Ebony Camera - A great decision!

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After 2 months of agonizing over my decision to purchase a new 4x5, I made a very impulsive decision. One afternoon, I was driving in the car and said "the heck with it" I picked up my cell phone and ordered an Ebony SV45U. The camera arrived a week later and I have been shooting non stop with it for almost 3 weeks.

My first impression on the camera was one of awe. The camera is made of beautifully grained ebony wood and titanium metal. The hardware is commercial grade, impecably finished and amazingly strong.

Opening the camera is a simple operation. Release the retaining tab, lift out the rear standard, lift out the front standard lock it down, insert a lens and you are on your way. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds.

The amazing thing about this camera is that it is as solid as any monorail I have used. The movements are generous, the universal bellows will acommodate lenses from 47mm to 720mm (telephoto). A 35mm, (yes a 35mm) lens can be used with a recessed lensboard. Now for the best part, in addition to base tilts, there are assymetic tits and swing. I have found this feature allows me to maximize depth of field and not have to re-focus over and over again. A real time saver.

The camera uses the Linhof type lensboards that are widely available. Ebony also makes one other neat device. A bellows viewing hood that allows you to look at the ground glass without a dark cloth. You press your eyes up to the hood and can use a loupe to focus. Really pretty neat especially in hot climates where a dark cloth is torture.

The viewing screen is thr brightest I have seen. In fact, it is rare that I have had to use either a dark cloth or the viewing screen at all.

For anyone interested in a compact, first quality, relatively lightweight (5lb range) with huge bellows capability camera, the Ebony is a very worthy competitor.


-- Bill Smithe (bs2@aol.com), November 23, 2000


Bravo Bill! Have you considered appending your thoughts and experiences to the Ebony review on the main page?

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), November 23, 2000.

Another happy Ebony user !!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), November 23, 2000.

How much did you pay?

-- Altaf Shaikh (bshaikh@nyc.rr.com), November 23, 2000.

Wow... quite a review. I would probably be most impressed with the assymetric tits. :P

-- Chad Jarvis (cjarvis@nas.edu), November 23, 2000.

What size are the assymetric tits? Are you sure thay are not symmetrical?

-- Mike Kravit (mkravit@mindspring.com), November 23, 2000.

Welcome to the Ebony club! I joined in July when I got an SV45U2, and I am impressed by its design and construction each time I use it. It's simply a masterpiece, in every way far beyond the Wisner Pocket Expedition that I previously had. I agree, the Ebony's fresnel screen is wonderful; so good, in fact, that I can often cheat and go without both darkcloth or reflex viewer if there isn't direct light on the GG. The assymetric...errrr, TILTS are also terrific...no more guessing the tilt, reiterating again and again...

-- Danny Burk (foto28@aol.com), November 23, 2000.


I'm glad you confirmed it is "assymetric...errrr, TILTS" I was starting to worry which list I was on.... :-)

Tim A

-- tim atherton (tim@KairosPhoto.com), November 23, 2000.

I just hate tits that swing.

-- Gary Brennan (garyb57@yahoo.com), November 24, 2000.

Yes indeed Gary it makes it bloody difficult to focus.

-- Trevor Crone (tcrone@gm.dreamcast.com), November 25, 2000.

Yeah, but a little jiggle is nice. . .

-- Todd Caudle (tcfotos@home.com), November 25, 2000.

Now look at what I started.

-- Bill Smithe (bs2@aol.com), November 25, 2000.

I just bought a Ebony SV45 and also am quite impressed. It is extremely well made. What did you pay for the bellows viewing hood and where did yiu get it?

Is there somewhere I can see a picture of it?

Thanks, Ken

-- ken (photo@osbornephoto.com), November 25, 2000.

Bill, after some months of use, are you still happy with your camera? Is there something you are missing from the U2 features? I have seen many pros about this camera. Are they any cons that someone is aware of? I would be particularly interested in knowing if this camera can withstand daily use without wearing down, getting loose joints and pivots. In my understanding, titanium is a relatively soft metal (aluminum). How does it withstand mechanical constraints on the long term? The Ebony seems particularly well suited for field work and I use lenses from 47 to 450, and they should all usable without modification of the camera. I am told the camera is still very stiff at full extension. Is the universal bellows supple enough to give an inch of play with a 47mm? Also, what is the back made of, wood or metal? Can it take an insert rollfilm back and would it suit a Horseman or Toyo binocular viewer? Thanks!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), March 27, 2001.

