6X9 View Camera For Landscapes

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I've been using a Fuji GSW690III during the past 18 months for landscapes. Overall I have been very pleased, but there have been times where the flexibility of a view camera would have given me the results I cannot achieve with my Fuji. Guess I'm becoming a more serious landscape photographer .....

With that being said, I would like to stick with roll-film using the 6X9 (or 2X3 in LF terms) format, and decided I want to purchase a view camera. I really like the non-folding Ebony cameras, and at this point am giving serious consideration to either the SW45 or the RSW45.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and comments,


-- Robert J. Fox (aa8yo@mediaone.net), October 27, 2001


For my landscape photography, I prefer to travel as light and compact as possible. As such, I've used a Galvin 2x3 with great success. It isn't the perfect design but mine weighs under 3lbs and folds up very compactly for transport. I also have a Toyo 23G, which is the scaled down 2x3 version of the 45G, and while I enjoy using this camera, its added weight and bulk (as compared to the Galvin) do make carrying it over hill-and-dale a somewhat less pleasant experience.

I have no experience with the Ebony cameras but they do make some 2x3 versions and if you're serious about shooting rollfilm, perhaps you'd do well to consider one of these instead of the 4x5 version? They'll be a little smaller and lighter than the 4x5 version but you won't be able to change formats later without replacing the camera. If I were you, I'd make sure whichever camera you choose can accept a monocular viewer as using a loupe on a 2x3 ground-glass is frustrating for many people. One other point to consider is the film backs you use. Film flatness can be a problem with some backs (i.e., tired Graflex) and I've found the Toyo backs, while bulky and more costly than most others, are the best of those I've tried to date.

Good luck with whichever camera you choose and if you're set on using rollfilm, don't let yourself be talked into buying a 4x5 since you'll end up carrying around more camera than you'll need. (Mind you, it's probably easier to sell a 4x5 than a 2x3 should you later change your mind about using a view camera. I thought I could never live without movements but after shooting almost exclusively with a TLR during the past year, now I'm not so sure...)

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), October 27, 2001.

arca swiss F line Metric 6x9 is the more versatile 6x9 camera, (only on a tripod), very good for architecture as well. if you want to stick with 6x9, i believe this is the best tool ! but if you want to shoot 6x12, then you need a 4x5 with a sinar zoom back....

-- dg (sacripant@online.fr), October 27, 2001.

Bob An Ebony SW with a Horseman 6x9 roll film back.

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 27, 2001.

There are VERY few LF lenses that can duplicate the resolution and contrast you're enjoying with your little FUJI. When I'm slugging it out at 10,500 feet in the brislecones with my big LF outfit, I find myself wishing for a little GSW 690 III on a shoulder strap. BTW when you bought that for +/- $1000 bucks, you were buying the lens. They threw the plastic box that holds the film in for free. Figure about the same $ for each lens you buy for LF that will come anywhere close to duplicating your fuji. Just playing devil's advocate here because as a person that's gone way over the cliff in the opposite direction I've often thought about how much I could accomplish with a little Fuji around my neck. Especially in the color world.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), October 27, 2001.

The Horseman VH or VHR would be your lightest choice, with some minor limitaions. For wide angle work it can use a Horseman (or any brand) 65mm with minor movements, or a 45 or 47mm if you can find a third party recessed lens board (contact Bob Eskridge, if you can find him on this or other forums.) It can focus a 300mm tele design (with an extended board, Midwest Photo has these) at infinitiy. It is well made and versatile.

-- Paul Shambroom (pshambroom@mn.rr.com), October 27, 2001.

The Horseman VH is a great choice, except for the wide angle limitation noted above. I'ved used a Horseman VH with a 58 mm on a Bob Eskridge recessed board, and it works great. One could also use a 55 mm Rodenstock on this board, with, in my view sufficient movements. However, I don't think you could use a 45 mm or 47 mm with this board. In any event, last I'd heard, Bob didn't have any more recessed boards left. So either (a) you're limited to a 65 mm (still sufficiently wide for most purposes, in my view), or (b) if you're very adventurous, you can start hacking at the box, as a few have done, which might, with some effort allow you to use a 45 mm or 47 mm.

