View Full Version : Shen Hao vs. Tachihara

6-May-2008, 14:46
I have been working with a zone VI 4x5 for the past couple of months and i am deciding that i am goin to move on to a different 4x5 system. However i cannot decide between the shen hao HZX IIA or the tachihara 45GF. the camera will be used for field and studio work. any help would be greatly appreciated.

Fred L
6-May-2008, 14:57
Curious why you're thinking of switching ? The Zone's are triple bed which I find very useful.

6-May-2008, 15:09
It's a weight tradeoff but the ShenHao has about as much movements as you're likely to get without switching to a monorail. The back movements are awesome.

6-May-2008, 15:10
The Tachihara is ideal for field work because of its weight; a smidge over three pounds. It is fairly rigid for such a light camera, and is very well made. It's bellows extension is about 310mm, so if you plan to use a lens longer than 300mm (focused at infinity) you're out of luck, unfortunately. It lacks front and rear shift, but has all other movements. For studio work, where shift is highly desireable, they Tachi may not be a good choice.

I'll echo Fred's question? Why won't the Zone VI work for you?

Fred L
6-May-2008, 15:18
I can see moving to a lighter camera which my Wista DX is. The need for longer lenses was why I got a Zone VI. Preston is right though, the weight difference is noticeable between the Zone and Wista/ Tachihara.

For most studio work, I would think if you have a more current (triple bed) Zone, then that should suffice. Not seeing what advantage a Shen or Tachihara would have in controlled settings.

Dave Parker
6-May-2008, 15:32
Not to be controversial, but the weight question always amazes me! Of course I have spent the last 10 years in NW Montana, carrying cameras around in the back country, spent many years in Washington state, carrying cameras around, and the least of my worries has been the weight, I have always wanted a camera that does the job, and was willing to carry it, no matter the weight! With all the stuff we have to carry, to do the job we do, it seems weight would be one of the least of our worries.

Just my .02 I never expected photography to be comfortable!


6-May-2008, 15:41
Dave, agreed, and anyway the camera is kind of the least of your worries with a complete 4x5 setup. Okay, shaving a pound here and there helps, but it's not that big a deal. My shen hao isn't exactly a back breaker. Maybe scaled up to 8x10 there'd be a difference worth worrying about.

The movements on the shen hao are great; about as good as you get without going to a monorail. Exchangeable bellows is a bonus (I use the bag quite a bit). You might have to tweak the rear locking mechanism a bit, as I did - it came a bit loose so I had to add a washer to let it tighten up a bit more. The other option is to move the locking lever handle to a different hole in the locking nut, which makes it protrude out the back when locked down - a problem with folding it up and transporting it. I opted for the washer solution. Might be remedied in current generation shen hao, but mine's pretty recent (2 yrs or so). Very easy fix (can be done by hand and with no disassembly - just unscrew a nut, add a washer, and reassemble), but figured I'd mention it.

6-May-2008, 15:43
the reason why i am switching is because when i bought the zone VI i was mislead by the actual workings and condition of the camera. the knobs seem to need extensive tightening to not move, one knob won't tighten, one of the screws holding in the ground glass just ripped out on me the other day. i enjoy the movements and the functions of the zone VI, however i think that i am going to just buy a new cheaper field and go from there, instead of putting the money into fixing it.

Kevin Crisp
6-May-2008, 15:50
If your Zone VI is the wisner-like one, and it needs some rehab, send it to Richard Ritter. What you are describing doesn't sound terribly difficult to fix. I wouldn't go from a zone VI back to a Tachihara. (Or a Shen Hao)

Brian Ellis
6-May-2008, 16:04
I've owned both, the Shen for only a short time (because it was misrepresented by the seller), two Tachiharas over a period of several years. It's mostly a trade-off between the weight of the Shen (a little over 6 lbs vs a little less than 4 lbs for the Tachihara) vs the extra back movements of the Shen and the ability to use a bag bellows, neither of which the Tachihara has. The Tachihara has back swing and tilt and that was enough for me, I didn't care about the other back movements the Shen has. The Tachihara has a very flexible bellows and can be used with a lens as short as 65mm without needing a bag bellows though the movements would be restricted. The Tachihara has a 13" bellows so you can use a 300mm lens with it and focus as close as about 10-12 feet. The Shen requires some PITA gyrations with front base and axis tilt to use a 300mm lens closer than infinity.

I think either camera would serve someone looking for a relatively inexpensive wood field camera equally well unless the weight of the Tachihara or the ability to use a 300mm lens easily led to the Tachihara or unless the back movements of the Shen or the availability of a bag bellows led to the Shen. Frankly I think the Chamonix, which I've also owned and which cost about $100 more than the Shen and the Tachihara, is a better camera than either of them because it combines the best attributes of both.

