View Full Version : Shen-Hao TFC45-I = Ebony SW45 Clone?

Christopher Condit
15-May-2002, 22:33
I had never heard of this guy till I ran across it today on eBay. Its looks and specs are identical to the Ebony. Any user info would be appreciated; in parti cular, I wonder about build quality and squareness. And can the mondo 95mm-acro ss lenses be used conveniently.

A search of the web turned up nothing but www.shen-hao.com/11.htm, which appears to be no more than the specs (unfortunately I cannot read Chinese).

It so happens I will be in Shanghai this summer and am considering stopping by t he factory to maybe buy one. Like many others, I have lusted after an Ebony, bu t can't bring myself to pay the big bucks. If I can get a close copy on the che ap, I would make do without the cachet.


Adam Gibbs
15-May-2002, 23:56
Christopher I know absolutely nothing about either of these cameras other than what I have read in the review section of this site. I would be a little suspicious. I once bought a Leatherman tool look- alike tool from Home Depot for $8.00. The tool looked exactly the same as the real thing except for the much cheaper price. The first time I went to use the can opener the tool broke $8.00 down the drain. I then picked up a real Leatherman for about $60.00 and if you put the two tools together you would be hard pressed to see the difference. I can honestly say that after a few years of use the real Leatherman was well worth the money, hasn't failed me yet. My only beef is that I spent $68.00 instead of the $60.00 that I should have forked out in the beginning. I guess you get what you pay for and I would personally save my pennies and go for the real thing. Just my long winded opinion.

Ed Candland
16-May-2002, 00:38
hmmmm. I saw one of these on sell on e-bay about 4 weeks ago. It was sold as new and came with a case just like the one now (I wonder). IT went for about $300 Anyway I posted about it at the time and got no responses. There was a link included that had a shop in the US (I think) that sold them. But I no longer have the link. I know Badger sells the other models and most people seem to say Shen-Haos are a good deal for the money. But that's all I know.

David Willis
16-May-2002, 02:12
I think I've seen a picture of this one somewhere. I don't really know anything about it. But I sure like my HZX45IIA. Someone brought it back from Shanghai for me, and I got the camera, a lensboard, bag bellows, and case for $575. If you're going to be there, definately go by and check it out. You may want to try emailing in advance to find out more and make sure they will have a model around.

I agree that an $8 leatherman is probably false ecomony. But if the Shen Hao could be 75-85% of the Ebony at a fraction of the cost, it might be worth it.


paul owen
16-May-2002, 05:19
It may be a copy of the SW45, but it ain't an Ebony!! I'm not being a camera snob - you only get what you pay for!!

Lars Åke Vinberg
16-May-2002, 08:34
Photos here:



Ed Candland
16-May-2002, 08:52
Paul Owen is a camera snob!

J/K Paul ;-)

16-May-2002, 09:19
Here's a review of a Shen-Hao camera: (http://www.ai.sri.com/~luong/photography/lf/cameras/shenhao/shenhao.h tml).

The review is quite positive, as is nearly everything I've heard about the camera. I believe Kerry Thalmann also wrote a review, or at least an extensive post on this site, and his comments are always insightful and informative. Also, based on his review of the Toho, you might what to check that one out too.

16-May-2002, 10:11
Hello all:

2 Years ago I bought a Seagull TLR- the 4 element 3 group model and it is GREAT. There was a small light leak but that was fixed in 5 min with some metal epoxy.

I made some 15x enlagements on T Max 400 and took them back to the store in Shanghai from which I bought the camera and they wouldn't beleive they were from their camera. They insisted I used a Hasselblad.

Same as with many Russian cameras: the lens is great and if you find one that works mechanically, you got a real bargain.

I too am heading for Shanghai in June and will ask a friend to scout out the factorey for me, as they seem to do everything they can to avoid customers.

The Chinese can make thngs that are as good as anyone else if they set their minds to it. The wines they make in a joint venture with some French companies are very very good. I have a Chinese 50 watt Class A Amplifier I am listening to at the moment with some Chinese speakers (The new Star Wars sound track out just today) and the sound is better than from my British Musical Fidelity amp and Rogers LS3/5a speakers back home.

They are probably copies but damn good ones and at 1/4 the price.

