will help sort this out.

Dean Tomasula
20-Aug-2005, 14:34
BTW, Jeff from Badger Graphics told me he will "possibly in the future" carry the SR45-II. He did not say whether it actually is a Shen-Hao or if it is legal or not.

David A. Goldfarb
20-Aug-2005, 14:38
[JJ--Regarding the Linhof stuff from Warsaw--it seems to be a Polish-German business with shops in various towns (or at least there is a German company doing business under the same name). It wouldn't surprise me if it turned out to be a German company that bought out the old state operated photo equipment exchange cooperative, from which I once bought a used Pentacon 6 with 4 CZJ lenses for around $135 back and a Krasnogorsk 16mm camera for even less in the 1980s.]

Juergen Sattler
20-Aug-2005, 14:39
I would think that if Shen-Hao built this camera they would want to sell it - no? If that's the case then it would be stupid on their part to negate the fact that it is from them - unless they have gotten preasure already from Toho to take it off the market. I can't imagine a company going through the expense of copying and building a camera and then to say "it's not ours - you can't buy it from us". I was convinced as well that this was a blatant rip-off on Shen-Hao's part, but now I wonder......

David A. Goldfarb
20-Aug-2005, 14:40
[typos: should be -- "...$135 and a Krasnogorsk..."]

Nick_3536
20-Aug-2005, 15:06
"Have little think about this - if either Robert White or Shen Hao are being less than truthful here, in whose interest is it to be less than truthful? I can understand why Shen Hao would be keen to say they didn't manufacture it - I'm not sure why there would be any reason for Robert White to say that they (Shen Hao) did, if the camera was in fact not manufactured by Shen Hao. As I pointed out previously, they have a "habit" of copying the ideas of others..."

Well lets see. Who is making money for sure selling this camera? One party is taking orders for this camera. We know who that is. Follow the money it's going into one pocket for sure.

You ask why would Robert White lie and claim the camera was made by Shen Hao? Maybe because they're trading on the Shen Hao name?

Only one group has any interest in selling this camera.

Nick_3536
20-Aug-2005, 15:09
"If Shen-Hao indeed made this rip-off camera, then of course they would not want to admit to it."

Why? They admit making the the folding camera that Ebony got US dealers to stop selling. You can still order it from the factory. I don't think China is party to any patent treaties with Japan so it's likely not illegal in China. So Shen Hao has no reason to not admit they made it.

Dean Tomasula
20-Aug-2005, 15:34
Nick, my point was that if Shen-Hao is making a rip-off camera and they know it's "illegal" or "unlicensed" or whatever, then it would be natural for them to not want to admit to doing something unethical or even illegal. But apparently the did not make this camera, so there is no reason for them to lie about it. There's also no reason for them to claim responsibility for something they are not involved in. As you said, they have no agreements with Japan so copying a Japanese camera is not illegal in China. It may not be ethical in a business sense, but it is not illegal under Chinese law.

I specifically asked Shen-Hao if it was their camera and if it was licensed from Toho or not. They said it was not their camera and they didn't even know about it. They think someone is selling it under their name for whatever reason.

Like I said before, no one has actually seen this camera in person, so we don't know what kind of labeling it has on it. Does it have Shen-Hao labels on it? Does it say Toho on it? Who knows. Until someone actually sees one, we'll never know.

Maybe we should take up a collection here and buy one from Robert White and check it out. We can then have a public "camera burning" party and destroy the thing.

Donald Hutton
20-Aug-2005, 15:41
Hey Nick

It may come as a shock to you, but not everyone out there thinks that the Shen Hao "name" is worth trading on. In my mind it automatically rings "cheap, average finish" - it certainly does not echo "craftmanship". I really think if Robert White were going to "lie" about who manufactured this camera, they would say "Ebony" or some other company associated with quality...

That didn't occur to you?

"Only one group has any interest in selling this camera."

The second blunder in your reasoning is that the manufacturer also has an interest in selling the camera - I'm pretty confused as to why you think the manufacturer should not have an interest in sales of the camera?

Nick_3536
20-Aug-2005, 15:50
And who is the manufacturer?? The only person getting any money for sure is Robert White. Do you disagree with this? It seems Robert White thinks the name is worth something. Even if you don't. Or maybe they think they can get away with blaming Shen Hao? Maybe they're more worried about Ebony's lawyers? Have you considered the only Shen Hao's you've seen aren't REAL Shen Hao's? At least one US shop is allegedly selling clones.

Follow the money. You're willing to accept Robert White is breaking UK law but that not that they would lie. That seems like wierd logic to me.

