Ebony SW23 and 47 SAXL

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As a new owner of an Ebony SW23, I have a few observations as well as questions to other SW23 users:

I did buy an extension panel and two 35mm extension tubes for my 180 Apos-Symmar. Works great, does not compromise stability much. I heavier lens might be an issue since the lens weight is off-center from the front standard.

I also did buy the 692 extender back. This turned out not to be the best idea. A lot of weight is placed off-center on the rear standard, plus you only will want to use the extender back when you have already used up al rear extension so you end up with an assembly the is just a little too unsteady for field use.

I miss a handle already, and the camera has not even left my living room. There is not much space on top of the rear standard, so I can see why Ebony chose not to put a handle on the SW23. Still, holding this camera with just one hand makes me a bit nervous.

Some movements such as front shift are just a little unsmooth - is there such a thing as proper lubrication for titanium?

Groundglass viewing with the 47 SAXL is a bit difficult, as expected. The Ebony groundglass/fresnel is very bright in the middle, but there is no way to see the entire image at the same time. I also bought a Horseman angle viewer, which gives more even illumination at the expense of image brightness. For longer focal lengths, both screens work very well. Is there any remedy in sight for superwide lenses, such as a different fresnel screen?

- The convenience of the hinged back is lost if I attach the angle viewer. I did hear of a modification to the horseman viewer that lets it attach like the original hinged back, has anybody done such a modification?

- While the front center tilt is great, I can see myself using more than the 20 degrees forward tilt available. Looking at the construction, it seems that the tilt movement is limitad by the tilting assembly rather than bellows or anything else. Modifying the part that limits the tilt seems like a fairly straightforward machining operation (except for the difficulties of working on titanium). Good or bad idea?

-- Åke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), February 03, 2002


And you bought this camera, despite all these shortcomings, because...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), February 03, 2002.

Although not a user of the SW23, I will offer some comments, as I use its "big" brother, the SW45. If you have the extension tubes, why did you feel it necessary to also get the 692 extender, I would have thought that you would only need one and not both? As for its stability, I use the 452 extender in the field and find that it is perfect for allowing closer focus with longer lenses and it is stable. To compensate I simply slide the camera further along the tripod mounting plate. As for not having a handle, I agree that it would be handy, but I can't see why you need to hold it with just one hand? The movements on Ebony cameras are all done manually and do not have geared movements so they are not smooth, as such, but they are accurate and once in place THEY DO NOT MOVE. The screen will be dim with any camera when you use an extreme lens like the 47XL, even those fitted with fresnel lenses or bright screens. A fact of LF life, I'm afraid! BUT Ebony offer a wide angle fresnel which works well with such lenses and its not too expensive, about £50 UK pounds. As far as centre tilt is concerned, I' shoot landscape and architecture, the most tilt I've ever used is about 5 degrees, certainly no more than 10 degrees. What are you shooting that requires such extreme tilt? It might be an idea to take the camera outside and use it and see exactly what movements you need. The only ones I use are front rise/fall, front centre tilt and rear rise, and not all movements all of the time As for machining the front tilt mechanism...are you mad? Seems to me that you may have bought this camera without being 100% clear in your mind exactly what you were looking for?

Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), February 03, 2002.

Jeffrey, I see nothing wrong with being critical and exploring options. Don't get me wrong, I really really really like this camera, it's beautifully built, light and rigid, perfect for travel and backpacking if 6x9 format is an acceptable limitation.

Paul, Thanks for you reply, and yes, I must be mad for thinking aloud... Anyway, just a spontaneous idea, as you point out I need to see if I ever find 20 degree tilt insufficient - perhaps never. Thanks for the tip about the wideangle fresnel. Regarding the extender back, I added the extension panel/tubes to my order in the last minute and was surprised to see how well the 180 balances with extension tubes.

-- Åke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), February 03, 2002.

Ake, I wasn't trying to be critical but to get a better understanding of what you were hoping to achieve with your purchase. Obviously, no camera is perfect but your comments focused solely on negatives and I was puzzled as to why you bought this camera in the first place since it appeared to have some serious shortcomings for your intended usage.

If you can point me toward some information about the Horseman viewer, I'd be grateful as I can't seem to find any photos of it online. The monocular viewer I'm using on my Toyo 23G is nice but an angle viewer such as you describe would be a handy alternative assuming that I can adapt it to fit.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), February 03, 2002.

Ake, I also have the Ebony SW23 and for me my only desire for improvement would be geared front rise/fall. With regard to the hinged back it's pivot is sprung loaded, just push up on the hinge side when open and you can remove it. However I rearly do this, if the GG/back is a problem when I've the Horseman viewer attached I simply anchor it either to the viewer or to a point on the tripod head with an elastic band.

Has Paul as mentioned Ebony produce a wide angle fresnel which I use on my SW45 with excellent results. However its only available for the 5x4 camera as far as I know so it will need cutting to fit the SW23.

Be patient you possess an excellent tool.


-- Trevor Crone (tcrone@gm.dreamcast.com), February 03, 2002.

Jeffrey, I have a printed Horseman catalog, which is where I found a picture of the angle viewer. I will try to describe it here, but if you really want images then email me offline.

The finder consists of a groundglass assembly with a frame, and the viewer itself. The groundglass assembly attaches like a rollfilm holder, replacing your groundglass back, so if you use Horseman rollfilm holders today then it will fit, and have correct groundglass alignment. There is an etched glass, and a plastic fresnel behind the glass. The viewer dome is made of black plastic and snaps into place on the frame. the finder is made of metal, is angled about 80 degrees, and rotates with detents every 90 degrees. The whole assembly weighs 319 grams. I noticed that Robert White has one second- hand in stock.

-- Åke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), February 03, 2002.

I am learning more about wooden cameras (my other LF is a Toyo)... The front and rear standards on my SW23 did seem a little unsteady even when the focus was locked tightly. After I very slightly tightened the screws for the plate that covers the draw gear, focusing is now tight and smooth, and front and rear standards are quite firm even at maximum extension. What a difference!

I'm guessing that the climate in Japan is more humid than here, so it is perhaps not that surprising that some screws needed tightening.

-- Åke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), February 03, 2002.

With regards to a special fresnel for wide angle lenses, I highly recommend you contact Bill Maxwell (404) 244-0095. [Address is: Maxwell Precision Optics; P.O. Box 33146; Decatur, GA 30033-0146.] I own a Horseman VH, 6cm x 9cm camera, and have had Bill design and install 2 different fresnels for me. The first is the standard fresnel, which is in the normal camera back -- it's excellent for use with the 135 mm and 240 mm, and also quite good for using with a 75 mm. I also have a special wide angle fresnel which is in the Horseman angle viewer insert, and I use it with a 75 mm and 58 mm. It's incredibly bright from corner to corner, and very easy to focus, even with a fair amount of movements. If I want to focus with my 75 mm or 58 under a dark cloth I just pop out the angle viewer insert and use it like a normal ground glass back. (When I bought the camera used it came with an Arca Swiss fresnel in place; Maxwell's is much brighter and easier to focus.) Maxwell's fresnels, when used with the Horsreman angle viewer, are the next best thing to a Hasselblad, meaning ease of use and ability to focus quickly and confidently.

-- Howard Slavitt (info@enaturephoto.com), February 04, 2002.

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