View Full Version : Chaminoxvs Shen- Hao

29-Feb-2008, 17:18
Anyone out there have any comparison of the Chaminox and Shen-Hao?
From photos the Chaminox looks better crafted and more rigid.
I know I can get a Shen from Badger,but I would be interested to know anyone who has ordered a Chaminox and the procedure since I cannot find an ordering source.Thanks,Steve

john collins
29-Feb-2008, 18:39
Many of us on this forum have ordered Chamonix cameras from Hugo Zhang - one of our members. I highly recommend Hugos service and Chamonix cameras. You can PM him for information.

Gordon Moat
1-Mar-2008, 00:27
I think you will find that the movements of the Shen-Hao are different than the Chamonix. I find that I use back shift movements extensively with some tilt on my Shen-Hao, though I do some unusual selective focus shots that way.


Gordon Moat Photography (http://www.gordonmoat.com)

1-Mar-2008, 00:59
I own the shen hao and i used a chamonix 45 recently. I sent a "review" to Hugo with the pros and cons. email me and i'll forward it on along with shen hao pros n cons. They are two very different cameras.

1-Mar-2008, 01:48
Are we sure he's comparing the 4x5s?

Jiri Vasina
1-Mar-2008, 03:03
I have the Chamonix 5x8, my brother has Shen Hao FCL-57. Some quick notes (we have not really done the comparison yet, both cameras are new to us).


+ lighter, even though it's bigger
+ more bellows extension (600mm plus)
+ rigidity
+/- large Sinar type boards
- minimum bellows extension is around 110mm

Shen Hao:

+ smaller
+ shorter minimum bellows draw (can use 90mm lens on normal board)
+ rigidity
+/- smaller Linhof technika boards
- heavier
- shorter maximum bellows extension

Handling of both cameras is very similar. I'd say that the cameras are a bit different, but nothing significant...

1-Mar-2008, 04:45
Shen Hao:

+ shorter minimum bellows draw (can use 90mm lens on normal board)

With normal bellows I guess. If it's like the 8x10 with a bag bellows it goes much wider. OTOH I'm not sure anybody wants to go so wide.

Jiri Vasina
1-Mar-2008, 06:11
Nick, yes with normal bellows. I forgot to say that Chamonix does not provide a means to use bag bellows. The movement is limited by the construction of the camera, not the bellows themselves. I'm not sure about the Shen, I don't have it at hand.

Ted Harris
1-Mar-2008, 07:29
The Chamonix 4x5 does have interchangeable bellows. I judt did a review of the camera for the March issue of View Camera. Bottom line, it is a very favorable review.

1-Mar-2008, 09:06
Thanks everyone this helps a great deal.Steve

Brian Ellis
1-Mar-2008, 09:25
I've owned a Shen Hao (briefly, not because of a problem with the camera but because it was misrepresented by the seller) and now own a Chamonix that I haven't yet had a chance to use very much. Both are excellent cameras, I don't think anyone would go wrong buying either one if it suits their needs.

I prefer the Chamonix myself, mainly because of the longer bellows extension (about 15" vs 12" for the Shen, the longer 14" Shen extension sometimes quoted is achieved by manipulating front base and axis tilts to extend the bellows out in front of the camera bed, manipulations that I didn't care to make); axis tilt (again, something that can be achieved on the Shen but with fiddling, base tilt is the norm), and lower weight (about 4 lbs vs 6 lbs). I also think the Chamonix is a better looking camera and I do care about the looks of things I use. While I haven't used either camera extensively, I didn't see an obvious difference in quality of construction, I thought both were well made and seemed pretty solid.

When I was considering buying the Chamonix I was mostly comparing it in my mind with the two Tachiharas I've owned. Again, I think both cameras are excellent cameras. But for my purposes the Chamonix was a clearer winner over the Tachihara than it was over the Shen, for the following reasons: axis tilt for the Chamonix vs base tilt for the Tachi; 15 inch bellows vs 13 inch bellows for the Tachi, which doesn't sound like much but was important to me because I use a 300mm lens that pushes the limits of the Tachi); Graflok/international back on the Chamonix vs plain spring back on the Tachi (the Tachi back severely limits choices in roll film holders which I keep saying I'm going to start using one of these days), interchangeable bellows on the Chamonix vs no interchangeable bellows on the Tachi (though the Tachi's very flexible bellows allows the use of shorter lenses without a bag bellows than is the case with many other non-interchageable bellows cameras).

