Ebony 45 owners - comments please?

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I am in the process of deciding which Ebony 45 to buy, for mainly (90%) landscape and 'fine art' B&W work, with some studio work required. I like working with wide-angle lenses but I don't want to restrict myself to just wide-angle and envisage using lenses between probably 47mm to around 400-500mm, maybe longer, in the future. I also want to be able to use my Sinar 6x12 zoom back and use a Horseman Bino reflex viewer (yet to purchase).

I have discounted the RW45, too limiting for wide-angle work, and the SW, too limiting for long lenses, and I have decided on the two which I think will best suit my needs, the SV45U or the SV45TE. I am leaning towards the SV45TE as this seems to be the most versatile, but the U series is tempting because of the asymmetrical rear tilts and swing. This has been useful to me in my studio work with Sinar cameras but would I get the same use of this feature in the field? Both cameras weight the same (2.7kg) and I believe the SV45U is non-folding and also costs about US$600 +/- more than the 45TE.

Are the extra asymmetrical rear tilts and swing features of the SV45U worth the extra dollars for mainly field use? Is having a non-folding camera more inconvenient when backpacking? Do they close up fairly small, are they protected enough from the elements, dust etc?

I'd appreciate any comments, good or bad, from users of these cameras and also from anyone who has used the Horseman 45 Bino refelx housing on the Ebony or other 45 cameras.

My problem is that it is impossible for me to get an Ebony to try out here in Australia and I must rely on advice from people who have experience with this product.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to reply.

Regards Peter Brown

-- Peter Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), May 14, 2001


I use the SV810U in field and studio, and find the asymmetric tilts _very_ convenient and practical for both field and portrait use. In the portrait setting, where time is often a factor, it can be the difference between using movements at all and just throwing up my hands. The Ebony cameras are all rigid, intelligently-designed and just plain beautiful, but I would go for the U-back if you have a choice.


-- Nathan Congdon (ncongdon@jhmi.edu), May 14, 2001.

I use an Ebony SV45U and absolutely love it. Please see the review I wrote for it here on the Large Format page. I also use the Horseman VBinocular viewer and find it very convenient.

BTW, the SV45U is a folding camera.


-- Mike Kravit (mkravit@kravit.net), May 15, 2001.

Peter, I note you have eliminated the SW for its inconvenience with lenses longer then 180 (extension back required), which is fair enough. However I use the SW mainly for its ability with WA lenses, its so compact and sets up in an instant straight from the bag. I have the Ebony folding focusing hood attached at all times so picture taking is very convenient and quick, essential here in the UK when the light changes so quickly.

Like others have already said they are superbly built, a joy to use. If I was to start over again I would still choose the Ebony SW45. Best of luck,

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@uk.dreamcast.com), May 15, 2001.

Peter, I'm afraid I'm going to have to go along with Trevor on this one! Don't discount the SW, it really is a fabulous camera to use and is also really quick to set up being non-folding(invaluable if using it outside when the light is changing). If you are determined to use an Ebony then decide on the extremes of focal length that you are likely to use and then see what ebony offer to suit your needs. If you don't tend to use the longer focal lengths then the SW would be ideal (and you can always add the 452 back extender if necessary) BUT if money is no object then go for one of the SV range, or have a look at the non-folding 8x10!!!!!! Which ever Ebony you choose you WILL NOT be disappointed. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), May 15, 2001.

Hi Peter,

Great decision to look into Ebony. I've had an SV45U2 for almost a year, and it is absolutely wonderful. The Wisner I previously had is absolutely no comparison.

YES, by all means go with the asymmetric tilts. They are extremely convenient and easy to use in the field; I'm spoiled to the point that I wouldn't want to get by without them. I also use the Horseman bino reflex viewer; Ebony can modify one to fit the camera of your choice. Once again, I wouldn't like to go without it, but you'll still have to use a darkcloth on occasion (camera pointing down being a good example), so do take it along in your pack.

I use lenses from 47XL to 450mm, all with the "universal" bellows, and haven't felt a need to buy a bag bellows.

Regards, Danny Burk www.dannyburk.com

-- Danny Burk (foto28@aol.com), May 15, 2001.


