[IMAGE OF TOKO LITERATURE]

The company (or companies) named "Toko" -- which in Japanese means "Time of Opportunity" -- made many cameras over the years. But there may be, or more likely there may have been, more than one Toko camera company at various points in time. One Toko camera company made several subminiature cameras both before and after the war, such as the 16mm Toko Teleca and Toko Cyclops cameras, as well as the 17.5mm Toko Tone and Toko Mighty cameras.  The same company, but probably a different one, named Toko (which in this case is an abbreviation of Tokyo Kogaku) made several 35mm cameras, such as the well-respected Topcon line, and several medium format (120/220, 127, etc.) cameras as well, such as the Primo, Jr. line. The same company -- and probably still yet another one -- made various 4x5", large format cameras. Their name is often seen as TÖKÖ (see above), which to some might suggest that it is somehow connected to Tokyo Kogaku, but it probably isn't.  But if there was only one Toko camera company they have come a very long way, indeed.  Just in case, here is a shot of a 17.5mm Toko Tone on top of a 4x5" Toko FL-452.  Things have come full-circle -- here we see, probably the first Toko camera, meeting perhaps the last Toko camera!  They appear to be quite content with each other!  As well they should;  afterall, they have a lot more in common than just their name.


OK, so I know you are now curious. Let's do a quick comparison between the two, shall we?

 

Toko
Tone

Toko
FL-452

Adjustable
shutter speeds?

Yes

Yes

Adjustable
aperture?

Yes

Yes

Adjustable
focusing?

Yes
Manual

Yes
Manual

Built-in
meter?

No

No

Viewing
method

Viewfinder &
Waist-level
finders

Ground
glass

Self-timer?

No

No

Film advance

Manual

Manual

Cost

About $40-50
if you can find one

About $800-1,000
if you can find one

Weight

85gr. (3oz.)
with lens

1,700gr. (60oz.)
without lens

Film format

17.5mm rolls

4x5" sheets

Image size

196mm2

10,856mm2

Cost per
exposure

1-2¢

$1-2

I'll let you be the judge.  Can't decide which is best?  Why not just get one of each?

Alas, few people have ever heard of this camera company (or companies), plus the name "TOKO" is often confused with Toyo, Toho, Tojo, etc. Some of the large format Toko cameras are marked with the company name, the model name and/or a serial number, but some are not marked in any way.  The earliest models are probably the ones that are most likely to be unmarked or unlabeled.  It appears that the large format Toko company only manufactured 4x5 format, folding wooden cameras. All are hand-made.  Most of the cameras were available in Cherrywood (the lightest and least expensive wood), but they were also available in Rosewood (slightly heavier and more expensive), or Ebony (even heavier and even more expensive), as well as special order woods (which, of course, are even more expensive). Some, and perhaps all, of Toko's 4x5 cameras were made by Nagaoka -- a well-known 4x5 camera manufacturer.  We know this because some of the later Toko FL-451 and FL-452 4x5 cameras have a plate on the bottom saying "Manufactured by Nagaoka".  Perhaps Nagaoka bought Toko at some point or perhaps Toko out-sourced some of their later cameras to Nagaoka.  Nagaoka 4x5 cameras typically have aluminum or chrome metal parts whereas Toko cameras use more attractive (in my opinion) brass parts.  I do not know if any Toko cameras are still being made. In any event, they are difficult to find on the used market, but typically they sell for much less than similar, better known 4x5 cameras -- even if the better known brand has fewer features.  Go figure!  The website www.toko.com does not list any photographic gear.  

Below are the Toko, wooden, folding, 4x5", "field" cameras that I know about.  There were apparently at least a few cameras made before the two main "series" (below) because a few have shown up without any series marking or serial number. Details on these cameras is not available so there is no way to know how they compare feature-wise.


THE NIKKI SERIES

The Nikki cameras can be identified by having two brass plates on the rear of the base.  The plate on the left shows the model name and the plate on the right says "TOKO INTERNATIONAL" along with a serial number (see sample below). 