Nick_3536
20-Aug-2005, 15:53
In case this isn't clear enough. Shen Hao has NO reason to not admit making this camera. If they wanted to they could be taking orders for it right now. They aren't. Follow the money.

Dean Tomasula
20-Aug-2005, 15:53
Don, it's entirely possible that Robert White has been duped by whomever it has gotten this camera from. I doubt they would be stupid enough to sell a camera that is not an Ebony and call it an Ebony. They would probably be sued for it. But it is possible they got this camera from one of their suppliers and have been told its a Shen-Hao, even though it might not be. It is unlikely Shen-Hao would sue them for this because it would be way too expensive for them.

Donald Hutton
20-Aug-2005, 16:32
Dean and Nick

I'm waiting expectantly for a distinct lack of response or some other lame logic when it turns out that the camera is manufactured by you know who... I've heard some pretty strange logic here and seen some surreal faith. I'd love to be proved wrong, but, a little cynical faith in my fellow man has me feeling pretty comfortable about what will be uncovered... I'll chime in again when we know...

Dean Tomasula
20-Aug-2005, 16:46
Don, why is it so hard for you to believe that Shen-Hao might actually be telling the truth and that they had nothing to do with this camera?

If it does turn out that this is their camera and it is an illegal Toho rip-off, as I've said, I'll be one of the first to denounce the company. But until I see some proof that this is the case, I'll reserve judgement and give them the benefit of the doubt.

As Nick said, if they did make this camera, why wouldn't they own up to it? If we accept the prevailing wisdom here (which I don't) that Shen-Hao is a serial copier of other manufaturers' cameras, which they sell under their own name, then why wouldn't they be selling this camera too? Apparently they still sell the Ebony "clone" that everyone keeps yelling about. So why is this camera any different? If they're not afraid to steal a design and sell it with their own label on it, why can't we buy the SR45-II monorail from them? This is a question you haven't answered yet.

John_4185
20-Aug-2005, 18:18
I should think we have considered all possibilities by now. No?

From an earlier post - "A Chinese manufacturer took a walk over the hill next to his plant that copied European designs only discover another plant - an exact copy of his own making the same goods under his name."

Donald Hutton
21-Aug-2005, 08:53
SOME NEWS:

I sent an email to Shen Hao about the new monorail, the SR45-II available through Robert White, and requested a quote for an order of ten. I have an email back from Mr. Zhang fuming confirming that the price for 10 SR45-II cameras would be $498 each.

There: Dean and Nick are you now satisfied? Or, what's the next excuse?

Dean Tomasula
21-Aug-2005, 09:35
No I'm not satisfied. Why would Zhang tell me he doesn't know about it? And why wouild Jeff from Badger say it is not a Shen-Hao?

Here's his e-mail to me:

"Hi Dean, This camera is not made by Shen-Hao. I have seen them a couple years ago and the quality was very poor.
Thank You, Jeff. Badger Graphic Sales, Inc. "

Obviously, we have not yet solved this mystery.

Ken Lee
21-Aug-2005, 09:52
Someone who is fluent in Chinese (preferably from the Shanghai area) should just call them up, describe the situation and apparent contradiction, and politely ask them to explain things.

Donald Hutton
21-Aug-2005, 10:13
Dean

The point is, I had a completely different repsonse to you when I enquired about actually placing an order. Between you or me, Mr. Zhang is not being honest.

I'm not sure why Jeff Tauger should know wether or not this camera is manufactured by Shen Hao - to the best of my knowledge, he works for Badger Graphics; not Robert White nor Shen Hao. What his emails hints at is that the Badger M2 was not manufactured by Shen Hao - I can't see why Jeff would be able to anser with certainty a question that only Robert White or Shen Hao can answer.

There seems to be a lot of strange information being passed around regarding this camera. However, you are only prepared to listen to what you want to hear. I am 100% certain that if it turns out that this camera is made by Shen Hao, you will find other reasons to continue defending their business practices....

Dean Tomasula
21-Aug-2005, 12:27
"I'm not sure why Jeff Tauger should know wether or not this camera is manufactured by Shen Hao - to the best of my knowledge, he works for Badger Graphics; not Robert White nor Shen Hao."

Don, Jeff shoukd know if it's a Shen-Hao or not because he sells them at Badger. I bought my Shen-Hao from him (The legitimate, non-disputed authentic Shen-Hao HZX45-IIA). Badger carries the 4x5 and 8x10 models. So why wouldn't he know a Shen-Hao when he sees one?

I don't know if Zhang is lying to me or you, or lying at all. As you probably know there is a bit of a language barrier between Zhang and the English speaking world. He may have mistunderstood the questions you asked. Or the questions I asked for that matter. I don't know why he would tell you one thing and me another.

