This is an older version of the Descriptions page. I've left it active because there might be some information here not included in the new version, though this version is not as current.  



4 x 5 Wood Field Cameras

SE Asia has become a major supplier of moderately priced 4 x 5 wood field cameras--with notably Shen-Hao and Tachihara creating an entry level and Horseman and Wista providing some additional features at significantly higher prices. These are flat bed cameras without an enclosing case, though baseboards usually fold up and cover the front standard; so they are usually quite compact for 4 x 5 cameras. Woodfield cameras have both front and at least limited rear movements. Most field cameras have reversible rather than rotating backs and most have non-removable focusing frames. Entry level wood field cameras are sometimes faulted for both initial fit and finish problems and for some instability. To the extent that these are problems, they may be traced to the lightweight construction of the bodies and to their relatively low price. If you are bothered by their stability, you can choose a metal technical camera that it typically heavier and more expensive. Wood field cameras are available at many price points. More expensive cameras may have metal that is thicker, the wood more beautiful, locking mechanisms more positive and the rack may operate more smoothly; if you are unfamiliar with models and are buying a camera on the Internet or by mail or phone, it is difficult to judge these differences; with no or limited experience with large format cameras it is difficult to estimate the value of these differences which can double the prices noted below for entry level models. Reading reviews can be very helpful and LF forums let you ask questions directly.


Shen-Hao HZX 4X5-IIA

    New: $600

Shen-Hao (4x5 model shown above) is from a small operation in China that makes a range of large format models. Wood species for cases and racks have varied between teak and walnut; similarly fittings have included brass (or brass plating or anodizing), natural aluminum and black stainless steel. Different wood and metal choices may be available on special order. The case sides are made with box joints, a generally good choice for this kind of construction. The U. S. distributor, Badger Graphics, stocks most of the 4 x 5 models, a 5 x 7 and and 8 x 10 model and some more esoteric panoramic models; they can order any of the Shen-Hao models subject to manufacturer availability. The popular HZX-4x5-IIA has an impressive range of movements for an entry-level field camera: rise/fall, shift, swing and both axis and center tilt on both standards. Shen-Hao offers an interesting selection of accessories, including a bag bellows, a reflex viewer, interchangeable backs that can accept rollholders, and a tantalizing array of rollholders that include standard medium formats as well as 6x12 and a panoramic back that supports 6x17. In watching the Shen-Hao Web site for a few years, I note an expanding line of models and accessories.

Shen-Hao China


    New: $600

Tachihara is another wood field camera that is relatively common on the new market. In appearance it is similar to the Shen-Hao, but lacks rise/fall in the rear standard. Tachiharas are made from well-seasoned cherry, which should mean that the cases are durable. The corners of the rear standard are covered by metal angle brackets, which also cover a wood joint--box or perhaps something less robust. Like many woodfield cameras, Tachiharas have a back similar to the old Graphic spring back, which means they cannot accept fat rollholders. It also seems to have fewer accessories available, but this may be an importation issue that is subject to change. Tachiharas may be a few ounces lighter than the Shen-Hao.

Badger     (importer)

Horseman Woodman 45
    New: $900
A cherry wood camera with features similar to the Tachihara, but with an international G back that accepts most rollholders. About 3 pounds and $900 without lens board.


Wista 45DX

    New: $1200

Wistas are made from seasoned cherry with finely spaced finger joints. They are also available in rosewood and ebony as premium options. Wista offers quite a variety of back options aimed at both movements and film stock compatibility. Swings and tilts on both standards, rise/fall and shift on front. Swings are managed with pivot points on both rear corners to speed up focusing. The rosewood version has interchangeable bellows. Lacquered brass fittings. About 4 pounds and $1200 for the cherry version with G back.



Other wood
     field cameras
There are a few other brands of these that may be slightly to considerably more expensive, before getting into designs involving esoteric materials, like the Ebony field cameras. Cameras with brand names like Ikeda, Anba, and Nagaoka are Japanese. I have no information on models or prices, except that they are classified as "Cheap Wood Field" cameras on the Large Format Photography site.


02/25/2009 3:55