View Full Version : advantages of 6x9 view camera ?

20-Aug-2004, 03:34
Hi. I was excited about recently ordering a 6x9 view camera, specifically the Toyo 23g. I purchased a single lens, a Rodenstock 180mm. My experience with Fuji 6x9 has been a good one. (The only drawbacks are those inherent in using a rangefinder as well as with not being able to change lenses).

As I said, I was excited, until I started reading some messages on this forum. Now I am a bit disquieted. I am beginning to wonder if going with a 4x5 would have been a better idea. At the time I ordered, it seemed natural that the 2x3, combined with a Horseman 6x9 back, would be perfect for what I wanted, the ablity to shoot in 6x9 format with a great deal of flexibility.

Have I goofed?



20-Aug-2004, 04:09
Don't be anxious, you have not made a ghastly mistake. If you are not regularly printing larger than 11 x 14, you probably would not notice any appreciable difference between a 6x9 negative and a 4x5. You do have the advantage of access to the wider range of emulsions and easier film loading/unloading/processing. Congrats on your purchase and happy shooting. Regards,

dave bulmer
20-Aug-2004, 04:13
Hi Percy, Whilst this forum has contributed more to my LF knowledge than every other book I own, there is a down side to my daily addiction of reading through the threads past and present.........everyone owns a bigger, better, sharper and more desirable piece of camera equipment than I do and I should sell all my gear and move up to whatever object of desire has just been discussed. Stick with the reasons for choosing your 6x9, spend 3 months shooting and printing and then decide if you've goofed. I imagine the answer will be no.

Have fun Dave.

Bob Fowler
20-Aug-2004, 04:24
I'll chime in here and agree with Dave and Moe, USE the camera for a while and see if it fits your needs. I love the 6X9 format, and 180 is a nice focal length (I use a modified 180mm f/4.5 Mamiya-Sekor TLR lens on my 6X9).

George Hart
20-Aug-2004, 05:43
Percy: you have not goofed! I, for one, use more 6x9 than 4x5 on my 4x5 camera. Even in B&W, which I do more of than colour. There is great flexibility to such a system, and focal lengths are shorter, meaning shorter exposure durations and greater depth of field. You can allow for a greater margin of error. For example, you may shoot 3 bracketed exposures at the beginning and end of a roll, cut the roll in half, develop one half, test print, and adjust the development for the other half if necessary. One of the dealers in my area says that architectural photographers are using more 6x9 than 4x5 these days, partly because the emulsions are now so good, and also because it's just more convenient to use roll-film. Have fun!

Tim Curry
20-Aug-2004, 06:36

How unfortunate for you. It is a classic error! Send me your 6x9 equipment immediately and then go out and buy the most expensive 16 x 20 outfit you can find. There really is nothing like a 16" x 20" contact print for sharpness, tonal scale and clarity. Once you have lifted weights for a year or so, you won't notice the load of a 100 pound backpack. Don't worry about the cost of huge sheet film, as 16 x 20 is 43 times bigger than that dinky 6 x 9. You can leard to hand hold a 16 x 20 easily, work out more often. Because you will be spending all of your time at the gym and working to buy film and equipment, you won't have to worry about taking pictures at all. Just ignore those "feel good" posts by the others. Obviously, they are biased and uninformed.

Jeffrey Goggin
20-Aug-2004, 06:52
Although I now shoot 8x10 exclusively, I started with the 2x3 format a few years ago and have no regrets about my decision. In fact, I likewise own a Toyo 23G -- out of curiousity, what's the serial number on yours? I'll bet it's less than 100, as Toyo didn't make very many of these cameras -- and I have no regrets about that decision, either (although accessories for it can be difficult to find these days).

One nice thing about the Toyo monorails is that their parts are interchangeable: Add a 45G rear standard (they turn up on eBay several times each year) and adapt a bellows from the CX to fit (you just need to swap over the front frame and punch new holes in the bellows material with an awl so the screws can pass through it) and you can shoot 4x5 without having to buy a whole new camera.

That said, I do urge you to find yourself a Toyo rollfilm back ... although larger than the Horseman, I found they work better as they hold the film flatter and are designed to compensate for Toyo's slightly non-standard groundglass setup. These also turn up on eBay several times each year.

Leonard Evens
20-Aug-2004, 07:43
I've used a Horseman Technical Camera, which is designed for 6 x 7 and 6 x 9 format, for years. If you can make do with the smaller screen, it has some advantages. The obvious one is that you can use roll film and one of the many very good medium format enlargers. Another is that at the same f-stop and same size final print, you get more depth of field, which means you can usually use faster speeds. The obvious disadvantage, except for the size of the screen, is that you can't enlarge as much. Also, 6 x 9 view cameras and lenses ususally cost significantly more than equivalent 4 x 5 cameras and lenses. Since you already have the camera, that is presumably less of an issue. Also, you will probably save any difference in the long run in the cost of film.

