The Toyo 45A field camera
A review by Tom Nicinski for
the Large Format Page
There are rear swings and tilts but no shifts. Swings (sideways), as
well as the back tilt, are very restricted, only a few degrees.
Because the camera is folding type, you get forward tilt as much as the
bellows gives space. Technically 90 degrees, 20-30 dg in reality...
- Metal construction. This makes the camera quite bash proof and it's
reasonably rigid (much more so than the Zone VI I looked at) when it's
fully extended. The aesthetics of owning a wooden camera are not that
important to me either.
- Revolving back. Although it adds about 6 - 8 ounces over a reversible
back, it's nice. It's especially useful when you need to rotate just
a small amount to get things aligned -- a lot easier than trying to
do this on a ball head (even a large one like the Linhof Profi III).
- Fresnel lens. I like the eveness and relative brightness that the
fresnel lens offers. For landscape (non-closeup work), the fresnel
pattern doesn't affect my ability to focus. I've done too little
closeup work to really determine whether the fresnel lens hinders
focusing small details.
- Price. Well, I think all 4x5 bodies are WAY overpriced. But, the
Toyo 45A seemed like the best price/performance package for me.
- Movements. They're adequate for the majority of my work (landscapes).
If there is one movement I'd like to see extended, it's rise and fall
(more rise than fall if there's a preference). The shift could go out
a bit more, but once again, it's not that necessary for landscapes.
- Movements. I'm not sure this is really a problem. I sometimes wish
that the front rise/fall would be geared. But, this is only true with
my heaviest lens, the Nikkor-T ED 360mm f/8. Still, I'm don't want to
pay the additional weight and complexity penalty.
- Movements. Speaking of the telephoto lens, the bed is a bit short.
That's why the 360mm I have is a telephoto. The Zone VI offered quite
a bit more extension, but I'm not sure it's all that sturdy.
As for short lenses, 90mm is about the practical limit for the 45A
without resorting to a recessed lens board. The problem is that the
bellows is scrunched up too much. Since the Toyo 45A does not offer
interchangable bellows, the only route is to use a recessed board. I
vaguely remember that you get a bit over 20mm relief and you can use a
- Weight. The body is just over 6 pounds. That's pretty heavy for back-
packing. But, I think the sturdiness is well worth it. If I ever get
a lighter camera, it will probably be the Tachihara, as that hovers
around 3 pounds!
- Movements. The front shift and swing are on the same "movement bed."
That in and of itself is not a real problem. The problem comes when
trying to make small movements around the zero position detent. That
detent is too deep and stiff to allow a small shift and swing together;
you usually end up falling back into the detent.
I'm not sure if the offer is still there, but recently, MAC
(distributors of the Toyo line in the U.S.) were offering the
compendium shade as an incentive to buy the 45A. This shade is quite
nice and useful. You may want to look into getting the longer
extension bars (rails) for this hood if you have a large (not
necessarily just long) lens. This will allow you to easily flip the
shade up and down over the lens. But, they're expensive (about $50
When I shopped around, I compared the Toyo 45A against a Horseman and
a Zone VI. For backcountry use, I'd pick the metal camera over the
wooden camera because of the protection it affords (unless I want to
go ultralight and use the Tachihara). I didn't like the Zone VI's
front movements -- the swing and shift are very sloppy -- not that
tight and positive feeling of the 45A. I didn't like the Horseman
because of its controls -- they're way to small, especially if you do
any winter photography (I like to keep my hands in my gloves). I also
didn't like the Horseman back, which combined the tilt and swing
movements. Using one reduced the other.
The Toyo 45AR is the same as the Toyo 45A, both field cameras. The AR was
imported by someone other than Mamiya, thus the different name (I asked one
of the Mamiya vice presidents a few years ago).
I know the A-II is more expensive than the A, but there's no difference other
than better knobs. Foam-rubber tape looped around those blasted shiny melmac
knobs does the trick in my experience, and A's aren't all that uncommon,
For more info, check the Toyo
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