Chey Chin


Tony Galt
16-May-2002, 12:20
I have a Shen Hao. It is my first LF camera. Out of curiosity I had a look at th e Ebony website and downloaded both their catalog and instruction sheets in the form of high resolution pdf files. I'd say that their SV cameras are closest to the Shen Hao HZX 4X5-IIA that I have. (In fact the Ebony instruction sheet looks like it would pretty much do for the Shen Hao, for which there appear to be no English language instruction sheets.) Obviously, the Ebony is made of better and more exotic materials--ebony and titanium. The Shen Hao is made of teak, steel and brass, with teflon bushings on the knobs. The Shen Hao has a fabric bellows as opposed to calfskin on the Ebony. It also has a sturdy plastic hand strap. In terms of movements, the design is similar, but the Shen Hao lacks the front shi ft of the Ebony. The Shen Hao does have front center tilt, but I would not use i t except in an emergency as it does not lock down as securely as one might want especially at extreme extensions with heavy lenses (my 210 Nikkor for instance). The Ebony's locking knobs look, from the catalog, much more secure. Front tilt is best achieved with base tilt on the Shen Hao. The Ebony has double focusing r ails--the Shen Hao has only the front rail. This means, of course, that the Shen Hao has limited bellows draw--enough for a 240-270 perhaps (I haven't graduated to lenses longer than 210 yet). The Shen Hao back is quite similar to the Ebony with both base and center tilt, ample shift and swing. One can tilt back on the center axis and then with the base tilt to gain about an inch of bellows draw w ith sufficient rigidity.

In terms of general construction I'd say the Shen Hao is sturdy and workmanlike, but not beautiful. The precision of the zero detants leaves something to be des ired and I find myself checking front and rear standard level frequently and mak ing sure that front and back are well-aligned horizontally as well. I carry a li ghtweight plastic torpedo level in my bag for this purpose. The Shen Hao has no built-in levels. I have this down to a system, and I've been having lots of fun shooting film and feel that this is a great learning camera, especially since it has more movements than the average wooden field camera anywhere near its price . I think that if I were moving up to a better field camera I would look very se riously at the Ebony SV because the movements would be quite similar.

David Willis
16-May-2002, 13:27
Paul Owen is right. You do get what you pay for. But don't forget that many times a significant portion of what you're paying is for the name. All things being equal, I'd rather have an Ebony, but for me, all things (especially the price) aren't equal, so I've got a Shen Hao. In the end, the decision is yours.


paul owen
16-May-2002, 14:49
I agree with you Dave, but a great many people buy into a "name" because of the quality that goes with it (Linhof, Toyo, Canham, etc). If brand X camera was not up to much - then no one would buy it. Usually a "name" signifies a level of quality! BUT, the best camera is the one you have with you! I count myself fortunate that I use an Ebony - I bought the best I could afford - but then I don't drink or smoke so I diverted funds elsewhere and the Ebony is my "luxury". It sounds as if the Shen-Hao is a great camera, for the price - and if its the camera you can afford then get it. There was a short, but glowing review on one of the Shen-Hao's in a recent edition of "View Camera" After all, if it is modelled on the Ebony, it should be good!!

Christopher Condit
16-May-2002, 14:52
Thanks for all the replies. I won't be buying this guy unless I can play with it first.

The question of how much to spend is a tough one for me personally. I have the means to buy an Ebony, but as an amateur/hobbiest, it kind of seems like overkill. I doubt it would improve the results, though I'm sure it would improve the experience. Don't get me wrong, the experience is important to me; I just don't want to be like those guys who buys an SUV to drive to the supermarket...


paul owen
16-May-2002, 17:22
Chris, Not wanting to be seen to be "prolonging" the life of this posting, I do feel that you maybe missing the point! Why do you feel that owning an Ebony would be overkill? Expensive - perhaps - you can buy cheaper, but the "experience" is worth the extra outlay. Despite the "myths", Ebony cameras are "basic" - the SW I use has "limited" movements when compared to some cheaper cameras, but the build quality is exemplary. It will outlast me!! I see where you're coming from with the analogy to SUVs and supermarket trips, but surely these drivers own vehicles that are intended for one type of use but put to another. Who needs 4x4 to go shopping? My Ebony has the movements I need, the quality I appreciate and is a real pleasure to use. I am an amateur in the truest sense - but having a "nice" camera makes shooting LF a pleasure not a chore! The long trudge to a location, laden down with gear and tripod is eased somewhat when I fix my ideal camera to the head and get under the cloth! PLEASE don't think of me as a snob!! The "my camera is better than yours" brigade are a personal bug of mine, I chose to invest in an Ebony, not as a status symbol, but as part of the LF experience! And because of the SMELL!!!!! Regards Paul

