Entry Level Field Camera Shootout
Serious 4x5s For Under $1000, Mission Impossible
I don't recall just
how many times I've gone through this, but it's more than
a few. After much soul-searching, speculation, and fretting I decide
I'm going to give up large format photography forever. It always
seems like such a good idea at the time. But, as you have probably guessed,
I've changed my mind--again. Innocently enough, I picked
up a used view camera from a friend who was retiring and once again
became infected by the large format bug.
I was also curious to see
what was new in equipment and if things had improved since the Dark Ages
when I started out. While the studio/advertising/commercial photographer
has always had a good selection of cameras, lenses, and accessories to
choose from, the nature/scenic photographer's choices have been
more limited. Unless of course, you don't mind a camera that weighs
only slightly less than a mid-sized SUV, and costs nearly as much.
Some Large Format
Fit And Finish
The Shen Hao also has the
advantages of a slightly longer bellows and the option of changing to
a bag bellows for really short lenses. I did try my 65mm lens with the
bag bellows and the camera body interfered with the front rise somewhat,
but I think a recessed lensboard would probably solve the problem.
One feature of the Toyo that
I really appreciated was its ability to fold with a compact lens in place.
I tried this with two different lenses, a Fujinon 135mm and a Caltar 150mm
IIe compact, both of which are mounted in number 0 shutters. This translated
to a minute or two saved every time I set the camera up, more if you factor
in the time it always seems to take me to find the darn lens caps. Incidentally,
the same lenses would fold into the Shen Hao if I first reversed the lensboard.
Both cameras come with a Graflok
or international back as standard issue. I shot with a Polaroid 545 film
holder, a Calumet 6x7cm rollfilm back, a Horseman 6x12cm holder, and Fuji
Quickload sheet film without a hitch. Both focusing panels include markings
for 6x7cm and 6x9cm roll film on the standard 4x5 ground glass. I was
delighted to find that the Shen Hao also has corner markings for the 6x12cm
format as well.
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