6x9 Linhof, Ebony, Arca ease of use

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The Linhof TK23, Arca-Swiss FC69 and the Ebony 23s all high quality cameras with a reasonable range of functionality (all quite nice to look at as well). My question for experienced users of these cameras is does any have an edge in terms of ease of use in the field? Any stand out as making it easier (set-up, movements, focus, etc.,) to get from camera bag to the point where you are ready to fire the shutter?

-- Hank Graber (hgraber@narrativerooms.com), January 25, 2002


Hank, All the cameras you list are very capable and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to say that one is better/quicker/easier to use than the other. IMHO the Ebony is the best, but then I am biased towards Ebony!! Your best bet would be to try them for yourself and see which suits you best.

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), January 25, 2002.

All of the cameras you ask about are terrific pieces of gear.

The perspective I am answering your question from is that of a working professional photographer , not a hobbyist, who uses large format cameras for a varety of purposes that can be mostly grouped into three main categories; architectural photography, still life photography, and portraits.

One of my criteria for evaluating a camera is how functional a camera is in the field, and how well it performs over time. I use a 4x5 Arca-Swiss F-Line.

With the Arca the only thing you have to unfold is the monorail, the rise mechanism is built into the standards (meaning no need to refocus the camera if you use rise or fall, the cameras movements (swing and tilt) are yaw free ( while yaw really is not an issue if you are shooting landscape work or rarely use a combination of movements while the base of the camera is tilted, it is a huge issue if you are shooting still lifes where you often do need to use a combination of movements with the base of the camera tilted.) Even the FC69 can be quickly converted to a 4x5, 5x7 or 8x10 and has no problems supporting the weights and stresses of these larger formats -- which speaks to the strength and quality of the design of the major components. I have used the Arca-Swiss for about eight years and over that time I have found the Arca-Swiss to be very intuituitive and a pleasure to use.

I seriously considered the Linhof TK45s before I purchased the Arca and still think it really is a fine camera but found the Arca to fit me and my needs better. The Ebony is a more traditional field amera design but am not convinced from my very brief experiences with one that it is as versatile as a monorail design like the Arca-Swiss F series or the Linhof TK45s.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), January 25, 2002.

Hi Hank,

I have used the Sinar system for professional studio and location work for many years and although I cannot comment on the cameras you have listed, but I can comment on the Ebony 45S (the 45 version of the 23S) which will function in a very similar way to the 23S. I agree with Ellis that the monorail designs will provide you with more movements that is for sure, but the Ebony design is an excellent compromise and hybrid field camera/monorail design.

The movements on the S series Ebonys are more than enough for field photography (which you say you will be using it for) and being a non-folding design, the only thing you need to do for setup is put the camera on a tripod, unlock the standards and move them apart for focus, composition, etc. It's that simple! Any lens you want can remain on the camera when closed and packed.

If you are looking at architecture or studio work the monorails will have the edge interms of more available movements, but for field work, IMHO the Ebony range can't be beat. Trouble is, I'm like Paul and am biased towards the Ebony.

-- Quality is remembered, long after the price is forgotten.

Kind regards

-- Peter L Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), January 25, 2002.


I can not offer a comment regarding the Ebony - in fairness, I have never seen one.

I can, however, point out some differences to consider regarding the Arca FC 69 and the Linhof TK 23S. I have pondered these units for quite some time as a less bulky alternative to 4x5 for commercial roll-film work.

The Arca is a fully expandable system. Put on a longer bellows, add a longer rail, change format to something bigger? The Arca will do all of that; the TK 23S won't. Yes, the TK 23S has W/A or standard bellows but no provision for intermediate standards or rail extensions.

The TK 23S will fold to a smaller package and the Linhoff RFH is probably more solid than the Horseman backs supplied for the Arca. Additionally, the Linhof RFH fits straight onto the rear standard after the GG frame has been removed - the Arca system requires an intermediate adaptor which is one more thing to buy and carry (and accidentally leave someplace else.)

If you should choose to use Polaroid I believe there to be an issue with certain horizontal or vertical orientation on the Linhof.

See what others say, only you know which lenses and applications are relevant for you.

Enjoy whichever you choose ... Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), January 26, 2002.

I have the Arca 4x5 and wouldn't trade it for any other camera.

While I haven't used the 6x9 Arca, I know that there's a difficulty using Polaroid on this camera in the vertical orientation. One must raise the rear standard far enough for the back to clear the camera. Of course, one can also raise the front standard so that the two match, but this seems a little disconcerting for such a high end camera.

If I were shooting a lot of 6x9, I'd probably just stick with 6x9 backs on my 4x5.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), January 26, 2002.


I always arrive at the same conclusion - it's nice to be capable of 6x12s don't you agree?

Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), January 26, 2002.

Hank, I can only make comment on the Ebony, for these are my camera's of choice, I use the SW23 and SW45. If I was to have only one it would be the little SW23. For it's so compact and light and very quick to set up, "straight out of the box" as they say. I particularly like its hinged back, which can be removed easily if you wish, to which I attach my old faithful Horseman angled viewer for easy compositions. If you've ever had to photograph in the rain you will know what a God send a hinged back like this is.

All the cameras you mention are superb it will not be easy to make a choice.

Good luck,

-- Trevor Crone (tcrone@gm.dreamcast.com), January 26, 2002.

Hank, I have only used the Arca FC69 Metric, which I bought last spring. It is wonderful. Elegant, simple, smooth, compact, and versatile. I can set it up and compose very quickly. (Bino viewer helps with that.) Lots of movements for architecture.

One thing I don't like is that it does not slide smoothly onto the tripod clamp -- lubricant helps but it is still a bit awkward. Also the little locks for gg and lens boards seem to stick a bit in cold weather. No big deal.

Get the Metric version for quicker setting of movements - no locking or unlocking required on rise and shift.

My recent post about the angle of the bino viewer is a complaint, but may not affect people with healthy necks.

I would suggest that speed of set-up is also affected by what you carry it in -- a hard case with open compartments would probably make things quicker than the soft Outpack backpack I use. And have every lens on a board and have a cable release on every lens. A belt holster or pocket on your person for the meter is also a good idea.

-- Sandy Sorlien (sand44@mindspring.com), January 26, 2002.


Not only can one shoot 6x12, but using a 4x5 for roll-film diminishes the chance of internal bellows flare, WHICH I HATE!!! Especially on roll film.


-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), January 26, 2002.

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