View Full Version : Classic or Contemporary 4x5 Field Camera

Scott Rosenberg
18-Jan-2004, 09:26
first, allow me preface this query by stating that:

1. i have poured through all the threads on this site, rec.photo, and photo.net for inputs. 2. having stared in 35mm, then 6x6, now 4x5, i am just as bored by 'which camera to buy' discussions, as the answer is always go rent a few and buy the one you work best with. i, unfortunately, can't rent either of the cameras i am considering.

after much research, i have narrowed my search for a 4x5 metal field camera down to a used Tech IV or a new/almost new Toyo 45AII. i'm sure both are fine instruments, overly-capable for what i intend to use them for... backpacking. what i'd be interested in is:

-is the tech IV more solid & rigid then the toyo? -does the modern design / features of the toyo (rotating back, etc) make it a better choice? -which is easier to use... quicker to set-up, compose, focus, etc?

overall, which camera, classic or contemporary, would be recommended by some of you folks with experiences with them?

thanks, scott

Frank Petronio
18-Jan-2004, 09:44
Both cameras are good choices. The Linhof is more rigid and better built, but the Toyo will get the job done and there is some value in its simplicity. As for "modern" features, I don't see where the Toyo has an advantage other than easier access to front tilt with short lenses, slightly lighter weight, and perhaps a more durable bellows. The Linhof has a rotating back, fresnel, focusing hood, etc. The Toyo is based on the Graflex Super Speed Graphic, which is about as old a design as the Linhof Technika IV. For the same money, I'd vote for a well maintained Linhof. The quality is clearly better. You can always buy both and resell the loser for what you paid for it...

Gem Singer
18-Jan-2004, 11:18
Hi Scott,

About six years ago, I chose the Toyo 45AII over the Linhof Tech. Cost was not an object. At the time, I could have easily afforded the price of a new top-of-the-line Linhof Tech. camera. I merely concluded that the Toyo was a better buy. I still believe that I made the right choice.

The Toyo 45AII has a rotating back and an excellent Fresnel focusing screen, included as standard equipment. Although it has a slightly shorter maximum bellows extension than the Linhof, it has never been a problem for me. With the standard bellows, I am able to use a 75wide angle lens, with a recessed lensboard, all the way up to a Fuji 400 telephoto lens. The Toyo field lensboards are square and slightly larger than the Linhof Tech boards. I have used both types, and I prefer the Toyo boards. The Toyo folds into a slightly smaller package than the Linhof. It weighs about 6 pounds, and is easy to carry in a backpack. It is built very rugged. It is simple to fold and un-fold, when setting up. It has controls that are easy to operate. Toyo makes some very functional accessories for the 45A field cameras. All-in-all, I believe it is a good value for the price.

At the present time, there are several used Toyo 45AII cameras for sale at Midwest Photo Exchange (mpex.com).

I'm not certain as to your reason for classifying these cameras as "classic" and "contemporary". They are both fine examples of state-of the-art metal flatbed folding field cameras. They are both "classic" designs that have withstood the test of time.

Gem Singer
18-Jan-2004, 12:25
Hello,again Scott,

It just dawned on me that you were asking whether it would be better to purchase an older model Linhof, or a newer model Toyo. My opinion: If the price of both cameras is nearly equal, buy the newer camera. Cameras do wear with age. Bellows begin to leak after a while. Linhofs are relatively expensive to repair. Parts are not readily available for older cameras.

Toyo made the 45A model for a good many years. Except for rubberized knobs and poly-coated gears, it is exactly the same as the newer 45AII. I have seen 45A's, in excellent condition, for sale at Midwest for very low prices. Another model, the Toyo 45AX, is the exact same camera as the 45AII, without the rotating back and the bailer to assist in opening the back when sliding in the film holder. It's an excellent value. Save your money and use it to buy a good lens.

18-Jan-2004, 14:36

I like metal folders too.

Some things to consider.....

The size of the hole in the front standard, (not the lens board), will limit the size of the rear lens bezel that can be mounted. Some lenses have large rear elements, and while they are not a problem mouting them on the lens boards, they won't fit into the front of the camera.

Get as long a bellows as practical or better yet a camera that you can change bellows on.

These are two areas that I wish I'd paid closer attention to when I bought my Horseman 45FA.

The horseman does not have a rotating back and I have not found this to be a problem as it is easy to switch horz. to vert.

If I were to do it again I would look at Wista, Toyo, Canham, Horseman, and Linhof. Compare features, and prices.

Good luck

David A. Goldfarb
18-Jan-2004, 14:43
If macro is a big interest for you, the Technika has more bellows, and you'll welcome the extra rigidity for that purpose.

If ultra-wide lenses are a priority, the Toyo will take a minimum 45mm lens with a recessed lensboard, while the Technika takes a 75mm lens with a recessed lensboard only, and a minimum 55mm lens with the wideangle focusing device.

Both the Technika and the Toyo 45AII have a rotating back. Personally, I don't find reversible backs less convenient than rotating backs, and the weight savings can be an attraction of the reversible back.

Ed Candland
20-Jan-2004, 10:02
I've not owned a Technika so I can't comment as to if it's more rigid or not. But, my Toyo 45AX doesn't move at all when in use so I'm not sure as to why more rigidity would be needed. Personally I find the Toyos very easy to set up and use and a good value. The Tecknika does have more bellows so that may or may not be a factor. Neither are very modern designs. In fact LF cameras almost by definition are not modern. The closest to modern might be a metal Canham, Walker (ABS) or Phillips. Anyway Have fun.