More praise for the Ebony! Trevor and Paul are right about the RW's ability with wide lenses, however, if your going to be using long lenses, then I think the versatility of the SV wins out. My SV is quick and easy set up and holds steady at full bellows extension. Definitely, go with the asymmetrical swings and tilts. As Nathan noted, you won't employ the U back as often in the field as you do in the studio, but when you need it its an incredible tool! Whatever your decision though, you will NOT be disappointed. The material, design and workmanship of these cameras are supberb. Also, don't let the fact that you can't get your hands on an Ebony be a deterrent. I bought mine (with the U back) without ever having seen one in person, and have absolutly no regrets! Enjoy!

-- David L. (dml810@yahoo.com), May 15, 2001.

Thanks for all the above responses so far.

Miike, I got the SV45U mixed up with the 45SU and see that it is indeed a folding model - I've been reading too much info and now can't see the forest for the trees. I have read the archives and your review on the LF page, that's what swayed me towards the SV45U, but I was wondering whether the extra features offered, justify the extra cost over the non-U versions? From the above comments though, it appears the assymetrical tilt/swings are worth having and perhaps the extra few hundred dollars spent now on a versitle camera such as the SV45U will be worth it in the long run. I'm about ninety five and a half per cent convinced the SV45U is the right camera for me.

As far as the SW is concerned (this is my four and a half percent doubt), the smaller size, lighter weight and cheaper cost, are appealing, but I do intend using longer lenses. Could David, Paul or Trevor perhaps comment on the 452 extension back, it's usefulness, ease of use, with the extender what is the longest usable lens, how much extra does it cost, etc?

Could the extension back be used on the SV45U to increase the longer lens ability?

Now I just have to start figuring out the right lenses to get. . . . decisions . . . decisions.

Thanks a lot guys, Regards Peter

-- Peter Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), May 15, 2001.

I am following this discussion close and one question that I'm still not sure of is will a short lens (47-65) fall into place vertically or does it have to be aligned using the bubble levels and GG image? This is a concern for me as with a 47mm, it is very difficult to make a precise ajustment just by checking the GG. I also saw in the technical sheets that the U and U2 have different bellows length, both on the short and long side. Is one of the two best suited for a 47mm? Would the U require a bag bellows when the U2 would not? Thanks Peter for hosting my questions!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), May 16, 2001.

Peter, I don't use the 452 extender as the longest focal length lens I use is 180mm. But I understand that to use it you first remove the back from the SW using the 2 sliding tabs. The 452 is a wood (ebony) frame that slips into place and is secured with the 2 tabs. A bellows unit is fixed between the frame and your original back then clips to this. Sounds complicated but looks simple enough. I believe it allows you to use lenses up to 400mm focal length (but haven't got the exact details to hand). The bellows is supported on its frames with a sliding bar and may allow some degree of back movement (a la the now discontinued Wide 45) but again can't verify this at the moment!! AS for price!! I have seen one advertised in View Camera by a US dealer, and seem to remember it was priced at about $400. Sorry I can't be exact on some of the details. I would SERIOUSLY consider the SW, and combined with the 452 would offer a superb outfit, and at a cheaper price than other Ebony cameras (apart from the RW). Contact Robert White in the UK (robert@robertwhite.co.uk) and speak to the man himself! He really is a mine of information and can offer another slant/viewpoint on which is best. He initially advised me to look at the SW and although I looked at other makes I came back to his advice and am very happy. Buying cameras unseen, especially at ebony prices, sounds ridiculous to even contemplate! But listen to the advice, get him (robert) to fax/post you some literature, check out the ebony website (email them too as they are very helpful - no language barrier either) and buy mail order / unseen - you won't be disappointed!!! Regards

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), May 16, 2001.

Just to follow on what Paul has said re. the 452 back extender with the SW45, usable lenses are 250mm, 400mm telephoto.

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@uk.dreamcast.com), May 16, 2001.

