[ SHEN HAO PTB 617 CAMERA + CUSTOM FILM HOLDER ]
SHEN HAO [ YES ]
In 1994, Shenhao Professional Camera Company, LTD. was established in Shanghai, China. Its specialization is designing and manufacturing large format wood cameras and accessories. It has grown to have over 70 products and eight worldwide distributors.
There can be confusion about their name. In English, it reads: “Shanghai Great Art Professional Camera Company Limited,” and can be seen on some of their products. However, due to the massive size of China, most Chinese companies add the name of the city where the company is located to avoid confusion.
Therefore, we now have Shen Hao (Shanghai) and Da Yi (Great Art), with each syllable equal to a character. Shen Hao and Da Yi are the same company in China making professional camera equipment in Shanghai.
Pictured above is their PTB 6×17 folding field camera that I dream of owning someday. I have found their camera gear to be of excellent quality. I can only comment regarding the equipment I have owned; other photographers have also stated positive reviews.
[ SHEN HAO 6X17 FILM BACK + LINHOF MASTER TECHNIKA 3000 ]
SHEN HAO SH617 FILM MAGAZINE [ YES ]
Because I enjoy the 6×17 panoramic format, I tried the Shen Hao 6×17 film magazine (SH617) after I regrettably sold off my Fotoman 617 MKII-L camera system.
Attaching the SH617 film magazine to a 4×5 camera moves the film plane further behind the camera’s ground glass. I never measured it, but imagine your ground glass is now about an inch or more closer to you than usual. The SH617 adds to the camera’s weight and girth once it is attached to the camera’s graflock back and changes the focal perspective to a 5×7 format. The lenses you may already be using with your 4×5 camera may not work for this image circle requirement, but remember you are shooting in the 6×17 cm ratio, not 5×7 inch.
Check before purchasing, as it is a box attached to the rear of a camera and is not the same as shooting with a camera designed for the 5×7 format from the ground up.
There is more to be concerned with than just the image circle since the front and rear standards are specific to the 4×5 format (assuming your camera is a 4×5 camera only). Attaching the box to the rear standard causes some visual obstruction looking forward. If your camera is similar to the Wisner 5×7 Technical Field camera I once owned, you may not experience this problem using the SH617 with an attachable 4×5 back onto a 5×7 camera.
In the end, I decided the SH617 was not for me. The magazine operates fine as long as you understand it is a “bare essential” type of gear with no automation whatsoever, and you need to practice with practice film before you go out in the field to shoot with it.
I give it a [ YES ] because the images I shot with this back matched the composition on the ground glass and were in sharp focus. The fact it was too much for me to carry and set up should not take away from its ability to produce 6×17 images nicely if you do not mind all the baggage it comes with.
I sold the SH617 because of the bulk and weight it added to my setup and the required time to attach it to the camera and focus on the less-than-desirable ground glass. Ultimately, it became too much of a hassle to commit to, so I returned to using my Techno Rollex 6×12 magazine.
Someday, I hope to acquire a 6×17 dedicated field camera like one of these Shen Hao 6×17 field cameras. The SH617 is a reasonable option for photographers who want to shoot 6×17 on 120 film and cannot afford a 6×17 camera as long as they keep their lens selection to a minimum and understand the SH617’s limitations.
[ DAYI S-IIA 6×17 PANORAMA CAMERA FRONT, FILM MAGAZINE, GROUND GLASS ]
DAYI S-IIA 6×17 PANORAMA CAMERA [ NO ]
I ordered a new camera and lens cone via the eBay seller, mytongguy. Now, before I get into the details of why the camera and lens cone were sent back, the seller was polite and responsive, but they did not have a clue about how to operate the camera and lens. I am guessing they order it from the factory and resell it, but do not understand how hyperfocal distance focusing works or the reasons for aperture/distance scales on a lens. They have what they call a ‘tech guy,’ I corresponded with him and sent the following photos with explanations, but he wanted to modify the lens cone, and I said no. The seller does not understand the definition of precision.
The lens cone was ordered for the Nikkor 90/8 lens. I have both the Nikkor 90/4.5 and 90/8, and I intended on shooting the Dayi 617 like I shoot the Cambo Wide 650 via hyperfocal focusing. I keep the Nikkor 90/4.5 in my Ebony RSW bag and use it with that camera. Both Nikkor 90 lenses are excellent lenses. I have been shooting with both and decided on using the F8 version for hyperfocal distance usage.
[ THE DAYI S-IIA 6×17 PANORAMA CAMERA KIT SENT BACK TO SELLER ]
Once I received the Dayi 617 kit and saw the lens cone, my immediate thought was they sent the wrong cone. I spent $460 for the lens cone and expected a cone with apertures from F8 to F64, but this cone had F4 to F32. Not my lens! When I ordered the lens cone, I sent them all the requested information for the Nikkor 90/8, including a copy of Nikon’s brochure page showing a photograph of the lens and all its specs.
The camera itself was exactly as I had expected. The view from the ground glass was dark, but I planned on focusing via hyperfocal distance, so it did not matter much to me. The viewfinder was really nice as it was going to be handheld for compositional purposes only, and it was perfect for that and matched the ground glass pretty close after testing with my iPhone.
