View Full Version : Follow Up on Toho and lightweight 8x10 Advice

Paul van der Hoof
1-Apr-2002, 19:29
I read the Toho (NOT Toyo) reports earlier and just wanted to know if there was any follow up reports from actual Toho users -- My goal is to find a 4x5 versati le enough for studio and lightweight and easy enough to use for backpacking. Ri ght now I use several 4x5s for different pruposes, including backpacking. I hav e a Toyo field for backpacking and think it's too heavy. I am very sold on the Toho for both studio and BP, but want to hear more before plunking down the cash . Also interested on users preferences with 8x10 for BP or at least luggable. Has anyone got any experience with the Peter Gowland 8x10.


David A. Goldfarb
1-Apr-2002, 20:03
I have an early version of the Gowland 8x10". It's a versatile and ultra-light camera, but isn't for everyone. To shave off weight, there are no geared movements, and some movements have combined tightening knobs (e.g., front rise/fall and tilt; front shift and swing). You can gain independent control over these, however, once you get a feel for setting the tension and the sequence of movements.

Mine is not the most rigid camera out there, but it looks like he has made the standards a bit heavier and improved the tripod block in the latest version. He's always tweaking, so every Gowland is a bit different, it seems. He's also a very accessible guy and will personally respond to your inquiries.

Another attraction of the Gowland is that it is very adaptable. You can have fine-focus on the front or rear standard or both if you want. All the screws and knobs on mine are 1/4"-20 screws, so I added some large flat fender washers to all the adjustments and very substantially improved the rigidity of the camera. I've also made an adapter to replace the rail with a pistol grip so I can use it as a handheld ultra-wide camera, like an 8x10" version of the Sinar Wide or a Hobo. A potential advantage over the Toho is that the current version uses Sinar sized lensboards, making it easy to rent lenses on boards if you need to. Mine came with a thinner board than the current type, so I have to make a small adjustment to get my new boards to fit properly.

1-Apr-2002, 21:09
If you are so desperate to get a light weight 8x10 the get an EASTMAN magnesium 8x10. The gowald is too flimsy for any 8x10 work. Petere was just joking when he made these. His twin lense is fantastic, I have a 4x5, I would suggest that you hire an assitant to carry a better 8x10 or go to the gym and build up some muscles so you could carry a 10 LB 8x10. Seriously, The weight of the camera is JUST THE BEGINING!!!!, what really hurts is the ten holdres the BIG GLASS and the TRIPOD!!! I have a light 8x10 AND A LIGHT TRIPOD AND EVEN THEN... I weight the magnesium 8x10 and the light 250 fuji and five holders at 25LBS!!! If you want light weight and SERIOUSLY sharp negatives then pop for a Hasselblad with the APO lenses. I have tested this against the 4x5 and UNLESS the 4x5 uses the SINAR special holders the the Hasselblad is as sharp or sharper. I didn't think the move to 4x5 was worthwhile so I moved to 8x10. I know I will get ALOT of heat from this but my testing found this to be true!!!!

John Kasaian
2-Apr-2002, 03:02
TIA, By all means give the Gowland a close look! The best source for info is Peter Gowland. Give him a call as he can tell you what his 8x10 would or would not be suitable for, and is a great source of other photographic information as well. I have an 8x10 Aerial and am very happy with it. IMHO the biggest drawback to back packing with the 8x10 isn't the camera. I have a Deardorff field camera and its slick, light wieght and rugged. I traded a Kodak Masterview for it. Masterviews are great cameras but broken metal is difficult to repair unless you have access to a skilled machinist, and even then it may be too costly to be worthwhile. With the 'dorff, I figure I can make most field repairs with gaffer's tape, a Swiss Army knife, some pliers and elmer"s glue. The problem is all those filmholders and a sturdy tripod. They really put on the pounds! On skis, I limit the number of film holders I take(4 max) and struggle with the tripod lashed to my pack.The rest of the year, for longer trips, I use a pack mule for 8x10(no joke!) Shes great company, always in good humor, and never seems to be in a hurry. Good Luck!

Christopher Condit
2-Apr-2002, 11:37
Paul, I too am interested in the Toho; the movements, weight, and price are all appealing. But the lack of replies from anyone experienced with it makes me a little nervous...

Steve Hamley
2-Apr-2002, 16:36
Very, very extensive review here:




Kerry L. Thalmann
2-Apr-2002, 17:05
Paul and Christopher,

I assume both of you have seen my online review of the Toho FC-45X. If not, check it out at:


Also, you might want to check out Toho's own web site at:


The site is mostly in Japanese, but there is some English text (and the pictures and specs are universal).

