Camera quest: Successful outcome ! : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

For those of you who helped me and supported me in my search for a new camera, I am pleased to say it has had a successful outcome. I was looking for a compact light camera that could accommodate a range of lenses from 47 mm to at least 300, and with extensive movements. I would use it for landscape (extensive backpacking friendly) but also for architecture and in the studio. We looked at many contenders such as the Linhof Master 2000 and TKs, Arca-Swiss, Canham DLC, Ebony SV U, all wonderful cameras with their own specific character and qualities. But somehow, after reviewing them all, I wasn't entirely comfortable with any of them. All had concessions to be made, weather lack of movements, additional accessories and weight, uneasy manipulation, not upgradable or price.

This time, salvation came from the East. I went through the whole camera reviews on the entry page once again and suddenly, was attracted to the Toyo VX 125, a camera I had put aside when it came out because of it's price tag. This camera has amazing studio capabilities and is very portable though with it's telescoping rail and 2,6 Kg naked. I asked Bill Glickman for some feedback and on his very positive comments, ordered one from Robert White in the UK. Not only the price was so amazing I can't talk about it, but Robert is the most friendly person I have ever made business with! The next day a brand new Toyo arrived and I can say, it's up to the expectancies! It's beautifully made, geared movements and very stiff. With the recessed Linhof adapter, it can take any wide angle with much more movements than the lens would allow, without the need of a bag bellows. The only issue is about finding now an extended lensboard for the 300 mm to compensate for the recessed adapter and be able to focus closer than infinity, shouldn't be a problem. So, even a Congo type T500 mm would be usable without carrying any additional accessory. And it is also part of an upgradable system.

Now, I am not saying this camera is the best of the above choice. Many of them I have not even had the chance to see with my own eyes. But for my kind of photography, it seems excellent, after I have composed with my Tech V limitations and qualities for almost ten years. I would compare the Tech to a Beetle and the VX to a terrain 4WD. One is better and quicker on the streets but the other makes the difference in sand dunes! (figuratively speaking, for I am not sure either would be comfortable with sand!) Thanks for your help so far!

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 13, 2000


Hi Paul, I second what you said about Robert White. Ordering from him was as easy as ordering from B&H. I just received my first large format camera and lenses from him this week. After spending hours on and reading the archives I went the ARCA route, but the Toyo VX was a close "runner-up". Happy shooting!

-- Andreas Carl (, April 13, 2000.

Hi Paul,

I read your previous post and all the various responses regarding the best camera for your needs and thought of mentioning the Toyo VX 125 (but didn't - I'm not very polemical). I'm glad you checked it out. I have the VX and am thoroughly satisfied with it; so much so that I don't even look at other 4x5 cameras.

(However, if I had a present need for a rangefinder/grip combination, I would look at the Linhof Technika. Similarly, if I had a need for asymetrical tilts, for portraits and product work for instance, I would look at the Ebony 45SU/SV45U2. I don't have these needs NOW, but in the future, who knows? Both are WONDERFUL cameras.)

The VX is great for architectural work. The monorail collapses and gets out of the way; hence, it'll never be recorded on the image. Using the Linhof wide angle adapter for wide angle lenses is an interesting possibility (very smart!) and I may check that out. For now I use a bag bellows. It takes a second to pop it in and out. Note that you can use the "standard" bag bellows (the one for the C and G models which is made out of leather) even though there is a designated bag bellows for the VX (which is made out of the synthetic stuff). I chose the standard bag bellows because it's over a hundred and fifty dollars less than the VX bag bellows based on B&H pricing. I saved even more by buying the standard bag bellows from Robert White of the UK.

The movements are smooth. The placement of the knobs and locking mechanisms are the same for both the front and back standards. The locking mechanisms are tight. The geared rise is very nice - it just feels good. The knobs are made of rubber not metal; hence, my fingers don't freeze. And the knobs have this quality feel to them, much like the knobs on my Linhof Profi II ballhead.

The only difficult part to master is the telescoping rail. The red buttons need to be pushed in as one pulls on the rails to extend it - and there is a certain timing issue here, similar to the timing issue in using a stick shift and clutch. However, with practice it gets easier. In fact, it now only takes a second or two to extend the monorail. The camera setup is very quick (quicker than the AX which is known for its fast setup).

Another issue: I had to sell a Horseman 6x9 rollfilm back because it was too much of an acrobatic act to unlatch/unhook the revolving back on the VX without taking my fingers off. This is not the case with the reversible-type back on the Toyo AX - it takes only a second or two to take the back off the AX and slip the Horseman rollfilm back in place. I resolved the problem by getting a Toyo 6x9 rollfilm holder (once again from Robert White at a very good price). As you probably know, the Toyo rollfilm holder slides in place much like a cut film holder.

Another issue: the maximum extension of the VX is only 325mm. One can get the extension rails, but they are bulky and cumbersome. I don't have a need or even interest for a lens longer than 300mm; if I did, I would probably look at the Tecknika or SV45U2.

-- Edie Rothman (, April 13, 2000.

Paul, congratulations on your purchase. One easy solution is to buy a second none recessed adapter board, that way you will gain back the 40mm you lost, plus if you want to pick up another 25mm - 40mm, have a reverse recessed board made for your long len(s). This will bring you to a total of about 365mm extension. I think you will find, that simply using a standard adapter board is good enough. The little bit of extra extension you get will not provide focus much closer... for example, at 325mm extension with the flat adapter board will get focus to 13ft with your 300mm lens, while adding another 40mm extension would only gain you focus to 6ft. But if thats worth it to you, the simplist thing to do is have someone make you a small reversed recessed board.

-- Bill Glickman (, April 14, 2000.

And how does one get ahold of Mr White?

-- Wayne Crider (, April 14, 2000.

Good shop and a fine gentleman.

-- Donald Brewster (, April 15, 2000.

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