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View Full Version : Ebony asymmetrical is it worth paying for?



Rudgey
16-Mar-2012, 15:51
Looking at buying a new Ebony folding 5x4 (lucky me) and was in two minds if it's worth paying the extra for the U version with asymmetrical tilts & swings? As I have never used them.

Joanna Carter
16-Mar-2012, 16:55
Looking at buying a new Ebony folding 5x4 (lucky me) and was in two minds if it's worth paying the extra for the U version with asymmetrical tilts & swings? As I have never used them.
Having an SV45Te myself and having tried out a friends 45SU, I would say no, it is not worth it. You already have symmetric tilt due to the axis tilt on the lensboard. This means that you can choose something on the plane of focus in the middle of the screen and then simply tilt to get everything else in as well.

The only difference with asymmetric tilts is that the line of constant focus is about 1/3 up the screen; what is more, you cannot use this if you want to keep the back vertical for architectural stuff.

darr
16-Mar-2012, 19:35
I have owned 4 Ebony cameras: first the SV45U, then 45SU, RSW45 and finally the 45S. I actually sold the 45SU for the 45S because I did not see any advantage to the asymmetrical tilts--others will have different opinions I am sure. Pretty much what Joanna so elegantly stated above rings true to my findings.

jeroldharter
16-Mar-2012, 20:03
I don't have an ebony, but i do have an 8x10 with asymmetrical swing. I find it much faster to focus and would not want another camera without it.

Doremus Scudder
17-Mar-2012, 02:41
I learned on bare-bones field cameras with base tilts and later on a monorail with axis tilts. I did spend some time figuring out and mastering base tilts. After that, it took me about two seconds to master axis tilts, since they function exactly like the axis swings on any camera.

However, I don't feel that either is better; nor is one really faster than the other. Although base tilts sometimes require more iterations, you can use the top and bottom of the ground glass to focus, i.e., more spread, than you can with base tilts, which makes them inherently more accurate. With axis tilts, I often spend a lot of time fine tuning the focus by checking the opposite edges anyway, just because I only have half the focus spread if I use the axis and one edge, so things even out.

Now, to your question: asymmetrical tilts and swings are basically axis tilts and swings, only with the axes shifted to either side of center. This gives you more focus spread and makes it a bit closer to base tilts in terms of accuracy, but you'll still find yourself checking opposite edges anyway. The stated advantage of asymmetrical tilts and swings is that you can focus one axis on the foreground area of sharp focus and then swing/tilt to get the more distant area in focus at the other end. This sounds really great, but if there is a lot of extra fiddling one has to do to get the camera to swing or tilt around a particular axis then you spend time doing that instead of focusing. And, this system works best for plane subjects, e.g., walls, flat floors, etc. With more complex subjects you still have to spend a lot of time determining focus points and dof and checking focus spread, etc. which asymmetrical tilts won't help you with.

Bottom line, you should try one out to see if it would be an advantage for you or not before shelling out more. I'd be willing to wager that I could deal with a subject as quickly and accurately with base tilts as with asymmetrical tilts. The information brochure from Ebony about the asymmetrical movements is a bit misleading. Their illustrations showing sharper results with asymmetrical swings and tilts is just advertising hype. If you get the film plane and lens plane in the same position, you'll get the same sharpness and depth of field, no matter what system of movements the camera has.

The main issue is user comfort. You'll need to decide that for yourself. I tend to think that the few hours I spent mastering base tilts has made the largest contribution to my "user comfort" in using camera movements.

Best,

Doremus

timparkin
17-Mar-2012, 03:12
Looking at buying a new Ebony folding 5x4 (lucky me) and was in two minds if it's worth paying the extra for the U version with asymmetrical tilts & swings? As I have never used them.

I'll add a couple of questions to the one you ask to make a couple more things clear.

1) Is it necessary?
No, nearly all cameras allow you to focus with a huge range of movements. Most rear movements can be moved to the front if you know what you are doing etc..

2) Is it useful?
Oh yes! In order of ease of use I would rate the types of movements as follows - getting easier as you go down the list

a) Front base tilt - absolute pig and avoid if possible
b) Rear base tilt - useable but having the axis of constant focs out of the ground glass area is awkward
c) Front axis tilt - as useable as the above really but needing a different set of skills. You still need to 'iterate' toward correct focus
d) Rear axis tilt - very easy to use. Focus on something in the middle that you want in focus and then tilt until the ends of the plance you want come in
e) Rear assymetric tilt - ridiculously easy. Focus on one end of the ground glass. tilt until the other end comes in.