Dean Tomasula
21-Aug-2005, 12:33
"There seems to be a lot of strange information being passed around regarding this camera."

Yes this is true. We agree on this point.

"However, you are only prepared to listen to what you want to hear. I am 100% certain that if it turns out that this camera is made by Shen Hao, you will find other reasons to continue defending their business practices...."

This is a bet you will lose. I, more than anyone else on this forum is willing to give Shen-Hao the benefit of the doubt. Everyone else has already made up their minds that they are guilty of unethical business practices.

As I've said a few time already (go back and reread my posts) if it can be proven that Shen-Hao is guilty of selling this camera and it is an unlicensed Toho clone, then I will be among the first to denounce this practice. I will not defend this unethical business practice by them, or anyone else.

Donald Hutton
21-Aug-2005, 12:45
Dean

Jeff sells Shen Hao cameras - he doesn't make them.

If this is a new model (which by all accounts it would appear to be), he may not actually know about it yet.

Like I said before, only Shen Hao or Robert White will be able to confirm this; not Jeff at Badger Graphics - it's clear that to the best of his knowledge, Shen Hao is not making a Toho knock-off - it does not mean that it is not happening though - is that too hard to understand?

Now, Robert White has confirmed that Shen Hao are making the camera and I have an email from Mr Zhang Fuming of Shen Hao which says that he can supply 10 of these same SR45-II cameras which Robert White is selling at a cost of $498 per camera. Sorry to bring this to your notice, but it would seem, that both Robert White and Shen Hao have confirmed that this camera is made by Shen Hao. I agree that the email he sent to you conflicts, but maybe you didn't wave an order for 10 cameras at him??? The only little detail to clear up would be if they are made under licence from Toho or not (here's a tip - don't hold your breath on this one either).....

Dean Tomasula
21-Aug-2005, 12:54
"Jeff sells Shen Hao cameras - he doesn't make them."

Don, I didn't know Robert White made Shen-Hao cameras. Why would Robert White have any better information than Badger? They both sell the cameras. What makes Robert White this magical, all-knowing Shen-Hao distributor?

"The only little detail to clear up would be if they are made under licence from Toho or not (here's a tip - don't hold your breath on this one either)....."

This is not a "little detail." This is a major sticking point to this whole deal. And I too am not going to hold my breath that anyone will admit to it.

Donald Hutton
21-Aug-2005, 13:21
"Don, I didn't know Robert White made Shen-Hao cameras. Why would Robert White have any better information than Badger?"

Well, Dean, in case you hadn't noticed, Robert White actually is selling the camera under discussion - it would be my guess that they may have a slight clue as to it's origin? I never said RW made Shen Hao cameras - you did.... But RW are in fact selling this particular camera which and Badger Graphics is not (at present) - that would suggest to me that RW's opinion of the camera's origin would probably hold a little more substance than that of a dealer who is not carrying it. Sorry, Dean but your posts are now becoming a bit pathetic. I'm done here (I'm sure you guys on the Shen Hao forum will spend months delighting in what a great company Shen Hao must be to bring such a good new product to the market for such a great price - make a change from a whole thread devoted to discussing the "clock 's apparent lack of movement in the Shen Offices on their webcam"....).

Dean Tomasula
21-Aug-2005, 14:39
Good-Bye Don.

I was wondering when you would resort to name-calling (as you usually end up doing).

You always seem to say good-bye but you never actually leave.

I'm still willing to have a civil discussion with you (or anyone else here) on this subject. Apparently you are not. It's a shame.

I'm glad to see you're keeping up with the Shen-Hao Forums. You could probably learn something there.

Donald Hutton
21-Aug-2005, 14:54
Learn something on the Shen Hao forum - that is funny! I went to have a look because you always steer people to it as a useful resource....

Here's what I learned:

4 people are responsible for 53% of all posts on the SHUG forum - why don't you guys just exchange numbers and call each other - you all agree on everything anyway...

Here's a quotation from a posting on your "moderated" SHUG forum about Robert White (relevant here because it came up in a thread about this new camera):

"A couple of things on Robert White:
1) He is british. This means that if there is a chance he can fool people in believeing it is brand A rather than a brand B he will do it.
2) He is british. This means he will not admit he made a mistake on his website (If it indeed is a mistake).
3) he is british. This means he is too lazy to correct the mistake on his website (if it indeed is a mistake).
4) He is british. This means he will convert the $ sign into a sign when he sells non-european products. The price in the states will most likely be between 500 and 600 US $ as that is the price in pounds here in the UK as well. It is a UK thing, not a Robert White thing.
5) He is british. This means that Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Malasians, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, (etc, etc) are all Chinese in his opinion (a rather politically/diplomaticaly stupid and dangeropus thing to do). "

I take it the moderator of that forum thinks that this is really useful stuff?