WRT to the Toho FC-45X for backpacking, I have personally used several lightweight 4x5 cameras, and IMHO none of them come close to the Toho for this application. It offers a very unique combination of ultralight weight, reasonably long bellows extension, extensive front and rear movements and surprising rigidity. They also offer some very clever accessories (Eccentric Lens Panel) to make the camera even more versatile. No one camera is right for all users or all applications. Beyond the specs are issues like peronal preferences and ease of use. A much as I like the Toho, I will be the first to admits it's not for everybody.

WRT use in the studio. It will certainly do in a pinch, but it would not be my first choice for that application. Other cameras with geared movements, rotating backs, etc. will be faster and easier to use in a studio situation. The Toho COULD handle MOST studio situations, but certainly would not be the most effecient tool for the task. That said, I have used my Toho as a "studio" camera on occasion (to photograph products for magazine articles), but that is not my primary applicaion for the Toho and something I only do a few time per year.

WRT the 8x10 Toho, I have no personal experience with this camera. I have used the now discontinued FC-45A, which is somewhat similar in concept. Although the FC-45A was lighter than the FC-45X, I still prefer telescoping rail and zero detents on swings and tilts of the FC-45X. The 8x10 does not have a telescoping rail like the FC-45X. Instead, it uses a two piece rail with a connecting block. Not sure about the detents on the 8x10 (can't tell from the pictures, and I haven't seen one in person).

"A potential advantage over the Toho is that the current version uses Sinar sized lensboards, making it easy to rent lenses on boards if you need to."

This statement is incorrect. The 8x10 Toho (and the 5x7) accept standard Sinar boards. So, no inherent advantage or disadvantage there. One advantage the Toho does have is the lensboar adapter they make that accepts the circular lensboards for the 4x5 Toho. Not only does this adapter allow you to use the cheaper, smaller round Toho boards, but is also allows you to use the Eccentric Lens Panel with ultrawide lenses (pobably only significant if you use a 4x5 or 5x7 reducing back, since there are few, if any wideangle lenses that cover 8x10 and come in #0 shutters). Finally, this adapter also allows you to use Linhof/Wista style lensboards. Of course, this adapter MAY also work with the Gowland or other cameras that accept Sinar lensboards (not sure, you'd have to try it to see).

WRT to the lack of response from Toho owners, keep in mind that the Toho is not actively marketed or advertised in North America. It is aimed at a specific sub-niche (ultalight large format - a bit of an oymoron) within the niche market that is large format. The FC-45X is a relatively new model (by large format standards). So, there aren't a LOT of users out there, but there are a handful and our ranks are growing. I seem to get email from everyone who buys a Toho, and so far the feedback has been 100% positive (of course, these buyers are aware of the Toho's "uniqueness" before hand). It is NOT as capable or as elegant as a 15 lb. Linhof or Sinar, but then that's the whole point. It's not supposed to be, and if it as, who'd want to carry it far afield? If you do a Google advanced groups seach on "toho" in the rec.photo.equipment.large-format newsgroup, you will get over 250 hits. In adition to my comments, you will also find very positive comments on the Toho FC-45X from several other contented Toho owners (Roger Clark, Peter DeSmidt, Scott Walton, Chis Eastwood, etc.). So, while there haven't been a lot of reponses here, there are other happy Toho owners out there, several who are active online, and most seem willing to share their opinions and experiences.

Finally, in the US, the Toho is sold by Badger Graphic Sales. They are dealer that knows their products and stand behind what they sell. Based on the service I have received, I recommend them without hesitation. You can check Toho prices on their web site:



Paul van der Hoof
2-Apr-2002, 17:46
Thanks everyone for your great and helpful answers. Kerry, yes, I did go and check your site and it was one of the biggest reasons that I have such a strong interest in the Toho. I actually sent you email from your mailto link on your website. I guess you have answered most of my questions here. As for using the Toho in studio, since most of the time my use would be in the field I am basing my research on that premise. As I do not make a full time living as a photographer, a dedicated studio 4x5 or 8x10 of the likes of a Sinar are not in the cards now. But I do some studio work and so far have managed with a much less respected brand of studio 4x5 and have managed to make it work (or it's managed to make me work!). Space challenges are also another issue, and I have to constantly remind myself to keep things simple, and therefor, versatile. At any rate, your website was incredibly detailed and precise and I was just wondering about any further follow up to that. I certainly will search the newsgroups for opinions also. Of course, one can become "opinioned" to death at some point. The design of the Toho looks elegant and reasonable for it's purpose and I think it just might be the nearest thing to an impossible compromise of intended uses.

Thanks for everyone's help and opinion.

