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Thread: Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

  1. #1
    austin granger's Avatar
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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    Hello everyone. I'm writing to add to a recent post on 'Ebony's new offerings'.

    After a long wait, I've just received my new RW810. Although I'm afraid I'm not yet qualified to offer a complete review, I thought I'd give you my first impressions. In addition, if anyone out there is seriously interested in this camera (Dan?), please feel free to e-mail me with any questions that aren't answered by Ebony's website; I'll do my best to give you my honest opinion.

    First, a disclaimer; there will be those who will consider me conpletely out of my head in spending what I did on a double extention (!), shift-less (!) field camera. Well, this post is not really for you. For I don't think there's really anything I could possibly write to sway you from your opinion. (Anyway, you might be right!) But let's just say that the Ebony met my needs (and yes, my desires) more completely than any other camera.

    I wanted a field camera that was simple, light, rigid, well put together, and beautiful. I seriously considered the Canham lightweight 8x10, but a few small things swayed me toward the Ebony. First, I thought the t-knobs on the Canham would drive me insane. Secondly, I've read that the Canham is fairly complex and time-consuming (the word 'fiddly' comes up) to set up and tear down. Lastly, right or wrong, I thought that the Canham's added complexity, with its shifts and triple extention might make it a little less rigid than the Ebony. Obviously, different people will have different priorities. For me, I use shift so infrequently, and for what I do never require a triple extention, so these were not drawbacks for me. In any case, I'm sure the Canham is a wonderful camera; in the end it was a 'gut' disision, and my gut told me to go with the Ebony.

    So, on to the camera. As you might imagine, the 'fit and finish' is remarkable. Camera aesthetics are highly subjective, but for me the Ebony looks just about right; it's understated (ie; no shiny gold brass or red bellows) yet attractive. As others have said, the combination of rich, dark-stained mahogany and matte-finshed titanium is very pleasing. I find the pairing to be somehow philosophically gratifying as well.

    The camera is almost freakishly solid/rigid, even racked all the way out. It is in every way the equivalent in this way to my Toyo 45AX. The controls also have a very slick, solid feel to them. I had heard that the titanium can impart a 'stiff' feel, but I have not found this to be the case. I'll have to wait and see how the camera reacts to extreme weather...

    The RW, like all Ebony cameras I imagine, has a few thoughful touches that I'm surprised other manufacturers haven't more comonly adopted. The mirror level is one of these things; an elegant solution to the problem of not being able to easily see the top of the camera. Another nice thing is the included ground glass cover. (the cynics are now shouting; "At that price? They BETTER have included a ground glass protector!") Point taken, but anyway, it is nice not to have to fashion my own.

    As far as 'negatives' go, there are a few, though so far, not many that I could say are really Ebony's fault. I do wish they had included some simple instructions with the camera. It's not that I need to know how to operate a view camera, but as you undoutedly know, every camera has it's quirks, and it would have been nice to have some guidance. Specifically, it took me awhile to figure out how to properly open and close the camera. Once I learned how though, it is a very simple and quick procedure. One thing I have yet to figure out though is exactly how the allignment points on the front rise and fall work. Maybe an Ebony owner out there can enlighten me. Looking at the front standard, on the supports I have a green dot and a red dot almost on top of each other, and then on the standard itself a silver dot; what lines up with what? Hmm....

    The small latch that holds the camera together when it is folded is not very positive and can slip off. I don't generally carry my camera around like a suitcase (although it does look kind of cool...) so this is not a problem for me, but if I did, I'd have to fix that.

    A BTZS style darkcloth will not work on the RW810 without some modification. Basically, there's nowhere for it to grab onto, and the elastic opening is too small to fit around the entire back of the camera. This was a bit frustrating, but with a trip to the fabric store and a few hours of sewing, I customized my btzs so it now fits around the whole back of the camera. Hard to describe, but it now works great.

    Finally, I'm having a bit of a problem with the interaction of my tripod head (Ries) and the Ebony. The RW has a large titanium plate on the bottom. This is a nice feature; however, with the slick metal of the camera meeting the slick metal of my tripod head, I'm having trouble with the camera sliding around, even when tightened down as tight as my fingers can tighten. I'm getting around this problem by rotating the entire camera onto the tripod head ( to get more leverage) but it's difficult to line the camera and tripod head up perfectly this way. I'm wondering if there is something I can place on the tripod head to keep the camera from twisting. Anyone?

    Well, that's about it for now. I should be able to offer a more cohesive critique in about a month or so, after I've had some time to use the camera more. In the meantime, as I said, if anyone has any specific questions or wants to see some pictures of the camera (Ebony sent me a bunch awhile back) I'll be happy to respond to them by e-mail.

    Now, everyone please offer me luck in not dropping my new love as I did my Toyo (see the old "I killed my Toyo today" post if you want to hear the tragic tale). I'm planning for this to be my primary photographic tool for the next decade or so, and hope to do it justice by creating good works!

    Take care,

  2. #2

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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    The thin rubber mats sold in kitchen shops to help open stubborn jar lids make a decent friction surface. Just cut to shape, add a hole for the screw, and optionally use double-sided tape to hold it in place. I doubt that you will find an 'Ebony' coloured one, though!

  3. #3

    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    When I read your story about killing your Toyo, I felt bad for you. Now, after seeing what you got for replacement, not only do I no longer feel bad for you, but I am thinking of reporting you to the photo police for intentional and premeditated homicide of a Toyo........

