View Full Version : When is an Ebony not an Ebony?

Ted Harris
9-Jan-2005, 10:40
When is an Ebony not an Ebony? Is the company a victim of its own success?

Sometimes when it is an RW45. As many know I had to switch out of my long used Horseman FA system recently and after much thought decided on an Ebony. I settled on an RW45 because 1) I wanted a folder and 2) I had no need for all the additional movements offered by the higher priced models. Based on all I had heard here, additional private correspondence and Ebony’s own advertising I fully expected the RW45 to have superb fit and finish, the exact same as that of its higher priced siblings but with fewer movements. Wrong, at least in the case of the one I got. Clearly I can’t speak for every camera that leaves the factory but there have been enough minor undertones from unhappy users here and there to indicate that all is not always as it should be in Ebony land. I thought it was worth a discussion here on what I recently found as illuminating to those considering an Ebony. What follows is specific to a single camera and to the RW45 model. I understand that some of my comments extend throughout the line in some instances but not necessarily.

First, I was somewhat disappointed in the fit and finish of the camera. The woodwork was superb, no question. The finish, to my eye, was no better than I have seen on Wista and Wisner cameras I have owned, well maybe a teeny bit better but not much. The metalwork was another story. One of the metal focusing tracks had a longish scratch (say 2-3 inches, right out of the box and the metal base plate was full of ugly discolorations. I understand that this discoloration problem occurs in a fair number of Ebony cameras these days, not all of them but not just mine. The discoloration takes the form of mottling for want of a better way of describing it. Of course it has no impact at all on the functionality of the camera but I suspect it could have a significant impact on resale and, in any event, is not something you expect to see on a brand new camera. My understanding is that Ebony is now jobbing out their metalwork and that may be the problem. I understand they are getting complaints from their large US and UK dealers and, hopefully, that will solve the problem. Maybe and maybe not. The underlying problem here is that a huge portion of Ebony’s sales are domestic and they are appealing both to the serious Japanese LF photographer market and to the status conscious Japanese consumer market. Given the near cult status of the Ebony in some folks minds the straight consumer market may continue to buy no matter what (although I hope I am wrong about that).

Second, even given the differences between “tightness” of metal and wood cameras IMO the tightness of the RW45 leaves something to be desired. It takes more effort than it should to get this camera “locked down.” Once there, however, it is rigid; rigid enough that I used a 360mm lens in a #3 shutter in mild wind and experienced no problems at all. In the case of my camera there were also issues with the front standard not staying parallel with the film plane without pushing it back in place just as you were locking it down. There was also an issue with the focus track running loose without a stop at the end of it (I am told that was a problem with my camera only and that there is a stop screw on the RW usually). Note I say “my camera” with both of these issues but that also begs the overall QA/QC question when taken together with the metal finishing issue.

Third, a niggling point perhaps, but Ebony in their ads notes that you can use rather wide angle lenses with the camera and the universal bellows in the “wide angle configuration” (extreme backward tilt, etc.). It works for the 75mm SA but just barely and you must get the camera configured before you mount the lens. Given how it worked with the 75 I am not sure it would work at all with a 65. Others may have experience here.

In conclusion the Ebony RW45 with the universal bellows is a fine camera but it may not be worth what you pay for it. I am not sure that the RW45 really is built to the same standard as Ebony’s other offerings and that is not a criticism, just an observation that disagrees with their advertising. I expect that for the additional $$ for the other models you get more quality control and better fit and finish as well as additional movements. Nothing wrong with that, just not what is advertised. Also, given my own experiences, there are other cameras that offer the same flexibility and movements as the RW45, although perhaps not at the same weight.

For those who want to know the Ebony discussed above is on its way back to the factory and I am now using a Walker Titan. Heavier and a bit bulkier but far more to my liking in terms of the precision of its operation, even without the problems that were specific to my RW45. More on the Walker in another post, I believe it is a vastly under appreciated camera.

Sal Santamaura
9-Jan-2005, 11:19
Interesting post Ted, and I'm curious to see whether other recent purchasers of Ebony cameras chime in with their experiences, but what's with the "quimby" signature?