Christopher Condit
16-May-2002, 17:35
Paul, thanks for your opinion, you sure make the Ebony sound wonderful. Your point is well taken that these two cameras are designed to do the same thing, so the SUV analogy is bogus. A better example would be a middle-aged overweight guy buying $250 Nike marathon shoes to run half a mile a day, when the $15 PayLess sneakers would be perfectly adequate.

Anyways I am not buying anything till I touch the Shen-Hao in Shanghai.


paul owen
16-May-2002, 17:47
Do people really pay that much for sneakers!! ;-) Good luck in Shanghai - let us all know how you get on with the Shen-Hao

Scott Killian
16-May-2002, 19:04
As a direct result of feedback from Paul and other Ebony aficionados on this board, I recently purchased an Ebony 45S - my first large format. I must agree that these cameras are everything people say they are - the camera is light, very rigid, movements are smooth and the workmanship is outstanding. However - it's lenses, film and good exposures that create great images. The Ebony is probably the best built wooden field camera ever, but not everybody can afford one. If you're on a limited budget, sink your money into good glass instead. You can always upgrade to a better camera later. The only thing I would caution you about on the Shen-Hao is service. Being in Shanghai, you may not be able to get replacement parts or service from the company if anything goes wrong.

Jeff Scott
16-May-2002, 20:20
There is something to said for pride of ownership. If you have the means, get the Ebony. Down the road you may ask yourself: Why didn't I just get the "---------" in the first place instead of a copy of the real deal? I have owned several different makes and models of view cameras over the years and have recently settled on an Ebony 45SU; yes it was expensive but as a final purchase I will be very happy and through the years I will forget about the purchase price and just enjoy using the camera. Quality usually has it's financial cost but in the end it is worth it. A Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and a Porsche 911 were both cut from the same basic cloth so to speak, which would you rather have?

16-May-2002, 23:14
I think that someday if I got the Ebony the main reason would be for the U-back. I would like a 5x7...but $6400.00 ,jeez ...I could buy land up north for that!

David Willis
17-May-2002, 00:51
Paul is right that many times, the well established, higher priced brands bring known quality with them. The quality and security are important to consider. Ebony cameras, Snap-on tools, whatever your personal thing is. I paid more for my Honda than I would have for a Kia, but the quality and security were worth more than the increased cost.

I'll bet that you could buy the Shen Hao in Shang Hai, use it for a while, and if you don't like it, fleabay it for at least what you paid. If you called it rare, you might even get twice what you paid.

Parts and repair are something to think about, and I gave that some thought when I bought the Shen Hao. But I decided that if something broke, I could work around it or probably find someone around who could fabricate what I need.


Ed Candland
17-May-2002, 21:37
Paul. I hope you know I was just kidding about that camera snob comment. I was just kidding. I don't think that. =)

paul owen
18-May-2002, 15:34
Ed, This is one place that I KNOW people are friendly (and true enthusiasts) and can joke even when they DON'T agree with what you have to say!! Long may this forum (and the jokes) continue!!

Clive Alexander Dummigan
1-Apr-2004, 16:31
I've used Wista, Ebony and Shen hao all of which were borrowed. The Wista may have a reputable name, but I wasn't impressed with the camera. The focusing was rough, it had limited movement, and when I removed the lens panel I found poorly finished wood which was full of splinters. When I borrowed the Shen hao I thought it was going to be a typical chinese product with poor workmanship and sloppy controls, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The construction was far ahead of the Wista, it had loads of movement and the price was too cheap to be true. The final camera was the Ebony. The construction was better than the Shen hao, but the movement was very similar. The only problem was its silly price, which I couldn't justify. In the end I purchesed the Shen Hao which was somewhere in between the Wista and Ebony. I find the Shen hao a very under rated camera and should be seriously considered.