As far as I recall, titanium is a very hard metal, significantly harder than steel. This is one reason why titanium products are so expensive - normal machining tools wear out quickly.

-- Åke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), March 27, 2001.

Åke, this is true for pure titanium, but so called Titanium is most of the time an Aluminum alloy containing some titanium. All depends on the proportions. It could well be that the alloy used by Ebony is a very hard one. Pure titanium is as hard as steel and much lighter. Titanium - molybden alloy is even harder (...got this from my encyclopedia).

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), March 27, 2001.

Well, my old Titanium ice screws used to do pretty well pounded in and out of frozen waterfalls with an ice axe, jammed in ice cracks in rocks etc...

Tim A

-- tim atherton (tim@KairosPhoto.com), March 27, 2001.

Really, Tim? I guess my doubts were silly and that make me happy! (I think I have mixed up titanium and duraluminum)

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), March 27, 2001.

Am I still happy with the camera after all this time?

YES, yes, yes, yes, yes.........absolutely!

-- Bill Smithe (bs2@aol.com), May 03, 2001.


Regarding the Ebony.... I purchased the SV45U2, and just love it! The back is wood, as is the majority of the camera (the focusing racks are titanium, along with the rest of the hardware). If you're concerned about wear & tear of the wooden back, I can tell you what I did to mine. I carefully (so as not to get any on the GG) rubbed in some Minwax paste floor wax on the back, buffed it, and added another coat (and buffed that). You only want to put it where the film holders rub, not on the exterior itself (it becomes quite slippery- did you ever have an experience of sliding along the wooden hardwood floor in your socks after your mom waxed it?) The film holders now slide in and out like they've been greased, and I would think this would add to the longevity of the wood since the wax adds a measure of lubricity. You do want to buff the wax well with a cloth, to remove excess. A top quality floor paste wax that's very hard is what you want to use. I suspect that Bowling Alley or butcher's wax would be ideal. I'm still in search for Bowling Alley wax, but so far the Minwax has worked quite well (Johnson's Paste Wax is probably the same thing).

You can indeed use rollfilm holders. Linhof makes rollfilm holders that fit right onto the Grafloc back, but you have to remove the focusing frame after composing (takes about 1 second to remove it, but be careful where you lay it down so you don't scratch the GG). I use a Horseman rotating rollfilm holder which also replaces the focusing frame, but it has a GG that you rotate in place for composing/focusing. When you're ready to shoot, you depress the latch and rotate the rollfilm holder into position (after remembering to close the lens first) and fire away. The only downside is that the rollfilm adapter does add a bit of setback to the film plane, due to the rotating mechanism. So if you're using very wide angle lenses, you may have to use recessed lensboards.

I am a machinist by trade (and photographer), so I can say with certainty that titanium in indeed quite hard. But even more importantly, it has an incredible tensile strength, and is amazingly light. It is commonly alloyed with other materials, though I'm not sure how well it alloys with aluminum or what the specific properties are if this is done. It is difficult to machine in that it tends to wear out tooling very quickly. The raw material is also quite expensive. But it doesn't have the tendency to gall as aluminum does, and wears much better than aluminum. It is also more resistant to bending than aluminum, while being just a bit heavier. It's much better than brass also, being that brass is soft and bends quite easily (brass also deforms easily when thumbscrews are tightened too tight). Titanium is also an inert metal, and doesn't have a problem with corrosion. Brass certainly will corrode easily, as will aluminum (aluminum especially can get quite rank when in direct contact with steel or iron, as there is an incompatibility issue between the two metals).

You asked if there are any cons. The only one I can think of is cost. But don't look at it quite in that sense- ebony wood, titanium, and expert craftsmanship all come at a premium. They also last a lifetime. Ebony is more dense and stable than even mahogany. And if you do as most people do and purchase something less than what you really want or need solely based on price, you will eventually get what you had originally passed up. Only it would have cost you much more in the long run. An Ebony is an investment, and I see mine as a camera that I intend to keep for a very long time- perhaps for the rest of my life.


-- C. Scott Lawson (Lawsphoto@aol.com), November 01, 2001.

C. Scott Lawrence,

What do you mean by the titanium can "gall" like aluminum does?

-- Jeffrey Scott (jscott@datavoice.net), December 29, 2001.

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