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Toyo-Field 45 AX
In university, while seriously starting to pursue photography, I was enamoured with owning either a medium format or large format camera system. My preference was for a Hasselblad 501CM, but that was out of my price range. Somehow I discovered Toyo-View, a small Japanese manufacturer of large format cameras. Their Toyo-Field 45 AX folding field-camera was relatively inexpensive. The idea of shooting huge 4″ x 5″ transparencies was very appealing, as was the myriad of camera movements and perspective controls that a large format camera offers. The field camera body has less extreme movement than a studio rail camera, but is also a much more compact outfit. I needed compactness as I planned to shoot not only studio work but large format landscapes as well.
Around 2000, I got the Toyo-Field 45 AX with a Nikkor W 210 f/5.6 “normal” lens and later picked up the amazing Nikkor SW 90 f/4.5 super-wide angle (equivalent to 55mm and 24mm in 135 film format respectively).
I have eight double-sided 4×5 sheet film-holders, but it is unlikely that I could actually make 16 exposures in a single day of landscape shooting. I also have a Horseman 6x9cm 120-format roll film holder too, for those times when I do need to expose a lot of film (e.g., exposure bracketing, in the studio, etc.) and don’t mind a bit of crop factor.
I always intended to buy a large-format digital back to use with this outfit, but large-format backs never became affordable. Instead smaller sensors increased in resolution and smaller lenses improved in resolving power. In 2016 I purchased a Fotodiox 4×5 sliding back adaptor which allows me to make stitched multi-row panoramas using my EOS bodies as a sensor behind the Toyo-Field 45 AX. The image area is about 6.75×4.5cm with the Fotodiox back.
With this digital setup I cannot focus my Nikkor 90mm at infinity (it makes a nice close-up lens though) and the Nikkor 210mm is a bit long. On the hunt for a moderate wide-angle, I finally mounted my old Schneider Componon 135mm f/5.6 enlarging lens, which has incredible resolving power, on a recessed Toyo lens-board. The resulting 180 megapixel images are incredibly detailed.
The process of shooting with the 4×5 camera, adjusting the mechanical movements, and composing under the dark cloth on the ground glass focusing screen, is a truly unique experience.
When I was still shooting positive transparency film in the Toyo-Field 45 AX, but had shut down my darkroom, I purchased an Epson Perfection 4990 Photo flatbed scanner (released 2005). This scanner came with a transparency adaptor and holders for 35mm film strips, mounted 35mm slides, 120 film strips, 4×5 sheet film, and 8×10 sheet film. It is a great scanner and I still regularly use it with Silverfast Ai Studio scanning software. (I recently switched to using my EOS M3 as a copy stand camera for digitizing slides — better resolution and dynamic range than the flatbed scanner).