Not to dissuade you from a Horseman VH -- I love mine. The suggestion about a monocular viewer is also a great one. I have three different fresnel viewing screens -- each made by Bob Maxwell. They're sharp, contrasty, bright and very easy to use for focusing. The standard screen is in the normal viewing back and can be used effectively for all lenses from about 75 mm - 300 mm, but really shines in the 100mm + range. I have a wide angle screen which I use either alone with a loupe or in the monocular viewer and is fantastic for the 75 mm and 58 mm lenses. It's like using an SLR/Hasselblad, but with movements. Also works great with a 6x loupe (Schneider). A lot of people complain about ground glass on a 6cm x 9cm as being too small -- I don't know why. I've had know problems -- as soon as I started using Bob Maxwell's fresnels.

-- Howard Slavitt (info@enaturephoto.com), October 27, 2001.

Bob -

I own a Horseman VH and a VH-R as well as a bag-bellows Gowland 2x3, and have also shot rollfilm with my 4x5 Nagaoka.

But if I were going to be doing serious 6x9 landscape work, I'd probably get the non-folding 2x3 Ebony. For my taste it probably offers the best balance of light weight, ease of use, precision, and sufficient versatility for my purposes. I'd go for a 4x5 Ebony only if I were concerned about ease of resale or wanted to have the option of shooting 6x12 as well.

As far as lenses, the old argument that view camera lenses can't match the quality of roll-film camera lenses when shooting smaller formats is probably no longer true now that the new "digital" series lenses, optimized for smaller formats and wider apertures, are available from Rodenstock and Schneider. I've shot some test frames with the 90/5.6 Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-Digital, and it's a superb lens.

Good luck...


-- Oren Grad (orengrad@world.std.com), October 27, 2001.

Bob I own and use both the Ebony SW45 and SW23. The SW45 is probably my best "alrounder" camera. However if you just like 6x9cm then the SW23 is ideal. Its incredibly small and light and takes the very useful Horseman angled viewer. It is very easy to set up and use. Having a hinged GG back makes it ideal in adverse conditions. Just swing it out and attach the roll back, you'll appreciate this if you've ever worked in the rain. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@uk.dreamcast.com), October 27, 2001.

Bob --

I have used both the Arca Swiss 6X9 and more recently (and very briefly) an Ebony SV23. Both are terrific, of course. They actually weigh about the same, despite Ebony's claim that their camera only weighs 4 lbs. (I measured them both at 4 lb 12 oz,) The Ebony folds up into a significantly more compact shape, but for me the biggest difference in the field is that pointed out by Trevor, which is the Ebony hinged groundglass back. It's great not to have to remove the whole groundglass back in order to put the roll film holder in place, at least if you're as clumsy as I am. I frankly can't understand why the engineers at Arca don't develop something similar. (With the Arca, the problems for the clumsy set are compounded by the fact that their binocular viewer doesn't lock onto the groundglass back, so when you remove the viewer and back and hold it by the viewer you end up with a groundglass lying on the ground. The Ebony-modified Horseman viewer does lock securely in place, but of course you still have to remove it for critical focusing.) But of course there are few things in this world as elegant and as beautifully made as the Arca, which is why I haven't figured out yet which one to sell.

Ed Kleinbard

-- Edward Kleinbard (ekleinbard@mindspring.com), October 27, 2001.


Having just gone through the process of buying (and investing heavily) in a 4x5 Ebony and a range of lenses, I agree with what the above posters have said, but I'd like to add that the Ebony 4x5 > 6x9 adapter can also be used easily on the 4x5 version of the cameras allowing the swing-out feature for the GG and the use of the a 6x9 roll film holder and if you want to shoot 4x5 or 6x12 in the future, . . ."Guess I'm becoming a more serious landscape photographer ....." and it's likely you will, I'd suggest you get the 4x5 version.

The difference in weight between the 6x9 & 4x5 versions is negligible but you can grow with the 4x5.

There are some excellent reviews of the various 6x9 and 4x5 cameras available, on Tuan's LF web site, if you haven't already looked there.


Good luck with your choice.

Kind regards

Peter Brown

-- Peter L Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), October 27, 2001.

Thank you so much for your replies - All of you are helping me tremendously with my decision. I think I know what I want but still have a few questions.(I have'nt gotten my Stroeble book yet!).....