But I was concerned with the lens cone as I have never seen one so out of aperture range for its lens before, and I was hoping it did not affect the distance scale because if it had, I was screwed!
[ DISTANCE TESTING WITH DAYI S-IIA 6×17 + NIKKOR 90/8 ]
Above are initial distance-focusing tests done in the studio with a tape measure and laser measuring unit. As you can see, the distance from the film plane to the wall a picture has been used for this test is 3.2 meters (10’6″). When focused via the lens distance scale marking at 3.2 meters, the image on the ground glass is severely out-of-focus. Focusing the image on the ground glass, we get 2.4 meters (7’11”); this is a difference of 0.8 meters (2’7″). This will not work if the hyperfocal distance shooting fails. A small distance between sharp and out-of-focus on the lens helicoil might produce acceptably in-focus images shooting with a tiny aperture setting but not a spread difference of 0.8 meters (2’7″)! That is too large of a differential for hyperfocal focusing for in-focus image-making. But I would only know once I ran film through the camera and tested the cone’s aperture to distance markings for accuracy.
I performed outside tests in my backyard with two rolls of film. I first focused through the lens via the ground glass using my normal shooting apertures of 11, 16, and 22. I repeated the same test shots using the same apertures and the hyperfocal distance technique I have used for decades. All hyperfocal distance images were out-of-focus, whereas the ground glass images were sharp as a tack. My heart sank as I knew the lens cone was not made to spec—460 dollars down the drain. Sure, I could have run numerous rolls of film and made adjustments on the aperture/distance scale, marking it temporarily, then developing the film, and repeating until I got acceptable results, but why should I when I paid for a custom-made cone for my lens?
I contacted the seller again, telling them the cone would not work for hyperfocus distance shooting. The seller responded and stated all their lens cones were made the same; the only difference or what was actually ‘custom made’ was the hole size for the lens to be mounted. Nowhere in the auction’s ad does it say the lens cone is made for an F4 lens, etc. I then asked them if I could send back the lens cone and for them to make another for the Nikkor 90/F4. Their response was for me to send the lens cone back, and they would alter it “somehow” to fit the lens, but an entirely new lens cone would not be made. I told them that was unacceptable because simply changing the hole size would not change how the distance markings are out of spec, and I would send the entire package back for a refund. They said to send it back, I would have to pay shipping and any fees incurred. “No way,” I said; you sent a lens cone that is defective and not as advertised.
And so it went. I asked eBay to step in and then PayPal, and after a couple of weeks, my total cost of over $1800.00 was refunded.
This experience has made me reluctant to order more photo gear from this and similar sellers, as they need to understand what they are selling. Months back, a seller from the same country who sold similar camera gear was selling an Ebony leather viewing bellows. I was interested in the pictured item and contacted the seller to confirm it was available. They sent me an email asking what camera it was for, and I explained to them it was for an Ebony RSW, and they said it would not fit my camera. After multiple emails where I was trying to educate them about their pictures of ground glass-mounted leather viewing bellows that would fit any 4×5 Ebony camera, they continued to tell me I needed to be corrected and that their bellows were made to mount between the camera standards. I sent them photos and used their auction photos to show what they were selling was mounted only on the rear ground glass and to please confirm I would get what was in their photos. It ended without an auction sale.
I give this a [ NO ] because I am not confident the seller understands enough about this camera system to offer a quality product. As a photographer and teacher, I should inform others about my experience (very frustrating and a huge disappointment). If you want this camera model, I recommend having the lens cone made for use with an F4 or /5.6 lens and testing the hyperfocal distancing before the return period has expired. The camera itself was okay; having the ability to take off the film back between shots is nice, but if I cannot use the shooting technique I have been using for decades, then the gear is getting in my way, and it must be replaced with another that works for me. The sad thing is I am sure the lens cone could have been adjusted to work as it should, but I know no one locally who could adjust it, and my camera repair guy has a long backlog of repair times, and besides, what did I pay for?
When I return to the 6×17, it will be with a field camera like the Shen Hao or another Fotoman 6×17 if I can locate one in excellent condition (I miss that camera a lot). I never had an issue shooting the Fotoman 6×17; it was all hyperfocal distance shooting, and the images always came out sharp. I could shoot myself for selling the Fotoman kit I had. Oh well, you live and learn.
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[ DA YI 6×12 FILM MAGAZINE + MASKS ]
DA YI 6×12 FILM MAGAZINE + MASKS
The Da Yi film magazine produces sharp images but is by far the most difficult film magazine I have ever loaded and unloaded, and I have had many different film magazines. I sent the manufacturer a message requesting loading instructions and hope to hear back because something seems wrong.
I feared I may have damaged my first roll because the take-up spool was not latching onto the spool nut and moving around. Never seen that before in a film magazine. Then when unloading the magazine, I could not get the take-up spool out even though it was flopping around! But the film came out just fine, and below is an image from the first roll. Still, I hope it gets better!
[ EBONY RSW45 + NIKKOR 90/4.5 + DA YI 6X12 ]