Ted Harris
9-Jan-2005, 11:41
Hi Sal,

The Quimby signature is an artifact from an ancient screen name ... read some three or four years old ... that I cannot seem to permanently expunge. keeps popping up every once in a while.

Sal Santamaura
9-Jan-2005, 11:46
Sounds like a job for ... (deep voice)...TOM WESTBROOK!

Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 11:49
I'll chime in with my Wisner experience. I had a windfall some ten years back which allowed me to purchase a 4x5 tech. As the money was burning a hole in my pocket, I wanted the damn thing yesterday (relative to placing the order). Upon recieving the box from Del's (does anyone remember or lament their passing?). Not one page of instructions, no factory box.....just bubble wrap with a camera inside and not a pristine camera at that. Perhaps I got a demo, or purhaps this is just the way they come. Short of dropping another eighteen bills I suppose that I never will know. It's a fine camera, though, beautiful and capable. I've dinged it up a bit over the decade, so it's really a moot issue at this point, but I would be interested in hearing other folk's experiences with "new" (and let's face it expensive) purchases.

Gem Singer
9-Jan-2005, 11:54
"Quimby". That must be Ted's alter ego that he uses to post long posts, complaining about the problems he is experiencing with an entry level Ebony camera. Perhaps you expected too much from the camera, Ted.

Nevertheless, it does sound to me that you might have gotten hold of a lemon. I've even experienced that problem with a top-of-the-line automobile. It appears that the dealer, and the Ebony factory are bending over backwards to please you. You could have waited to see if the factory made the necessary corrections, then filed your complaint, if they failed to do so.

Ever owned a Wisner Traditional? (it's close to the same price as the Ebony RW45). Judging from the posts I have read on this forum (and others) You probably wouldn't want to send a faulty Wisner back to the factory. You may not see it again for a couple of years.

Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 12:07
I'll add here that my Tech will not properly seat a 545 holder. If I ever feel the need to shoot 'roids greatly enough, I'll probably send it to Richard instead of Ron.

paul owen
9-Jan-2005, 12:31
Dear Quimby! Surrised to hear that you're not happy with your RW. However, I'm very sure that all the faults you list WILL be rectified by the factory - customer service is high on their list of priorities! Sounds like you got a lemon - but this DOES happen! You have done the right thing by returning it though! Just as a matter of interest, ALL the Ebony cameras that I have used/seen/handled have a similar "patina" on the metalwork - in my opinion it is part of the "charm" of titanium!! I doubt whether it will affect resale value. Titanium does not have the same "finish" as brass or plated metal - but an appearance all of its own! People seem to forget that part of the charm/attraction of wooden cameras is in the fact that they are NOT precision instruments! The fit/finish will not be the same as a metal camera - however there is something more pleasing about using a wooden camera that cannot be found when using a metal one. I use a 45SU, cost me a lot of money, but it is the best camera I have seen/used. It had a scratch on one of the titanium rails straight out of the box - but as yet I've not been able to put any scratches on it through normal use! If it "survived" this scratch it will survive anything I can throw at it!! I hope you enjoy your RW when it is returned to you.

9-Jan-2005, 12:32
I purchased a Wisner Expedition from Fred Newman in October 1996. Perfect in every way! More than 8 years later still as good as new (smooth and easy to use, all the metal work as shiny as ever). The only sign of use is some wear and tear on the leather handle. My next purchase (a larger format) will be a Wisner once again (horror stories notwithstanding).

Francesco http://www.cicoli.com (http://www.cicoli.com)

Frank Petronio
9-Jan-2005, 13:11
I thought Titanium was so strong that mere shipping boxes and bubble wrap couldn't scratch it?

Everytime I see an Ebony I wonder what the fuss is about. The first 4x5 I had was a Cherry Wista with a perfect finish on the wood and brass. It looked just as nice if not better.

Jeffrey Sipress
9-Jan-2005, 13:45
If you have SO MANY issues, you could just send it back to the dealer/mfg and spare us all the long post about every little tiny detail that bothers you. No offense, but I don't think anyone here can help out on those individually small nits. I own an RW45, and have none of those problems so far (I've only had it a few months). Keep in mind that these are rather specialty items, and are made by craftspeople in low volume. I am very particular about quality, workmanship, materials, and the like, since I manufacture very high precision components for the surgical instrumentation and semiconductor industries. But with my alternate and personal crafts, I adopt the approach "Just enough flaws to make it hand-crafted", and I accept slight variations that make each item unique, and don't impede the functionability of the item. With all the mechanicals and fits on this camera, and it being made mostly from wood, slight tweaking to maintain smooth operation is expected. Relax, tweak, accept, and enjoy your photography!

