Toyo AX vs. Tachihara for backpacking : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I will be going on a 5 day or so long backpacking trip in June, and I would like to take some 4x5 equipment. I have been casually looking for something to replace (supplement?) my Bender anyway. I am currently leaning slightly toward the Toyo because of the greater rigidity and durability of a metal camera, but as I cannot handle both before purchasing, I have no way of knowing for sure. Does anyone have any opinions on the matter? Would they both compare about equally for non-backpacking use as well, or is one superior for general purpose work? I don't expect to use lenses shorter than 90 or greater than 300 (all I have now is a 150).

-- Erik Asgeirsson (, January 02, 2002


Erik, search the archives. There are a couple humurous, though desultory threads about people's experience with the 4x5 Tachi. Never laughed so hard.

-- Andre Noble (, January 02, 2002.

Hi Erik

Are you playing Cello (erikcellist)? Now to your question the Toyo is a good camera but as I remember very heavy. Have a look at the Horseman FA she is very small and rigid but not so heavy and large like the Toyo. I had the chance to buy a Linhof Tech V but I did`nt because of the heavy and much larger design then my Horseman! Good shooting!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, January 02, 2002.

The Tachi is a no-brainer best-buy. Absolutely the best dollar-value in 4x5. Unless you have the coordination of a gorilla on steroids and can't turn a focus knob without breaking your arm, there is no worries about this camera's stability. All of the bad "reviews" I have seen regarding the Tachi's have come from non-users. If you are now using a Bender, the Tachihara will seem like a battleship in comparison (and lighter to boot!). No worries here mate!

-- Matt O. (, January 02, 2002.

I have owned both cameras, and they are in different leagues both dollar-wise and quality-wise. The Toyo is much more expensive, and a much heavier camera, about 6 lbs. vs about 3.5 lbs. for the Tachihara. The Toyo is much better made and,like most metal cameras, is much more a precision instrument than the Tachihara. The Toyo when folded is completely protected; the Tachihara has an unprotected ground glass. All of which is in favor of the Toyo other than weight and cost. But the overriding factor for you may be the 300mm lens you are planning to use. The Tachihara has about 12" of bellows draw, which is very minimal for a 300mm lens, which can barely be focused at infinity. The Toyo has about an inch more of bellows, which makes a big difference in focusing the 300mm lens closer than infinity. Other than cost and weight, which are factors for your individual consideration, the Toyo is a far better choice for you.

-- Dick Deimel (, January 02, 2002.

Around 1983 I decided to buy a 4x5 field camera. I saw the Toyo & Tachihara at my local camera shop. While the Tachihara was a little lower in weight than the Toyo, the overall rugged construction of the Toyo won out. It's a very rugged, solid little camera. I paid $550 then, for the Toyo 45A (the predecessor of the AII) , and now the AII is ... well, very expensive.

If the absolutely lowest weight is your goal, go for the Tachihara. If you want some flexibility, and a "system" camera, and can stand a couple extra pounds, and the price tag, go for the Toyo.

300 mm is kind of pushing it for a field camera, but 210 is no problem at all.

-- Charlie Strack (, January 02, 2002.

I'll weigh in on the Tachihara, though I have not yet backpacked with it as I would also need to carry a child. The bellows draw of mine is 330mm (some are apparently only 300mm) which allows me to focus to about 3.5m with my 300mm lens. Obviously, you won't be doing any close-ups, but it may well be fine for backcountry applications. 90mm with the Tachihara is perfectly fine with almost full movements. So if you are correct that you will only use lenses from 90-300, you may not have a problem.

One peeve is that you can't fold any lens inside the camera. If I were backpacking with a single lens, I would carry a heavier camera if the lens could fold inside. If I were carrying multiple lenses, I wouldn't care because odds are that the lens for the next shot would not be the one I left on the camera anyway.

-- Eric Pederson (, January 03, 2002.

Erik. I too have gone through the same question in my mind. I have a Bender, so I know one can, with patience, make great photos with a camera that others consider a joke. The same can be said for the Tachihara. From reading many threads, it will work fine if you don't think it should be as rigid as a Sinar. I've seen the Toyo. Like others have said, it's well made and sturdy/heavy (but a bit crude looking for my taste considering its cost).

My question is this: how happy are you with the Bender? If it's too 'crude' for you or if you'd like to throw a camera/lens combo in a backpack with some Quickloads, sounds like the Toyo is for you (though you're limited in terms of extension if you really want a 300mm lens in the future). If you find the limitations of the Bender acceptable, save some money and get the lighter, less expensive, Tachihara. Regarding the exposed ground glass, just cut out some foam core to the size of the GG and rubber band it around the folded camera (a tip from Kerry Thalmann).

Why not simply backpack with the Bender? That's what I do. The standard rail lets me use my Nikkor M 300/9 at infinity, and the bag bellows lets me use my 90 with all the movements I need. If it breaks, you can easily fix it. Just a thought.

-- Tony Karnezis (, January 03, 2002.

