Is Lotus still alive? + Ebony vs Arca-Swiss

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I have been looking to purchase my first 4 x 5 for mostly landscape (backpacking)and maybe some arch. I want to buy one I'll like for a long time. I'm not into the trade up every few months deal. I have been lusting after an Ebony but the 45s is about as far up the food chain as I can see going. I have ruled out the RW because it looks like 90 is about as wide as you can go (I'd like to make it to 65 at least and no wide angle bellows option) and the SW is wide only. The 45s looks like a great camera and I prefer the non-folding concept. The speed of set-up and the ease of use with wide angles looks really great....BUT I'm having a hard time spending that much money for a camera, a camera that will be my only LF camera with such the limited bellows extension of 270mm. I know there's a camera back extender. But I'm not really sure about that sort of set up.I haven't read anything from anyone who claimed to have really used one. I'm about ready to throw in the towel and by a Arca-Swiss F (Compact or field, not sure yet). looks like a wonderful camera, but a bit more weight than I would really like to carry. Before I do I was wondering if Lotus was alive and well. I think they may have left the US and the didn't, so far return my e-mails. It looks like a really nice camera. I was wondering if anyone has one and can give me any feedback.

Thanks, Ed

-- Ed Candland (ecandland@earthlink.net), February 10, 2002

Answers

Hi Ed

If you only want one camera then is the Arca F-line the right choice I think because you have all options for lenses from very long to very short. I made thad decision for about 15 years and still have the same Arca but meanwile also a Horseman HF the only 1,8 kg metall field camera.

Good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), February 10, 2002.


Ed, You are looking for what eludes all of us - the ideal camera! As this is your first venture into LF then you first need to decide what will be your range of lenses, from widest to longest. Once you have decided on this then look for a camera that will accept them. Lotus seem to be a bit "unreliable" in as much as no one seems to know if they are still readily available! Both Arca-Swiss and Ebony are first class. However, as an Ebony user I am VERY biased, so take my views with that in mind!! I shoot landscapes/architecture, my lenses range from 47XL to 180 Apo-Symmar. I wanted a lightweight, easy to set up, rigid field camera and wanted one for as little cash as possible. Such a beast doesn't exist - you get what you pay for!! I bought the Ebony SW45 about 2 years ago and every time I use it I am still bowled over by it!! Forget long and complicated set-up times, the non- folding way is the best way! The 47 can be used on a flat panel with movement (only restricted by the lens' coverage). The bellows are fixed but are SO supple that they cope easily with wide lenses. BUT I did find that I needed longer bellows extension (only slightly) to allow closer focus with the 180. I don't use the 180 THAT often but when i do I needed closer focus. I bought the 452 extender back. WOW!! Not only is it made to the same high quality as the camera, but when attached it looks as if it is part of the camera and not just an add-on. More importantly IT WORKS!! It is light weight and very stable and what's more it allows a few degrees of tilt and swing!! The SW is now both a wide angle camera and also great for longer lenses with the 452 - up to a 400mm tele. The SW was my first and last LF camera. I can't afford to trade-up etc so wanted to get a camera that would last me. The SW fits the bill. The S is a great camera too, but I still prefer the SW with the 452 back. Can't comment on the Arca as I've never used one although I did look at one but it was too heavy for my needs. If you want to email me off forum, feel free. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), February 10, 2002.

Lotus is still alive and kicking, although they do not currently have a US distributor. They are apparently in negotiations with someone in Indiana about that, but that is all they mentioned to me.

When I sent some email (I am researching for a future purchase) they responded quite quickly, several times, and they did indicate that they would sell me a camera direct right now if I wished.

Tony

-- Anthony J. Kohler (arbitrator@uneedspeed.net), February 10, 2002.


Ed,

Any particluar reason you want to limit yourself to a single camera? All view camera designs are a compromise involving, weight, quality, movements, extension, cost, etc. Different camera designs target different uses and select these compromises accordingly. I have personally found trying to force one camera to meet ALL my needs (and I ONLY shoot landscapes) to impose unnecessary limitations. Although there is some overlap, landscape (especially involving backpacking) and architecture are two very different applications with different requirements.

I also like to backpack, and I've found it most enjoyable to keep the weight down as much as possible, but still carry a reasonably complete 4x5 system consisting of an ultralight camera and three or four lightweight lenses. While I find this adaquate when backpacking, I like to have a bigger, more verstatile camera and more complete set of six lenses for general purpose use. My current two camera system consists of a Toho FC-45X (2 lb. 12 1/2 oz.) that I use for backpacking and a Linhof Technikardan TK45S (7 lb. 8 1/4 oz.) for everything else. This gives me the best of both worlds. The ultralight weight of the Toho makes it a pure joy for backpacking. I consider the Linhof WAY too heavy for backpacking (and the Arca Swiss is in the same ballpark), but it's a great camera for everything else I shoot. BTW, I am not the only photographer (nor the first) to arrive at this solution. Jack Dykinga uses an Arca Swiss for most of his shooting, but when backpacking, he uses a lightweight wooden Wista. Different models than I have chosen, but the principle is the same.