Dean, my apologies for indicating that I thought your postings were becoming pathetic. Feel better now?

Dean Tomasula
21-Aug-2005, 15:14
Hi again Don (you see I was right, you never really leave!).

I'm sure you're aware that the Shen-Hao User Groups Forums are very narrowly focused. In case you aren't, we only discuss Shen-Hao cameras and products as they relate to large format photography. A forum like this one is more broadly focused and covers a wide spectrum of LF photography.

It's true there isn't a lot of traffic on the SHUG forums (compared to this one). We have 99 registered users. I consider that pretty good for a forum that is so narrowly focused and that has only been in existance for 8 months. How many registered users does the Large Format Photography Forums have? How long has it been inexistance? Quite a bit more and much longer. How many people on this forum are responsible for the lion's share of posts? Probably a few dozen.

I don't see your point about the quoted thread. Yes I moderate the SHUG forums. But I do not erase posts that I do not agree with (unless they have foul language or use name-calling). I thought about erasing the post you cited, but decided against it. I don't agree with it. But it's the poster's opinion. I felt it came close to being objectionable. But I decided to leave it. It's called freedom of speech. Besides, are each and every post on this forum useful nuggets of information? Would you like me to start quoting your previous posts and see if they pass the test?

If the SHUG forums are so objectionable to you, then stop checking them out.

Dave Moeller
21-Aug-2005, 17:03
OK...I'm going to ask a question here. Some people will read into this question more than I intend...I'm just asking because I'm interested in the answer and I do not mean to infer anything other than my interest in the answer. I'm pretty sickened by the whole idea of someone directly cloning a camera like the Toho, and would like to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Don Hutton said:


SOME NEWS:
I sent an email to Shen Hao about the new monorail, the SR45-II available through Robert White, and requested a quote for an order of ten. I have an email back from Mr. Zhang fuming confirming that the price for 10 SR45-II cameras would be $498 each.

Now my question: Did Mr. Zhang fuming say that he was manufacturing the camera, or just that he could get you ten at that price? When I emailed him, I asked him directly if the camera was being manufactured by Shen-Hao. I have yet to receive a response from him (which may or may not be telling in it's own right).
I believe it's very likely that Shen-Hao are manufacturing the camera, but I'd like to know whether they said they're making them or just that they can provide the camera at a given price. So please, Don, could you clarify whether the email said that they make the camera, or just that they can sell them to you? Thanks in advance.

Donald Hutton
21-Aug-2005, 17:17
Dave

He did not say: "yes we manfacture the SR45-II" - but I did not ask him that directly - it was completely implied in my query though (i.e the new Shen Hao SR45-II available for sale through Robert White in the UK). I am subsequently awaiting details of the camera, construction, materials etc. in response to a follow up. I shall post any news if I receive it.

Dave Moeller
21-Aug-2005, 18:49
Thanks very much for the information Don. I'll be sure to post if I hear anything from the company as well.

paul owen
22-Aug-2005, 05:45
FINALLY some news!

Firstly, many apologies to Dean for doubting Shen Hao - they are NOT the manufacturer of this camera. The camera is actually manufactured by the other well known Chinese company - SEAGULL. Apparently there was some confusion when the camera details were uploaded to Robert White's web site, these have now been ammended. On his large format section the camera appears under the Shen Hao/Seagull header (Robert White also stocks the Seagull TLR).

I hope this clears the debate up? I appreciate that Kerry and others will still be fuming over the "cloning" issue but Robert is happy that there are enough "subtle" differences between the Toho and the SEAGULL that one is not a clone of the other - although he describes them as visually VERY similar the Toho is of a far better build quality.

Dean Tomasula
22-Aug-2005, 06:45
Thanks Paul for the info and the detective work. Maybe now we can finally put the controversy to rest.

I can appreciate everyone's feelings on this issue (yes, even Don's) and I still agree with Kerry and others that unlicensed cloning is unethical and should be denounced and not supported.

There's obviously a relationship between Shen-Hao and Seagull. Aside from them both being Chinese companies, Shen-Hao sells Seagull lenses with their cameras. Hopefully if Shen-Hao actually starts selling this camera we'll all remember your post and not have to go through this again.

