Horseman 45FA

The Horseman 45FA is a compact field camera for 4x5 sheet film. It is an interesting camera particularly for traveling and landscape photography.

The Camera

Horseman was a brand name of Komamura, who produced in 1948 their first press camera. The company is owned today by Kenko Professional Imaging. Kenko still manufactures analog cameras, but the Horseman 45FA is no longer made.

The Horseman 45FA is a foldable metal camera with a concept similar to the Linhof Technika . It is a bit more compact and lighter, and despite that it is not a tremendous difference it does make travelling with the 45FA easier. Saving weight and size comes at a cost, though.

The camera has a dropbed which holds the focus track and also serves as the camera closure when not in use. Small lenses may stay in the camera when closed. The locking mechanism of the camera is as simple as ingenieous: the focusing rail is pushed a bit forward so that it extends into the camera body to keep it closed.

When opened, the dropbed locks into place by means of the side struts. The lens standard can then be pulled forward by means of a double lever to be positioned at infinity position. Infinity stops can be positioned for each lens, so there is no search necessary for the zero position. This simplifies the setup of the camera significantly; it is ready to use in seconds and without focus check on the screen. The Linhof Technika offers this too, but most other large format cameras do not.

The focus rail has no extension which can be pulled out or pushed back. This limits the maximum focus extension as well as the capability to use wide angle lenses with a dropped bed. More about this further below.

The camera body has a sprit level and a cold shoe. The latter may be used for a flash trigger, but it is also very usful for a viewfinder which is of great help for composition without having to resort to the screen.

The camera body has a sprit level and a cold shoe. The latter may be used for a flash trigger, but it is also very usful for a viewfinder which is of great help for composition without having to resort to the screen.

The left side of the camera has a leather handle which is quite useful when handling the camera.

Build quality does not quite provide the precision feel of a Linhof Technika, but it is well built and stable - certainly more than adequate.

Horseman still provides a manual and a FAQ list on their website.


The camera back can not be rotated, but it can be detached and re-positioned in portrait or landscape orientation. The four knobs on each corner of the rear camera body allow for tilting or swinging the back, as well as extending the bellows by an additional 27 mm. While this is not much, it is significant because the extension of the focus rail is rather short.
The ground glass is protected by a cover which, when opened, serves as a viewing hood. This hood is quite deep and folds almost completely up, so that it actually has a practical use when it is not too bright. It is in fact better than the hood of the Technika, but it requires a long lupe to make best use of it. Horseman offers an suitable model with 7x magnification. With the shorter lupes (mine are also from Horseman) it is necessary to open or remove the cover in order to reach the ground glass.