Armin Seeholzer
9-Jan-2005, 14:20
Hi Ted

Maybe the penalty for selling your FA;-))
What was the reason for selling the very precise Horsemans I still have mine and you don't get it!

Scott Rosenberg
9-Jan-2005, 14:44
Question: When is an Ebony not an Ebony?

Answer: When it's an ivory!

seriously, i am expecting delivery of an RW45 on monday. the only cameras i can compare it to are my technika and my friends three tachihara's. i'll be sure to relay my impressions.

Steve Lewis
9-Jan-2005, 14:52
I've used an Ebony RW45 for 2 years or so with none of the problems I've read in the original post. I use my 65mm lens, though you need to set the camera before putting the lens on. The 'locking down' is positive and doesn't require any undue force. Overall, the fit and finish are excellent. The onlt slight niggle is the rear swing. Getting to the knobs that lock it is awkward, especially with gloves on, but it's a minor problem I can live with.

Steve Lewis


Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 15:07
But we pay for this level of craftmanship. Some of us dearly. I don't deny that perfection is unobtainable, but any four figure camera should be very nice. Very damn nice. If it is asking too much, at least they should tell us that it's an "entry level" camera, and we shouldn't expect that much for our thousands of dollars.

Bob Salomon
9-Jan-2005, 15:10
Are you comparing the finish of an ebony wood Wista or a rosewood Wista or a cherry wood Wista?

Frank Petronio
9-Jan-2005, 15:18
If you mean my post, I used to have a Cherrywood Wista in 1983-85. Mine was just about perfect, and much nicer than the other wooden cameras I've seen since. The Wista Ritereck 5x7 (remember those?) I replaced it with also had a great green hammertone and satin chrome finish.

Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 15:26
I aspire toward a green crinkle finished camera.

Donald Hutton
9-Jan-2005, 16:02
A couple of points:

1. If there is any slop in the front rail, Ebonies are adjustable to remove this (do a search). One of the few wooden field cameras which actually allows you to do this. That said, it is not a metal field camera.

2. I have owned a few Ebonies - (2 RWs, an SW and an SV45U) - the finish and fit on all of them was awesome. Perhaps I'm just lucky.

3. I am certain that Ebony have always jobbed out the metal fabrication - machining titanium can be quite a business.

4. I have found the local representative to be extremely helpful when I have had any queries or questions.

5. Every camera (and format) is a compromise - if you misjudged your own criteria, surely that is more related to your own expectations than the camera you purchased? I actually haven't found a "one solution" camera and consquently have two, both of which have some limiting factors.

6. There are definitely other cameras out there which offer more or less the same features as the Ebony RW45 - all are compromised in some area or another too. Some are cheaper, some are dearer. The strengh of the RW45 is definitely not wide angle lenses (but I assumed that to be common knowledge). However, for $1500, for a landscape shooter looking for a wooden field camera, with easy use for lenses bewteen 90mm and 300mm (although you can squeeze a 65mm to a 500T on it), it is a great solution.

Bob Salomon
9-Jan-2005, 16:15

No I was asking the OP.

Gem Singer
9-Jan-2005, 16:35
Jim Rice,

FYI, an "entry level camera" is the lowest priced camera in the manufacturers entire line of cameras. It has the fewest "bells and whistles". In this case, the (approx.) $1500 Ebony RW45 is Ebony's entry level camera. Wisner's (approx.) $1500 4x5 Traditional is his entry level camera.

Herb Cunningham
9-Jan-2005, 16:39
I got an RW a while back and had none of the probelms you mention. I can use a 72mm on it no prob. As far as fit and finish go, it is a wood field camera, and will never be as robust as a metal camera, folding or monorail, IMHO.

Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 16:49
Not to be too much of a contrarian, but wouldn't a Wisner Tech be the solution here? Accomodates lenses from way too short to (by my very own experience) 420mm non tele. As many movements as one could ask for and quite pretty. Am I missing something here? It is heavy at 6+lbs.

Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 16:54
And Eugene, Weren't we talking about fit and finish here? I can understand fewer features, but shouldn't those features that we pay for work as well?

Gem Singer
9-Jan-2005, 17:09

Having owned two Wisner 4x5 Tech Fields, myself, I can tell you that , yes, they are heavier, bulkier, and have longer bellows extension and more movement capabilities than most landscape photographers will ever need. They also retail, new, for (approx.) $1800, and new ones are becoming very difficult to find. My first Wisner (about fifteen years ago) was previously owned and cost more than $1500, at that time. I liked it, and bought my second one, new, a few years later. Ebonys were not available at that time. I wish they were.

Jim Rice
9-Jan-2005, 17:31
I must admit that I've never seen an Ebony. And I respect Eugene's opinion greatly. So I will stand corrected. OTOH, a tech is a pretty damn nice camera, with miles of bellows.

Greg Jackson
9-Jan-2005, 19:15
I ordered an Ebony 45S last year. Fit & finish were fine, but the front standard drooped with a 210 lens on it. And yes
I tightened the screws- and re-tightened... and so on. No use having a camera with permanent front tilt built in. So I sold it - I guess I'm getting grouchy and have no use for something that doesn't work right out of the box.. Ordered a
Master Tech 2000--- now I was getting in deep.. had just got the "best 4x5 wood camera" and it didn't work-for me.
What would the Linhof be like?? Well, it was perfect. Stable as hell - I could slam a holder in working fast and it was rock steady. As for Wisner- about '95 or so I wanted a 5x7- got a Wis Tech Field (from Del's) and headed for New Mexico. Great camera but overbuilt. Babied it for a week and noticed the bed had a big crack in it, running along the grain of the wood. Called Del's and they had Ron call me and offer a replacement. But I declined, What if the next one did the same too? Wound up with a 4x5 Deardorff Special and 5/7 back. No problems in over 9 years.
I'm thru searching for the most elegant field cameras- and yes, I fell prey to the Ebony mythology of rare and beautiful things. Sometimes rare and beautiful is best admired from afar.

9-Jan-2005, 22:58
I purchased an Ebony RW45 and have experienced none of the problems the original poster mentioned.
I am more than happy with my investment, and would recommend the camera heartily.

Steve Hamley
10-Jan-2005, 08:33

Give Ian Wilson an e-mail and discuss it with him. Their customer service is very good, and they really want their customers to be happy with Ebony cameras. I understand that like all LF camera manufacturers these days, they are pushed to produce the number of cameras people want to buy, which can certainly explain occasional problems. Incredible in a "digital" age. I was at Midwest this weekend and Jim said he can't keep an 8x10, by Ebony or anyone else.


Ted Harris
10-Jan-2005, 13:59
Thanks for all the responses,

Again I want to underscore the fact that I was talking about my camera only but felt a post was in order since I had heard a few outer less than happy customers voice their complaints at odd times here. Basically my dealer has been wonderful and the camera is on its way back to the factory. Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of waiting for it or another RW45 to come back to me. I use the camera several times a week and, as most know, they are in short supply. I decided to go with a Walker Titan SF instead and, for my purposes at least, I think this was the right decision. Longer bellows draw and more precise operation.

For Bob Salomon, my reference was not to my former Wista but to the Ebony RW. As for Wista I had a rosewood DX about a decade ago and an 8x10 for a few years at the same time. I believe the 8x10 was cherry. No complaints about either camera.

For Armin, the change from the Horseman FA was not by choice. I have had some compression of my c5/c6 vertrabrae for about 5 years and the ensuing numbness in my left index finger is now siffucient tht dealing with the Horseman's small knobs had gotten to be a major annoyance.

For those who talk about craft and imprefection as a hallmark of handwork .... each to their own. I am a proponent of 'image clarity' and do what I can to attain it. I am both aware and accept the fact that I will not achieve the same level or precision with most field cameras (beasts such as an ARca or Technikarden are exceptions) as I do in the studio with my geared Horseman.

