View Full Version : Toho users - convince me!

Jack Davis
16-Mar-2005, 06:40
I'm almost convinced to purchase the Toho 45-CX, but need more data. I've read Thalmann's extensive review, but that's a sample of one. So for those of you using Toho's in the field - tell me what you like, AND what you DON'T like about this camera...

Bruce Watson
16-Mar-2005, 08:03
It's not our job to convince you - that you have to do on your own. What I can do, is give you some more "data." Make of it what you will.

I've been using a Toho FC-45X (I'm not sure what a 45-CX is) for more than two years now. It is everything that Kerry said it is - light, rigid, full movements, etc. I modified it in three ways. First, I made an Arca-Swiss style quick release plate for it (modified a ReallyRightStuff plate). Second, I made a set of spirit levels for the back standard so I could easily check for level and plumb. Third, I replaced the existing GG with a Maxwell screen.

I don't feel the need to make further improvements - I expect to be using this camera until I can't carry it anymore.

Leonard Evens
16-Mar-2005, 09:49
I'm very happy with my Toho FC-45X. But the features that are important to me may or may not be important to you, and of course you may be bothered by things that I find minor annoyances.

The major advantage for me of the Toho is its light weight and ease of transport. I have a bad back, and that is very important to me. It also has most of the features of a full monorail camera, and I find that important. Finally, its cost was within my budget.

I will list its drawbacks, and you can decide yourself how important they are. It is not as rigid as a more expensive full scale monorail would be, so in critical situations, there might be some problem with camera movement. But I've used it in a wide variety of circumstances, and I've never experienced that problem. As with any view camera, you have to let it settle down for 30 seconds or so before making an exposure. A second drawback is that there is a certain amount of play in the detent positions, and the standards are not exactly parallel in those positions. This sometimes requires a bit of fiddling to get them right, but I've developed some methods for dealing with the matter, and it doesn't really slow me down significantly. A third problem is that when loosened for focusing, the rear standard can wobble a bit. You have to lock it down just enough to allow focusing withough a wobble. A fourth problem is that when using wide angle lenses, a knob on the post supporting the front standard runs into the bellows, which limits movement more than would otherwise be possible. I finally got Toho's eccentirc lensboard for my 90 mm lens, and with that, I have no problem using farily extensive movements with that lens. And, or course, a bag bellows would make the use of wide angle lenses much easier. But even with the fixed bellows and the standard lensboard, I manage to use a 75 mm lens with some movement. A fifth problem is the lack of a rotating back, but I've never found that to be a problem. The whole standard assembly can be removed and remounted in about 30-40 seconds. Finally, although I found the viewing screen that came with the camera adequate in most situations, I did have some problem in dim light because my 70 year old retinas are not very sensitive to low light levels. So I got a Maxwell screen, and that works very well for me. I suspect I would have had the same problem with any other camera.

There are of course light full scale monorails that might be usable the same way the Toho is, but they are much more expensive. Few field cameras in the same price range have any real advantages over the Toho. The Shen Hao is a possible exception, but it appears to me not to be as sturdy.

Don Boyd
16-Mar-2005, 10:29
First the caveats. While I shot briefly with two other cameras (Toyo 45CF and a Shen Hao), the Toho is the only camera I have used extensively. I have been using it for about one year now, which included an extended two month trip on the Colorado Plateau.

I like all of the things that the other users above mentioned. I have two significant frustrations: 1) the focuing process - After focusing I have to snug down the focusing lock medium tight, then wiggle the back standard, tighten a little bit more, then refocus, then tighten down again. At times I have to do this over as I don't seem to be able to bring it in to fine focus. (I am using a Maxwell screen.)
2) Putting in tilt with the front standard feels awkward and imprecise. I have started using the back standard with more success.

Others with more experience may not have these probelms, but for me they are making me think about getting rid of it. But, I won't be able to do it until I can afford the Ebony that I would want as a replacement.

16-Mar-2005, 15:31
I have the Toho 5x7, which appears to be engineered somewhat differently, though the basic design is the same. I believe it to be much sturdier and more rigid than the 4x5. Apply a grain of salt to my comments.

1. Very bombproof, well manufactured.
2. Reasonable price.
3. When disassembled packs very flat.
4. Workable field monorail.

1. Locking down focus may put you out of focus.
2. Fiddley, somewhat hard to use with shorter lenses.
3. Small bother to change between landscape and portrait orientations.
3. Bigger bother to disassemble and reassemble for breakdown/setup

Don't forget the Gowland, extremely lightweight and compact. Just forget about ever getting it squared up.

John Hollenberg
16-Mar-2005, 16:25
I am a part of the "anti-Toho" crowd. Got the camera, but
didn't like the awkward shifting between horizontal and vertical.
The ground glass needs to be replaced with a Maxwell screen.
What really drove me nuts was the tendency for focus to
"creep" while locking it down. I know there are ways around it, but
just seemed too much trouble to me. I never bonded with the Toho,
and ended up selling it. Now have a two camera system--
Wista DXII (with Maxwell screen) for backpacking and
Arca Swiss Discovery for everything else. The Arca Swiss is
a hassle to move very far from the car, but I love working with it
once I am there. See also this thread:



Harley Goldman
16-Mar-2005, 16:46
I have an Arca F-Line Classic for everyday use and a Toho for backpacking, long hikes and air travel. While the Toho is not the equivilent of the Arca, it is a really nice camera to use. The downsides: Lens changing is a little slow (I don't mind horizontal to vertical, that seems very quick to me); and when focusing, you have to just about tighten the focus knob when you do your fine focus or it will creep. Other than that, for a lightweight rail camera, the Toho is great. I use it with lenses from the SS 80mm to a Fujinon C 450mm on a top-hat extension board.

