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Thread: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

  1. #1

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    Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    I'm now in the market for an 8x10 Ebony Camera but I can't decide on whether it should be folding or non-folding. Either would have to be ordered so I'm not in a position to look before I buy.

    I'd prefer the non-folding version but my concern lays on how stable it is at its full extension? Ebony mention that "there's no vibration or sway at its full extension" but is this really the case?

    Are you able to withdraw the bellows (on the non-folding) and keep a small-ish lens still attached to the camera? Is it relatively quick to rack the bellows out from its withdrawn position?

    I've recently owned a Phillips, which was a wonderful camera but I found the folding process relatively slow and clumsy. Is the Ebony folding camera quicker to set up and pack away?

    Hoping that someone may be able to share their experiences with either or both of these cameras.

  2. #2

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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    I use an Ebony SV810. It's stable - little or no looseness - at full extension provided the rails are properly adjusted via the screws on top of the rails. I've owned several brands and all of the lighter field cameras seem subject to vibration from wind and/or large shutters at long extensions, like #5 shutters and could benefit from either a second tripod socket for use with something like a Bogen stabilizer or something like a wind stabilizer. If you watch the documentary on Edward Weston "The Photographer", you'll see him using a wind stabilizer on his Agfa with a 14" Commercial Ektar.

    IMO, you're not going to find a field camera that wouldn't benefit from auxillary stabilization at 2+ feet of bellows draw. That said, Ebony is one of the better cameras made in this respect.

    It is very easy to fold up.

    If you're ordering, order it with a tripod socket at the front of the extension rail in case you want to go this route.

    Steve

  3. #3

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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    My concern with the Ebony 8x10 non-folders is that they are all fairly specialized, wide-to-normal focal length cameras. There is no 8x10 equivalent to the more general-purpose 45S or 45SU. I personally couldn't imagine restricting myself to at most a 300mm lens (I'm not aware of any modern 8x10 telephoto lenses in the 400-500mm range) for general purpose shooting. I suspect the reason behind this limitation is that a general-purpose 8x10 non-folder would just be too huge (flatbed is longer than with a folding camera) and too difficult to pack for field use.

    I own an Ebony SV810U. I second everything Steve said, plus I would add that the Ebony folding 8x10's are actually a bit easier to use with wide-angle lenses than their 4x5 folding counterparts. My 8x10 supports a 150mm lens without any need for a recessed lens board, dropping the bed, wide-angle configuration of the front and rear standards, etc. (If you want maximum movements, though, you'll still need the wide-angle bellows). Folding and unfolding the camera still takes about a minute each way (counting time to mount/unmount the lens), but IMO this small inconvenience is worth having a full range of lens focal lengths.

    I also use a supplemental support (Bogen 3252) to stabilize the front standard when using lenses longer than 400mm.

  4. #4

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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    Thanks guys. The Phillips took about a minute to set up and pack away as well, which I found a little frustrating. I'm sure the Ebony folds away a little better though.

    Should have mentioned that a 360mm lens would be the longest lens that I plan on using. So the fact can't use a 600mm lens isn't such a concern.

    More so is how stable a non-folding version would be?

  5. #5

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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    Don't know about the non-folder, but you might also look into the Ebony RW810 if you're not going to use long lenses and don't need the rear rise and front shift. Being a shorter double draw camera, it should be more rigid and cheaper too. No interchangeable bellows though, but I've used a 110mm on the SV810.

    Steve

  6. #6

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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    Pardon me for butting in but do you really expect any Ebony to be that much more rigid than a Phillips (or a Canham, etc...)? Both being wooden cameras made by elves, I suspect that in order to find the next step up in rigidity you'd have to get a heavy metal Arca/Sinar/Toyo monorail...

    FWIW, if you're not backpacking, hanging a monorail upside in a Lightware or Tenba View Camera Case is really the "Fastest Draw in the West." Plus they are more rigid, expandable, and less expensive...

    What happened to your Phillips? I've always wanted one, so I'm curious as to which model it was and how much it sold for. Thank you.

  7. #7

    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    I traded in an Ebony SV810E for a custom made SLW810 with 500mm of bellows. The base of the camera was slightly enlarged to allow for the additional 150mm of bellows from the standard SLW. The camera is very solid at full extension, maybe because this camera only has front movements and those are limited to rise/fall and axial tilts. For my landscape work, this was all the movements that I really use and the tradeoff in weight was significant. The new camera weighs in at just over 6 pounds.

  8. #8
    Leonard Metcalf's Avatar
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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    I was rather tentative about buying a non-folder as I was worried about the lack of extension, but eventually made the plunge. Must say I am now so pleased that I did. I can leave the camera in my bag with a lens on, whip it out, and plonk it onto the tripod so quickly. Mine is only a 4x5 model (45SU) but I put a whopping Schneider 400mm apo-tele-xenar compact on there at full extension, and am constantly amazed that it holds that lens still. After having a Linhof technikardan 45, I was so tired of the packing away thing...

    Just my 2 cents worth of recommendation.

    Leonard Murray Metcalf BA Dip Ed MEd

    Len's gallery lenmetcalf.com
    Lens School



  9. #9
    -Rob bigcameraworkshops.com Robert Skeoch's Avatar
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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    I'm not sure what area you're in, but I've got a SV810 in stock if you want to check it out.
    We could take a morning and go to a local conservation area with some old buildings. You could put the camera through a few tests and see what you think. I don't have a RW810 in stock but I do have the 4x5 version. You could take a look at this model and see if the RW810 could work for you. It costs a fair bit less than the SV810. I don't have any of the non-folders in stock right now.
    Just an idea.
    I'm in Burlington, Ontario. A small town between Buffalo NY and Toronto.

    Rob Skeoch
    www.bigcameraworkshops.com

  10. #10

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    Re: Ebony Non-folding or Folding Camera

    I have the SW810E, non-folding, and am very pleased with it. I was lucky to find it used and jumped at it. Subsequently, I just (for now) use a super symmar 150xl on it. My plan is to get a 300mm or 360mm next. As a quick test I have racked the camera out with the 150mm and in my opinion its quite rigid. I will probably end up with the 300mm just so I have some extra room. But if you already use a 360mm you should have no problem at infinity.

    As someone mentioned above you should gently maintain the correct tenstion on the rails with humidity changes. Both the 810 and my SW45E need attention throughout the year. I came to the SW810 from a Deardorff so of course I think it is rigid, but I've also used a Sinar 8x10. Maybe the Sinar is a match front to back, but no way as rigid side to side. The two legged design is stonger than gripping a rail however tightly. I should also point out that the flared angle on the front standard uprights is simple, but genius. I have never handled a folding 8x10 ebony to compare.

    I think inside my Lowepro Super Trekker you could leave the lens on, but for safety's sake and since the camera is so quick to set up I don't. If I'm going to either fall over backward with my pack on or (bite my tongue) drop the camera lifting it to the tripod I'd rather not have that huge piece of glass go with it. The lens lives in the backpack safely in a padded wrap surrounded by foam above the camera. Why drop two multi-thousand dollar items when you can just drop one!?

    Like I said I am very happy with the SW and its design. It is still stiff out at infinity for a 360mm, but I will probably use a 300mm over a 360mm for incase I want to focus closer and one should probably never use anything at its maximum.

    If you happen to be near CT, USA I would be happy to meet up so you can see the camera.

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