Please recall that I said I thought the RW45 was a good camera. My only general objection is to Ebony billing it as being built to the same standard ast their mroe expensive cameras when that may not be the case.

Oh yeah, Wisners. I had one of those too <smile> a 5x7 Traditional and waited over a year for delivery of an ;in stock' reducing back.

Thanks again

Jerry Greer
10-Jan-2005, 17:56

I've had two RW45's, one I had for a little over four years and the new one that I just received and is perfect just as the first. I purchased the second just to have a new one and the old one has a new loving owner in Colorado. My first one was superb in every way and my second is just the same with a better finish. I use lenses from 65mm (standard lens board) all the way to my Fujinon 450 C (mounted on Ebonies own extension tube) with no problems on either end. BTW, my four year old RW was as tight as the first day that I received it. My recomendation is to contact Ebony through their website and I'm sure they will work it out. One other thing, where did you purchase your RW?


11-Jan-2005, 13:32
In my various camera 'tribulations' in 4x5 and8x10 format, I've encountered a wide variability in the quality control of some brands of cameras (all bought new) that I've tried. Ithink that when Wisners' got more popular the QC became less consistent. And when Toyo changed factory locations (or something like that), their QC also became inconsistent (judging by my experience and others that I've heard about). The same thing may have happened to Ebony (except to a lesser degree) because their cameras have been so popular and now they can't keep up with demand.

Toyo 45AII - one I had in the early 1990s was built well, fit and finish great. I sold it and bought others. Bought it again just about 1 year ago and it was poorly put together - not as tight, poor finish (blotches spot painted), etc. - returned it to the dealer.

Wisner - 4x5 tech field in early 1990s - great camera - everything fit perfectly, solid, finish perfect, delivered on-time. Mid 1990s or later - 4x5 basic - defective, returned, was fixed promptly, but still didn't have nearly the fit and finish of the earlier camera (but there was a difference in models).

Horseman HD 45 - one sample - very solid, rigid, precise, but knobs were too small for my liking, also very limited extension.

Ebony 45S & SU - bought and sold twice. Cosmetic scratches on the metal in places. Very rigid for a wood camera, but not as rigid as any metal camera I've every had. Very easy to use, and certainly rigid enough.

Ebony 8x10SV (bought and sold twice over the last 10 years) - first model was just about perfect (but again, not as rigid as a metal camera, but didn't expect it to be). Second one - clamp for securing the lensboard was mis-placed (too high) so it didn't hold the lensboard securely unless totally pushed in. The slighest movement would drop the board. You guessed it. I had a damaged lens thanks to it. Had it fixed by a work around method and sold the camera back to the dealer.

Gandolfi 8x10 traditional - the most rigid wood camera I ever had (due to their special way of angling and securing the back and front standard. Developed a crack in the bed. Didn't affect the operation of the camera, but ticked me off. I found the ground glass hard to focus with. Sold it.
Should have kept it and replaced the ground glass. Now they're too expensive.

Ebony RW810 - my current camera. Relatively light (11 pounds approx), very quick and easy to use. Downside is the limited bellows extension (it's only double extension). Rigid enough (not quite as good as the Gandolfi, but more than good enough for practical use). Great groundglass.
Finish came a few scratches on the metal, but it doesn't bother me.

Deardorff - I tried buying two (used), but each was described in better condition than they were actually in - returned both to private party/dealer (bellows pinholes, flopy controls/lock-down).

Canham 4x5 & 8x10 - tried out in dealers showroom. Great fit and finish. Didn't like the lever controls and flexible nature of the design, so didn't buy.

Toyo 8x10M - rental - very rigid and precise. Very heavy and no handle provided. Not as easy to set up and use as my Ebony RW.

Haven't tried the Phillips, nor the Wehman 8x10, but hear very good things about them (but they only make 8x10 or maybe larger on the Phillips, perhaps).

If I was doing 4x5 again, and wanted an easily transportable camera and didn't mind the great expense I go for the Master Technika 2000.

