View Full Version : Shen Hao - used alternatives ?

Stefan Lungu
8-Apr-2007, 12:49
Hello everybody,

Maybe I should first tell some things about me. I started again with photography about five years ago with digital SLR and got tempted by the MF "big" size of the Mamyia RB67. I shoot only manual focus lenses on my DSLR so I only had to add a light meter to my bag and was able to shoot the RB. The only drawback of the RB is it is big and loves to stay on a tripod, in the mean time it lacks movements, and this is why I got tempted by LF : even bigger size of the neg and the possibility of perspective and focus control is what I miss in my current tools.
Investigating the various LF cameras, I have put myself some targets : weight should not be much higher than the Mamiya RB, should allow some movements, esp. shift and tilt. The adaption of the RB backs and, much better, a 6x17 roll film adapter is also very nice.
I found the Shen Hao would be a nice camera with regard to my wishes, but then price is also an issue, and the shen hao and the 6x17 back are not that inexpensive anymore so I wanted to hear if you know something about similar alternatives on the used market. I would like to concentrate more on the lenses than on the body, this is the way I have build my DSLR system until now and I'm very happy with this approach.

Regards, Stefan

Ted Harris
8-Apr-2007, 12:58
You can buy either the Shen Hao or the Tachihara new for $595 from Midwest Photo Exchange or Badgr Graphics in the US. Used you will pay ~ 400 to 500 for one of them and they are still your best bets. Jim at Midwest is the most likely to have one used.

Denis Pleic
8-Apr-2007, 14:03

Since you're in Germany, I guess your best bet for a nice 4x5 (i.e. 9x12 cm) would be a used Linhof (portable) or Plaubel (lots of movements, but not very portable).
None of those accept Mamiya backs, AFAIK (I'm not sure about Technika, though).
If that's an absolute must, a (relatively) cheap option would be a Speed Graphic - but it has rather limited movements.
4x5 Speed Graphics can be had for about $200 (or more) on US ebay. When you include shipping and customs dues, you're looking at $250-$300...
With a little luck, they can be had for less. I guess that's still cheaper than a used Linhof Technika.
Depends on your priorities - a used Shen Hao will have a lots more movements than a Speed Graphic, and it still isn't terribly expensive.

BTW, I just took a look at German ebay - there are couple of adapters for Technika to accept Mamiya backs, and not extremely expensive....


Stefan Lungu
8-Apr-2007, 14:52
Well, the problem with the Linhof items is that they are rather expensive, i.e. a Speed/Crown Graphics is far less than a Linhof, and that one goes into territory of the Shen Hao, and so I think it would be a better idea to get the Shen.
On the other hand, in Europe we have the Shen for about 500 pounds, and that is a little too much for my taste, but I will see how I can set up a budget, because I also like the look of these wooden cameras, and I have learned that it is important to like the tools you work with, otherwise they will not be used, no matter how impressive the performance is.
Regards, Stefan

Ted Harris
8-Apr-2007, 14:58
Stefan, you should also take a look at the Argentum cameras from Hungary. I suspect you can get one put together to your specifications for €500 or less.

Janko Belaj
8-Apr-2007, 16:04
Stefan, I have bought Tachihara from Badger Graphics and I have got it just over weekend (I'm in Croatia) and with shipping cost and custom duties that was the cheapest new 4x5 I could get. And I'm delighted with it. I don't say that you have to go that way too, just informing you with my deal. For used market - with some patience, you can get such tool for much much less.

Stefan Lungu
9-Apr-2007, 01:56

Thanks for the hint, I looked it up and I saw that Badger has the 45GF WoodField for about the same as the Shen Hao. That would be about 550 Euro with taxes and all after importing it to Germany. Hm, more thinking...
I will also have a look for some lenses. I just wondered how a typical lineup looks like : in 35mm terms, I go something like 30mm-56mm-130mm, and for the RB 6x7 I would like something like 50mm-90mm-180mm. The equivalents would than be like 90mm-150mm-240mm or about there. Any recommendations on a budget ?

Regards, Stefan

Janko Belaj
9-Apr-2007, 04:49
I'm maybe not the best one to talk about lens recommendation... I wasn't the reach one when I started with LF an my 1st lens was cheap 135mm Symar (old convertible one, but I made just one shot at his longer focal length and decided that I will buy some longer lens). After that I have bought old 90mm Super-Angulon and than 210mm G-Claron. and later G-Claron 240 (now manly used on 8x10). And I'm happy with that range. something like my favorite 35mm range 28-40/45-85/105. So, yours 90-150-240 sounds like will fit your practice.
I call my Super-Angulon "my best enemy" - it is big, heavy and dark (compared to the rest of mine lenses) and uses larger filter. So I don't use it when I'm on hike. Than I use only 135 and 210 both with 52mm filter threads (symar have an adapter) with a lot of old filters from my nikkors days. Well, I wanted to say - if you are going to hike a lot, choose lighter/smaller lenses with same or similar filter threads as that will keep your rucksack lighter allowing you to add more film or take a longer walk... have a good light :)

Gordon Moat
9-Apr-2007, 11:50
On lenses, I think you might find it easier to start with one lens, then figure out other focal lengths from that. The reasoning is that while 35mm or 6x7 equivalents might make sense on paper, when you actually start using lenses on a 4x5 expectations can change. An easy to start lens might be a 135mm, 150mm, or 210mm, all of which are somewhat common and reasonable used prices. Get one of those and use it often; soon you will find what you want as a second lens, and then perhaps a third.


Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

9-Apr-2007, 14:43
Likewise, I had a Shen shipped to me in the UK from Badger about 2 years ago - took 48 hours and given the USD/GBP exchange rate was a real bargain (a bit odd getting a camera made in China, sold in the US and then shipped to the UK, but that's the wonderful world of Internet shopping for you!). IIRC, there was no duty payable on the camera: just a small customs handing charge from Fed-Ex (less than a fiver I recall) and VAT on the total. It spent over 30 of those 48 hours in UK customs (wasn't even opened)... Painless.

The Tachihara, though prettier (at least, in it's dark wood and lacquered brass livery) does not have as many movements as the Shen and has fixed bellows (unless they have changed them in the last couple of years).

A rough equivalent with lenses is that 5x4 lenses are 3 times the focal length of 35mm ones for a similar angle of view, so the standard lens is a 150mm and the common 90mm LF lens is roughly equal to a 30mm lens on 35mm etc (it feels a bit wider than that to me, but that may just be wishful thinking on my part! ;) ).

Good luck, Bob.

Brian Vuillemenot
9-Apr-2007, 15:41
A rough equivalent with lenses is that 5x4 lenses are 3 times the focal length of 35mm ones for a similar angle of view, so the standard lens is a 150mm and the common 90mm LF lens is roughly equal to a 30mm lens on 35mm etc (it feels a bit wider than that to me, but that may just be wishful thinking on my part! ;) ).

4X5 lenses are actually a bit wider than the "multiply 35mm by 3" rule would suggest. It has to do with the different aspect ratio of 4X5 compared with 35mm- it's not as long. A 150 is actually about equivalent to a 42 mm on 35mm, while a 90 is about eqivalent to a 25 mm on 35mm. However, due to the different aspect ratio, direct comparisons can not be made. In addition, lenses just feel wider, because of the big ground glass compared with a 35mm viewfinder.