by Stan. Laurenson-Batten © 2005 for largeformatphotography.info
I was recently given an opportunity to use and give an opinion on the newly released, SH612 120 Roll Film Holder for the 5X4 format by Shen-Hao, an established Chinese camera manufacturer.
The holder is designed to give the option of the following format sizes: window one gives either 6X12 or 6X6 and window two gives the option of 6X4.5 or 6X9. It is possible to change formats on the same spool of film in the camera by calculation the film numbers. The weight of the holder empty is, 1.5 lbs. or 650 gr. This holder is very much a budget accessory which cost less than half the price of it's nearest rival and a tenth of cost for the state of the art holder from Sinar.
The body of the holder is made of die cast aluminium that is robust. It soon became clear that the designer followed the KISS principle to the letter, making all parts just adequate for the task to be performed but to no great loss, lacking in the beauty department.
The holder back fits snugly to the camera Graflock back after removing the screen. The holder retaining slides are pushed to secure the holder to the Graflock back with a reassuring click.
There are very few moving working parts, not a bad thing for the reliability stakes. Spool chambers, film tracks and pressure plate were found to be well up to the job, the simplicity of these parts make inspection and cleaning easy. The rollers are well sited to give the film advance a smooth and positive travel over the holder's film aperture using the well roughened winding knob.
Consequently the SH 612 B simplicity has a trade off.
The engineering of the main body of the holder is well made and precision machined, but it is the only credit that can be justly afforded to this accessory. The fittings are just about up to the job, roughly made and would appear unskilled labour fitted. The holder I was given was new, straight out of the box from China. The package contained all the necessary masks for the lesser sizes.
As the holder is simplicity to the extreme, the distributors no doubt felt that no instructions were needed. Nevertheless, I did get details from the web a site, that proved helpful.
The visual frame counters are two small red windows, similar to those used on the much loved box brownie of many yester years. There is a slide to close the red windows when not being used.
For the trial I decided to go for the 612 format, which does not require any masking.
This is where I encountered my first problem; it was not possible, even with good eyesight to read the frame numbers in anything other than bright sunlight. In fact, I found it necessary to calibrate the number of turns on the winder knob to start the sequence and then each frame number.
The calibration method proved more reliable than the often, unclear, dubious frame numbers on various manufacturers of colour and black and white films. My calculations for the largest format being: eight 360 turns to wind on to the first frame, then, two and a half turns for each subsequent frame. I stuck a red marker dot or rubrick, on the winder knob to facilitate accuracy of spacing.
More problems were to follow.
Having taken six shots in my studio, I was eager to process the film to see if my calculations were on target. They were spot on, however, the film was badly fogged. The fogging ran in two strips along the middle of each and every frame. The film was also fogged accross at the start of each frame from top to bottom.
My dark thoughts turned to the red windows. I blocked both windows off and put another film through the holder but this time using my Sinar P2 camera.
I developed the second film. It had identical fogging to the first. Having eliminated the frame windows and any camera fault I turned my attention to the basic sponge rubber light traps at each end of the holder, all were intact.
Placing the holder on the camera, I took of the front lens panel and with a dark cloth over camera and my head looked to the holder end. I thought I saw some light but could not be sure.
On making a detailed inspection of the holder I found two tiny screws holes holding the spring clip into position on the case, but there were no screws. It so happens that Sinar uses the same size screws, I keep spares. I fixed the spring clip with all the required screws so blocking the screw holes. I checked the box and bubble wrap in which the camera had been transported but no sign of the missing screws.
Another roll of film was put through the holder again using the largest format. I found that the negatives were now perfect with no trace of fogging. But I noticed that the spacing between each frame, although even seemed to be far too wide, about half an inch. I measured the, so called 12X6 exposures and found them all to be only just 11X6. To be fair I have found other manufacturers faulty in their sizes of formats They too are usually ten mm short.
Nevertheless, the holder with all it's niggles and starter problems, I feel is worth the room in the camera bag, especially when there is a chance that the trusty 5X4 sheet film is likely to run out.