About two years ago I purchased an excellent Nikon-W 300mm F5.6 lens in a Copal 3 shutter for my Toyo VX-125 4″x5″ view camera. I wanted an F5.6 lens I could use to shoot portraits. I liked my Nikkor-W 210mm F5.6 lens just fine, but felt I wanted a bit more compression in the image.
My favorite 35mm portrait lens is my Nikon 80mm F1.4, and the Nikon 300mm shooting on 4″x5″ sheet of film closely resembled this field of view.
Not enough rails and bellows draw
I was excited when it arrived, promptly mounted it, and quickly discovered that I only had enough rail to focus at about 9 feet. After doing some research, I found out a standard Toyo G extension rail would work with only some very slight modification. I found a rail, made the mods, and this worked much better, but then I found I only had enough bellows to focus to about 5 feet. I could get a pretty tightly framed head and shoulders portrait at 5 feet and so was fairly happy, but the bellows were stretched to the limit each time I shot with it.
More bellows please
Recently I decided to look for a way to add more bellows to my Toyo. I first purchased a 3D printed “stovepipe” front lens board, but then discovered I couldn’t fit the huge Nikon 300mm chunk of glass in this deep lens board. I looked at ways to add a second bellows with a Toyo stanchion in the middle to support this configuration – basically one bellows in front, one bellows behind, both attached to a center stanchion. But this meant I would have to make some major changes to my VX-125 to support a center stanchion, and it wouldn’t be reversible back to a standard VX-125 – my favorite camera in the world – so I quickly nixed that idea.
Toyo Extended Bellows
Finally I discovered that Toyo made an extended bellows that would work with zero modifications. The problem was finding one. They were very, very rare. I could purchase a brand new one for over $700 (for a bellows) but this was just not realistic for something I only use occasionally.
After being patient and searching eBay over time, one finally became available in California for $80 so I snatched it up.
The result? Perfect! It snapped right into my existing Toyo VX-125 with no modifications and immediately gave me significantly more bellows draw. Now I could make full use of all the extension rail capability of my VX-125 and the 250mm Toyo G extension rail. I am now about to focus about 29″ away with my 300mm lens, and a scant 13″ with my 210mm lens. Not quite close enough for macro work on either lens, but plenty for really tight portrait work on the 300mm.
I am now excited to shoot some headshots with my 300mm. I can do some tilts to move my plane of focus through the eyes and keep the nose in focus but throw everything else out of focus. I have about 1/4″ depth of field at 3 feet subject distance if I shoot wide-open at F5.6.