First Look
Toyo View 45CF Lightweight 4x5 Field Camera

The trend toward lighter and durable materials for photo gear was, some say, started by the introduction of carbon-fiber materials for a usually cumbersome piece of equipment--a tripod. Make the tripod as strong and lighter and those who really know what a tripod is for, and why it's sometimes a (literal) pain in the neck will buy it. That worked for Gitzo and others who followed the trend. Now, perhaps taking a page from that book we have another usually heavy and sometimes cumbersome piece of equipment--the 4x5 field camera--that offers strong construction coupled with lightweight features as well. The Toyo-View 45CF is an affordable ($600 without lens), portable, and durable solution to shooting on location with a 4x5 camera. The camera is constructed with carbon-fiber reinforced polycarbonate, said to make it 1/3 lighter than equivalent metal field cameras.

The 45CF incorporates all the camera movements for creative control, including front standard rise and fall, tilts, swings and shifts, along with a drop-bed adjustment. A full range of lenses, from a 90-400mm are fully compatible when mounted on a flat Toyo lensboard. A lens window shows which lens is mounted without the need to open the camera. The 45CF includes a reversible film back with a grid ground glass with 6x7 and 6x9 format markings. Roll film and even digital backs are easily attached via the built-in Graflok sliding locks. There's also a dual-spirit level, accessory shoe mount, two tripod threads, extra-long bellows extension and compatibility with many Toyo-Field accessories.

To open the camera you simply turn the focusing knobs and release the rail from the latch on the body. The rail bed opens to a 90 degree angle. You then unlock the front standard and pull it onto the rail. If you want to keep the lens attached when you fold up the camera again you can do so with a Rodenstock 150mm or 210mm Geronar (or equivalents). When you do fold it be sure that all the movements you might have made are returned to the neutral position. You then rack out the lens to the setting on the bed and you're ready to work, with the lens focused at infinity.

The camera back can be removed from the body so that it can be placed in either a vertical or horizontal position. All you need to do is push the lock buttons toward the outside of the camera. When you have made the repositioning just reverse the procedure. As mentioned, you can use a variety of Toyo rollfilm holders, including 6x7, 6x9, and Polaroid holders without removing the ground-glass frame. If you wish, you can remove the ground-glass back to use film holders with Graflok fittings. I used a Kodak Readyload back with T-Max 100 single Readyload sheets.

In the field, you focus by pulling back on the microfocus locking lever and unlocking the knob; you then turn the knob for focus and lock it up. The same goes with the locking and unlocking of the rise, tilt, and swing operations. While the camera is not as silky smooth as you might be used to with cameras costing a grand more, it certainly is a highly functional instrument that can get you into large format without busting your budget.

The camera will be available for under $600. Mamiya America Corporation distributes the Toyo-View cameras. For further information check out the web site at www.toyoview.com.

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