View Full Version : Suitability of the Toyo 45CF camera -- question

25-Apr-2008, 09:43
One of our instructors favors the Toyo CF 4x5 camera, and I was hoping that someone here would have experience with it and could answer some questions about it.

We are putting a request for funds to buy a couple 4x5 field camera kits for use by our university students.

1) Is the set-up and take-down of the camera intuitive enough that it is not too tough for students to handle the first time they use it?

Setting up a view camera, especially a field model, is always a little difficult the first time -- even after demos by me or the instructor. Is there anything particularily tricky with the Toyo CF?. We have a couple Horseman Woodfields if you wish to make a comparison (and I have used Deardorffs, Tachiharas, and an assortment of rail cameras also). Occasionally, the Horseman comes back to me as a bundle because the student could not figure out how to close it -- that should give you an idea on the capability of the students...I just want to make sure that the students won't have even more problems with the Toyo CF.

2) Is is sturdy enough for student use? For example, the Tachihara 4x5 is a fine camera, but we have one for student use and it has not held up well compared to the Horseman Woodfield. So if there are things about the camera that might tend to break (like the toggle knobs on the Tach) with rough use?

3) And lastly...are there features that might make the Toyo a great choice for student use?


Vaughn...keeping wet photography alive!

25-Apr-2008, 10:46
Vaughn-- I did a huge amount of research on sub $1000 4x5 cameras and the Toyo CF does not come highly recommended. I realize that some people use and love them, but I've read and heard multiple reports of poorly tightening knobs, stripped threads, and light construction. For student use, I think you need something bomb proof and reasonably-priced. My first choice would be a Shen Hao for a wood camera and if you have a thing for Toyo--then a nice metal 4x5 AX or AII.

David Karp
25-Apr-2008, 10:50
Limited back movements limit the usefulness as a camera for students. I have also read comments regarding limited durability. I held one when they were first showing it to the people at the local Calumet store years ago. I think students will destroy them.

That said, it is very lightweight.

Merg Ross
25-Apr-2008, 11:02
I would recommend something more robust than the CF model. I have the Toyo AX and would suggest something along that line for students. I have handeled the CF Toyo and it does not have a solid feel to it. The weight difference would not be a great benefit to a student, and the lack of rear movements would be detrimental to learning large format, in my opinion.

David A. Goldfarb
25-Apr-2008, 11:03
I looked into it once, and by all accounts, the build quality was on the light side.

In the same price range, I'd think a Shen-Hao would be a better choice. The Chamonix is a beautiful camera in the same price range, but I think might be too delicate for student use.

Can Toyo cut you a deal for one of their better models? MAC has often offered student discounts.

Terence McDonagh
25-Apr-2008, 11:12
At its introductory price, it was a good deal. I like mine, and it is great for hiking. It is very light, and landscapes (mine anyway) don't need much in the way of movements, much less back movements. The front movements are about standard for a lightweight field camera.

It is pretty simple and intuitive to me, but I'm an engineer.

I'm not sure it would stand up to serious student use. I don't find it delicate, but I also don't crank down movements more than is really necessary. Which is very little. I certainly don't baby my equipment, and have no qualms throwing the thing in my backpack with minimal padding, but I can see how it would become very imprecise if you don't handle the mechanisms with some care.

The Shen Hao's are a little tougher than the Tachiharas. Everything is a little heavier on the Shen, and they're a good deal for the money.

I assume some old rail camera like a Grover is not an option? They're akward to hike with, but take quite a bit of abuse. A Crown Graphic is tough as nails, but doesn't really have movements good for teaching view camera technique.

25-Apr-2008, 11:18
Thanks for the feedback I have received so far. I just spent a bit of time going thru old posts here about the camera.

I will have to talk to the prof more about the camera...I am not impressed with the camera based on what I read so far. No camera is fool-proof. I actually like the Horseman Woodfields we have for their simplicity and weight vs studiness. I will have to do some more research on the Shen-Hao (and on the Toyo AX)

Thanks again,


Terence...we have several Calumet rail cameras and a Graphic View II -- transport is often a problem for the students (no car, etc) and also right now we have more women than men taking photo classes, and the ability to get around with the cameras is an issue.

Terence McDonagh
25-Apr-2008, 11:29
Not owning a car, I can appreciate that. My 8x20 doesn't get out much . . .

Brad Rippe
25-Apr-2008, 12:13
I use a CF for backpacking and I think its great. Its light and has enough movements for landscape. You have probably seen my other comments on this camera. It is not bomb proof, but shouldn't you be teaching students to handle view cameras with great care anyway?
The most negative comment on this camera I've heard is the lack of a rear tilt. I just drop the bed till it locks, (I call it implied rear tilt) then adjust the front tilt to focus. It works perfectly. I've brought it on many multi day backpack trips, and never had a problem. It folds up with a lens attached, is very simple and compact folded up.
I think you should consider it for students. My $.02.