I started with a Wista DXII. I decided I am not a wooden field camera guy, so I sold it and bought the two rail cameras. I find the rail design much more intuitive to use, quicker and more precise. I have no regrets on the Toho and plan to keep it for a long time.

The Maxwell screen definitely helps, too. It is not bad with the gg, but the brightening screen makes a big difference focusing an 80mm lens at twilight.

Hope that gives you some more info for your decision.


Jeffrey Sipress
16-Mar-2005, 17:20
I see a lot of you have trouble with the focus shift at lockdown. Yes, I know exactly how that feels. On my Toho, by the time I am fine focusing, I have snugged the lock knob to remove most all of the play, and when focus is achieved, the final tweak to tighness usually doesn't shift the focus. It is a very fine feel, with a fair amount of resistance to movement, and needs to be messed with a bit before you can get the hang of this technique. Many folks that have a hard time with the horizontal to vertical change, or simply are not too mechanically sensitive, may not do well with this camera.

Hening Bettermann
17-Mar-2005, 18:06

I too considered buying the Toho, but shrank back when I became aware of that in vertical orientation, the front rise is only 13 mm. That sounds very little to me, even if combined with a rear fall of 6 mm. (My Arca Swiss 6x9 from ca. 1980 has 65 mm rise!) Of course, you can use indirect rise. But with a 450 mm lens on an 11 cm spacing ring, I imagine that 19 mm may not even be enough to correct the image wandering after some tilt. I am astonished that no user has complained about this issue, and would be happy to be wrong. Because the low weight of the Toho is really seductive.

Kind regards - Hening Bettermann.

Jeffrey Sipress
17-Mar-2005, 22:33
I suppose that these cameras are primariky used for backpacking in to areas for landscape photography. As a landscaper myself, I don't often use front rise, or maybe a little. Since I don't have a 450mm lens, I don't know if front rise is needed more with that lens. I understand that lens has a substantial image circle, reducing the need for front rise. I could be wrong about all this.

Hening Bettermann
20-Mar-2005, 10:27
Hi !

"A second drawback is that there is a certain amount of play in the detent positions, and the standards are not exactly parallel in those positions. This sometimes requires a bit of fiddling to get them right, but I've developed some methods for dealing with the matter, and it doesn't really slow me down significantly."


could you please describe in detail what you do to deal with this problem?

"Putting in tilt with the front standard feels awkward and imprecise"


would you care to describe this in more detail? What exactly is the problem? Is it the mechanics of the camera, or are you just having trouble defining the tilt angle?

Kind regards - Hening.

Don Boyd
21-Mar-2005, 08:34
The problem I have is holding the front standard with my the two outside fingers of my left hand while loosening and then tightenting the lock down knob with my thumb and index finger. The standard has a small amount of play in it and I have to anticipate how much farther it will fall after tightening down. It is not a lot, but enough that if I don't make an allowance I will lose the fine focus. I have started using the rear standard to focus with because, as it is closer, it seems to be easier.

The second issue is that I then have to switch hands, moving my left under the cloth to use the focusing loupe, freeing up my right hand to loosen then tighten again the focusing knob on the right side. I may have to go back and forth like this a couple of times. For me, it requires a great deal of patience and attention.

Hening Bettermann
21-Mar-2005, 13:04
Hi Don,

Thank you four your reply.

"The problem I have is holding the front standard with my the two outside
fingers of my left hand while loosening and then tightening the lock down
knob with my thumb and index finger."

That sounds awkward indeed. If I understand it correctly, the need to hold the standard with your little and ring fingers while locking the movement with the thumb and index finger of the same hand arises, because you need the other hand to hold the loupe at the same time as you tilt. You might consider to define the tilt angle by calculation rather than viewing. Then you could do one at a time.

Another solution might be to use a loupe with a suction foot. A third, to use a monocular loupe that can be clipped on to eyeglasses. The strongest magnification of such a loupe, as far as I could find it, is 4,75x.

The link to my finding does not work directly. If you want to see it, go to

www.lupenshop.de (http://www.lupenshop.de), then "Lupenprogramm" > "Kopfbandlupen/Brillenlupen" > "Brillen-Vorsetzlupe 'Clip' Kunststoff hartbeschichtet". In the drop-down menu headed by "Bitte wählen Sie", which reads "2-fache Vergrößerung" by default, choose "4,75-fache Vergrößerung".

For the eyeglasses to clip it on, one might try one of the cheap plastic reading glasses, which come in a maximum power of +4 diopters, which would add another 1x enlargement, resulting in a total of 5,75x. I have not tried this yet, it's just a plan so far.

However, none of these would cure the play in the standard.

Are there other users who have the same experience? Meaning: If I buy a Toho, how large is the risk to get one that has that play in the front standard? And finally: Is there anybody with some understanding of the matter who knows if this might be cured by just any means including machine work? Because the weight of the Toho is rightout seductive.

Kind regards - Hening.