The small size of the camera imposes restrictions for lenses and movements. This is partially related to the small size of the lens boards and the narrow opening of the front standard.
The lens boards are the smallest of any 4x5 camera. This is favourable to keep the volume of the equipment as small as possible, but it also restricts the use to specific lenses. At 80x80 mm, the boards can hold only lenses with Copal 0 or 1 shutter sizes. Even with these, the fit is quite tight. The shutters have to be mounted in a specific orientation to allow for attaching the cable release, and the aperture lever of the copal 1 shutters hardly passes the plate release. Some boards for size 1 shutters have a small extension to make handling a bit easier.
I do not see the incompatibility of size 3 shutters as an issue because these are quite big and heavy; they just would not fit the concept of the camera. However, also lenses with the smaller shutters may have restrictions. First, the narrow opening of the front standard is not compatible with many wide angle lenses due to their wide rear barrel. Second, the board size is too small for recessed boards, which limits the compatibility of wide angle lenses to 65 mm. Third, lenses above 210 mm usually require extended boards already for infinity focus. While boards with rather long extensions are available to fit some 300 mm lenses, some lenses can not be used because the rear lens barrel is wider than the tube. My Fujinon CM 6.3/250 is one of those.  Tele-designs are better options here; even a Fujinon-T 8/400 fits.
Kenko provides a compatibility list . It is quite useful also to get an overview about various lenses from Fujifilm, Nikon, Horseman, Schneider and Rodenstock. An overview with the lens boards made by Horseman is shown on the FAQ list.
Horseman made several lenses for their field cameras. Most are earlier designs for the smaller 6x9 cameras, but four of the LF Topcor lenses were designed for 4x5 or larger. These are the LF Topcors 90, 150, 180 and 210 mm, all at f/5.6.
Two of these have unusual properties:
The LF Topcor 5,6/90 has a protection ring at the rear barrel which is meant to be removable. It gets stuck easily, so chances are it can be removed only with an appropriate tool or with the application of heat. Without this ring, the lens will just fit through the narrow opening of the camera. The rear lens is pretty exposed without this ring, so it has to be handled with precaution.
The LF Topcor 5,6/150 can be extended with a 2x converter, which was specifically developed for this lens. To my knowledge it is the only converter available for large format cameras. It is attached to a special ring which replaces the rear retaining ring. At 11/300 the combination is fairly slow, but focusing is not difficult with this focal length.  However, infinity focus requires almost full extension. To focus on nearer subjects, the rear extension of the camera is required.
The three LF Topcors which I know are excellent lenses, at par with the corresponding lenses of the better known manufacturers. Due to their solid build quality, they are larger and heavier than most other corresponding lenses. The 5,6/90 is actually heavier than the Grandagon-N 4,5/90, but if a fast 90 mm lens is required the Topcor is the only choice.
Generally, I think that these lenses will provide technically excellent results, but their size and weight does not really fit the concept and purpose of the camera.
While the number of incompatible lenses is quite extensive, it is not difficult to choose alternative lenses which correspond better to this camera. To my view, it is best to use small lenses, preferably at least one which fits into the closed camera. The space in the focus track has 47 mm diameter, so only very flat lenses or lenses with barrels up to 46 mm outer diameter may fit. The latest plasmat designs will not fit, but some older or simpler designs or slower lenses do. The tiny Xenar 5,6/150 fits easily, as does the G-Claron 9/150. Unfortunately I do not own any longer a Sironar-N 5,6/135 which is also tiny and very good. Kerry Thalmann describes some lenses.
At the short end, a few lenses may also fit into the body. I do not have them, but I know the Angulon 6,8/90 fits, whereas the rare Geronar 8/90 will probably not fit due to its Copal 1 shutter.
65 mm is the shortest lens which can be used, but the dropbed protrudes into the frame, even at landscape orientation. This can be addressed either by raising the lens by about 6mm, or by dropping the bed. The latter requires to push back the standard so far that it actually slides mostly off the focus track, so this is not a solution. A 75 mm lens also has to be raised by about 3 mm with a flat bed, but it can also be used with a dropped bed while it (just) still sits on the focus track. To my opinion a small 75 mm lens is the better option, unless a wider lens is really essential.
At the long end, either extended tubes are required from 240 - 300 mm, or a tele design must be used. The converter in combination with the Topcor 150 mentioned above is one option, but there are also a few tele lenses in the 250-300 mm range which are compatible with this camera. Even a Fujinon 8/400 can be used if a really long lens is needed.
Anything between 65 and 210 mm in Copal 0 or 1 is rarely a problem, except for faster wide angle lenses.


Some of the lenses which fit well to the concept of this camera have fairly narrow image circles, some not much larger than the diagonal of the 4x5 negative. This may restrict the applicability of movements, tilts or shifts more than the capabilities of the camera would allow for. Larger lenses like the LF Topcors provide larger image circles where the movements may become limiting.

The camera provides decent upward and side shift capabilities, as well as front and rear swing and tilt. I show in some pictures what the camera is capable of, and this will be adequate for many uses provided the lens allows for these movements. Detailed specifications can be seen in the Horseman 45FA manualwhich also has some pictures.

The camera is acually quite capable with wide angle lenses, more so than the Linhof Technika. This is due to the shape of the dropbed strut, the narrower camera body, and the more pliable shorter bellows. The 75 mm in particular allows for a generous side shift, and it can also be raised for a good deal due to the flap on top of the camera.

Other lenses with small image circles are a little more problematic. Stronger swings and tilts and sometimes even shifts may throw the image circle off the picture frame. For shifts I am not aware of a real solution, but the rear movements may help for swings and tilts. Because this changes the image proportions, it is current wisdom to use front tilts and swings instead, but I like to have that option at least for landscapes where a distortion is hardly noticeable.

Roll film backs

Horseman made Graflok-compatible roll film backs for 6x7, 6x9 and 6x12, but any other Graflok cassettes will also fit. The groundglass has markings for these three sizes, so it is easy to compose the image. Slide-in roll film cassettes are larger, but more comfortable to use. However, the lip of the ground glass holder protrudes so far outside that at least the Sinar slide-in cassettes can not be used.

Using a Viewfinder

Horseman has a viewfinder for their cameras, but I do not own one. I have a Linhof viewfinder, though, which can also be used with this camera.

Considering that the Horsman 45FA has no rangefinder, does that make sense? I think it surely does. In combination with infinity stops, the viewfinder allows for properly framed pictures focused to infinity without ever looking at the ground glass. Because the viewfinder has exchangeable masks, this works also for roll film backs, including 6x12.

The camera also has a distance indicator for three focal lenghts - in my case 75 mm, 105 mm and 150 mm. The indicator can be reverse mounted and shows then the focal lengths 65, 90 and 120 mm. The alignment may not be exact for a particular lens, but it provides a good estimate of the focus distance. With a stopped down lens this is good enough. If in doubt or for applying movements a quick focus check is easy with the 45FA.