Maybe now we can move on?

paul owen
23-Aug-2005, 01:36
I'm certainly NOT wanting to prolong this thread BUT, curiosity got he better of me and I had a search for the Seagull Cameras web site. Guess what cameras Seagull list on their website? SHEN HAO!!!!!!! Well I think they're Shen Hao - they have the same names (HZX etc) and look the same (to my untrained eye). Now I'm really confused! Who actually makes Shen Hao cameras? Shen Hao or Seagull, or are they one-in-the-same, or have Seagull cloned the Shen Hao cameras? Wish I'd never looked now :)

Dean Tomasula
23-Aug-2005, 12:41
Paul, you should know better!

But seriously, Shen-Hao and Seagull have some sort of reciprical agreement. Seagull sells Shen-Hao products (cameras) and Shen-Hao sells Seagul products (lenses). They are separate companies and as far as I know maintain separate manufacturing facilities. It is possible that there is some corporate connection, but I don't know for sure.

tim atherton
23-Aug-2005, 21:16
in doing research on some lenses it's interesting to see how some US companies, such as Gundlach (of Turner Reich fame etc) were quite happy to rip off Zeiss and other lens designs and alter them just enough to avoid patent infringement, while still pirating the main elements of design... Ernst Gundlach in Rochester was, apparently, an expert at this

richard pang
24-Aug-2005, 07:39
Seagull is a state-owned corporation. Big and a lot of money to flow around. QC is something to be desired. Shenhao is a private entity. I read a story about Shenhao that started with a veteran LF technician from Seagull (making LF too) and the current owner who had a lot of money at that time. The co-oporation did not last long. The technician started his own company that made LF too. His LF camera starts to gain some popularity in China. By that time, Shenhao gained enough to stand alone.

Kerry L. Thalmann
24-Aug-2005, 12:15
Dean wrote: Shen-Hao and Seagull have some sort of reciprical agreement. Seagull sells Shen-Hao products (cameras) and Shen-Hao sells Seagul products (lenses). They are separate companies and as far as I know maintain separate manufacturing facilities.

This brings us back to our three basic issues:

1) Is the SR45-II shown on Robert White's web site a Shen Hao product (to me that means is Shen Hao involved in any way in the manufacture, sales or distribution of this product) ?

Shen Hao does not manufacture this camera, but they do appear to be involved in sales and distribution. Actually, when I made my previous posts I was suspicious about Shen Hao actually making the camera themselves. All their other cameras are more traditional wooden bodied cameras. The SR45-II is an all-metal camera that requires a different skills and tools (CNC milling machines) to manufacture. I have never been to the Shen Hao factory, but I would not be suprised to learn they farm out the fabrication of many of their metal parts to another shop. Heck, Keith Canham does the same thing here in the US. When I bought my 6x12 roll fim back a couple years ago, it was sold to me as a Shen Hao product and was listed on their web site, but the plaque on the camera said "DAYI", not Shen Hao. I noticed the newer ones are labeled "Shen Hao". I suspect, but do not know for sure, that these roll film back are produced for Shen Hao, to their specifications, by another company. No big deal. It's a common business practice. Unless you produce in sufficient volume to keep those CNC machines running 24/7, it make more sense to farm out the fabrication to a machine shop that does.

2) Is the SR45-II an authorized copy of the Toho FC-45X?

I have not received a response from Toho. If I do, I will post the answer. I suspect it is a language poroblem (I don't even pretend to speak Japanese). Perhaps someone who speaks Japanese could try to give them a call or send them an email.

Nick wrote: You're willing to accept Robert White is breaking UK law but that not that they would lie.

First, as I stated above, no one here has any proof that Robert White is breaking any law, and I'm certainly not "willing to accept Robert White is breaking UK law". I have no idea if Toho even applied for UK patents on their design, or if any such patents were granted. So, while I may be disappointed that a company like Robert White would sell a (potentially) unlicensed copy of another companies product, that doesn't necessarily make it illegal.

Obviously, based on the response Don received to his query about buying ten cameras, Shen Hao is selling these cameras. Perphaps that explains the confusion on the Robert White web site, and the seemingly contradictory answers above about whether or not this camera is a Shen Hao product. If Robert White is getting this camera directly from Shen Hao, or the same supplier as his Shen Hao cameras, that would explain why he would think it is a Shen Hao product. I don't think anyone was lying or deliberately misleading anyone.

Still, I remain disappopinted in Robert White's decision to sell this camera. Even if it is technically legal to do so, I find it unsavory and a violation of the spririt of itellectual property rights. Based on my past experiences with Robert White, I expect better from them. Given that there is only about a $200 difference in their selling price and Badger's price on the REAL Toho FC-45X, I'd rather just see Robert White go back to selling the Toho. Since Robert White admits the SR45II is both a copy and of inferior quality, why not just sell the real thing? It would be better for them (in terms of their reputation), better for their customers (they'd get a better product) , better for Toho (they would be rewarded for their innovative design), and potentially better for the LF community (encourage manufactures to innovate, not just copy others).