As others have suggested, now that you have it, go take pictures and don't worry about whether or not you made a mistake.

I'm surprised you settled on a 180 mm lens. The standard lenses for that format are in the range 90-105 mm. 180 mm is quite long.

Bob Fowler
20-Aug-2004, 08:37
I'm surprised you settled on a 180 mm lens. The standard lenses for that format are in the range 90-105 mm. 180 mm is quite long."

180mm is the perfect focal length (for me) for 6X9.

Bob Fowler
20-Aug-2004, 08:38
I should clarify... perfect "portrait focal length" for 6X9...


20-Aug-2004, 08:44

You can't be anxious about your decision after reading Tim's post along with the others, can you?

Oh I get it: are you're planning on using the 180mm with the Toyo 23G to complement the Fuji 90mm lens? It sounds like a great move for you, on the sole argument of aspect ratio. You're adept at using the 2:1 ratio already (hopefully), and to find an application in the 2:1 ratio Toyo with some movements is less bewildering than moving to a 5x4" and working snail's pace. I don't know about others, but besides being anxious, and egged on by thinking about 5x4" format film availability, I'd be a nervous wreck each time I made an exposure error, thinking I'd blown a whole sheet just by 1/100th of a second. Coming to think of it, if I used digital, I'd be an utter wreck, knowing that hard drive might fail, or the USB port got wet in the rain. I guess I use roll-format for flexibility and anxiety management then ;P

I came to 6x9" format through a press camera after 5x4" in order to learn how to use 2:1 ratio. I still use 5x4" when I don't have time to visit the gym. Other guys might have ones that are bigger than yours, but that's okay too. Growing up as the middle kid, between the small kid (35mm) and the large one (16x20" format) makes us all want to emulate the big kid at the risk of losing sight of being the flexible middle kid (no large sheet argy-bargy then) with the best compromises. Enjoy your new tool.

20-Aug-2004, 08:46
I started out with a Crown Graphic 2x3. Unfortunately it unleashed a bigger-is-better buying frenzy in me, as I now own 4x5's, a 5x7, 8x10, and 12x20 (with 7x17 reducing back). And I really want an 11x14. And I got rid of the Crown -- not because of the size, but because I didn't care for the design and condition.

If I had it to do over, and ReadyLoads didn't exist, I would go for two cameras, a 5x7 and an 11x14. Note that one of the cameras I feel to be right for me I *still* don't own. It's all an ongoing learning and growing process, involving trial and error; you've made the first step, just don't expect it to be the last.

austin granger
20-Aug-2004, 13:27

Just to add my own two cents here (not as if you need any more reassurance). I have a show going up tomorrow (!) of 30 photographs I've made over the last seven years of Point Reyes National Seashore. This period has seen me rapidly move from 35mm to 6x7 to 4x5 to 8x10 (very recently). Out of curriosity, I counted up which of my chosen (the best, I think) photos came from which format. The total is as follows:

3 from 35mm, 15 from 6x7, 11 from 4x5, 1 from 8x10

As you can see, it's not the format that makes or breaks an image; or put another way, one can make wonderful photographs from any photographic format. Enjoy your 6x9; it is fully capable of astouding things.

Darin Cozine
20-Aug-2004, 13:28
Percy, It's not the size that counts! (at least thats what my wife tells me)

Heh, even though I have a 4x5, I recently I purchased a 2x3 graphic. I've shot a few rolls and there are things I really like about it. Lenses for this format are inexpensive compared to 4x5 lenses, and downright cheap compared to MF lenses. Rollfilm is easy to load and develop.

Now for some disadvantages. Critical focussing is harder on the small screen. You will want an 8- 10x loupe instead of the 4-6x normally used for LF. Movements are also harder to use. And I have the hardest time keeping the film flat for scanning.

Kirk Gittings
20-Aug-2004, 14:04
I shoot color 6x9 in my view camera for commercial work and love it. I switched from 4x5 about 6 years ago. I don't have to spend my nights in a hotel bathroom loading film holders! I still shoot my personal work b&w 4x5. I have never had a client complain about the 6x9. There have never been better 120 films available. Even Gordon Hutchins shoots 6x9 sometimes. I've seen him! Worry less shoot more!