The different between the last two can be summarised by thinking about you plane of focus. Normally you want your plane to go from a point, to another point. Axis tilt asks you to focus on a work out a point in the middle of these. Also it's worth bearing in mind that the most accurate placement of focus needs to be at the point in the foreground because that is where the depth of field is smallest. With assymetric tilt your last job is to tilt the ground glass to get this most important part in the right place.

3) Is it worth it? Well - that's up to you to decide. I would pay a premium for it. For me that premium might be 500 to 8000 depending on how much spare cash I had

Joanna Carter
17-Mar-2012, 03:19
asymmetrical tilts and swings are basically axis tilts and swings, only with the axes shifted to either side of center.

I think you may have hit on the crux of the matter, in that any kind of axis tilt will apear revolutionary when someone has only ever learned base tilts.


The stated advantage of asymmetrical tilts and swings is that you can focus one axis on the foreground area of sharp focus and then swing/tilt to get the more distant area in focus at the other end. This sounds really great, but if there is a lot of extra fiddling one has to do to get the camera to swing or tilt around a particular axis then you spend time doing that instead of focusing. And, this system works best for plane subjects, e.g., walls, flat floors, etc. With more complex subjects you still have to spend a lot of time determining focus points and dof and checking focus spread, etc. which asymmetrical tilts won't help you with.

Certainly, in my experience, there are only restricted circumstances in which asymmetric tilts can actually be an advantage.

http://grandes-images.com/fr/Paysages/Pages/France_2008_files/Media/ToulAnHeryBaliseDeChenal/ToulAnHeryBaliseDeChenal.jpg

This shot had to take into account that the river bed was some 20+ feet below the quayside on which I was standing and the prow of the boat was about 15 feet in front of me. This meant that I needed a minute amount of tilt, with the plane of focus coming out of the river bed roughly halfway through the bit of mud that was visible to the right of the prow and disappearing at around 45 into the distance. There really wasn't anything that I could have placed on an any predetermined mark on a GG screen.


Bottom line, you should try one out to see if it would be an advantage for you or not before shelling out more. I'd be willing to wager that I could deal with a subject as quickly and accurately with base tilts as with asymmetrical tilts.

Totally agreed. Do not spend inordinate amounts of money on, what is essentially, a sales gimmick without getting your hands on a camera and seeing if it really does come up to the hype.


The information brochure from Ebony about the asymmetrical movements is a bit misleading. Their illustrations showing sharper results with asymmetrical swings and tilts is just advertising hype. If you get the film plane and lens plane in the same position, you'll get the same sharpness and depth of field, no matter what system of movements the camera has.

As you say Doremus, asymmetrical tilts and swings are basically axis tilts and swings, only with the axes shifted to either side of center, but nobody has yet used axis tilts as a marketing gimmick. Or is it just that asymmetric tilts are seen as "sexy"?

timparkin
17-Mar-2012, 03:44
Having an SV45Te myself and having tried out a friends 45SU, I would say no, it is not worth it. You already have symmetric tilt due to the axis tilt on the lensboard. This means that you can choose something on the plane of focus in the middle of the screen and then simply tilt to get everything else in as well.

The only difference with asymmetric tilts is that the line of constant focus is about 1/3 up the screen; what is more, you cannot use this if you want to keep the back vertical for architectural stuff.

Hi Joanna,

The technique you talk about with front tilt doesn't work. If you find something on the centre line and then tilt the front axis, the point on the centreline goes out of focus. The following diagram shows this..

70322

The rear assymetric tilt on the Ebony is also not at 1/3 up the screen it's actually at either 1/5th of 1/10th depending on whether you are in portrait or landscape mode. Effectively it's as close to the edge of the screen as you would want it for typical compositions.

70323

Tim

timparkin
17-Mar-2012, 03:50
I think you may have hit on the crux of the matter, in that any kind of axis tilt will apear revolutionary when someone has only ever learned base tilts.



Certainly, in my experience, there are only restricted circumstances in which asymmetric tilts can actually be an advantage.

http://grandes-images.com/fr/Paysages/Pages/France_2008_files/Media/ToulAnHeryBaliseDeChenal/ToulAnHeryBaliseDeChenal.jpg

This shot had to take into account that the river bed was some 20+ feet below the quayside on which I was standing and the prow of the boat was about 15 feet in front of me. This meant that I needed a minute amount of tilt, with the plane of focus coming out of the river bed roughly halfway through the bit of mud that was visible to the right of the prow and disappearing at around 45 into the distance. There really wasn't anything that I could have placed on an any predetermined mark on a GG screen.