Kerry

Kerry L. Thalmann
24-Aug-2005, 12:32
in doing research on some lenses it's interesting to see how some US companies, such as Gundlach (of Turner Reich fame etc) were quite happy to rip off Zeiss and other lens designs and alter them just enough to avoid patent infringement, while still pirating the main elements of design... Ernst Gundlach in Rochester was, apparently, an expert at this

Tim,

But notice, they did go to the trouble to CHANGE the design. In the case of the Turner Reich triple convertibles, they added a fifth element to each half of the lens (makes you wonder how much the licensing fees would have been to make it cheaper to have 25% more elements than pay the fee). It may have been a cheap way around the patents, but it took more effort than simply copying (cloning) someone else's design.

Also, keep in mind many companies (US, European - yes, even other German companies - and Japanese) simply waited for the patents to expire and then immediately began offering their own version of the famous Zeiss lenses (most notably the Tessar). Back then, most design patents had a life of 17 - 2o years. Most of the Zeiss anastigmats (Protars) were patented in the early 1890s. So, the patents would have expired around the 1910 - 1913 time frame. The Tessar was patented in 1902 (f6.3) and 1904 (f4.5). So, those patents would have normally expired in the early 1920s. However, I believe the US government voided patent protection for many German companies as a result of WWI (not sure how this effected the Zeiss Tessar patents). It is interesting that Bausch & Lomb continued, for many years, to engrave the Zeiss name on many of their lenses long after the patent protections expired. Perhaps they felt it gave their lenses more prestige.

Kerry

Nick_3536
24-Aug-2005, 13:51
If you ask Shen Hao about a Apo-Sironar-N they'll give you a price. They even sell made in germany tripods. Anybody that has had any email with the factory knows English isn't thier first language. I doubt it's thier third language. If you ask them about a product the question better be simple and straight forward with no implied hidden meanings. OTOH I expect Robert White to understand English.

Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Sep-2005, 11:59
I was just poking around the She-Hao web site (looking for specs on their rumored 7x17) when I came across this:

SR45-IIA (http://www.shen-hao.com/E45.html)

Now, this is NOT the same SR45II model that is shown on the Robert White web site (that started this whole thread), but what it is is a NEAR clone of another Toho model, the Toho FC-45Mini (http://www.toho-machine.co.jp/FC-45Mini.htm). And yes, the Toho FC-45Mini even comes in silver (as well as the standard black).

The reason I say it is a NEAR clone is they changed one seemingly minor detail - the size and shape of the lens board. Rather than the standard round Toho board, they went with the more common Linhof/Wista style board. While this may, at first glance appear to be a wise choice, it is in fact quite the opposite. You see, the Toho FC-45Mini has NO MOVEMENTS and relies on the accessory eccentric lens panel (http://www.toho-machine.co.jp/Eccentric.htm) to provide front rise and shift. By eliminating this feature they have created a 4x5 camera that can't be handheld (it's a monorail with no viewfinder/rangefinder) that has absolutely no camera movements, not even front rise. Where the Toho FC-Mini is a lightweight affordable alternative to the wide angle 4x5 and 6x12 "shift" cameras (like the Cambo Wide DS and the Horseman SW612 Pro), the Shen-Hao SR45-AII is pretty much useless. If you're going to go to the trouble of copying someone else's design, at least understand what it is you're trying to build.

So, the appearance of the SR45-AII on the Shen Hao web site should remove any trace of doubt that Shen Hao is indeed in the business of ripping off Toho's designs. Fortuntately, in this case, they completely screwed up by changing one detail they thought would improve the camera and it backfired. I used to recommend the Shen Hao HZX45-ⅡA, but my opinion of them has dropped two notches as a result of this whole Toho cloning fiasco - once for ripping off someone else's designs, and twice for not even understaning the impact the design change they made has on the usability of the camera.

Kerry

XH Wang
12-Sep-2005, 20:43
Is it really true that Shen Hao or Robert White actually breaks any laws at all? Or it is just a "moral" thing. Does Toho actually have any patents to protect themselves? Anyone checked? If they don't, then it is their choice that they actually allow other people to copy their design. Maybe Toho doesn't care. It is possible Toho may even want someone to copy their design. What are we discussing here without direct reply from Toho? I just don't get it. We are basically saying a perfect legal practice should not be done because we guess Toho might not like it or we thinks it might affect Toho. How can we reach such conclusion? What's the point?

