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
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.