Thanks for that detailed explaination Paul, & Trevor. It does sound like a good option. I did correspond with Robert earlier and he told me quote: "We have just had our own EBONY Wide Angle camera made, a world exclusive......the RSW45 which is a simplified SW45 so if your interest is Wide Angle this might be the answer....it accepts from the 38XL to the 180mm......and costs 995 or coupled with a 90/8 Super Angulon we can offer it at a spectacular 1395!" This looks to me like excellent value and needs serious consideration. I'm sure the 452 ext back would also fit and could be purchased at any time. I will initially be using only wideangle lenses anyway until the budget allows for some longer sizes.

Paul S, I'm pleased I could host your questions, they're very interesting as this is a lens that I will probably be using too. I also have the opportunity to get a used SA 58/5.6 XL in exc ++ condition. Would I encounter similar problems with this lens? Can you give me any comments on the quaility this lens? By the way, how did the hike in the mountains go?

Regards Peter Brown

-- Peter Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), May 16, 2001.

Hello: Just another thought regarding extensions on EBONY cameras, particularly useful with the SW and RSW Wide angle cameras, apart from the 452 extension back which is quite bulky, EBONY manufacture a couple of "Linhof Panel" fit extension tubes of 17mm and 35mm this makes the SW and RSW work quite happily with a 210mm or some of the Tele lenses such as a 360mm Tele Xenar...... This might make a difference to your future purchase Robert

-- Robert White (robert@robertwhite.co.uk), May 21, 2001.

Here are a few specifics answers that Ian Wilson, the western representative for Ebony kindly sent to me in reply to my questions. They might be of interest for others.

Dear Sirs, ...

I am interested in one of your cameras SV45 U(2) or TE My lenses range fro 47XL to 450 mm. possibly 600 in the future.

1) When using a 65 or 47mm , one must use front movements and tilt the front standard towards the back. Are there mechanical stops that automatically and precisely keep the lens board vertical or does one have to align the lensboard by checking the image on the ground glass?

Re: Both these models have spirit levels at both front and back, thus it is very easy to ensure that both front and back standards are vertical.

2) Same when using a 600 mm on extended lensboard, the front standard is tillted forward, does it find it's vertical setting automatically?

Re: See 1)

3) Does the TE, SV U and SV U2 have different bellows or have they all the same universal bellows?

Re: Only the SV45U2 is supplied with the Universal Bellows, however you can buy the SV45TE or the SV45U with Universal Bellows for an additional charge.

4) Do all 3 models handel very short lenses the same way with the long bellows or is one preferable over another for 47XL and 65mm use? (I would prefer to avoid having to change bellows if that's possible)

Re: You can focus without any problems using a standard bellows with both lenses. The universal bellows afford considerably more movements with very wide angle lense, but to obtain full movements wide-angle ('bag') bellows would be necessary. (I think this would be true of any large-format camera.)

5) I know I can mount my Horseman folding binocular viewer on it. But would it be possible to mount it with the original hinged frame that allows opening and pivoting of the viewer for loupe focussing?

Re: Yes, but some modification would be needed.

... I hope this helps, if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to contact me again.

Best wishes,

Ian Wilson

Following this discussion, I would be keen on knowing how you photographers who use short lenses feel with the need to adjust lens-back parallelism with bubble levels. Is it really easy and precise? Is the lens centred automatically? Thanks! Paul

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), May 23, 2001.

I very recently purchased an Ebony SV45U2, and absolutely LOVE it! Since purchasing this camera, I honestly don't think I would be as happy with any of the other models (or manufacturers, for that matter). If you are looking for one camera that can do it all, and do it elegantly and easily, then I highly suggest the SV45U2. The asymmetrical rear tilt and swing is just wonderful, and I'm very impressed with the logical simplicity and layout of the controls. It is absolutely the sturdiest field camera I have had the pleasure of handling. In fact, it's sturdier than many monorail cameras I've handled!

I replaced my Horseman L-frame monorail with the SV45U2, and I don't miss the Horseman at all (I thought I would). Everything I could do with the Horseman I can also do with the Ebony, but I can now pack my camera into the mountains with ease and indulge in my landscape work. The Horseman just didn't lend itself to packing into a small package (it's a great studio camera, which is really what it was meant to be). The Ebony is at home in the studio as well, or you can use it for product shots, or repro work. It's truly the most versatile camera I have ever found!