In my personal opinion, I don't think the Shen Hao copy will affect the sale of Toho at all. It is $200 cheaper with inferior workmanship. At least Shen Hao doesn't put a Toho label on it (then we will have a problem). Poeple want the best product or don't feel morally correct will pay the $200 extra to get the real thing. For other poorer people who want to try out something interesting but don't have the budget for a real Toho will just go for the inferior copy. These poeple will not buy a Toho to begin with. So in reality, the Toho design will actually reach more people. We all assume that a copy is bad for Toho, is it really the case?

For myself, I got a chance to buy a second hand Toho copy, M2 ,for $500. It certainly requires some work. But I would never buy a Toho to begin with, so Toho didn't lose a customer. On the other hand, now I have a workable LF camera like Toho. I love it very much. Now if you ask me if I will buy a Toho in the future, the answer is actually very possible. Any if you ask me if I will recommend the camera to other people. The answer is definitely "sure". So in fact, after I used the inferior copy, Toho can actually get more customers.

My point is that we cannot assume anything without further research or words from Toho. And I think it is definitely morally incorrect that one would not recommend the products from Shen Hao just because he assumes one thing the company does is morally incorrect by his own standard.

Kevin Crisp
12-Sep-2005, 21:13
Interesting first post, XH Wang. I can't follow your argument. I am sure that the Toho folks have not been hoping somebody in China would copy and market their design. Do you really need to have confirmation of that?

Kerry L. Thalmann
13-Sep-2005, 01:17
XH,

I think I can state with reasonable certainty that if you and I both lived to be 1000 years old, we would never agree on this issue. We, obviously, have totally different value systems. Even if Shen Hao has broken no laws, and Toho has not complained in this forum, the copying of Toho's designs violates the spirit of intellectual property rights - at the very least.

In my personal opinion, I don't think the Shen Hao copy will affect the sale of Toho at all.

I don't believe this for one second. Every sale of a Toho clone is a potential lost sale for Toho.

It is $200 cheaper with inferior workmanship.

Many people shop by price alone - especially online. Since there only appears to be one dealer in the world selling the Toho clone, how many buyers will actually see it in person and have a chance to compare it to the genuine article before buying. They see something that looks like a Toho, and it costs $200 less. So, they buy it and think they got a good deal. Unless they ever get a chance to compare their "inferior" product to the real thing, they will never appreciate the difference in quality that extra $200 would have bought. In the mean time, Toho has lost a sale.

Now if you ask me if I will buy a Toho in the future, the answer is actually very possible. Any if you ask me if I will recommend the camera to other people. The answer is definitely "sure". So in fact, after I used the inferior copy, Toho can actually get more customers.

Wow, that's some rationalization. To me it sounds an awful lot like: it's OK to cheat someone out of a sale today because I might recommend their products to someone who might buy something from them in the future.

And I think it is definitely morally incorrect that one would not recommend the products from Shen Hao just because he assumes one thing the company does is morally incorrect by his own standard.

If not my own, whose moral standards should I use when making a recommendation? Seriously, what I chose to recommend and not recommend is totally my decision and it is based on my personal value system. To me, the choice is simple. I chose to reward the company who innovates, not the one who imitates. I value innovation over rock bottom prices and inferior quality. After all, what happens when Shen Hao drives innovative companies like Toho out of the large format market. We all lose. Whose designs will the copycats copy when the copycats are the only ones still in business? What incentive will innovative companies like Toho have to invest the time and money needed to introduce new, improved designs when they know an unauthorized clone will show up on the market six months later?

I'm sure this rant will earn me the title of "Shen Hao basher" from those who support the company and defend their practices. Frankly, I don't care. I'm not afraid to call a spade a spade. I never said a negative word about Shen Hao or any of their products until they began blatantly copying other people's designs. I personally don't care if Shen Hao isn't technically violating any Toho patents. I find the practice of blatantly copying someone else's design morally reprehensible and personally chose not to support a company that would stoop to this level. I will not buy their products, and I will no longer recommend them to others. That's just my personal opinion. I'm not suggesting others boycott Shen Hao. Whether or not to support the company and buy their products is a matter of personal choice. We're all adults here and capable of making our own decisions. To each his own.

Kerry

John_4185
13-Sep-2005, 08:46
Ethics, Morals, Commercial Affairs?

We do not know whether there is a commercial legal (pragmatic) case, so that argument cannot be made. So far, we have only a chain of speculation, therefore a well made ethical and personal position is all one can address.

