Ebony 23S Issues: Backs, lenses and more...

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I am considering a Ebony 23S for all the reason that one would consider a 6x9 field camera, but I have some questions.

Regarding backs, I assume that Horseman roll film backs are as good as any. The price at 350-400 makes them cheap compared to some! And the Polaroid back is used with an adapter, Instant film holder GP, but what are my options for Polaroid backs once this is bought? I can?t find an explicit or clear explanation of Polaroids on the Graphic back. Finally, Ebony claims that the Mamiya RZ back fit on their cameras. True, user comments?

I have heard of only one person saying a binocular viewer (Horseman viewer 22551) could be used with these Graphic back, and that they have used it. Comments?

And lens selection, I under stand the issues with image circle and all that, but am unclear on lenses designed for larger formats. Would it be wise to use a lens that has a max format of 5x7 on this 6x9 format? For example, the 75mm Super Anguln has plenty of image circle, but is there something I am missing by just looking at specs in the book? Regardless, I am going to get the SPO Sinronar N lens for this as a starting point.

For reference, I have read (amoung lots of others) this most informative thread on the Arca F69 vs. the Ebony SV23: http://hv.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=004SyX

Thanks for you time on this. I know there are a lot of small questions here, but answer will help in the final decision.

-- Chris Gillis (chris@photogenica.net), May 07, 2002



Comments from an SW23 user:

The Ebony online catalog (the PDF on the home page) has a photo of a 23S or SW23 with a Mamiya RFH mounted.

I have a 22551 Horseman monocular angle viewer, it is not binocular but otherwise very useful and a good fit. It is even better to ask Ebony to supply the viewer custom-fitted for your camera, hinged the way the GG back is. It might cost some, but Ebony can probably get the viewer cheaper than you can so it might not be that much of an extra cost.

Resolution becomes more important with a smaller format, so you do have to pay more attention to lens quality.

A cool thing with the 23S is that you can use the rear shift to stitch a 56x160mm format in Photoshop. It's a little more awkward with the SW23 which misses rear shift, I have to first shift the front standard and then shift the camera the opposite direction to keep the lens position fixed.

I picked up an extra Horseman 6x9 RFH for USD$180 brand new from a dealer here in Stockholm and he does have one more for that price, but perhaps Stockholm is a little far from you. Best regards, Åke

-- Ake Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), May 07, 2002.

BTW, the Horseman viewer weighs in at 319 grams, the 6x9 RFH at 423 grams. /Åke

-- Ake Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), May 07, 2002.

What type of photography do you plan to do?

I recently acquired the Ebony 23S for travel purposes. It's an amazingly nice camera - from the overall concept and design to the craftmanship and build of the camera. It is very quick to setup, rigid, and intuitive to use.

My only wish is for an interchangeable bellows for use with wide angle lenses. I think the camera could be improved here. While the universal bellows allows for a 58XL lens on a flat board, I'm not able to get the maximum movement noted in the specs due to the size of the rear element.

Note also that there is no geared rise/fall or shift as with the Arca Swiss. This is generally not important for landscape work, but for studio and some architectural photography applications, where precision matters, the geared movements are a great benefit.

You can order the camera with the Horseman 6x9 angle viewer. The Ebony shop will modify the camera back to accept the viewer (for which you pay a nominal fee). They do a very nice job with this modification, and it does not detract from the beauty of the original design at all. The viewer itself is a bit bulky - it's almost the same size as the 23S itself - but it is lightweight and allows for rightside-up composition. Do not expect miracles with the viewer, however. In low light situations, it will be difficult to see the edges of the image through the viewer. Nonetheless, it is a handy and useful tool for composition.

I like the horseman rollfilm backs. They are compact, lightweight, easy to load, and work great with the Ebony camera. I have not used the Ebony 6x9 polaroid back so cannot comment on it. One thing to note: the 23S only accepts rollfilm backs. You will not be able to use 6x9 sheet film holders.

Regarding lens selection, many of the lenses for 4x5 and 5x7 are just too big and heavy for the 6x9 format. There are some lightweight gems though that cover 8x10, for instance, the Fujinon 240mm APO. I have the 110XL for 4x5 (my favorite) but do not plan on carrying it when I travel with the 23S - it's just too heavy.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the 23S. It is a joy to use (and that's an understatement really - WHOOOOOEEYYY!). I'm hoping that Ebony will continue to improve the design of the camera and maybe come out with a 23SU, based on the 45SU design. The three benefits would be: 1) interchangeable bellows, 2) asymmetrical tilts/swings, and 3) longer maximum bellows extension. This of course would come at an extra cost, but it certainly would be one awesome camera.

-- E Rothman (erothman@hotmail.com), May 07, 2002.

Mamiya RB backs are essentially the same as the Horseman, Graphic etc backs. I don't believe RZ backs would be workable but I don't know for sure.

I use Horseman backs on a couple of cameras and highly recommend them. If you get a used one, be sure to check for light leaks right away; the sealing foam deteriorates with age.

-- John Hicks (jhicks31@bellsouth.net), May 07, 2002.


I agree with what previous contributors have written. I think you might also consider purchasing a 45 Ebony and using a reducing back. I have a 45SU with an Ebony roll-film reducing back that I like very much. I use Horseman 6x9 film holders. I have lenses from 58mm to 300mm (the Nikkor 300/f9 is a superb little lens, but you need enough bellows extension to use it). The 45 camera will mean a little additional bulk and weight, but with a 45 you will have another format option and greater movement. Anyway, I am sure you will enjoy working with either the 23 or the 45 Ebony camera.

-- Michael Alpert (alpert@umit.maine.edu), May 09, 2002.

When one uses a format reducing back with an Ebony 4 x 5, does this move the film plane further away from the lens such that the minimum focus distance (i.e. the determining factor in how wide of a lens one may use) is increased?

-- Howard Slavitt (info@enaturephoto.com), May 09, 2002.


The Ebony catalog states 6 mm increased flange distance for the 4x5 to 6x9 reducing adapter. You really should check out the catalog, in PDF format on the Ebony home page. The high-resolution version has very clear pictures. Best regards, Åke

-- Ake Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), May 09, 2002.

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