    In any case, enjoy. Oh..and yeah......don't drop it....:-))

  4. #4
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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    Hi Austin,

    The red and green dots on the upright struts are alignment marks for centering the lens. They serve as zero detents. If you are using the type of lensboards, that are milled with the opening for mounting the shutter 8mm. below center, align the lower mark with the silver dot on the lensboard standard. If the hole in your lensboard is milled with the opening exactly in the center, align the upper mark with the silver dot.

    Illustrated instructions are available on the Ebony website. Look under "folding the SV models". The info. can be downloaded from the Ebony catalog on the website (www.ebonycamera.com).

  5. #5

    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    There has been a seller on E-bay that fabricates a leather top to the Ries tripods that provide both traction and a cushion against metal-to-wood for those cameras that don't have the base plate (ie. Deardorff or Ebony vs Wisner). From his ads it looks very effective and he does a nice job of fit and finish on the leather. A bit pricey but he'll customize to fit just about any tripod. Or you can use his work to inspire you to build your own etc.

    Enjoy the Ebony.

  6. #6

    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    I was hoping the RW810 would be made eventually and I got the impression that this was unlikely so I settled for The Shen-Hao HZX810-IIAT copied from the Ebony SV810. At £1750 I think I get more camera for the buck including rear rise, front shift and triple draw. Clearly it is not an Ebony, I have a SV45TE to compare with, but build quality, sturdiness and material (teak and titanium) is not very far behind. Ok, there is no spirit level or groundglass protector but it comes in an aluminum protective case. Enjoy your new Ebony, it's a faboulous camera

  7. #7
    austin granger's Avatar
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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    Thanks to everyone for their advice.

    I hope I won't come off as really dense here, but I'm still a little confused as to the front rise/fall alignment points. Michael, you offered that I should align my Sinar boards with the green (lower dot). That's clear enough, but then Eugene, you stated that with lensboards with the opening milled exactly in the center (that would again be my Sinar boards) I should align with the upper, red mark. Did I misunderstand something? Basically, all my boards are the larger, Sinar-type; should I align the silver dot with the red or with the green dot?

    Thank you both for your patience; my old Toyo didn't give me any such choice.

    Also, Richard, I seriously considered the Shen-hao too; it looks like a fantastic camera. To be honest, the one thing that put me off of it was the weight. If I remeber correctly, it's around 14lbs. That doesn't sound like much, all things considered, but I plan to do a bit of hiking with the Ebony, and every little bit helps ease the pain...

  8. #8
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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    Hello again Austin,

    When I attempted to explain the function of the red and green dots, I was not certain which one was the top dot and which one was the bottom dot. Now, I know. The top dot (red) is for aligning Linhof tech type lensboards, which have their hole milled 8mm. below center. The bottom dot (green) is for aligning the Sinar type lensboards, which are larger size boards and are milled dead center.

    In order to double check, put one of your Sinar type lensboards on the camera and rack it all the way back. Rack the back of the camera forward, so that the lensboard and the groundglass are as close together as you can get them. Look through the groundglass toward the opening in the lensboard. Line up the round bright spot with the exact center of the groundglass. Then, whichever dots line up on the uprights are the ones to use with that particular lensboard. The dots may not line up with exact precision, but they will be close enough to use for beginning reference points.

  9. #9

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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    Austin, Congratulations on your new Ebony RW810! I have one on order now after finishing my sale of all my medium format and 4x5 equipment, and can hardly wait to get it.

    In years past I had an Ebony camera and asked my dealer the same question as you did about the lens board alignment. I was told that if your lensboard has a centered hole, whether small type tecknika or large Sinar, use the green dot. And, if it's the Technika type that has an off-center hole, use the red dot. The confusing thing for me at the time was that I didn't know there were two types of generic or brand name Technika type boards. So the ones that have off-center holes you use the red dot on the Ebony, and any board that has a centered hole you use the green dot.

    I know what you mean about the Ries head and camera slippage. The other posters who mentioned getting a leather or other material grip and glue it onto the top of the head have probably given you the best advice. If you want to consider another head, then the Gitzo G1570M, at 2.4 pounds I think, is very good, and it has two screws that will fit into the two holes in the bottom of the Ebony 8x10 cameras, thereby securing it from moving. It's what I plan to use on my camera/tripod. But it has the relative disadvantage of having those handles stick out, plus you need to fiddle with two screws in stead of just one (and I think the one on the Ries is easier to deal with than those on the Gitzo).

    An alternative idea to either, but very expensive and kind of 'out there', would be the Arca Swiss B2 3-way ball/pan head. A Wimberley flat long plate (with two screws) could be fitted to the camera, and that would have the advantage of very quick yet secure mounting, no handles, smooth movements and such. Maybe when winning the Lotto becomes a reality I might try it...

    Dan

  10. #10
    austin granger's Avatar
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    Ebony RW810: Initial impressions

    Thanks Eugene and Dan for clearing up the allignment issue and for the tripod advice.

    I finally got around to loading up my new 8x10 holders last night and plan to make my traditional first photograph of my wife (and now son!) on the front porch this evening. Then Saturday I'll take her (I mean the Ebony) out for her first real 'shake-down' cruise out to my favorite beach at Point Reyes; hopefully the wind won't be blowing too hard...

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