It is easy to find any number of rationalizations to appropriate the work of others in order to suit ones self: supporting the person/company (entity) who takes something made from the R&D investment of another is merely distancing ones self from the act, but the ethics remain the same and the purchaser is responsible. To me it is like buying something in a thieves' market, at best.

"But I can't afford (insert item here), therefore I steal it" is just lame. Chances are you don't "need" it anyway.

What leads me to this view is a personal penchant for _better things_, innovation, quality, and not just more of the same old crap under a different label. To abate the easy rebuttal that some things are just plain overpriced I say: True, so what? Is it something we truly 'need'?

I rather like Kerry Thalmann's stand. Obviously. If you don't like a personal ethical position, rant on, but best make it good.

XH Wang
13-Sep-2005, 10:48
Also, before we all blame Shen Hao for copying Toho's camera, let's think about why they want to do that? If the sale of Toho is only 10-20 each year, how much can Shen Hao gain from doing this. I don't think they will bother. So who has the information of the sale? The answer: dealers. So it is possible that dealers may want such a copy in their list and ask Shen Hao to produce it. The dealers must have pormised the sale of the camera before Shen Hao was willing to produce it.

John_4185
13-Sep-2005, 11:00
XH Wang's comment reminds me of a thought I had last year while working with some efforts in Beijing. There is a new economic paradigm rising in certain parts of China that remind me to be suspicious of the "irrational exuberance" we experienced during the crazy dot com years. Some enterprises are funded by the government based upon capitalist visions that are not really fully formed or mature (and others that are impressively strident). Could it be that Shen Hao need only produce a sample of products in order to garner some income from the government, and that they need not intend for a moment to produce a regular line unless it will be proven to be profitable? What I am suggesting is that Shen Hao (if they are so funded) need not have dealer commitments beyond a token few, nor realize any sales to be 'successful' at this time.

The idea that a Chinese company need not prove a profit in the American short-term view is enough to think about right now. We tend to disregard that which is not imminent, while they are in it for a long term that USA public companies cannot participate.

XH Wang
13-Sep-2005, 11:40
JJ,
I am sure what you said exist in China. But I highly doubt the government will fund a Toho copy project. You probably doubt it yourself. Copying a car design is much much more likely to be funded.

Jorge Gasteazoro
13-Sep-2005, 12:04
let's think about why they want to do that?

Their bussiness is making cameras, so why should they spend time and materials designing their own camera when they can copy the efforts of other makers? That is why they want to do that.

Now, do you really think camera dealers phone Shen Hao and tell them "Hey, you know, I think it would be swell if you guys knock off Ebony and Toho and sell them for half the price?"

You are really grasping at straws here XH, you can try and rationalize all you want but I doubt your arguments are convincing anyone in this forum. You have to admit that what Shen Hao is doing is wrong, maybe not illegal, but wrong nevertheless......

Kerry L. Thalmann
13-Sep-2005, 12:40
So it is possible that dealers may want such a copy in their list and ask Shen Hao to produce it. The dealers must have pormised the sale of the camera before Shen Hao was willing to produce it.

But I highly doubt the government will fund a Toho copy project.

Does it really matter who is funding this behavior? Unethical behavior is unethical behavior no matter who is footing the bill. You're really grasping at straws here. The excuse that sombody (potentially) asked them to do it, or (potentially) offered them money to do so does not let Shen Hao off the hook. They chose to copy Toho's designs and should be held accountable for this decision - even if they haven't broken any laws or infringed on anyone's patents. Some may not find the blatant copying of others' designs offensive, but I do. No amount of rationalizing will change my mind. "What" they did offends me. "Why" they did it is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

Kerry

John_4185
13-Sep-2005, 13:00
The thread is wrung out, don't you think?

What would you say to a new thread something like "Do you think a useful LF film camera could be made that is not similar to another existing camera: not similar to any camera that ever existed?" Then, you see, I make it and if someone copies it, I just take 'em out with extreme prejudice (which means... lawyers! (*pardon my language*))

I just need a shorter subject line.

Whatcha think?

Struan Gray
13-Sep-2005, 13:15
What I'll be doing in the morning when I'm more able to write clearly will be to drop Robert White a line and let him know how shabby it looks to be selling this camera. I'm not talking about denial of service or spamming, just a polite note letting him know that this is a dark spot on an otherwise spotless reputation.

Alex Wei
21-Sep-2005, 09:56
After reading all these, make me really wonder why a lot people start bashing Shen-Hao without any hard evidence or consult the factory fisrt. All the blaming is based on two pictures on the distributor's website. Has anyone really used the camera?

What a shame!