25-Apr-2008, 13:34
OK camera for someone who knows it's weaknesses and willing to treat it accordingly.

Limited movements. Noted for the thread bosses coming loose in the CF material from too much tightening--- just the thing you are going to run into with a wide range of handlers, like a classroom situation. Ham handed students who don't think the movements are tightened down enough are going to wreck it in short order. And why not... they didn't pay for it. Taxpayers did.

Why Field Cameras anyway? I can't imagine many field cameras that meet a teaching need AND teach full movements.

Have you looked at the Calumet Cadet. Near full movement monorail. Fieldable, and last I looked you could get the camera and a lens from Calumet for not much more than the body of a CF.

25-Apr-2008, 13:48
Thanks, Brad. And I agree...students should be taught to handle equipment with the care one would use one's own equipment. But the fact remains that once out of sight and without someone to show/remind them about how to use a camera, things happen. We are talking about 25 students per semester using these cameras for the first time...and most are very good with equipment...but it just takes a one to break something. Students get stoned, get drunk, get forgetful, get careless, drop things, froce things, et al.

We tend to learn by making mistakes -- but once broken, a 4x5 camera is not availible to anyone else for the rest of the semester...and with our budget, it may not be able to be repaired/replaced for several years. My choice of camera is driven by the desire to have a quality tool for the students that will survive the average abuse the equipment will receive so that it will able to be used for many many years of students.

As beautiful as they are, I will not buy another Tachihara 4x5...they are not strong enough -- even though a photographer can otherwise get a lifetime of use out of it.

I appreciate your $.02...I owe you.


Terence McDonagh
25-Apr-2008, 14:10
Students get stoned, get drunk, get forgetful, get careless, drop things, force things, et al.

Remind me again why we left school . . . ?

Brad Rippe
25-Apr-2008, 15:55
Those are all good points, I guess a cf wouldn't be such a good idea for a school. Kuzano makes a good suggestion for a Calumet. We had several of those at my college, and they really are sturdy, cheap and available. I carried a Calumet with the big gray case, film etc to the top of Mt Hoffman in Yosemite in 1976.
Are you saying students get drunk and stoned? I bet those altered states could generate some interesting images.

25-Apr-2008, 19:09
Remind me again why we left school . . . ?

To be able to afford better weed and booze?:p

When I was a student all we had were some rail cameras -- I carried those things for miles...even tied the case to the top of my backpack and hiked 8 miles into the Trinity Alps for a long weekend (found that changing film inside a sleeping bag is hot, and unfortunately, dusty work!

I priced the Shen-Hao's at Badger Graphics. The prices seem good on the cameras -- but the kit seemed over-priced...basically add $700 for a Fuji 150/5.6, two holders and a cable release. Holders we do not need -- we got 200 4x5 film holders donated to us, so that's not a problem anymore.

I'll have to do some more research on the two different models they had in the $600 to $700 range...have forgotten the model numbers. Any advise on those two models?

Kuzano...portability is the key here. And for landscape, the Shen-Hao certainly has all the movements needed. We do have four rail studio 4x5's (3 of the more inexpensive Calumets..not the Cadet, though...with 180mm lenses and a graphic View II with a 150mm lens.) I wish we could afford some other focal length lenses (but I do also have a convertable 150mm Schnieder on a Calumet board, but nothing wider.)

We do not have a course dedicated to 4x5 use...just some assignments using them in the Intermeadiate class and occasionally in the Advance Class. We have an Fine Art based program, as opposed to a program like Brooks, so their are no table-top assignments where the movements of a rail camera excell.

Again...thanks so much for all the imput! It is of great help!


Dave Hally
26-Apr-2008, 15:33
I am not familiar with the Toyo CF, but I have used a 45A for years, and I really like it, with one exception. I tend to be a little rough on my gear, with odd situations that require convoluted tripod setups, I have had the tripod/camera fall over twice, with the camera hitting face down. Both times the lens filter ring was dented, but the camera front standard base snapped where it has a very small cross section where the pivot/ slide mechanism is. It is easily repaired with new parts, promptly received from Mamiya America Corp. But I would caution the use of this camera where it may be handled roughly or abused. That said, I keep repairing it and using it!, It is easy to use, sets up quickly, not too heavy and parts are readily available. I use it on a Manfrotto tripod and a small geared (not the 410) head, which is excellant.
Dave hally