Mark Windom
20-Aug-2004, 14:28
I shot 4X5 for years and finally became tired of having to deal with sheet film, sheet film holders, dust, the high cost of processing the film, etc. etc. I switched to an Arca 69 FC and don't regret it one bit. Every camera system has it's advantages and disadvantages and the only way to be completely satisfied is to own one of each. If your intent is to produce 40X60 prints then perhaps you would be better off with a 4X5 but if you're shooting for stock I would argue that you're better off with what you have. I know several successful fine art photographers that are making a very nice living from their prints made with medium format gear.

Ken Lee
20-Aug-2004, 16:12
Film size aside, the only major disadvantage is that you need to process a roll at a time. If you need to handle development differently for individual shots (using the Zone System to control contrast, etc) then you might want to dedicate a roll for N+1, N-1, etc.

Gary DeWitt
20-Aug-2004, 17:24
I am completely satisfied with my decision a couple years ago to go with 6x9. I recently replaced my Horseman with an Ebony and am very happy.

I often read messages here recommending that those interested in shooting 6x9 do so with a 4x5 camera. Most of the people making that recommendation are shooting 4x5, though, not 6x9. For me, the smaller, lighter 6x9 body is a better choice.

22-Aug-2004, 08:46
Thanks for all of the helpful replies. I feel better now.

By the way, the 180mm lens if for portraiture and still life (studio) work. My two Fujis, although wonderful 6x9 cameras, limit me shooting to only two focal lengths. The new set up will (hopefully) allow for a great deal more flexibility. So now I have a wide angle (65mm Fuji), a normal (90mm Fuji) and a telephoto (180mm). Still thinking about a wider angle lens though....

Dan Fromm
22-Aug-2004, 17:17
Percy wrote "Still thinking about a wider angle lens though...."

Forgive my ignorance about your 23g's minimum flange-to-film distance. Interesting short lenses that cover 2x3 include the 53/4.5 Biogon, the 47 Super Angulon (f/8 and f/5.6), and the 35/4.5 ApoGrandagon. As far as I know the 35/4.5 is the shortest readily available. Start saving your small change, the Biogon and ApoGrandagon are pretty expensive used, the SAs merely expensive.

Good luck, expand your horizons,


tor kviljo
26-Aug-2004, 02:20
I did the same as You - starting with a Linhof super technika III 6x9 - very numerous in Europe & thus quite cheap (but often rather abused). Limited movements & not so very good backs (only Linhof's Rollex'es fitted the Tech III/6x9) made me change to Horseman's 900 (press, 970, 985)- series and finally the VHR. Very capable & the VHR even able to use standard Mamiya RB backs. However at that time I had also invested in 4"x5", and even if the bigger format meant more weight, the much bigger gg-screen made up for that. The big fim format & film selection is another issue. I use a number of different films, so for me the grafmatic and 2-sheet film holders is perfect when as much as 4 types of film is brought along. Having 3-4 roll film holders for VHR were out of the question, and 6x9 sheet film rare - the few times I used it I had to cut film myself from 9x12cm (split to 6x9cm for use in european size 2"x3" cassettes). The Horseman VHR were sold a few years back, having stand idle for a few years more as only the 4"x5" & 8"x10" (old Norma) vere used. I don't think I will use a 6x9 view again, feeling all to comfortable with a GG of 4"x5" at least. If You enjoy using the GG for careful composition, not just for quick & dirty framing, focus & the standard upward shift...., I think You will find the GG of a 6x9 to small. The 4"x5" seems to be a sort of minimum useful, the 8"x10" a total joy, but then I have not tryed a 12"x20"... However, 2"x3" monorails seems easy to sell/sought after & scarce, so You should not have problems if You deside to swap.

However, if You keep your 6x9 and still need a wide angle, the Mamiya Press 50mm f 6.3 (Biogon design I belive) is a possibility often overlooked. It covers 6x9, but with little movements, short back focus. I have removed a Mamiya Press 75mm from focussing mount, remounting it for Sinar as a verywide on 4"x5" (slight vignetting - but excellent 6x12cm's), so that is usually easy with the press-lenses.

And then You can post the standard question: "what is the best 4"x5" for my needs?" and keep people at LFF busy for som time

Good luck!

Ron Spencer
3-Oct-2004, 14:43
Hi Percy,

If you decide that you want to sell your Toyo 23G, let me know. I am looking for one. My email is shadowpilot101@yahoo.ca

Thanks, Ron

5-Oct-2004, 18:55
Don't have it any longer. I found it too difficult to realize the effects of movements BEFORE tripping the shutter. It's a well built camera though.

I've done some looking around. B&H has a used one for sale.

Good luck.