Well in this situation you would just focus on infinity and then tilt the back to get the foreground in focus. The far distance has huge amounts of depth of field and so any slight inaccuracy in placing the line is irrelevant. In practise this has been true for 90+% of the pictures I have taken.






Totally agreed. Do not spend inordinate amounts of money on, what is essentially, a sales gimmick without getting your hands on a camera and seeing if it really does come up to the hype.


It's only a sales gimmick if you don't want it or can't see the use of it - if you can see the use of it, it saves you time and/or makes your life easier, it's a useful feature.



As you say Doremus, asymmetrical tilts and swings are basically axis tilts and swings, only with the axes shifted to either side of center, but nobody has yet used axis tilts as a marketing gimmick. Or is it just that asymmetric tilts are seen as "sexy"?
And cars are just motorbikes with some extra wheels... bloody marketing gimmicks..

timparkin
17-Mar-2012, 04:02
Their illustrations showing sharper results with asymmetrical swings and tilts is just advertising hype. If you get the film plane and lens plane in the same position, you'll get the same sharpness and depth of field, no matter what system of movements the camera has.

Yes. agreed. I don't think they wanted to imply this though - a mistake rather than actively trying to mislead people.



I'd be willing to wager that I could deal with a subject as quickly and accurately with base tilts as with asymmetrical tilts

At this point in my progression with large format I can put on the right amount of tilt without even looking at the ground glass (just by looking at the side of the camera and positioning the hinge line) :-)

However, for someone who doesn't get to spend a lot of time with the camera, the assymetric tilt can be an advantage.

But, yes, I think you can achieve a speed with any tilt method that is sufficient. However, as my speed with front axis tilt and other forms of tilt has got better, so has my ability to apply rear assymetric tilt. At this point in time if I'm trying to get the camera set up very, very quickly, then the ability to pop the camera out of the bag with a lens attached, position, focus on infininty, tilt the back to position and shoot at f/32 with a quick mental exposure calculation means my time to get the shot is limited more by my ability to get the camera out of the bag than my ability to focus and add movements.




The main issue is user comfort. You'll need to decide that for yourself.


Agreed! And one more point - I wouldn't pay the new price for an Ebony now - the exchange rate has made them ridiculously overpriced. You should be able to pick up an Ebony 45SU for about 2000 to 2500 and at that price I would say they are a bargain. My only bugbear with the Ebony series is the way they lock up if you are working on the rain for long periods. You can get away with a day of working in the rain but if you have to work the second day and haven't had chance to dry out the wood fully, your camera won't be functional. Because of this I also take a Chamonix 45N-1 with me and if I want to go light, this is the camera I use as well.

Tim

Joanna Carter
17-Mar-2012, 04:18
Hi Tim

The technique you talk about with front tilt doesn't work. If you find something on the centre line and then tilt the front axis, the point on the centreline goes out of focus.



The rear assymetric tilt on the Ebony is also not at 1/3 up the screen it's actually at either 1/5th of 1/10th depending on whether you are in portrait or landscape mode. Effectively it's as close to the edge of the screen as you would want it for typical compositions.
Wherever the marks on the screen are, it still stands that the axis of asymmetric tilt on an Ebony is not on the plane of focus, so you will still get variance in where the actual point of sharp focus is on the screen.

Let's put it this way: in my experience, using axis tilt on the front standard is every bit as fast as using asymmetric tilt on the rear standard. One essential difference is that, with front standard tilts, you don't have any perspective distortions and, therefore, it works great with architecture.


Well in this situation you would just focus on infinity and then tilt the back to get the foreground in focus. The far distance has huge amounts of depth of field and so any slight inaccuracy in placing the line is irrelevant. In practise this has been true for 90+% of the pictures I have taken.

And that is where we will have to agree to disagree. You may take a particular style of picture and find asymmetric tilts useful for your workflow; I take a different style of pictures and rarely want to use rear tilt; therefore I have developed techniques for using, mainly, front axis tilts that enable me to take shots like the one I posted in less than five minutes from stopping the car to closing the darkslide :D


It's only a sales gimmick if you don't want it or can't see the use of it - if you can see the use of it, it saves you time and/or makes your life easier, it's a useful feature

As I said, my experience is that I have managed and can manage perfectly well without asymmetric tilts. On the other hand, if you took away my front axis tilt, I would not be a happy bunny; base tilts are definitely the worst :p

turtle
17-Mar-2012, 05:27
Its all about personal preference. Every time I have seen this discussion, the verdict has been the same: for some it is the panacea and for others, additional weight and expense for no return. I have never used them so cannot comment, but I suspect it is a case of 'if you have never used them and are happy thus far, you won't know what you are missing (and will have more money in your pocket)!' I hope I never encounter them because the cost of upgrading my cameras to Ebony 'U' camera would sink me!

