View Full Version : Ebony RW45

Laura Lea Nalle
22-Apr-2005, 13:57
Hi Again,

I have heeded much of your thoughtfully conflicting advise on cameras and have continued my search beyond the Wisners and Canham. I don't think I'm willing to risk the extended wait of a Wisner, and I really think the Canham is not right for me right now. One camera that kept coming up was the Ebony RW45. I wonder what yall's experience is with this camera. I've read in the archives that it can be a little tough to do wide angle; I see some don't have problems with a 65mm; has anyone shot a 58mm with a recessed board? I already know to get the universal bellows since it is not exchangeable. I also wonder if the makers are responsive to repairs and offer quick turnaround times. Are there shortcomings I'm not thinking about that I should know about?

I know it has independent locks, bright ground glass, rigid body, adequate movements, it's light and compact, and I've read that it's fairly easy to use, even with gloves on. Is there any way to go wrong with this one? I know it's subjective, and I appreciate conflicting perspectives, so let me have it.

Unfortunately, Austin does not have a camera store that regularly stocks LF (sad but true). If they have anything at all, it's usually a used monorail, so that makes it difficult to go test them out to see what I like, and that makes your comments (yes, You) even more valuable.

Thanks again,

Larry Mendenhall
22-Apr-2005, 14:17
Hey, Laura

I just purchased an RW45 within the last couple of months to replace a Tachihara. I wanted a little more bellows extension than the Tachi and a Grafloc (sp?) back. So far I have no complaints. I certainly appreciate the build quality and once I got used to it, I find unfolding and folding to be more precise and quicker than the Tachihara.

I don't think you can wrong with it -- the exception is the 58mm with the recessed board. Don't know the answer to that one.

Really my only complaint is that to use my 75mm Grandagon N, I have to go through a cumbersome tilt procedure, but that's becoming easier as I do it more often.

Good Luck!


Jeffrey Sipress
22-Apr-2005, 14:23
Laura, that's a great camera. I love mine. The wide angle setup is not cumbersome at all. In about 20 seconds you can re-adjust the tilts and get the focus you want. It all depends on how comfortable one is with mechanical equipment.

Gem Singer
22-Apr-2005, 14:33
Hi to you again, Laura Lea,

You certainly are on the right track. The Ebony RW45 is their entry level camera, and a good buy in the $1500 price range. The camera takes Linhof Tech- style lensboards. The recessed ones are relatively expensive and not easy to use. The widest lens that is practical to use on a flat lensboard with the RW45 is a 65, and a lens of that short of a focal length would be a tight squeeze, even with the universal bellows. Ebony makes other models of their cameras that are designed specifically to be used with short focal length wide angle lenses. However, they do not fold and are quite a bit more expensive.

There is much valuable information on the Ebony website (www.ebonycamera.com) regarding the use of wide angle lenses.

Have you contacted Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange? He handles all models of the Ebony cameras, as well as the Tachihara and Shen Hao cameras, both new and previously owned. He is in the store on Saturdays, from 10AM till 2PM, eastern time. A call to Jim (and only Jim) would be well worth your time and effort . Midwest does not always list their full inventory on their website. Tell Jim that you were referred by this forum.

Laura Lea Nalle
22-Apr-2005, 14:36
What's the widest lens you can use on it with and without a recessed board? I've heard conflicting info about the 65mm- some say you can use it with a regular board others say recessed is a must. What's your experience? Is 65mm as wide as you can go?

Laura Lea Nalle
22-Apr-2005, 14:42
Yes, I actually talked to Jim right before I posted the original message. He gave me good information and said he can whole-heartedly recommend the Ebony for what I'm looking for. I wanted to get the opinions of others who have also used the camera and can offer additional info. Have you shot this camera? What's your impression of it?

