Paul Bunyan’s Camera – Shen Hao


Paul Bunyan’s Camera – Shen Hao

No, I’m afraid you can’t buy it from us. We don’t have one in the shop. The images are of a camera that was sold over a year ago.

The story started about 8 years ago – at the height of the publicity about the 4″ x 5″ Shen Hao cameras from China. They were just just coming on the market and their website was fun to look at. One little section buried deep n the menu referred to a 10″ x 12″ camera. This is what popped up.

It is a copy of a Kodak studio camera of the 1900’s Wooden frame and body, cloth bellows. brass and steel fittings. It takes wooden book-form plate holders for either 10″ x 12″ or 6″ x 8″ glass plates. There is a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of a German lens on a revolving turret in the front and a sturdy Packard shutter behind this.

It winds up with the artillery wheel and leans forward and sideways with the screw handles. The wooden back is reversible and can be fitted with an indexing plate holder that moves it from side to side. You get a vast variety of plastic dividers and grids – you can make passport pictures for the whole village on one glass plate.

And I suspect that is exactly what it was, and is used for. Somewhere in the interior of China these are still being made and used. There is a wooden studio where this is being trundled around daily doing the bureaucratic images for the party records. I was never able to find out where they got their glass plates from but I’ll bet they still make them.

It was cheap – I paid $ 700 for it plus shipping from Shanghai via Singapore. It arrived in two of the biggest and ugliest crates I have ever seen – firewood for ages – and took a day to assemble as the instructions were all in Chinese and were still in Shanghai.

I used it for years, until another enthusiast bought it for use at a photographic school in Queensland. The shipping was an epic, but I believe it arrived safely and he was happy.

Note, I also synched the shutter – with a piece of piano wire and a coil spring on the piston of the Packard. I was hoping to find lycopodium flash powder to complete the effect but was defeated by the safety laws. Dang.

Uncle Dick

  • Bodil Unckel
    Posted at 13:22h, 15 January Reply

    May you please explain, what this cable with the orange rubber ball is used for? Also, do you have an idea, where to find a maker’s label? It would be awesome, if you could get back to me. Thank you, Bodil

    • Uncle Dick
      Posted at 15:28h, 15 January Reply

      Dear Bodil,

      Yes, I frequently do, though not after 8:00 PM.The rubber tube is the firing mechanism for the Packard shutter – you squeeze the bulb, it pressurizes a piston in the back of the lens board, and the two shutter blades open. Then you let go of the bulb and they close again. I’m proud to say I made a flash synchroniser for the Shen Hao from spring blades.

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