Tachihara or Shen-Hao?

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Hi there!

Santa arrive but got robbed on his way! Anyway, due to budget constraints and other committments I have been considering the to buy a Tachihara 45GF or a Shen-Hao NZX 4X5-IIA. I would like to hear from user or either of the two cameras on the following things:

1. Construction 2. Functionality 3. Operations - setting the equipment 4. Accessories - availability, cost, compatibility 5. Durability 6. Bellows draw 7. Other useful Pros/Cons

Thanks a lot,


-- Adrian Ng'asi (adrianngasi@yahoo.com), December 26, 2001



I received a Shen Hao HZX45-AII last week and am very impressed with the quality and the thoughtfulness of the design. It is not perfect (no camera is), but for $625 it is one heck of a lot of camera and a tremendous value. I don't have a Tachihara here to compare them side by side, but I have a couple friends who use Tachiharas so I am familiar with the camera. IMHO, the Shen Hao is a lot more camera (more movements, interchangeable bellows, Graflok back, etc.) for the money.

Just be aware of a couple things, the Shen Hao is heavier than listed on their web site. My sample (beautiful teak wood with black finished brass hardware) weighs 5 lb. 7 3/4 oz. That is on the heavy side for a double extension wooden camera. Also, the maximum bellows extension is only about 11.8" with both standards in the neutral positions. It is possible to get a couple more inches of extension by using combined base and axix tilts (on both standards), but the camera is less rigid when doing so.

I have only handled the camera briefly, but so far I am very impressed with the quality and materials. It really is a lot of camera for the money and incorprates features and movements not found in many cameras costing 2 - 3x as much. At $625, I think it's a great value. Nothing against the Tachihara (it is also a good value), but if I was looking for a new field camera for less than $1000, I'd buy the Shen Hao.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), December 26, 2001.

Adrian: I have a Tachihara and love it, but I am not sure I would recommend it if you have not used view cameras before (you didn't say). I have found mine a pleasure to use and it is a well made camera. The reason I hesitate to recommend it is that the back is designed to slide back and forth in a type of slider arrangement and it is very easy to get the slides "cocked" on the rails, thus adding a bit of back swing. Same for the front...it easy to get it cocked on the rails. Although the rails are marked with numbered marks, it is still easy to get a bit of swing in the front. This system makes it esy to use lenses of different focal length, but for a beginner who does not understand the importance of centering everything it could create a lot of screwed up pictures. That is the only fault I have found with the camera. Even with a lot of experience using view cameras it still takes a bit of attention to set it up centered. I love the camera and would recommend it but not to a beginner in using the view camera.


-- Doug Paramore (Dougmary@alaweb.com), December 26, 2001.

I used a Tachihara for about three years and liked it a lot. For some totally illogical reasons I sold it and bought a Linhof Technika, a move I've had occasion to regret on the four occasions in three years when the Technika has been in the hands of Marflex for (very expensive) repairs. Anyhow, IMHO the Tachihara is a good camera for a beginner, mainly because it's a very simple camera to set up, use, and take down. I didn't fully follow thedifficulty that Doug discussed but it didn't sound like something I had a problem with. The Tachihara was my second large format camera so I had some large format experience when I bought it but I hated the first large format camera I had so I rarely used it. While the Tachihara doesn't accept a bag bellows, you can use a lens at least as short as 65 mm with the regular bellows, so you don't really need a bag bellows (which I think is an advantage)unless you're into really short lenses. The camera is light (around 4 lbs), well built, attractive, and easy to use. The downsides (which weren't important to me) are: (1) no front or back shift,(2) 13 inch bellows, long enough to use a 300 mm normal lens or a 400 mm telephoto, which was plenty long for me but maybe not for you, and (3) no bubble or spirit levels (the absence of levels was important to me so I added them). All in all, I thought the Tachihara was an excellent value for the money. I compared it with two other wood field cameras that sell for about twice the price and frankly couldn't see any significant differences. I've never seen the Shen Hao so I can't compare them but the Tachihara is a very nice camera IMHO.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), December 26, 2001.


