Tachihara cameras

by Q.-Tuan Luong for the Large Format Page

This camera seems to be available under several names, two of them being Osaka (distributed by Brownwell) and Calumet wood field XM. It is one of the cheapest fields at less than $700 (from Adorama in NYC, or Midwest Photo Exchange). Note that the Brownwell and Calumet versions are more expensive than the one distributed by Adorama. The only cheaper field cameras are the old classic cameras and the Graphics, which are significantly heavier, clumsier, and have much less movements, therefore, I would tend to say that it is the cheapest reasonnable field camera.

The design of this camera is quite classical for a double extension field camera. The only geared control is the front focus. There are scales for focus and shift (that I find of limited utility). When the front standard is used in its rail, all the locks are independant. The lensboards are compatible with Technika's and therefore easy to find new or used, and quite small. Since you don't need the precise fit of the Linhof boards, you can get cheap third party boards.

For a photograph of this camera, see figure 4-6 in Ansel Adams book "The Camera", or check the (highly recommended) book of Steve Simmons "Using the view camera". It is the wooden field 4x5 of which many pictures are shown.

Globally, I have found the Tachihara 4x5 to be a very capable small/lightweight camera and had very little complaints about it. It is also an excellent value. I sold it only to move to a better 5x7 camera. As pointed out to by Barry Sherman, the photographer Ray McSavaney, one of the best, albeit, unfortunately, not best known, large format pictorial (landscape and architectural, primarily) photographers on the planet, used his Tachihara for years, including for architectural work.

If you are going to buy a used camera, note the following warning by Mike Long (mlafly@aol.com):

"there are a couple of important things to watch for. When I got mine a year and a half ago, I didn't have a clue which end to look into. So, I didn't know enough to check rigidity of the front and back standards (and also positioning of the bright screen - but that's not the camera's problem). As a result, when inserting a film holder, the back would pull backwards and settle in a different position than when I focused. Since the film plane positioning is so important, I got lots of slightly soft chromes & negatives. I put a pair of vice grips on the "C" clamp for the back and squeezed it together. This made is a little more difficult to move the back standard but strengthened it considerable. You can go to far with this and I can''t envision a cure if you do. So, be careful. I would check the back rigidity to ensure it is solid when buying the camera.

Also, my front standard is now getting a little sloppy and this is from a thin metal piece that the front standard hardware is riveted to. I cannot sink a screw in it as it would affect extension. I tried super glueing that piece of metal down, but this did not work. A less permanent and more reliable fix was to replace all the metal washers on all the tightening knobs with nylon. I wish I could claim full credit for this but I read a review of the Wisner where the author said the nylon washers on the Wisner were not keeping with the overall beauty of the camera. But, you can tighten nylon washers tighter and still loosen them easily. This worked very well and the camera was solid when I finished. Other than this necessary pre--purchase check or the requisite maintenance if it is a problem, I have no complaints."

The Tachihara as a 4x5 camera:

The 4x5 Tachihara as a 5x7 camera:

For $300 you can purchase an extension back which replaces the 4x5 back. This back looks like a wooden cone with a 5x7 spring back, weights 1.4 lbs and is rather bulky (more than the camera itself). Wista also makes these adaptors specifically for the backs of their DX and SP (a different model for each).

Technical specs

Besides the 4x5, there is a 5x7, and two models of 8x10 (double and triple extension). The 8x10 double is also good value.



8x10 Double Extension

8x10 Triple Extension

More info

Tachihara Manual (PDF) scanned by Rich Long

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