Rudgey
17-Mar-2012, 09:13
Thanks for the really usefull discussions folks, very informative.
With the price at the moment of these cameras I think I will go for a non U and put the money towards another lens.
Just saw in the US the price is the same in $ ! I could save a lot by having a weekend in the states and buy it there. Ship the boxes back in the post with the camera in my camera bag?
Good idea?

Joanna Carter
17-Mar-2012, 09:27
Thanks for the really usefull discussions folks, very informative.
With the price at the moment of these cameras I think I will go for a non U and put the money towards another lens.
Just saw in the US the price is the same in $ ! I could save a lot by having a weekend in the states and buy it there. Ship the boxes back in the post with the camera in my camera bag?
Good idea?
Why not save even more and have it shipped? Even with the duty 6.7%, delivery at $50 and VAT, it's usually still cheaper and you don't have to take any risks.

At the current rate, a SV45Te from Badger will cost $3795 without sales tax. That converts to around 3115 including import duty, delivery of $50 and VAT. Compare that to Robert White at 3732 inc VAT.

Doremus Scudder
17-Mar-2012, 10:02
Tim,

Right, I'm not saying I wouldn't use asymmetrical tilts and swings if I had them; I just don't now, and don't see the need to have them, for my slower way of working anyway (I usually spend more time thinking about where I want the plane of sharp focus in a scene than making the movements needed to achieve what I want). And if I had to shell out a lot of money that I could otherwise spend on paper or maybe another lens, I don't think it would be worth it. The only movements I really need are some kind of tilts and swings front and rear, rise and fall, preferably on the front standard, and (because it's a hassle without it) shift on one standard at least.

The issues about front axis tilt/swing going out of focus is indeed true, but the Ebonys are the same for the front standard. If you need front movements on the Ebony, you'll have to deal with the same issues. I tend to use front movements a lot when shooting architecturals, since any tilting or swinging of the back will change the geometry of the image. For the classic landscape "near-far" shot, back tilt is fast and easy, but it does change the geometry of the image. I use front tilt when I don't want this to happen. And, when I do use back tilt, I simply focus first at the bottom of the ground glass and then tilt till the top of the ground glass is exactly as out of focus as the bottom, refocus and, usually, I'm really, really close. Maybe only one more iteration extra than asymmetrical tilt would have saved. If dealing with getting the asymmetrical tilt set up takes about the same amount of time, then I'm in a dead heat :)

And, when one has rear axis tilts/swings, one can simply focus in the middle of the desired plane, in the middle of the ground glass, and just tilt/swing until the edges are in focus. The only disadvantage this has over the asymmetrical tilt is that the distance focused over is less, thereby making it a bit less precise. Maybe another check is in order.

A bit off-topic, but there is a fundamental difference between front and rear tilts/swings, which I've mentioned (i.e., changing the geometry of the image) that many don't take into account enough. In the creative process, back position relative to the subject determines the geometry of the projection and should be taken into account at that level as well. Often, I end up with the back in a crazy place just so I can get the image to bulge here or there a bit, even though it didn't help focus a bit! Then, I have to find a place for the front standard that will at least let me get everything in focus when stopped down.

Also, I'm not accusing Ebony of misleading advertising, but when you take a quick look at their informational brochure on asymmetrical movements, they show photographs with enlarged sections that are clearly more in-focus than the photo "without" asymmetrical movements. This is really just a comparison of a photo with and without movements in general, and not a comparison of asymmetrical to other kinds of movements. The same results can be got with any system of movements.

I think the OP needs to get his hands on a camera with asymmetrical movements to see if it is worth it for him to shell out the extra money for the added convenience. They certainly are a convenience, the only question is, is it worth it for him? We've all given him some food for thought, so he should hopefully be in a much better position now; more confused, but at a higher level :)


Best,

Doremus

Rudgey
17-Mar-2012, 10:57
Why not save even more and have it shipped? Even with the duty 6.7%, delivery at $50 and VAT, it's usually still cheaper and you don't have to take any risks.

At the current rate, a SV45Te from Badger will cost $3795 without sales tax. That converts to around 3115 including import duty, delivery of $50 and VAT. Compare that to Robert White at 3732 inc VAT.

Hi Joanna,
Is the UK duty only 6.7%? I guess the VAT would be at the full 20%. Cannot beleve with all this I would still make a saving! Have to look to see if I would also make a saving on lenses.
Suppose the only thing is if a found a fault, however what I have read about Ebony's craftsmanship this is probably unlikely.
Can you recommend the best US dealer ?