I did try to force one camera, a Canham DLC, to meet all my needs. Although the DLC is probably THE one single camera that came closest to meeting all MY needs, it was still a compromise. It's over two pounds heavier than the Toho, and not as smooth and preceise as the TK45S. So, while it CAN meet all my needs, I definitely prefer the two camera system I'm currently using. It gives me REALLY light weight when I need it, and a full featured, versatile camera with generous movements and longer extension when weight is less of an issue (dayhiking and "road kills").

I know this all sounds rather expensive, but depending on which monorail you decide on for your architectural photography, such a two camera system could end up costing LESS than a single Ebony - and of course, be much more versatile. Personally, I bought my TK45S used at a very reasonable price and have less invested in my two cameras than a new Ebony 45S with extension back would cost. Since I still dayhike with the TK45S, I wanted something that would fold up small enough to easily fit in my pack. If you don't have such a requirement for shooting architecture, you could consider a less expensive, but equally versatile monorail that doesn't fold up as small as the TK45S (something like a Horseman or Toyo). Also, although I really like the Toho and think it's the best 4x5 camera available for backpacking, there are also other, less costly field cameras of reasonably light weight (the Tachihara, at $625, for example). I have no idea what your budget is, but it's certianly possible to assemble a two camera system based on a field camera and a general purpose monorail that would cost less than a single Ebony and be more versatile than any one camera could ever be. Of course, if you can afford it, a Toho/TK45S (or Arca Swiss F Line) would offer you the ultimate in versatility without limiting compromises.

BTW, I'm not knocking the Ebonies. They are very highly spoken of by all who use them. The quality of the materials is without compromise. However, the two that I have used (RW45 and 45SU) were both substantially heavier than advertised. Also, they are extremely expensive (although I noticed Badger Graphic currently has them on sale at substantial savings). Again, not knocking the Ebony cameras, but compared to the 45SU that I used, I definitely prefer my Toho/TK45S combo (and it cost me less than the 45SU - even at the current sale prices). The Toho is MUCH lighter (well under 1/2 the weight) for backpacking and the TK45S is more versatile and has longer extension than the 45SU.

In the end, camera selection comes down to personal needs and preferences. I'm not suggesting that what works best for me will also work best for you. I'm just trying to offer an alternative and give you something else to think about. FWIW, I shoot landscapes with lenses from 75mm - 450mm. The TK45S easily handles this range, and although I'm not a big ultrawide shooter, it will easily accomodate much shorter lenses with accessory the bag bellows. It also easily handles my 450mm Fujinon C without additional accessories (the Arca Swiss F Line requires a longer bellows and rail extension). The Toho easily handles lenses from 75mm - 300mm (or 500mm telephoto) without additional accessories. It will handle lenses down to 47mm SA XL with full movements using the unique Toho Eccentric Lens Panel. If you are intersted in learning more about the Toho, I have a very complete review online at:

http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/toho.htm

Good luck with what ever you decide to get. Maybe I'll see you on the trial sometime.

Kerry

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 10, 2002.


Oops, obvious (I hope) typo there:

"Maybe I'll see you on the trial sometime."

should have been:

Maybe I'll see you on the TRAIL sometime.

Kerry

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 10, 2002.



Ed, I just wanted to add to Paul Owen's reply that extension-tube lensboards is an alternative on the Ebony SW series, as long as you do not use heavy lenses. With SW45 and two 34mm tubes you get to 248 mm extension and still minimal weight. If you also add an extender back you get 60-90mm more, but a less compact and a slightly less stable setup.

To me it seems like a better idea to start with a wideangle camera and add extension, rather than using recessed boards and limited movements with wideangles to get more extension. But that is of course a personal preference. The 45S seems like an excellent allround camera, and the non-folding concept is great in the field. But if you want up to 500mm extension then you probably have to look elsewhere.

-- ke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), February 11, 2002.


Web site for Lotus:

http://www.lotusviewcamera.at/

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), February 11, 2002.


Well I just wanted to thank everyone for all the replies. It's been helpful even if I'm still concidering the same 2-3 cameras. ATM I'm leaning towards the more all around Arca and maybe a lightweight down the road. Well until I see an Ebony and my nipples get hard ***Says out loud "A camera is Just a tool" over and over*** Anyway thanks guys.

-- Ed Candland (ecandland@earthlink.net), February 11, 2002.

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