I am currently using a "baby" Speed Graphic Pacemaker. I feel very comfortable using the a bigger camera compared to what I am using currently. You and other's advice is well appreciated and I am looking into more specific details between the two cameras.

Thanks a lot, adrian

-- Adrian Ng'asi (adrianngasi@yahoo.com), December 26, 2001.

I took a LF class at my community college, and we had access to monorails and Tachihara (actually the Calumet branded equivalent) field cameras.

The Tachihara is a great camera. The Calumet models I used were beautiful. Construction was fine. They were easy to set up and use. I never had the problem Doug described.

When I decided to buy a camera, I was thinking about Tachihara or a Speed Graphic of some sort. I ended up buying the Shen Hao because a co-worker of mine was going to Shang Hai and brought one back for me. I got the camera, bag bellows, and a small case for $575. I went with the Shen Hao because it gave me rear rise and shift. I also liked the idea of being able to use a bag bellows.

In comparing the Shen Hao to the Tachihara/Calumet, weight is a pretty significant difference. The Shen Hao is teak and is much heavier than the Tachihara. When I pack my Shen Hao, old Tiltall tripod (Santa didn't bring the carbon fiber one), 6 holders, Pentax meter, loupe, lens, and darkcloth, my outfit (including the Jansport pack) comes to 20-25 pounds. It's got a good hip belt, so carrying it isn't too bad, but I'd really love a carbon fiber tripod.

The Shen Hao is also a very beautiful camera. I think the metalwork on the Calumet (brass) was a little better, but the metalwork on the Shen Hao is perfectly acceptable (chromed brass). The Shen Hao sets up easily, and functions beautifully. It feels a little more solid than the Tachihara. The bellows draw, as mentioned above is about 12 inches. However, you can slide the front standard out of its tracks and extend it further to get 15 inches of extension.

The LF home page has a review of the Shen Hao. At the bottom of the page are links to scanned copies of the Shen Hao information sheet which contain photos of the extra extension. Note: The hardware is not copper as the info sheet says. That is a mis-translation.

Her's the address for the review. http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~qtluong/photography/lf/cameras/shenhao/she nhao.html

To me, it comes down to a few features and price.

If you want lighter weight, go with the Tachihara. If you want rear shift and rise, and Graflock back, go with the Shen Hao. If money is important, you might be able to find a used Tachihara for $400 +/-.

As Kerry said, the Shen Hao is more camera, and I'm glad I went with it.

Feel free to email me with any questions you may have.


-- Dave Willis (willisd@medicine.wustl.edu), December 26, 2001.

I've no experience with the Tachihara so can't comment on it. I've a Shen Hao 4x5 which I ordered direct from China and have been completely satisfied with it. The only criticism I could make, and this doesn't bother me as I'd been forewarned before I bought, is that the finish on the metal work is mediocre. All parts are smoothly machined or stamped and work perfectly but the coloration of the brushed chrome over brass is inconsistent. This should not be an issue if you buy through Badger Graphics (badgergraphic.com) since there model is black finished stainless and I'm pretty sure they will have gotten the finish inconsistency fixed before they would carry the camera (they delayed their offering of this model to solve quality control problems)

In addition to the fantastic price for the camera, accessories are incredibly cheap for 4X5 equipment. Check out the offerings at Badger.

Good luck,


-- Rusell Levin (rllevin@fast.net), December 27, 2001.

I own a Shen-hao with black metal fininsh and the fininsh is not so good on that too. I didn't get it from the US importer- maybe that's the reason.

Anyway, I second all that reccomended it over the tachihara. I compared mine with a friend's tachi - let's just say that my friend is polishing his chinese...

-- Hagai Kaufman (hagai@albatross.co.il), December 28, 2001.

Hi Adrian,

Just a small correction on the response from Brian; the current Tachihara does have front shift, though he is correct to say there is no rear shift. I have a Tachihara, but no experience with the Shen Hao, so I can't directly compare the two. I do love my Tachihara though, and it is my first LF camera.


-- Graeme Hird (goldeneyephoto@hotmail.com), December 30, 2001.

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