Toyo 4x5 Binocular Reflex Viewer : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have just purchased a Toyo VX125 camera and am considering purchasing the reflex viewer. Although I don't plan any extensive hiking, I am still concerned about the weight of the viewer, especially since the camera is fairly light itself and the quick release isn't rated for very much weight. Does anyone know what the viewer weighs? What experiences do users have with the viewer? Does the convenience of using it make up for its size and weight and cost? Would appreciate any responses.

-- Steven Dial (, November 09, 2000


Steven: Using a viewer seems convenient enough in the studio to justify having one. Taking one into the field is another matter. It can be cumbersome and add weight and volume that you could reserve for other things such as filmholders, an umbrella for wind protection, more lenses, a better, heavier tripod, fluids or food on long hikes. The camera may be light but on long hikes, it may be the least of the burdens.

LF photographers in this forum have expressed the view that seeing upside down can contribute to better composition and that eventually you get used to it. I largely agree but do not claim that I can organize an image as well upside down as if it were upright. I do not know of well known landscape photographers that use reflex viwers but other respondents may. I too would like to hear other views.

-- Julio Fernandez (, November 09, 2000.

BUY a reflex viewer?! Are you crazy? Have you seen what those things cost, and how big they are?
What's wrong with a cheap plastic mirror from the nearest hardware store? Lightweight, practically unbreakable, and folds flat (wink). A piece of tacky back velcro on two edges, to mate with two strips on the camera back, and the jobs done. All you need to do is hold the top edge at approximately 45 degrees from the camera back, perhaps even rigging something semi-permanent up with ribbon or fabric tape if you want to get fancy. You might need a bigger darkcloth to accomodate the semi-standing position though.

-- Pete Andrews (, November 10, 2000.

I purchased a Toyo Binocular Viewer shortly after I purchased my 45AII and it has been the best accessory I've made for the camera. Yes, its bulky...but I make room for it in my backpack. To compensate for the extra weight, which isn't very much at all, I use Fuji quickloads instead of film holders. Not having to deal with a focusing cloth and the reduced eyestrain has made the viewer well worth its cost. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

-- Manuel Johnson (, November 10, 2000.

Hi Steve,

I don't have a Toyo camera or viewer, but I do have an Ebony with Horseman bino reflex viewer and it has made a world of difference for me. When I started with LF (with a Wisner), I thought I'd get used to the inverted image; but in combination with the dark corners of wide- angle lenses, I found that I was guessing on most of my compositions. I didn't have a fresnel, but the Ebony came with an excellent one and now I love using a 4x5, where I hated it before. The viewer is a bit bulky but very light; it's well worth the space it takes in my pack. I'd never go out without it anymore. Think about a fresnel too.

-- Danny Burk (, November 10, 2000.

Thanks for all of the responses so far. Thanks especially to Manuel Johnson for your Toyo specific comments and to Danny Burk for your comments on your reflex viewer experience. I also appreciate the suggestion by Pete Andrews, but part of the reason that I'm exploring reflex viewers is that since I'm getting a little older, I am forced to wear glasses for reading and close up work. I started off with a focusing cloth, but juggling it, the glasses and a loupe has been very frustrating and is very distracting when trying to compose an image. I thought some sort of viewer would be the best answer. I also considered the monocular viewer, but I would probably have to take my glasses off to put my eye up to it and I'm not sure how well that would work for me. Thanks again to everyone.

-- Steven Dial (, November 10, 2000.

Steve....if you do decide to buy the viewer, be sure you buy it somewhere that offers no cost returns. The toyo viewer, although nice is huge and bulky, most people would not want this for the field. The monocular viewer is easier to pack and work with. Another alternative, which I have settled on for my VX, is the hood covers made Darkroom solutions in Phoenixe. Unlike a Dark cloth, they fit by elastic over the back and have a hood like opening to stick your head in....the beauty is, total darkness without playing with a piece of material with light leaks all over! They are about $60, you will love it, and will make composing much easier and faster.

Another suggestion on you VX. YOu mentioned the QR is a total shame they put a $10 QR plate on a $3k + camera. I immediately removed mine and went with a Bogen system which is rock solid... the one on the camera actaully shakes! This is something added by MAC, from what I understand.

-- Bill Glickman (, November 14, 2000.

Bill, thanks for the additional input - just read your posting. I'm still contemplating my options while I let my wallet take a breather. I'm leaning toward trying out the Toyo binocular viewer. Your suggestion of purchasing it from some place with easy returns is a good one. A local camera store just recently had a MAC sales rep in house during a special sale, but unfortunately didn't have a bino viewer on hand. The focusing cloth from Darkroom Innovations sounds like a good idea too. I may get one even if I get the bino viewer so I'll have an option of how much equipment to carry. Again, thanks for the input. I'll post again after I make a purchase to update everyone with my experience.

-- Steven Dial (, November 20, 2000.

After waiting several months for my binocular viewer to be back ordered from Japan, it finally arrived yesterday. I took it out for a trial run today.

Positives - After struggling with a dark cloth, this thing is wonderful. I find it much easier to compose with the image right side up. I can get my head with my glasses on inside the viewing flange and its very easy to manipulate the camera's movements while looking through the viewer. It can be easily swung out of the way to verify focus with a loupe. It is light weight - I expected it to be heavy.

Negatives-(for others possibly considering purchasing one)It is bulky and extends about 5 to 6 inches beyond the back of the camera - You'll have to find some extra room in your case or pack. In strong sunlight, some light leaks in around the hinge area and around the latch. The viewing flange is fairly wide and even though I have a large head, some light does get in around the sides of my head. In my estimation though, these are minor problems and do not take away from the positive experience of using the viewer.

The bottom line is that I think its great and I wish I had gotten one sooner. If you are a view camera purist, it may not be the thing for you, but if you have a Toyo and have struggled with using a dark cloth while trying to wear reading glasses, it may be the answer you're looking for.

-- Steven Dial (, March 17, 2001.

Steven, thanks for the followup. Your assesment of the viewer is right on target. I never shoot without mine and it has indeed made my large format photography more convenient and enjoyable...Manuel

-- Manuel Johnson (, March 18, 2001.

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