Nikki I

The 1985 Buyer's Guide from Popular Photography lists a Toko Nikki I, a Nikki II and a Nikki III. The Nikki I is the least expensive, with the least features -- but not by much (see comparison table below).  It lacks the back focus movement of the Nikki II, so it has a shorter bellows -- 300mm (12") -- so it was less expensive and subsequently weighs less -- 1.6kg (3.5 lbs.).  What long lenses you can use depends on the flange focal length of the lens.  With standard lenses that have a flange local length nearly identical to the optical focal length you can only use a 300mm lens -- and only at infinity.  However there are long focal length lenses that have a telephoto design with a shorter flange focal length, such as the Fujinon 400mm f8.0 T lens with a flange focal length of 252mm.  This allows you to focus much closer than infinity.  However, true telephoto lenses are large and heavy.  With wide-angle lenses, it again depends on the flange focal length.  Most wide angle lenses have a flange focal length that is longer than the optical focal length so you  might be able to use the lens directly.  For example, the  flange focal length of the Fujinon 65mm f5.6 SWD is 73mm. The Nikki I allows you to use lenses with a flange focal length as short as 65mm, directly, or even shorter with a change or two.  Depending on the angle of view/picture angle of the lens, and your need for swings and shifts and rise/fall you might need to drop the bed to avoid vignetting.  Another option is a recessed lens board.  With one or both of these approaches, you can even use a lens as short as 47mm!  

Otherwise, the features are exactly the same as the Nikki II. Some, and perhaps all, of the Nikki I cameras have a latch on top to close it.  On later models this may be replaced by a magnet.  Remember, these cameras are hand made so individual variation is very possible.

[BLANK SPACE FOR FUTURE IMAGE OF TOKO CAMERA]


Nikki II

The Toko Nikki II adds rear focus to the Nikki I so you can extend the back backward -- 60mm (2.4") -- or move it forward -- 50mm (2"). This allows you to set the total bellows extension anywhere from 65mm to 360mm (14 inches). It also lets you use super-wide-angle lenses - even without a recessed lensboard and without having to drop the camera bed -- as well as using longer focal length lenses such as 300mm and 360mm lenses - and even 400mm telephoto lenses. With a recessed lensboard you are even able to use extra-super-wide-angle lenses such as the 47mm Schneider XL and with extension cones you can use some 600mm lenses.

Both cameras have substantial rise and fall on the front standard (75mm up or down) as well as left and right swings (20 degrees left and right) and backward and forward tilts (90 degrees forward and 20 degrees back). Neither has shift on the front standard. On the rear standard both have left and right shift (20mm left and right) and left and right swings (12 degrees left and right) and backward and forward tilts (28 degrees backward and 20 degrees forward). There is no rise and fall on the rear standard.

The front standard took Wista or Linhof type lensboards but the shutter hole is purposely placed off-center -- about 10mm lower than dead center. The rear standard is a standard, universal spring back accepting 4x5 sheet film holders, Polaroid film packs and holders, 6x7 and 6x9 roll film holders, and even 5x7 film with an adapter back.

[BLANK SPACE FOR FUTURE IMAGE OF TOKO CAMERA]

 


Nikki III

There is no evidence that this camera ever existed.  It only appears in the Popular Photography listing -- no photograph or details.  Who knows if is a typo on the part of Popular Photography or if it was listed, by mistake, in the information that Popular Photography received.  In any event, it is hard to image what additional features could have been added to the Nikki II.




THE FL SERIES

The FL cameras can be identified by having a brass plate on the front of the base, and another one on the rear.  The front plate just says "TOKO" while the rear plate says "TOKO INTERNATIONAL" along with a serial number (see sample below).

FL-451

Apparently the more commonly seen Toko 4x5 cameras are the FL versions, as opposed to the Nikki models.  The Toko FL-451 is almost identical to the Nikki I (see table below).  Even though the Nikki cameras had a magnet on the top to keep it closed when the camera was collapsed, there was also a small clip on the top to assure that the camera body would stay closed when collapsed.  Apparently the Toko designers figured out that this clip could accidentally scratch, or even puncture, the top of the bellows, so they removed it from the FL cameras.  The clip did scratch the top of the bellows on my Nikki II so I removed it myself, but the magnet alone is too weak to assure that my Nikki and FL cameras stay closed.  It's no big deal because I got use to using my index finger to keep my Nikki II closed a long time ago -- after I removed the clip.  And when they are closed, chance are they are in my camera case and that keeps them closed!