Regarding wide angle lenses, Ebony does have a wide angle fresnel for this purpose. When you think about it, it really makes sense to get one for wide angle work. This is why- a fresnel is a lens in its own right, and has an optimum focal length. When you use a standard fresnel for wide angle lenses, the focal lengths are mismatched and the brightness is diminished. Put in a wide angle fresnel, and you're in business! Apparently many people get an extra focusing frame just for the wide angle fresnel & GG, so all they have to do is swap frames for the type of lens they are using (wide or long). I'm going to get a spare focusing frame, in which to fit my Ebony wide angle fresnel. It's much more convenient than taking the standard fresnel out of the frame and swapping it with the wide angle fresnel.

I don't know if anyone else has done this, but I put a light coating of Minwax floor paste wax on the camera back, where the film holders are inserted. I waxed any area where the film holders contact, and I have to say that inserting and removing film holders is now almost a religous experience (OK, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch). Just make sure you don't get any wax on the focusing screen. Use the wax as instructed on the can, and buff with a cloth. I'm not sure how long the wax will actually last in use, but so far I haven't had to rewax it. If you decide to do this, use a good, hard floor paste wax (Bowling Alley or Butcher's wax would probably be best). I wouldn't wax the rest of the body, however, as it would probably make it difficult to hold onto. Ebony does recommend a light coat of linseed oil on the wood from time to time. I plan to use tung oil instead, which is a better grade of oil to use on fine wood. I think it's really used to keep the wood from drying out, and gives it a protective coating. Ebony also recommends a good leather cream for the leather bellows, to keep it supple. This is really good sense for any leather bellows.

Their lens shade clip is a wonderful addition to your camera! It's much more convient than a compendium lens shade, and is TONS smaller and lighter as well. If you don't want to carry around a flat piece of tin, plastic, or cardboard to use as a lens shade, the plastic GG protector works very well as the lens shade on this clip. It makes me wonder why I haven't used one of these before!

The wide angle bellows is great! It is an accordian bellows, a bit different from the standard bellows, and shorter.

I made a dummy lensboard with a 1" hole in the center out of thick plastic (the same thickness as the standard lensboards). I glued a piece of pressed fiber air filter material over the hole, and I keep this installed on the front standard when opening or closing up the camera. That way, it keeps dust and other debris out of the camera while a lens is not installed. It's easy to make, and will keep the interior of your camera cleaner and dust free!

Incidentally, I had a Horseman rotating roll film adapter that I used on my Horseman, and it fits like a glove on the Ebony! It uses Mamiya 6x7 roll film holders (or the Horseman brand roll film holders, which are both made by the same manufacturer). So if you wondered how to use roll film on your Ebony, this works great!

Anyone who is considering an SV45U2 can purchase with confidence. It's truly a wonderful camera, and looks beautiful to boot! The company is great to deal with, and they actually respond to inquiries, unlike many companies today (I had LOTS of questions, and they were wonderful about answering all of them).

I don't think you could ever go wrong with the Ebony SV45U2, personally. I love mine! I definitely made the right choice for a do everything 4x5, and don't regret it one bit.

-C. Scott Lawson Lawson Photography

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

I use a SV - The ebony and stainless steel version. I also use the Sinar ZOOM RFH. The viewing screen frame needed to be slightly modified to accept this and other RFHs. It is a simple job and does not weaken the frame.

I can use a 53mm Biogon - on a flat panel - with the standard bellows - but with virtually no movement possible. With bag bellows it gives adequate movement. At the other end I can use a 19" (492mm) Red Dot Apo-Artar at infinity with the standard bellows.

The ONLY problem the camera has had in 20 years is that the smaller gauge front section of the bellows can become badly scrunched up if utmost care is not taken in folding the camera.

In non - production use I would have thought that the extra cost of the assymetrical back is a matter of personal choice and cost.

Several friends have various models of the Ebony: all are 100% satisfied and none regret buying this marque.

I would like to be able to justify the purchase of a 5x7 ...but cannot.....but will !!!

-- Brian Colin (fzmreels@hotmail.com), January 13, 2002.

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