Mark Davies
4-Mar-2005, 03:05
Hi there. I have recently sold (on ebay and most regretabbly) an Ebony 45SU. I was absolutely thrilled with it and only sold it to fund further majic bullet chases. I am now deciding which majic bullet will serve my purposes next and look like buying a Horseman Woody. I am not expecting it to be able to match the Ebony in finish or functions as the 45SU was a super camera. However, I do expect it will be a very nicely made camera and serve the purpose well. When I win millions (ho, ho, ho!!!!) I will definitely go back to an ebony.

However, to address the issue of an Ebony not looking good out of the box: I suggest if you were to contact Hiromi at Ebony with your concerns he would take action through his US representative Ian Wilson to make sure the problems are rectified. I have always found Ian to be most helpful.


4-Mar-2005, 06:14
as i entered the ULF world I immediately priced myself out of an Ebony. Great cameras I'm sure with even a greater reputation. My father inlaw has a background in metallurgy and when the discussion of Ebonies came up he asked, " why the prestige". I explained their second-to-none craftsmanship, titanium metal work and of course, service. He went on to explain that the titanium is probably more of a marketing ploy than a structural advantage. He pointed out the titanium in my new golf driver. Larger size head, lighter materials, faster club head speed= ball go father. Titanium used in the aircraft industry, lighter with the same or close to the properties as T6 aluminum. But in a camera he asked why? The aluminum or brass that was used in other cameras probably has as good as, if not better structural properties as it's titanium counter parts. But then again you wouldn't have the prestige of owning titanium. Now I've never owned an Ebony and probably would hesitate to spend that kind of money considering the abuse i can put on a camera. (to me these are tools and at times I treat them as such). All I know is the titanium driver didn't do squat for my golf game. So I would think it would be safe to wager it won't have much impact on my photography either. So when they come out with a solid titanium 8x10 that weighs 1.5 lb I may consider having a look at one, provided they don't cost as much as a japanese car as the current Ebony 8x10 does. So i'll continue to take photographs with the cameras i have and concentrate on composition and not have to worry whether or not I'm going to scratch a worth-its-weight-in-gold camera. As for my new titanium driver. Well It is not as long as my old steelhead driver and I've done a comparison. You see, I can throw the steelhead driver farther than the titanium one because it is a little heavier, Making it the longer driver....lol

Jerry Greer
4-Mar-2005, 07:24
Quote: “He went on to explain that the titanium is probably more of a marketing ploy than a structural advantage.”

This is BS!

Robert, if your father-in-law knows nothing about view cameras then he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If you’ve never put your hands on an Ebony then you don’t either. My RW45 is just an oz. under 4lbs and this is a direct reflection of the fine grade of mahogany also the titanium and most of all Hiromi’s great design. See, I spent 7 years racing mountain bikes, titanium ones with titanium spokes and as I recall I’ve never saw aluminum spokes on a bike and for very good reason. I know the difference between aluminum and titanium by just simple usage in a practical demanding situation. It’s simple, titanium is lighter and much stronger than aluminum, period! I’m not even going to bring up the differences with brass and steel. This also allows the camera maker to use less material and keep the same strength making it much lighter or as in Ebony’s case keep the material about the same with less weight but a MUCH stronger camera. Just for kicks, compare an Ebony RW45 to a Calumet “ultralight” it uses aluminum. The Calumet is flimsy! Compare the SV45Ti to a K. B. Canham 4x5 wood field. Again, the Canham’s a great camera but it does not compare in rigidity, they use aluminum. It also weights in a 6lb!

Please don’t confuse the use of titanium in the Ebony cameras as a marketing ploy or just “prestige” and the reason for owning one. If you’ve never even touched one or even compared the camera to a Wisner, Wista, Canham, etc. then I would suggest that you do just that. Go compare them before you throw out this false testimony when you know nothing about the camera other than a name. I think that you are just trying to make yourself feel better about not becoming an Ebony owner when deep down you wished that you were just that, an Ebony owner! Oh, and yes I’m qualified to speak for Ebony, not that I’m an expert in metallurgy but that I’ve been a working professional landscape photographer for 14 years with 5 of them carrying an Ebony RW45 view camera into the field.


