Where can I buy a 4X5 Iston (Shenhao) field camera

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Hello... I saw on Tuan's large format page that there's a 4X5 made in China (available through a distributor in Canada) called the Iston (or Shenhao). Does anyone know how I can get in touch with a U.S. or Canadian distributor for this camera? Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Patrick Murnaghan murni@gate.net

-- Patrick Murnaghan (murni@gate.net), October 25, 1998


Are you sure that you really want a Iston? Have a close look at it before you buy one and think twice, it might be cheap but that's about all. It is as crude as it might come with the exeption of some Russian cameras or their versions for markets with exotic names. When I've seen one I actually understood that you can buy cheap but you'll regret it everytime you'll use the camera. Regards Andrea Milano

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), October 25, 1998.

My first view camera was an Iston. For what its worth, here are my thoughts on the camera:

On the positive side, it has a nice long bellows--about 16", I think. If you do the kind of work for which you need this, it gives you a longer bellows than any other inexpensive camera--to match the bellows draw, you'd need to spend another grand or so and move up to a Wisner or a Zone VI.

Its drawbacks were twofold. First, I found the limited movements-- particularly the lack of swings--to be somewhat limiting. There is no swing on the front. The camera is advertised as having a rear swing, but I didn't find it very usable. Basically, the entire rear standard can slide forward on a track (you need to do this to use short lenses); there is enough play in the mechanism so that one side can slide forward more than the other. It doesn't really swing about a fixed axis, and I found it impossible to control.

The second drawback was a lack of quality control, although, to be fair, the distributor and the manufacturer stood behind it and sent me a new camera when, after one year, the bellows developed a lot of pinholes.

I bought the camera to test the large format waters without making a major investment. If you're sure you're committed to view camera work, my advice would be to pass on the Iston and get something you'll be using for a while. If, like me, you want a relatively cheap way to try out large format work and see if you like it, you might be better off with something like a Tachihara unless you need the bellows draw. If you want to test the waters and also want the long bellows, try an Iston--but be aware that, if you stick with large format, you'll probably outgrow the limited movements fairly soon.

By the way, there seems to be no market for used Istons.

-- Rob Rothman (robrothman@worldnet.att.net), October 26, 1998.

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