There are other differences among the Shen, Chamonix, and Tachihara but the ones listed above were the ones that were important to me.

One difference that was unimportant to me was the availabilty of shift on the Chamonix (and the Shen) vs no shift on the Tachi. I've rarely used shift even with the Technikas and Ebonys I've owned that had it. When shift is used more of the area of the lens closer to its edges is used to form the image. With a modern lens and/or a lot of excess coverage that may be o.k. depending on the amount of shift. But I prefer to keep the film and lens centered so that as little as possible of the area towards the outer edges of the image circle is used to form the image. That's admittedly picky but I figure that I've gone to a lot of trouble and expense in using LF equipment to get the technically best image possible. So I'd rather move the tripod and keep the film and lens centered rather than just using shift to alter the composition (assuming, of course, that there's room in which to move the tripod).

1-Mar-2008, 14:54
I've owned both the Shen and Chamonix 4x5 -- kept the Chamonix and have grown very fond of it.

I'm a relative newbie to LF and for some reason I have found the Chamonix to be more intuitive and comfortable to use, once I figured out the small quirks I felt that I "fought" the camera less. My big epiphany after a year of shooting LF (besides the fact that I genuinely enjoy it) is that these different cameras are like women's shoes, tons of subjectivity when it comes to choosing...

As per usual, I find Brian's comments intriguing as I would really like a more portable 5x7 field camera and was leaning towards the Tachihara. I wonder what the comparison between the 5x7 Tachi and the 5x8 Chamonix would be like (except for the unfortunate large price difference...)


1-Mar-2008, 16:45
One thing I've found with the Chamonix, it would (for me anyway) be difficult to work with in very low light, since alot of things are difficult do do by feel alone (such as center the swing or shift) and moving the standard from a long lens configuration to a short lens configuration requires re-screwing in the front standard with a large wing nut, as well as moving the rear standard forward when going to a wide lens (I have to move the rear standard forward for my 90mm.)

I don't do much low-light stuff, but if I did I think the Chamonix wouldn't be as friendly to use as well as some other cameras that have nice center snaps for most movements, and don't require un screwing things to configure the camera. The back glass protector is a bit wonky to use (I find myself fiddling with it when trying to put it on or take it off, something that wouldn't be fun in the dark!) I think I may opt for a more traditional "slide in" protector, I like having something to protect the glass.

That aside, the Chamonix (4x5) been a wonderful camera! Great price, and bellows that work for both short and long lenses quite well! Once, believe I had over 1 inch of rise and a bit of swing while using my 90mm (with a flat board and factory bellows), something I wasn't able to do with the wista I was using before.

1-Mar-2008, 18:39
Daniel and i went out a couple weeks back and i got to use his Chamonix 45n for a couple set ups. I sent this list to H.Z.:

1.An inserted film holder has a lot of room to move up and down along the long side or horizontal axis. I don't think 4x5 holders vary that much so i don't see why there's so much "play."

2.The bubble in the levels are slow to react in normal temperatures according to the owner and much too slow for me in freezing temps.

3.The latches which lock the rear tilt at 90 degrees are very hard to use with gloves on. If a small pin protruded out of the existing latch at a right angle, that would help.

The rear standard slides all over when loosened. I know shen hao and phillips has a similar design and i guess i'm just used to a bit more control.

4.I know this has been mentioned on the lf forum but the lines for setting up the bed are very hard to see in dim light.

5.The included fresnel made viewing through my 305mm difficult. I had to keep moving my head around to see the whole ground glass. Not so on my other cameras with fresnel screens.

6.It took the camera owner a bit of fiddling to get the ground glass protector off. Something simpler may be more effective.


I couldn't believe how light it was! Almost too light for my carbon fiber tripod.

It handles a 305mm g claron quite well, even at full extension, it was solid compared to my shen hao.

The lens board latch system is great and smooth.

The bellows gave me about 1" of rise with my 90mm without pushing the front standard out of alignment. I meant to see if my shen hao bag bellows would fit this camera but i forgot. The attachment method is the same.

Pretty easy to set up and take down.
I think this review is more accurate than one may get from someone who has purchased the body already. I know i wouldn't want to say anything negative about something i just spent a lot of money on.