Jerry Greer

4-Mar-2005, 10:52
jerry, but i've done just that, a side by side comparison and i still can't seem to justify the cost. Don't get me wrong the ebony is a gorgeous camera and I have actually shot with one for a weekend. I've been playing with these cameras for 30 yr. and i don't need to make reference to how long " professionally" or what i carry in the field, photography is not about that to me. But for the life of me I can't seem to tell the difference between the negatives I shot with the ebony and the negatives I shot with that 50 year old Dorf. You make a good point about the mountain bike.. Titanium would reduce weight where seconds matter in a race. And if you would like a list of manufacturers that make aluminum mountain bikes they are available online. Titanium is a great alloy but in my opinion not really needed in a view camera. How much weight do you need to cut out of a 4x5 anyway ?If that is an issue I suggest you contact your physician. Seriously though, you shoot with what ever you like and Ebony is a fine camera. My comments were on the use of titanium in a view camera. I've talked with other camera manufacturers and they seem to feel the same way... cost justifying the means. I didn't mean to strike your Ebony nerve and I'll probably be eating these words about titanium the next time I carry the old 8x20 Korona and three film holders into the field. to me it is not about equipment and as a "14 year professional landscape photographer" I'm sure you'll agree (maybe not) it's about vision, light, form, function...ect ect..I would love to see what that Ebony is doing for your negs that my old dorfs and koronas aren't doing for mine. I promise you if that is the magic bullet I'll sell all my cameras and buy an Ebony. I agree with you whole heartedly about titanium moutain bikes, strong, light and a clear advantage over the heavier aluminum. If my camera every goes over a 15ft high jump and does three flips and lands back on its tripod legs I'll consider titanium.....lol....until then it's back to my old cameras...( now where did I put that duct tape to fix this bellows)....lol

Kerry L. Thalmann
4-Mar-2005, 11:40
It’s simple, titanium is lighter and much stronger than aluminum, period!


I won't dispute your other claims (I know NOTHING about racing bikes), but this statement isn't true. While the exact density depends on the specific alloy, titanium is substantially denser than aluminum. Typical titanium alloys have a density of approximately 4.5g/cc. Commercial aluminum alloys (including all varieties of 6061 - commonly used in camera building) have a density of about 2.7g/cc.

Where titanium has an advantage is in strength/weight ratio. This is why titanium alloys make an excellent choice for racing bike frames that need to be light, but still strong enough to support the rider and deal with the mechanical stress involved in this particular application.

Obviously a camera is used differently than a racing bike and what is the ideal material for one may, or may not, be the ideal material for the other. Using clever mechanical design, aluminum can be plenty strong enough for this particular application and still be lighter than titanium. I'm not saying one material is inherently "better" than the other for building cameras. It is really a combination of the material and an intelligent design that takes advantage of that material's properties. It is possible to build cameras of exceptional rigidity using either material (ARCA-SWISS and Ebony, for example)

If you want a REALLY light material, look at magnesium alloys. They typically have densities in the 1.7 - 1.8g/cc range. Various mg alloys are finding increased use in portable electronics applications where weight is a concern. And yes, magnesium is flammable, but most mg alloys are perfectly safe for consumer applications. In fact, I have an mg alloy tripod head that has yet to go up in flames. I have also seen high end lap top computer cases made from mg alloys. By using cast designs, it's possible to incorporate complex mechanical structures (honeycombs, for instance) that result in parts that are both amazingly light, yet very strong and durable.

Of course, other factors such as production and material costs factor in and often swamp the other issues. I am convinced it would be possible to build a fully functional 4x5 field camera that weighs about 1 - 1.5 lbs (1/2 the weight of the lightest commercially available products) using magnesium alloys, polymers, carbon fiber and maybe a little titanium for high stress areas. Problem is it would make an Ebony look darn cheap by comparison. I doubt if there's much of a market for a $50,000 field camera.


QT Luong
4-Mar-2005, 17:41
Jerry, I agree that the Ebony is more rigid than the Canham, but note that the Canham 4x5 is in fact a 5x7 camera with a 4x5 back.

24-Jul-2005, 21:44
>>"If you have SO MANY issues, you could just send it back to the dealer/mfg and spare us all".....

I think Ted's problem with his Ebony is a quality control matter we should all be aware of. You should have read the post about a delayed shipping of a Gnass product because the company was moving. That was one I thought was a utter waste of bandwidth and the incessant whining of the poster was out of hand.