Toyo 45AII (folder) or Ebony RSW45 (non-folding) : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Well, I am still struggling with my decision - the Internet seems to make it more difficult due to "information overload", at least that's my theory .....

Basically, I've boiled my decision down to two cameras - The Toyo 45AII or the Ebony RSW45 (available through Robert White). My main objective is landscape photography with an occaisonal historical architectual shot - I shoot Civil War Battlefields. I have decided on two lenses - probably Fujinon - in 90 and 180 focal lengths.

Any help the fine members of this forum can afford me to help with my decison would be most appreciated. I have bought and studied the book "Using The View Camera" by Steve Simmons, and understand the fundementals. I'm looking for advice from users of the cameras I am considering.

Thanks in advance .....

-- Robert J. Fox (, November 16, 2001


I have no information to help with the decision, but if you opt for the Ebony check out the prices at Badger. I was looking at their Ebony prices a few months ago and for the camera I was looking at the price was virtually identical to Robert White. I haven't looked lately, maybe that's changed

-- Brian Ellis (, November 16, 2001.

Robert, I own the the 45AII and it has enough movements for archetectural shots. I use the Nikkor 90/f8 with 12.5mm recessed lens board, and have used it to shoot tall bldgs,Abbeys, etc. But you'll need to do a "raise bed" and also bring a lightweight spirit level along as the Toyo has no level attached to body. I think the 25mm#0, 110mm square recessed board (hard to find, available at Calumet)would be even better with the 90mm lens as it would alleviate bellows strain you get with the tall bldgs even more. If cost is not a factor, go with the Nikkor 90/f8 lens instead of the Fujinon 90, in many expert opinions. You won't die if you get the Fuji's however. You can get the Toyo at Robert White for about $1,600 US, new. I don't know anything about the Ebony RSW45. But I personally have no particular esthetic for wood, especially if it's my hard earned money paying for it.

One more consideration, you might consider saving a little more money for the Linhoff Technikardan 45S. I kinda wish I had, only because I like shooting archetecture. Other than the 45AII, it's the only camera I consider might be better all round field camera at reasonable price at Robert White. It can easily be used with telephoto lenses, which you may find yourself using for those field shots, and accepts bag bellows, unlike Toyo. Andre

-- Andre Noble (, November 16, 2001.

Six months ago I was all set to buy the Toyo AII - then discovered that nobody in the UK had any stock. Luckily, Jenny at Teamwork (definitely the best LF shop in England) pointed me towards the Wista VX instead. Since then I've had a chance to try the Toyo and I'm very glad I went for the Wista. Last month it survived three weeks bashing around the Syrian desert where it performed admirably in spite of some very harsh treatment. I've been using lenses from 65mm (with recessed panel) and 90mm (fine with normal panel) up to the Nikkor 300mm. Rather than the cumbersome back extension of the Toyo, the Wista takes front mounted extension tubes for an extra 100mm or so. Won't be needed for your choice of lenses but useful if you ever want to use a 400. I was also surprised to find that the simple folding hood that comes with the VX works really well (even in bright sun) and is far less hassle than a cloth in windy conditions.

I don't mention the Wista in order to complicate your choice but simply to say that if you can't get the Toyo, it's definitely worth looking at. Especially cos RW currently have it on special offer.

The Ebony is gorgeous and I'd love one for use about town - but after that last trip I'm convinced of the benefits of the metal clam-case design - at least for the way I travel.

(ps one piece of advice I'd offer is to start off using the 180mm until you're familiar with how the camera behaves - much easier to figure out what's going on when you can see the whole image on the glass bright and clear from corner to corner. Master the 'normal' lens first before getting to grips with the wide angles.)

-- Stuart Whatling (, November 16, 2001.

Robert, The Ebony is MADE for the sort of photography you describe!! Combine it with either the extender back or a panel extension (cheaper) and you will not be happier! You will not find a sturdier, easier to set up field camera than the ebony. Oh nad by the way they are also VERY pleasing to the eye!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, November 16, 2001.

I can't comment on the Ebony, as I haven't used one, but I've had a Toyo 45AR for 15+ years, and it's a fine field camera. Quite rugged. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Toyo field cameras.

You might consider compact lens designs for field work. I've got a 90mm Angulon (not "Super") that's been a workhorse for me, and very compact. I bought a 210 Osaka (4-element) as it's really compact, too. I've got a 210 Fujinon W, a fine performer, but I don't see the difference between it and the Osaka.

Finally, if you can get lenses that take the same filter size, you can save a bunch on expensive filters, have no "mix up" by grabbing the wrong size filter, and cut down the number of filters you carry around. The Angulon & Osaka do that for me--both 40.5 mm (incidentally, the same size as my Pentax Digital meter).

-- Charlie Strack (, November 16, 2001.

Both cameras would serve you well. However, if you set up and break down a lot...the Ebony will make your life so much easier... the clam shell design is very protective, but you pay the price in set up and break down time. The Toyo is rock solid for this design, but its very clumsy to open and close often vs. the Ebony which you essential just pull apart. After using both for landscapes, I am quite biased towards non folding type field cameras. Unless you backpack a lot and are desperate for that extra space, I think you would be a bit happier with the Ebony for this reason.

-- Bill Glickman (, November 16, 2001.

Hi Robert

If you haven't already done so, I'd suggest you read the reviews on Tuan's LF page at:

I would opt for the 45S as a great allrounder (architechture and landscape), having a longer belows draw than the RSW, this would negate the need for spending extra on any extensions, should you wish to use slightly longer lenses or even up to a 400mm tele.

I agree with Bill - the non-folding cameras are very fast to setup and use and as most of us carry the camera in a secure bag for transport, damage to the camera is almost non-existent when travelling.

I can't comment on the Toyo but these wooden cameras are as good as any metal one's and the wood & titanium Ebony is one of the best 4x5 cameras I've used in over thirty years of professional photography - you won't be disappointed in any of the Ebony models.

Kind regards

Peter Brown

-- Peter L Brown (, November 16, 2001.

From Andre's response, it sounds like the Ebony has one solid advantage:

With a 90mm lens, the Ebony uses a standard lens board (not recessed), and does not require you to raise or drop the bed. It might be more convenient and faster to set up.

-- Michael Chmilar (, November 16, 2001.

I have to disagree with the previous post : I have been using a Toyo 45AII with a 90mm for three years and my experience is that you do not need a recessed board nor dropping the bed. The main advantages of the Ebony are probably weight (about half than Toyo)and faster to be ready. But the Toyo allow the use of lenses from 55mm to 300mm without the need to add extension back or tubes. How bulky and how heavy is the Ebony RSW45 with extension back? I believe that the real competitor of the Toyo in the Ebony range is the RW45 (wood, folding, shortest lens 65mm, 1,7Kg.

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, November 20, 2001.

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