I'm still considering one for purchase if i sell my shen hao.
I am very impressed that i got a detailed response on my comments, here's the response i got this week:

Hi Vinny,

On behalf of the factory, I thank you very much for your candid review. Here is the reply from the factory:

1. The original 45N-1 camema was designed with very tight back so film holders fit very well. But many users demand that the use of rollfilm backs be allowed, so the camera was made to take Grafloc backs. Since there is a quite bit difference among the different rollfilm backs, the factory has no other choice to let all rollfilm backs fit the camera. They are aware of the problem you mentioned, but don't know how to solve it at this moment.

2. They are aware of the bubble level problem too. This is the best bubble levels currently available in China. If you know a source for good bubble levels, Chamonix is intereted to buy them. I will search for them too.

3. Very good suggestion. They will take serious a look at this.

4. The new batch in July will have highly visible marks.

5. Fresnel lenses come in different degrees of brightness for different focal lenses. Chamonix cameras come with fresnel lenses suitable for WA lenses which will appear dim for long lenses. In most cases, people prefer a brighter screen to check the corners when using WA lenses. They can supply users with fresnel for long lenses too.

6. They are aware of this problem and the new batch in July will not have this problem.

Thanks again and I would like to shoot with you someday.

Shen Hao: I've owned one for about 5 years and used it extnesively with everything from 90mm up to 305mm.
It is a great camera for the price and quite different in design and function from the Chamonix.
I use a bag bellows with my 90mm and even 135mm if i need more movements.
Focusing with the rear standard is possible and useful when doing macro work when moving the front standard would change magnification.
Bellows extension- focussing a 300mm lens to five feet or so requires pulling the front standard out of it's axis and repositioning it forward. This isn't fun and not very solid either.
Bag bellows- usable with my lenses up to 210 and maybe 240 but i haven't tried it. They do allow the camera to fold up as well when installed.
Camera sets up quickly and is pretty solid.
Bubble levels are useless since the camera can be tilted a bit and bubble will show centered.
Bolts, springs, and screws- get some loctite, take the camera apart and locticte everything. I lost a few parts before ordering spares. The camera had a broken spring on the front standard right out of the box. Badger Graphic said it was useless so i removed it.
Graflock back is nice and solid. Film holders fit well and roll film holders too.
Movements lock down fine but bag bellows may be required for shorter lenses as the front standard will flex if bellows are forced in or up.
Rear axial tilt and swing is nice but i'd trade other rear movements for front shift.
The way i shoot has changed since i began shooting 8x10 with a Wehman and longer lenses where using rear movements is easier and sometimes required when you can't reach the front standard from under the cloth.


1-Mar-2008, 22:53
6.It took the camera owner a bit of fiddling to get the ground glass protector off. Something simpler may be more effective.
Yea, the protector doesn't seem to good for normal use. Maybe for the initial shipping, but not for initial use. Yea, I still have trouble taking it off, as you saw :D

Brian Ellis
2-Mar-2008, 09:29
"6. They are aware of this problem and the new batch in July will not have this problem"

If solving this "problem" will take the form of a different protector (rather than a different back), it would be nice if Chamonix would sell it independent of the camera so that owners of the original camera might take advantage of it. Frankly I don't consider it much of a problem myself. Of the various wood LF cameras I've owned, it's the only one that has come with any kind of a GG protector. With the others I've had to spend an extra $30 or so to buy the Canham protector from Badger. So any use at all that I get out of the Chamonix holder, convenient or not, I consider as icing on the cake.

Sal Santamaura
2-Mar-2008, 10:06
...Of the various wood LF cameras I've owned, it's the only one that has come with any kind of a GG protector...Didn't both the Ebonies you owned come with a protector?


Dave Moeller
4-Mar-2008, 15:39
Bellows extension- focussing a 300mm lens to five feet or so requires pulling the front standard out of it's axis and repositioning it forward. This isn't fun and not very solid either

I think you've got the pro's and con's mostly right, but am surprised that you find positioning the front standard of the Shen-Hao forward to not be solid. I've hung a 300mm Symmar (a 1Kg lens) on the end of mine with no trouble. It locks down as solidly as any other lens that I've used on the camera.

4-Mar-2008, 16:02
Yea, the protector doesn't seem to good for normal use. Maybe for the initial shipping, but not for initial use. Yea, I still have trouble taking it off, as you saw :D

I found that if you slightly lift the back out, as if you were going to insert a film holder, then the protector comes off quite easily.