Cameras with focus helicoids including the Horseman SW612 and even the expensive Alpa analog cameras work in the same way. The latter has an optional precision focus scale though ...

When the camera is used this way, it is important that the infinity stops are correctly positioned. To adjust the position of these stops, the lens is first positioned on the fully retracted focus rail to reach exactly infinity. The focus track must not be moved at this stage. The two stops on each side are then flipped up, pushed towards the standard and secured by little screws.

These infinity stops are different from those of the Linhof Technika. A little patience may be required to find some second hand.

Comparison with the Linhof Technika

The Horseman 45 FA is better suited for short lenses than the Master Technika, which is capable to use 72 mm on a recessed board as the shortes focal length and which is more limited with movements. However, when lenses with helicoids are used with the Master Technika, 47 mm can be reached without making the dropbed visible in the frame.
On a Technika 2000/3000 short lenses on regular boards can be focused by the internal focus track.
The Technika has a longer focus rail and double extension, which makes it better suited also for makro work and for long focus lenses.
Both cameras may be used with a viewfinder, but only the Master Technika has a rangefinder which allows for accurate focus also at short distances.
The Horseman FA is one of the smallest 4x5 cameras for universal use. While the size seems not much different from a Linhof Technika, it is a bit smaller. Despite the fairly small difference, it is easier to pack into small backpacks or shoulder bags. The lower weight and the small lens boards are also a reason why it is noticeably easier to carry a small setup in the field. The limited applicability of focal lengths also helps to keep the volume of the system down to what is really needed.
Weight of the Horseman 45FA: 2330 g (5.1 lbs)
Weight of the Linhof Technika: 3160 g (7 lbs)

Other Horseman field cameras

Horseman made various field cameras which are technically related. The majority were 6 1/2 x 9 cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inch) field cameras, some with a viewfinder, some without. The Horseman 45FA belongs to the 4x5 series, along with the 45HF and the 45HD.
Apart from the viewfinder models, all look quite similar to the 45FA, particularly the 45HF and the smaller Horseman Vh. The 45HD is more easily differentiated due to its different cover material.
I never had a 45HD or 45HF in my hands, but to the best of my knowledge these are the differences:
ModelBackRear ExtensionWide Angle Flap
45FAchangeable horizontal/verticalyesyes
45HDchangeable horizontal/verticalnono
Die 45FA besitzt zudem einen Feintrieb für die Hochverschiebung, den die 45HD nicht hat.

What do I carry with me?

My camera, three lenses, the small essential accessories and a 6x12 back fits into a Billingham Hadley pro shoulder bag. A fourth lens, film cassettes and tripod with head have to go into the backpack. I normally carry
Horseman 45FA camera
Linhof 4x5 viewfinder with masks for 4x5 and 6x12
Rodenstock Grandagon-N 6,8/75
Fujinon CM-W 5,6/105
Schneider Xenar 5,6/150 (stays in the camera)
Nikkor T-ED 6,3/270 on extended board
Long Horseman lupe
Exposure meter
Cable release
6x12 cassette
4x5 double dark slides or 4x5 Grafmatic
Small Sirui carbon tripod with Arca Swiss P0 ball head
The tripod is small enough to fit into a backpack while being lightweight and stable enough.
Since I mostly work with the viewfinder, a dark cloth is not a must for composing. Focus check (if required) and tilts/swings can usually be applied without it.

My Experience with the Horseman FA

I like that the Horseman 45 FA is consequently designed for small size and low weight. The small lens boards and my small standard and wide angle lenses also contribute to this. My Fujinon CM-W 5,6/105 has an unnecessary big barrel, but I like the focal length and the lens is a marvel. Instead of the 75 and 105 mm lenses I would also consider using a small 90 mm instead, but I do not own one. Except for the 75 mm lens all have small image circles which do not allow for much movement. This could be changed by larger plasmat lenses, but to my opinion they do not fit the camera concept.
I was not so happy that slide-in roll film cassettes are not compatible with the 45FA. Anyway, 6x12 makes sense only for colour film which is not as expensive as 4x5 sheet film. For black and white a 6x12 crop from 4x5 is more sensible, notably also because it provides vertical shift without applying any movements. Quite some film can be bought for the cost of the cassette and saves carrying along this bulky extra item.
My Linhof Technika is a significantly better camera both regarding capabilities and build quality. Still, for travelling during my vacation I like to use the smaller and lighter Horseman system - but only then.
Finally, some pictures I made with this camera:


I provide this information solely because I like photography and because it may be useful. I have no commercial relationships to any vendor or manufacturer mentioned in this post. The camera and all supplementary parts are my personal property.

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