Dear fellow LF users,
This is a long post and I hope that doesn't offend anyone.
I have recently been researching which 4x5 camera would be suitable for my field photography work and the selection of lenses I have.
This research took me many months (since May 2001), and much of the information I gathered was from the excellent data base and the kind assistance of members on this LF forum. I was unable to actually test out or see in person any large format field cameras so I relied heavily on comments from users and those with experience with field cameras. I am grateful for all the information received and I thought it was my turn to return the favour and give my first impressions of the camera I finally decided on - the Ebony 45 S. I have no connection with the Ebony Camera Co and only heard of them 6 months ago. These comments are MY impressions of this fine camera.
For those not familar with the Ebony camera line, these cameras are hand made in Japan by the Ebony Camera Co who produce a wide selection of field cameras from 6x9 cm to 8x10 inch. The cameras are expensive but have an excellent reputation as high quality, well designed photographic tools. I think they are more than this.
In my opinion the Ebony camera is a beautiful piece of fine art! The craftsmanship is incredible and it looks just wonderful. The rich lustre of the ebony wood combined with the cool titanium fittings and the black leather bellows is almost sensual in it's appearence. It truly is a most unique camera and in all my thirty plus years experience as a professional photographer, no other camera has taken my breath away quite like this Ebony. The pictures just do not do it justice and it is not until you can hold it and drink in it's wonderful design and features that you can appreciate it. Even if I never took a shot with it, it would be worth having just for the sheer beauty of looking at it, but I'm sure that using it in the field over the years will be an experience in itself.
The 45 S is a non-folding type of field camera and the reason that I chose this model was it's ability to use a wide range of lenses on the flat board and with the standard bellows, although the 45 S comes equipped with Ebony's unique "universal" bellows which provide lots of movement even when closed down for wide angle use.
I wanted to be able to use wide lenses without having to resort to recessed boards and the 45 S will allow use of lenses down to 47mm before the need for a 10mm recessed board. The camera as standard has a bellows draw to 270mm but this can be extended with the optional 452 back to 360mm or with extension tubes giving the option of using reasonably long lenses. I wanted a camera that was lightweight (the 45 S weighs in at 2.1kg), compact and rigid with extensive movements. The 45 S met my criteria.
The bubble levels (three) on the front and rear standards help immensely with easy setup and levelling. Opening up the camera and being ready to take an image takes seconds rather than minutes. The knobs and locking levers look strong and work with presicion and the movements work with just the right amount of tension making for precise control.
The ground glass is bright and clear and I can not imagine the need for a fresnel screen except perhaps on very wide angle lenses, 55mm or wider, certainly it's not neccessary with my Nikkor 65mm/f 4. Under a cloudy sky or in shade even a dark cloth may not be needed as the image is so bright - my experience viewing through Sinar GG has been the exact opposite. I wanted the Ebony to be able to accept the Horseman Reflex Viewer and sent the camera and viewer to the factory for modification. The end result is excellent, the modification looks like it is part of the original design and the viewer fit s perfectly. The only downside is that when it's attached, my well-used viewer detracts from the beauty of the Ebony ;-)
On the tripod the camera feels rigid even at full extension and all movements work easily and smoothly. It feels so light and compact for a 4x5, more like a medium format than a large format. There are more movements than I will probably ever need but it is nice to know they are there if I do extend my photography to incorporate architecture, an area I can imagine this camera excelling in.
I am quite overwhelmed by the workmanship and design of this camera and even without having used it much (yet!) I can recommend it, even if it's just for the joy of looking at it and holding it. I can imagine having the pleasure of using this piece of artwork for many years to come. I'm already saving for one of the 5x7 or 8x10 models. Dealing with Ebony was a pleasure. All correspondence was answered efficiently and politely and Hiromi and Kuniko provided an excellent service. Thank you for a beautifully designed camera, Hiromi.
I hope that the above information has been of use to anyone contemplating a 4x5 field camera purchase and I'd be happy to answer any questions from anyone interested in a Ebony 45 S.
This isn't a camera you own - it's a camera you experience!