Joanna Carter
17-Mar-2012, 11:38
Is the UK duty only 6.7%? I guess the VAT would be at the full 20%.
Yes, the annoying thing is that there is no duty on digital camera bodies :-( The VAT is worked out in a peculiar way: first, you take the basic price and work out the duty on that. Then you add the price, the duty and the shipping and calculate the VAT at 20% on all that. The only unknown extra is how much the carrier will charge for collecting the tax and duty but it is usually around 20, the cheapest being Parcel Force.


Cannot beleve with all this I would still make a saving! Have to look to see if I would also make a saving on lenses.
Yes, it's certainly worthwhile getting several items at once because it saves on the carriage and the VAT collection fee.


Suppose the only thing is if a found a fault, however what I have read about Ebony's craftsmanship this is probably unlikely.
I would say it would be unlikely to find anything.


Can you recommend the best US dealer ?
Well, at the moment, I can only find Badger advertising the Ebony but US readers may know different. Do bear in mind that Badger are quoting a delivery time to them from Ebony of 8 weeks. I doubt if that would be any different for anyone else.

turtle
18-Mar-2012, 02:26
MPEX do too: http://mpex.com/film-cameras/large-format/camera.html?manufacturer=381

turtle
18-Mar-2012, 02:29
PS You should not be surprised it is cheaper to import cameras from the US, sadly. After all, it is cheaper to buy Ilford sheet film exported to the US and then re-imported, with postage, duty and VAT on top. Dramatically cheaper if you buy in volume.

timparkin
18-Mar-2012, 16:10
And, when I do use back tilt, I simply focus first at the bottom of the ground glass and then tilt till the top of the ground glass is exactly as out of focus as the bottom, refocus and, usually, I'm really, really close. Maybe only one more iteration extra than asymmetrical tilt would have saved. If dealing with getting the asymmetrical tilt set up takes about the same amount of time, then I'm in a dead heat :)

These days I can operate the tilt at the same time as the focus so whether it's base tilt, front tilt, etc I could adapt easily enough. However, when we give photography tuition and we lend out cameras, the persona who gets the Ebony 45SU finishes substantially faster than all of the rest. If you are an occasional shooter and like to capture 'the light', this could be important.


A bit off-topic, but there is a fundamental difference between front and rear tilts/swings, which I've mentioned (i.e., changing the geometry of the image) that many don't take into account enough.

Quite possibly, however for your average shot with about 2 or three degrees of tilt, the distortion to your verticals is only about 1 degree. That's OK for trees and for most buildings in the UK ;-)

Tim

Ed Richards
18-Mar-2012, 19:21
I have a 45SU. When back tilt is appropriate, the asymmetrical movements are really fast. I am not saying that someone who shot every day could not get as fast with axis tilts, but I do not shoot everyday, and you probably do not either. That said, I could live without them because I am mostly an architecture photographer and you only use back tilts when you want to create distortion for effect. I do it occasionally, but not nearly as much as if I was a landscape photographer. So, would I pay a lot extra for the asymmetrical movements? Not if everything was equal. But the 45S is not just an SU with axis tilts. It has less bellows range and more limited front movements. If you do not like folding cameras - I do not - then the 45SU is best overall camera because of the range of movements and bellows extension. I was lucky enough to get one used on the forum for a fair price, I doubt I would have bought one new. If you are not a wide lens fanatic, there are a lot more choices in nice folding cameras. If you do like wide lenses, but also want to use a longer lens like a 300, the 45SU is hard to beat. Of course, if a little extra weight and bulk does not matter, just get a Sinar F and a bag bellows - the ultimate cheap wide lens camera.

drew.saunders
18-Mar-2012, 20:05
Looking at buying a new Ebony folding 5x4 (lucky me) and was in two minds if it's worth paying the extra for the U version with asymmetrical tilts & swings? As I have never used them.

When I was looking at an Ebony, I knew I wanted a non-folding one, so the choices were 45S or 45SU. I knew I needed the extra extension of the 45SU and didn't want to deal with top hats or the funky back-extender to get more extension out of the 45S, so I got the 45SU. I had thought about ordering a special 45SU with the 45S rear standard mated with the extra front extension briefly, which Ebony would probably make if requested, but gave up on that thought quickly enough. Once I got used to the asymmetric rear swings and tilts (which, as many have said, took very little time), I really liked them, but I could do just fine with axis swing and tilt. Reading down in the thread, it looks like you decided on the regular SV45, and I'm sure you'll really enjoy using it.

Drew