[BLANK SPACE FOR FUTURE IMAGE OF TOKO CAMERA]

 


FL-452

Like the Toko Nikki II, the Toko FL-452 adds rear focus to the FL-451 so you can extend the back out (60mm) or move it forward (50mm). This allows you to set the total bellows extension anywhere from 65mm to 360mm (14 inches). It also lets you use super-wide-angle lenses - even without a recessed lensboard and without dropping the camera bed -- as well as using longer focal length lenses such as 300mm and 360mm lenses - and even 400mm telephoto lenses. With a recessed lensboard you are even able to use extra-super-wide-angle lenses such as the 47mm Schneider XL and with extension cones you can use 600mm lenses.

Both the Toko FL-452 and the FL-451 have substantial rise and fall on the front standard (75mm up or down) as well as left and right swings (20 degrees left and right) and backward and forward tilts (90 degrees forward and 20 degrees back). Neither has shift on the front standard. On the rear standard both have left and right shift (20mm left and right) and left and right swings (12 degrees left and right) and backward and forward tilts (28 degrees backward and 20 degrees forward). There is no rise and fall on the rear standard.

The front standard takes Wista or Linhof type lensboards but the shutter hole is off-center -- about 10mm lower than dead center (other camera companies, but not all, do the same thing). The rear standard is a standard, universal spring back accepting 4x5 sheet film holders, Polaroid film packs and holders (FYI, in case you haven't heard, Polaroid film is being made once again, but not by Polaroid.  It is sold by a company named THE IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT.  Right now, they sell B&W, as well as color, "Polaroid" film for the 600 series, SX-70 type, and Image/Spectra cameras.  They even have some 8x10" films!.  Unfortunately though, there is no 4x5 film in their line-up, but who knows, that might change in the future if sales of their current films are good enough, or customer demand warrants it), 6x7 and 6x9 roll film holders, and even 5x7 film -- with an adapter back.

[IMAGE OF TOKO CAMERA]


You can identify the model that you have in a couple of ways.  If it's an FL model it will have a TOKO plate on the front.  There is no "FL" marked anywhere.  If it's a NIKKI model it will have a NIKKI plate on the rear.  The Nikki I and the FL-451 both lack rear focus.  The Nikki II and the FL-452 both have rear focus.  Here is a shot of the two backs.  

Otherwise, you are on your own -- but send me a picture with details!


Accessories for Toko 4x5 cameras

Most large format camera manufacturers made few accessories for their cameras, and only a couple of them actually made lenses -- and the lenses that they sold were just rebadged optics from other lens companies.  And none of the makers and pseudo-makers of large format optics (Fujinon by Fuji, Nikkor by Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock, Topcor by Rodenstock, Zeiss, Caltar by Rodenstock, Komura, Voigtlander, Congo, Wistar by Rodenstock, Bausch & Lomb, etc.), made large format cameras. Ok,  there were a few, like Kodak and Graflex, but that was a long, LONG time ago.

Toko made a few accessories for their 4x5 cameras, such as a 4x5 to 5x7 adapter, but these are nearly impossible to find.  However, some of the accessories from other large format manufacturers will fit on the Toko's.  But it is hard to know which will work.  For example, Tachihara made a 4x5 extension bellows for use on the rear of its 4x5 cameras.  It MIGHT fit on the Toko's but who knows?  But the utility of some other accessories are easy to detemine because Toko used a universal 4x5 back.  So the Polaroid film pack holders and various 120/220 film holders (below is the Calumet C2N for 6x7cm images) will work fine.  

Wista made a wide variety of accessories for their numerous 4x5 cameras, such as the extension tube sets that replace the standard lens board.  They can be used individually or in combination, just like the common 35mm extension tube sets, to provide extra extension for longer lenses or macro photography.  Wista also sold different lens/shutter holders/adapters that were added to the front of the tube(s).

Here is an example -- the tubes in use with a Fujinon T 400mm telephoto.

These and other accessories from other manufacturers might be difficult or impossible to find, but some will work perfectly well on the Toko's -- and other 4x5 field cameras, for that matter.


Here are some comparisons between Toko and other wooden, folding, 4x5 cameras.

Here's a page that shows some of the 4x5 gear that I use.

And if you are interested in finding out more about the great line-up of lenses that Fuji made -- and still makes -- check out THE WEB'S MOST COMPLETE FUJINON LARGE FORMAT LENS LIST.

I encourage you to check out the various photographic (and some non-photographic) items that I have for sale at GOATHILL and ETSY and EBAY and BONANZA.


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