Dave Parker
6-May-2008, 16:06

I agree 100%, what is being described is very little to fix, and is something that will always need to be fixed on wood field cameras.


Dave Parker
6-May-2008, 16:08
Forgot to add,

I would be happy to buy your Zone Draggin..


Turner Reich
6-May-2008, 16:13
I have a Shen Hao and the biggest problem is not weight or movements but the short bellows draw. Sure the back moves back and the front moves forward but it's not stable when you want to put the longer lens on it in that configuration. I wish it was a triple extension camera, then it would be a killer. It's a wide angle to 210mm, or 90mm camera. When you get it the joints are smooth, after a short time the joints can be felt because the wood moves. I have had cameras were this wasn't the case.

Turner Reich
6-May-2008, 16:14
Yes a loose screw and some knob adjustments are not a reason to dump the camera, what's the real reason, are you just tired with it?

Dave Parker
6-May-2008, 16:19
Yes a loose screw and some knob adjustments are not a reason to dump the camera, what's the real reason, are you just tired with it?

Tired I can understand, hell I get tired with cameras all the time!


Dave Moeller
6-May-2008, 16:20
The bellows on the Shen-Hao and the Tachihara both extend about the same amount, unless you move the front standard of the Shen-Hao forward. Then you can get out to 360mm. It's rock solid extended like that, though you wouldn't believe it to look at it.

I went with the Shen-Hao for the three main differences between the two cameras: More movements, interchangeable bellows, and a Graflock back. Those were the things that were important to me. If those things don't matter, or if weight's a concern, then the Tachihara's a great choice. It's really up to what's important to you.

Best of luck.

6-May-2008, 17:51
Another recommendation for the Chamonix 45N-1. The Chamonix has a Graflock back and is at least as light as the Tachihara, but the bellows extend to about 400mm. The bellows are interchangeable and Chamonix will be offering both a universal bellows and a bag bellows this year. The movements are very ample, only lacking rear shift and rise/fall. The craftsmanship is superb and the only downside is you'll have to wait until July for the next batch.

Alan Davenport
6-May-2008, 18:24
I've never touched a Shen Hao. I own a Tachihara, in the guise of a Calumet Wood Field XM. Marvelous camera, 'nuff said.

Fred L
6-May-2008, 19:27
A few pounds can make a huge difference if you intend to fly to Australia or New Zealand for example. They are strict there and they WILL weigh your bags. If over the limit, you are basically pooched. This is not from personal experience,yet, but what the missus told me when she travelled with her telescope.

The two or three pounds means I can carry on another lens or extra couple of boxes of film. I dread the day I begin flying with my 8x10.

6-May-2008, 23:17
The two or three pounds means I can carry on another lens or extra couple of boxes of film. I dread the day I begin flying with my 8x10.

At the moment flying out of Canada isn't too bad. You get one carry on and a camera bag. So between the two my 8x10 was fine carried on. I checked holders and tripod but the rest came with me.

To the intial question. Why not two cameras? Studio monorail which tend to be cheap today. Field camera for outdoors. If you get two cameras that can share lensboards then it'll work even better. Or at least an adapter board.

Ben R
7-May-2008, 04:19
I owned a Tachi but haven't had a Shen Hao. Things to consider are the bag bellows, you can get movements (just) with a 75mm on the Tachi but not more than that. Base and axis tilts on the Shen Hao if you don't like having to refocus when you tilt, Graflex back on the Shen Hao if you like the idea of pano roll backs, etc.

Fred L
7-May-2008, 04:58
At the moment flying out of Canada isn't too bad....

Flying out of Canada is fine for now but when you come back you'll encounter problems and if one is not prepared to check gear, it's going to be tough job convincing the ticket agent why they should let you on.

I'll find out next year when I head down to visit the in laws ;)

Joseph O'Neil
7-May-2008, 05:26
I own both a Zone VI and a Tachi, not sure if going to a Shen Hao would help you much. Movement are the same or similar between the Shen and the Zone, IMO.

biggest advantage on the Tachi is the low weight and bright screen (usefull with F8 and F9 lenses).

With apologies to Mr. Parker, super-human photographer that he is, :p :p , weight is an issue to wussies like myself. Mind you, getting over a ruptured appendix in the past and now dealing with a small hernia kinda makes every ounce an issue. :)

One other thought, if back movements are not a major issue, the CF Toyo was a camera I almost bought.

Dave Parker
7-May-2008, 07:57
With apologies to Mr. Parker, super-human photographer that he is, :p :p , weight is an issue to wussies like myself. Mind you, getting over a ruptured appendix in the past and now dealing with a small hernia kinda makes every ounce an issue. :)

Joe, No super human here, remember I broke my back last fall and had to have surgery to repair it a couple of months ago, so I have finally become human! ;)

Believe me, there are days, when the point and shoot pocket digital seems to darn heavy!