VX125 or Arca F

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I'm looking for my first 4x5 and have narrowed the search to a Toyo VX125, or an Arca-Swiss F metric compact. My primary use would be landscape, so I intend to carry it in a photo backpack. I would like to be able to use it for architecture, or in the studio, as well.

There is not an example of either of these cameras within driving distance for me to look at, so any input as to your likes and dislikes, of either of these, from people who have used them would be of great help.

One question I have is how rigid the Toyo collapsable monorail is. Also, I will probably get 90mm, and 210mm lenses. Will the Arca handle both with the same bellows?

-- Walter Johnson (wj556@yahoo.com), October 16, 2001


I have a Toyo VX125B. Here's what I like and dislike about it:


1. Collapses to a very compact package. Not as small as a Technikardan, but close.

2. Bellows are very flexible. I've used a 90mm lens with the standard bellows and saw no need to go to a bag bellows.

3. Geared rise and shift movements are nice. Tilt and swing are a little more difficult to deal with since they're a little stiff.


1. Stiff shift and swing movements.

2. Large lens boards. I use the standard size boards, but if you intend to backpack with it, I'd look into using Technika-sized boards with an adapter.

The collapsable monorail itself is plenty stiff. However, the T- shaped piece of aluminum that forms the tripod mount is, in my opinion, not beefy enough. It's fine under most circumstances, but it's a little too flexible when using a long lens in windy conditions. You can use Toyo non-collapsable rails, but this negates some of the portability afforded by the collapsable rail.

-- Jerry Gardner (w6uv@hotmail.com), October 17, 2001.

The Arca has a more rigid rail and will be stiffer. It has also a central tilt (Orbixª). You will need two bellows if you want to use much rise and fall with wide angles (architecture). But you could probably use the two lenses you mentioned with only one. The Arca-Swiss F line are part of a system that expands with your needs, and components are realistically priced. I myself have a VX, it only needs one bellows, is perhaps somewhat lighter, but my choice was made on the fact that it can take the Horseman folding viewers, an element just as important to me as the camera itself and the only one that folds small enough. The drawbacks are the fact that albeit possible, you cannot expand it easily beyond 320mm, for Toyo did not make anything to prolong the VX rail (but some have had custom extension made that is usable with another tripod block). Rigidity is enough but not sufficient when the camera is expanded in a windy day. No central tilt but base tilt. With either of the cameras, you should take an adapter to use the smaller lensboards. I suggest you also read the reviews in the LF entry page, not forgetting to click on the "read/write more reviews" at the bottom.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), October 17, 2001.

Here is my 2 cents:

I had an Arca F line 6x9 compact camera with all accessories. I bought it new from the dealer here in Toronto, Canada. When the time came to go to 4x5 format I decided to get Toyo VX125 (Green) for the following reasons:

1) VX was geared. 2) VX needed only one bellows ( I primarily shoot Architecture and Interiors, and use following lenses: 75, 90, 120, 150, 210). I later got the wide angle bellows for the XL47 mm lens. 3) The finish of the Arca Swiss camera and all other parts was bellow the standard that you would expect for a such a pricey piece of equipment . 4) I was able to get full bag of brand new accessories from the local store for a bargain price as an "old stock". All the parts for Arca were ridiculously expensive. 5) Toyo Collapsible shade - great design. 6) VX revolving back. 7) Toyo Field Boards (110mm x 110mm) with the adapter for Toyo View. 8) Toyo roll film backs. 9) Small and flat (!!) package to move around ( I pack it in Lightware case with 6 lenses, wide angle bellows and two roll backs).

The list is long. I don't use the original tripod mounting block. I use Bogen/ Manfrotto plate to mount it on Manfrotto Junior Gear head. Never had a problem with it. Don't forget: it is crazy to by VX in USA. Mamiya USA is charging too much. Try internet. I got my second hand from the owner who used it maybe 5 times. It was as new ( and still is) and priced ½ of the new. Good deal??

At the end, I can see on this site and all around the Net that Toyo VX owners and the Arca owners are like Nikon and Canon owners: who got the better gear? Is there an end to it? It is a matter of taste after all. I hope , I was helpful…Good Luck.

-- Steven S. Miric (miric@sympatico.ca), October 18, 2001.

Slightly off topic but since we had the Arca users gathered I thought I would ask. I am considering the Arca-Swiss as a replacement for my old mono-rail. I am wondering if the standard 38cm bellows is adequate for general use with a 305mm lens. My applications for the 305mm would mostly be field work at 1:10 or less. The ARca-Swiss catalog shows the standard bellows useable for 240mm lenses. Is this just being conservative? I use a 90mm, 150mm, 210mm and 305mm lens and would like to know if I would need 3 bellows on the Arca-Swiss.

-- Dave Schneider (dschneider@arjaynet.com), October 19, 2001.

Dave, I'm not the specialist you are looking for. But having had the same question in mind, I was told by the great specialist of Arca-Swiss, Mr Martin Vogt, that you actually would need the bag bellows and the longer bellows, and could skip the standard bellows. But because the camera is sold as a set, you would have to find a dealer who accepts taking back the standard bellows for another one.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), October 19, 2001.

There is excellent reveiws of the VX125 on the home page of this forum. I have nothing but praise for the VX, I only have two things I would change to make it perfect... geared tilt, to prevent the zero detent from allowing 1 - 2 Deg. tilt settings. If you use short lenses, like roll film users do, this is a bit of an issue. The only other major fix I would like is lens axis tilt vs. base tilt, or both of course. The camera is rock solid and that is hard to beat for a camera this light weight. If you back pack a lot, and space is critical, then I would recconend a folding field camera vs. either of these two models. I have worked with the Arca a few times and the VX is much more solid in its construction..but both are obviously strong enough.

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), October 20, 2001.

Hi Dave

I have the Arca standard bellows the wide bellows and the long one with the standard I use my 300mm Ronar from infinity up to 2-3meters without any problems in your case it would also work for the 305mm. The 90mm is also usebell on the standard but if you need much shift etc. then I prever the wide one. Good light!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), October 22, 2001.

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