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Thread: Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

  1. #1

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    Hi all,

    I am relatively experienced point and shoot photographer who has been desiring to move into LF for some time. Finally have with the acquisition (at a great price) of a used Toyo 45AX.

    So I spend 30 minutes figuring out how to open and set the thing up, attach the Rodenstock Grandagon N 75mm lens it came with, point it out my living room window, and . . .

    . . . and except for the street light across the street, which appears as a small bright blur, I can't see a single thing through the ground glass. I figured 'Hey, it's night time and I don't know what I'm doing, I'll try again when it's daylight.'

    So I try again during the day, and now I can see larger patches of bright light (extremely blurry), and that's it. So I tried adjustments--moved this here, that there, swung this, that . . . sometimes it gets a little better--but for the most part, I can barely tell what I'm looking at except for the rough shape of the light source. The rest is just the color of the ground glass itself.

    What am I doing wrong (besides 'everything')? When I pull the ground glass away from the back of the camera, the other side appears brighter and mildly distorted--is this the side that's supposed to be facing me or the camera? It doesn't even seem like you can swap it the other direction, but that's my only guess.

    I've read a lot online but I think I'm the only person other than a few others that has had this problem---and I have yet to find an answer.

    Be gentle.


  2. #2

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    This may seem kind of silly, but is the lens aperture all the way open? Like f4.5 or f6.8 or whatever that lens is?

  3. #3

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    Matt, have you watched the ground glass while adjusting the bellows from its shortest to longest length? At some point, it should come into focus.

  4. #4
    Old School Wayne
    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    Hmmm.....assuming the aperture is wide open, is the lens positioned about 3 inches from the ground glass? Thats where a 75 mm lens needs to be when you are focusing on distant objects, if its extended much farther away all you will see is blurred light and shapes.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    No. Virginia

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    A 75 mm. lens is pretty short. The first thing you might want to check is that the camera bellows is not racked out to far. Under 3 inchs from the lens to the groundglass. This is really only about how close the camera can fold. A lens this wide can also be very hard to focus. Focus on a point of light until you get used to it.

    Is the lens mounted on a recessed lens board? With that short a lens don't expect much in the way of movement. When you say swing this here, that there, you have to be racked out to far.

  6. #6

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    I've used a Toyo 45AR for over 20 years and I don't think that you will be able to focus with 75mm lens unless it is on a recessed board (I could be worng because my widest lens is a 90mm and if your camera does not have rotaiting back you need less extension). See if you can borrow a lense in the 135 to 180 mm range to check out the camera. Until then, when you set up the camera push the front standard back as close as you can to the rear standard and then try to focus. Good luck. It is a good camera so don't give up.

    John Hoenstine

  7. #7

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    I used a Nikkor 75mm on a Toyo 45AII for several years, no problem, and that's with a flat board. I even used a Schneider 58mm and a flat board, though it wouldn't go back quite far enough for infinity focus. (It was close.) So, anyhow, the 75mm is not the problem.

  8. #8
    tim atherton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1998

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    That's a very nice lens and a nice camera you've got tere.

    The 75mm is pretty wide on 4x5 though (good for interiors and some landscapes)

    I think you can focus at infinity on a flat lensboard with the 75mm, but only just and you won't be able to get much rise and fall though - the bellows will be to squished up. (it may have come on a recessed board? one that sits back into the camera from the front stanard once it is mounted? If not, Badger graphic sells the toyo ones at a decent price, as does midwest photo - and they often come up on ebay - 12mm recessed board I think)

    So when you set the camera up, you have unfolded the back and tightened the knobs, unfolded the front standard and tightened the two levers on the side, raised the front standard up to the little red dot and tightened the two knobs on either side and put the lensboard in?

    Now, with the 75mm lens DON'T slide that standard all the way forward and lock it - that is or a 210 or 240 mm lens. Without a recessed board you should barely slide the front standard forward (it will almost still be inside the body of the camera) make sure it is straight and not twisted l or r and then lock the front lever that's in the middle under the lens board to keep it all in place.

    look around the back now on the ground glass and it should be closer to in focus - use the knobs on the front extension on l or r to fine focus - with 75mm it won't take much movement to move in and out (and you are probably using the fold out ground glass shade at the back? This is okay, but you may want to use a dark cloth - any old dark cloth will do for now, but try and wrap it around so your head is under and you cut out all the light - it should look brighter. A little magnifier helps to check the focus too.

    Where you pull back the ground glass is to slide the film holder in.

    try and get hold of The View Camera Book (I think that's it) by steve simmons - it goes through the basics with lotsa of pictures.

    Also check out these:

    and the other stuff here:

    especially under How to get started in large format photography

    On the Toyo View site there are some pictures of the 45 a all twisted about:

    with your 75mm lens the bellows won't be out anywhere near as far as in the picture - they will be almost completley (but not quite) compacted.

    I use a 75mm (+others) on a toyo 45A - email me if you want to walk through it more
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn blog

  9. #9

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    Hey all,

    Thanks for all the helpful replies.

    First things first--you all were of course right about needing to bring the front standard back as close as possible to the body of the camera. As I did so, the lamp in my living room was brought from a large abstract body of light to a more distinct, slightly smaller blob of light (as well as its reflection against the wall). That said, there's still no way to even distinguish that what I'm looking at is a lamp, let alone say it's 'in focus'.

    It is not a recessed board--here is a picture

    with it pulled back as far as possible.

    Maybe 75mm is too short for a non-recessed board on this setup? It does seem to be 3" or less, however, and the aperture is open to 6.8, and the lens is set to 'B'.

    Perhaps the next step is to try to get a hold of a 135mm, etc.?

    Thanks for all the help,

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Newbie Question ("Can't See Anything")

    The lamp in your living room isn't very likely to be at infinity. So if you can't get that into focus then you're over 75mm already.

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