A 300 mm lens on a Tachihara will focus to about 10 feet (at least that's where mine would focus), closer than I remember ever needing to focus a lens of this focal length and much closer than infinity. I also used a Fuji 400T and it worked well too. With respect to the ground glass protector, I bought one from Canham for about $25. Calument sells one for about $15 but theirs is ABS plastic and looks and feels cheap. I've never used the Toyo so I can't compare it with the Tachihara, but I did own a Tachihara for several years and liked it very much. I think it's an ideal camera for back packing, light, reasonably sturdy, simple to set up and take down, usable with lenses at least as short as 65 mm without the cost and inconvenience of a bag bellows, and respectable movements (front swing, tilt, rise, fall, rear swing and tilt). While I wouldn't say it's "better" than the Toyo, since I've never used a Toyo and am not in a position to compare them, I do think it's a fine camera, particularly at its price and for your intended use.

-- Brian Ellis (, January 03, 2002.


Tony raises a good point. So, let me ask it straight out. Why exactly are you looking to replace your Bender for backpacking? I'm not trying to be facetious, but both the models you are considering as replacements are heavier and have shorter bellows than the Bender you already have. The Toyo is almost twice as heavy as the Bender. I realize the Toyo and Tachihara are both more sophisticated and refined than your Bender, but without knowing exactly whay you are considering replacing the Bender, I can't really recommend one or the other (or anything else).

If you're looking for a more sophistciated camera for general purpose use, that is one thing, but when you specifically mention backpacking, the first thing I think of is light weight. I've been backpacking with 4x5 for years, and have always found a two camera system works best for my needs. One ultralight camera for backpacking, and one heavier, more sophisticated model for general purpose photography. Perhaps this might work for you. Maybe even keep your Bender just for backpacking (maybe with a shorter rail).

In any case, the camera I am currently using for backpacking is the Toho FC-45X. It is incredibly lightweight for a camera with 15" of extension (more than either the Tachihara or the Toyo - easily handles a 300mm standard lens or a 500mm telephoto) and full movements on both standards. It's not for everybody, but for me it is the perfect camera for backpacking (and even passable for general puspose photography). It costs considerably more than the Tachihara, but less than the Toyo. If you haven't seen it, I have a very long online review at:


-- Kerry Thalmann (, January 03, 2002.

The Bender was fun to build, but I don't think it's really rigid enough to be used in even light winds. Also, the back sags noticeably when using my Grafmatic holder. One other idiosyncrasy is that the long bellows on it (I think it's 22") gets in the way when using rise and tilt together even with my 150mm lens. I guess I'm looking for a camera to replace it for the most part, unless I know there will be no wind at all and I will need great movements. Whatever I end up with won't be purchased specifically for backpacking, but I would like to take it along when I do get out (and the self-protecting package of a flatbed seems to be quite convenient in a backpack full of other gear). Anyway, thanks everyone for the responses so far.

-- Erik Asgeirsson (, January 03, 2002.

I was just surfing Robert White's web site and it seems he has the Wista VX listed for about the same price an AX would cost here (and he is having problems getting Toyo...). Does anyone know how this would compare to the Toyo (I suspect comparing it to the Tachihara is similar to comparing the Tach to the Toyo)?

-- Erik Asgeirsson (, January 03, 2002.


I started out with a Wista VX, then switched to a Toyo45A so I will comment on the differences that I experienced.

1. The Toyo has more "native" bellows draw. The Wista can be fitted with extended beds and bellows, but in its native state, is difficult to use with a 300mm lens.

2. In its "neutral" position, the Toyo lensboard is higher off of the bed, allowing for easy use of lenses down to 75mm without "drop" bed contortions. It also allows more clearance for filter holders and compendium hoods.

3. Front tilt is different, with each camera having advantages and disadvantages. Front tilt is centered on the lens axis on the Wista, and is driven by a friction wheel. This allows easy adjustment. Unfortunately, there is no zero detent, so you have to look at a scribed mark to set the lensboard to zero tilt. The Toyo has no "detent" at zero, but has zero stops which prevent the front standard from tilting back past zero unless you press two release latches. This is nice for "eyes-off" work, since you can quickly return the standard to zero tilt, but there is no resistance to small tilts that sometimes result from detents.

4. Front swing and shift are much nicer on the Wista. The combined lock for front swing and shift on the Toyo is its weakest feature. Fortunatly for Toyo, front swing and shift are seldom used in landscape work, so they never bothered me.

5. Rear swing is somewhat more convenient on the Wista. On the Toyo, you almost need to use the rear rails a bit so that the locks on the rear swing are easy to get your fingers on. Maybe smaller fingers would not notice this. On the other hand, I don't think that the rear swing on the Wista had a lock, so if I am correct on this recollection, that is a potential difference.

6. Rear tilt was somewhat more convenient on the Toyo, and it seemed to lock down a bit tighter than the Wista.

7. The compendium lenshood for the Toyo, though expensive if purchased (they have free compendium promotions every couple of years), is very nice. The Wista compendium did not fasten to the front standard very well, it used some friction screws that were not well designed.

8. The finish on the Toyo seemed a bit more rugged. The Wista uses alot of anodized aluminum which seemed more susceptible to scratching.

Both cameras are excellent machines. I found that I preferred the Toyo and kept it for over a decade before downsizing to 6x9... but I took some nice shots with the Wista.

Hope this helps some.


-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, January 03, 2002.

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