My primary use for this camera is landscape, with some architectural thrown in. (I am an advid Civil War Battlefield visitor, and 90% of my photography are battlefields and related historical buildings)As I have no plans to shoot sheet film, I've decided on either an Ebony 23S, or an SW23 (Do I really need the additional back movements that the 23S has over the SW23?)I really like the aspect ratio of 6X9, so I plan on sticking with this format. Here are my questions:

1) I know I need "Linhof-Type" lensboards. Any brands / types better than the others, or all they all the same? Would the typical layman such as myself have any technical problems mounting the lens on the board?

2) The myriad of LF lenses boggle my mind! I want to start with a lens that will give me the same "view" as the 65mm Fujinon in my GSW690III. Which one should I get? Do the Fujinon LF lenses have the same EBC as their MF counterparts? Should I go with a Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon, or Fujinon? I'm REALLY confused .....

3) What 6X9 rollfilm back should I get? Seems Horseman is the one most recommended. Are there any significant differences between the various makes and models?

4) And finally, what else will I REALLY need? I know I need a focusing hood and loupe. What else?

Thanks again in advance for all your help.

Regards - Bob

-- Robert J. Fox (aa8yo@mediaone.net), October 29, 2001.

Have you thought about Linhof? Then you could use the rangefinder also when needed. Make sure the camera you choose takes the range of lenses you will need ....does it have sufficent bellows extention to accomplish this...or extention rails/lensboards.Also remember that roll backs are a real pain to use....because of extra weight...and so many things to do in succession...1-focus/compose image,2-remove gg back,3-attach roll back,4-wind frame/film,5-cock shutter,6-stop down,7-remove darkslide,8-take pic,9-put darkslide back,10-remove film back,11-put gg back on again! It will become automatic after awhile but messing up is a ever present reality with rollbacks and view cameras. Having said that the Ebony 2x3 sounds cool....I love my Linhof 2x3 though...very smooth and quality build for a lifetime of use.

-- Emile de Leon (knightpeople@msn.com), October 29, 2001.

1) I know I need "Linhof-Type" lensboards. Any brands / types better than the others, or all they all the same? Would the typical layman such as myself have any technical problems mounting the lens on the board?

If you have enough money to buy an Ebony go ahead and buy the Ebony or Linhof boards.

2) The myriad of LF lenses boggle my mind! I want to start with a lens that will give me the same "view" as the 65mm Fujinon in my GSW690III. Which one should I get?

get a 65mm, same format, same view. I like Rodenstock and NikkorSW over Schneider. can't speak to the Fujinon wide angle lenses.

Do the Fujinon LF lenses have the same EBC as their MF counterparts?

IF they are current, yes. Talk to the nice people at Badger graphics about Fuji LF lenses.

3) What 6X9 rollfilm back should I get? Seems Horseman is the one most recommended. Are there any significant differences between the various makes and models?

Does anyone else curerently make 6x9 cm backs for 6x9 view cameras?

4) And finally, what else will I REALLY need? I know I need a focusing hood and loupe. What else?

A polaroid back, adecent tripod, a spot meter, decent cable releases (I use Linhof)... get a 4x or 5x loupe for focusing more powerful loupes will work against you., a 100mm width filter holder/ lens shade combination .

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), October 29, 2001.

Robert, If you've decided on the 6x9 format then definitley go for the Ebony SW23 (the S is more cash and you won't need the extra back movements for what you describe). Combine this with a Horseman 6x9 back and spend the cash you've saved on the "S" on either a Schneider or Rodenstock 65mm lens. You'll need a tripod (go for a carbon fibre) a spotmeter (look at the Sekonic L508) a loupe (try the silvestri tilting loupe)and a cloth. Mounting lenses is a cinch, just make sure you get hold of a lens wrench (either a Toyo or better still a Rodenstock). Make sure you get a lens board that is drilled for the correct size shutter (in this case, a Size 0 I believe).To mount it you unscrew the rear lens elements from the shutter assembly. You then unscrew a small screw that protrudes from the base of the shutter and throw it (the screw not the shutter!!!).The shutter has a retaining ring that has small notches cut into it (for the wrench). Remove the retaining ring and place the front elements and shutter in the hole on the panel and the retaining ring screws onto the thread of the shutter (through the rear of the lens board). Tighten carefully with the wrench and then carefully screw the rear lens assembly into the shutter. Sounds complicated but its not!! Get a load of 120 film and "Bob's your uncle!!" You've spent a small fortune but you won't invest in a better set up. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 30, 2001.

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