Kerry L. Thalmann
3-Apr-2002, 02:34
Oops, just wanted to correct a typo in the Badger Graphic URL in my earlier mess age (not to mention the one in my own name - darn keyboard). The correct URL, o f course, is:



Paul van der Hoof
5-Apr-2002, 16:08
Thanks everyone, your ideas and pointers are all very helpful. One last question: What is the maximum lens diameter / shutter size that could be used on the Toho? I realize that in backpacking I would be looking at the smaller / lighter lenses, but once back in the home studio, I would like to use my larger lenses: 12 & 14 Commercial Ektar in Ilex 4 & 5, Schneider Symmar-S MC 240mm in Copal 3, Imagon 250 in Copal 3, Wollensak Velostigmat II 240 in something like a Ilex 4 and Wollensak Velostigmat II which must be about 300mm in a huge Compound shutter, etc, etc. These and some more I haven't yet mounted in shutter are HUGE and heavy lenses and I would never backpack them (well, maybe the Imagon) but I am still using them, testing them in studio or easy walking distance from the car and if I went to the Toho 4x5 I would want the freedom to use them, so Lensboard limits are a consideration. The Badger site doesn't give details and the Toho site was mostly in Japanese.


Paul van der Hoof
5-Apr-2002, 16:10
Oh, yeah, a Schneider Super-Angulon 90mm f8 also. It's pretty big glass as well.


Kerry L. Thalmann
5-Apr-2002, 17:15

The short answer is:

The diameter of the opening in the front standard of the 4x5 Toho FC- 45X is 80mm. The space between the lensboard mounting bars is 90mm (some large diameter shutters MAY interfere with the mounting bars - it depends on the particular shutter and how it is mounted to the board).

The long answer can be found buried in my Toho review at the URL referenced above.

It will handle your 90mm f8 SA with ease. Not sure about the others. You will have to measure to see if they will fit.


Adam Gibbs
7-Apr-2002, 00:28
For several years now I have been using a Linhof Tech and have been quite happy with it. My biggest beef with the Linhof is its weight, at six pounds the camera along with all the other paraphernalia really started to put a strain on my back. Time to find a lighter camera. I came across Kerry's review on the Toho about a month ago, to be honest I had never heard of Toho but Kerry's review really helped me in my final decision to try the little Toho out. I have just received the camera (two days ago) from Badger Graphics, not cheap for us Canadians though with two boards the camera came to $2295.00 CA . Since I just received the camera I can't be as thorough as Kerry in my un-biased opinion, but my initial reaction is that this is one tidy piece of equipment, very compact and light. I have only played around with it in my living room, but I'll be trying it out all of next week and will give you my reactions to this smart piece of equipment. I should mention that the Toho is definitely not a Linhof but who really cares as long as it is light (which it is) and works well in the field without too many problems. The camera seems to be very sturdy and well made.

Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Apr-2002, 02:18

Congratulations on your purchase and welcome to the Toho owner's club (bummer ab out the exchange rate). I hope you enjoy your Toho and use it to create many wo nderful images.

For me personally, the more I use the Toho the more I appreciate it. In that re spect, it's the oppostite of many other cameras I've used. Some cameras seem pe rfect when they are shiny and new - sort of a honeymoon period where faults and flaws are masked by the euphoria of a new relationship. Only as time goes by, d o those initially overlooked faults and flaws grow ever more annoying and hard t o live with. The Toho, on the other hand, is quite obvious in its shortcomings and inadequacies from day one. Things like removing the entire top half of the camera to switch between vertical and horizontal and the unusual method of attac hing the lensboards are part of the design and are readily noted the first time you look at the camera. Unlike hidden faults that grow in annoyance over time, I have found the Toho's warts actually seem to become more acceptable as time go es by. At first, certain operations seemed overly slow and tedious. The more I use the camera, the more familiar these operations become. I haven't actually timed myself recently. So, I don't know if I have shaved any time off these ope rations. Perhaps I have, but the real point is they are now second nature and d on't seem as annoying they once did.

But what I have REALLY come to appreciate is the light weight of a 4x5 kit built around the Toho and a carbon fiber tripod. This kit is SO much lighter than a typical 4x5 kit that I get where I'm going faster and have much more energy to d evote to photography when I get there. So, even if certain operations take a fe w seconds longer due to the unique design of the Toho, I think I come out way ah ead in the end. I can hike all day with the Toho, three or four lighweight lens es, and a box of Readyloads in a lightweight daypack and never seem to tire. It 's amazing the difference it makes at the end of the day - and the start of the next. That is the true beauty of the Toho. I hope you feel the same way about yours a couple years from now.


David A. Goldfarb
11-Apr-2002, 15:39
No problem with big lenses in an Ilex #5 on the Gowland, and I suspect that if the Toho 8x10" uses Sinar sized boards (thanks for the correction, Kerry), it should be able to handle the lenses you mention as well.

The biggest lens I've put on the Gowland has been a Voigtlander 360mm/f:4.5 Heliar, which is a huge portrait lens (it might weigh more than the camera), too big for an Ilex #5, with a front mounted bulb-operated shutter. At first the front panel tilted downward a bit with this lens, but I've since added a few big fender washers to the front standard knobs, and it holds just fine.