Ted Harris
22-Apr-2005, 14:58
Hi Laura,

Itís a solid performer but it is wood and that means it is less precise than a metal camera in terms of its movements and locking down. I am probably one of the very few folk here who are not in love with the camera. Several reasons, first, as noted above I think that I just prefer metal cameras. Second, while the Ďwide angle adjustmentí you need to make to work with a 75mm lens is not terribly time consuming it is still a pain. During the 2 week shakedown I ran around 100-150 sheets of film through the camera and a lot of that was wide angle shooting. It was ok but I was less than overjoyed with the way the camera responded with the 75mm f5.6 Super Angulon. I suspect a 65mm lens would become very very difficult to use and I really donít see how you could use a 58 (certainly not get any movement) even with a recessed lensboard ... assuming you can use same. Third, there is a design issue, IMO, in the way the front standard swings into place when you first open and setup the camera, it can be rather finicky. Fourth, the camera is very well assembled but O didnít find the finish to be as good as a Canham or Lotus or Gandolfi but it was on a par with a lot of Wisnerís I have seen. Some of the cameras also have issues with marks on the titanium, not anything that affects performance but it could have an impact on resale value. I know the factory is working with these issues but they are swamped with orders as Ebony seems to be the current LF Ďiní camera. Buy from one of the reliable dealers you see mentioned here all the time (Jim at Midwest or Jeff at Badger) and you will avoid any heartache.

On the plus side the camera excels at handling longer and heavier lenses. I used it in fairly heavy winds with a 300 and a 360 and had no problems at all. Alos used it in reasonably cold weather and no problems. However, if you want th eultimate cold weather camera check out a Phillips 4x5.

My feeling is that if you are asking about 58mm and your interestes, or at least initial interests lie more in that direction than longer lenses then there are other choices to consider. First, if you donít see yourself ever going longer than 240mm give so me thought to the Horseman FA or HD. Compact and lightweight, the most compact of all the metal cameras and possibly the most compact of any field camera except perhaps the Toho and the Gowland. Excels with wide angle lenses too. The FA is in a different price range but you can easily find one used in superb condition for less than the price of a new RW. You also may want to consider the Walker Titan SF or Walker Titan XL. Both are ABS and stainless steel construction (see them at www.walkercameras.com). The SF has an interchangeable bellows and you can easily go down to a 65mm lens with the standard bellows and up to 450mm with ease. Walkerís are rock solid and indestructible. You miay also want to consider one of the Ebony non folders that work with wide angles up to 210 or 240 but you are starting to climb well up there in price.

Gem Singer
22-Apr-2005, 15:31
Laura Lea,

I owned, and shot with the Ebony SV45TE. At my recommendation, my friend purchased an EbonyRW45 from Jim and soon realized that he preferred a metal camera. Jim exchanged it, and he now owns an Arca Swiss F metric. I sold my Ebony, and, the present time, am shooting with a Canham 8X10 metal camera that I recently purchased from Jim.

I'm glad you had the opportunity to talk to Jim. You are on the right track. Stick with it. You can trust Jim's judgement. If you don't like the camera for any reason, you can always send it back for a refund, or exchange it for a different model. Jim is easy to work with.

Brian Ellis
22-Apr-2005, 17:07
I've owned two Ebony cameras, the SVTi and SVTe. I thought they were the best wood cameras I've owned and I've owned four other brands. I thought some of the statements I've read from others about its rigidity and precision of movements were exagerated, I didn't find it all that rigid or precise but then I was coming to it from a metal Linhof Technika. The Fresnel lens is good with medium to long lenses but like all Fresnels not designed for short focal length lenses it has its problems with lenses of about 90mm or less. The only thing I really disliked was the three focusing knob system (I don't know whether the RW uses the same system or not). I found it extremely aggravating to have to unexpectadly switch back and forth from one knob to the other when bringing things into focus.

Other than that and the difficulty of using the Fresnel with wide angle lenses there was nothing I really disliked about the cameras except that they were wood, not metal. I sold mine and went back to a Linhof Technika. But you seem to be leaning towards a wood camera and I think there is no better camera than the Ebony cameras among the wood cameras unless some other brand has a particular feature that you need and that the RW45 doesn't have.

Jim Rice
22-Apr-2005, 18:45
With reguards to the the the woodies. Dampening.

Herb Cunningham
22-Apr-2005, 19:47
I have had the SV45te and now have the RW 45. I use an arca f line for stuff that requires a lot of movements and/or really wide angle, but the RW is sooo easy to use, unless I have something really out of the ordinary, it is the one. don't bother with the ebony version- extra weight for looks and more money. The mahogany is around 4 lbs as I recall, but keep in mind a good tripod will weigh 6 lb.

Do not hesitate to take one of the suppliers up on a trial - that will see how you fit with the camera

Steve Lewis
23-Apr-2005, 03:32
Hi Laura Lea

I'been using an RW45 for around 4 years, and think it's a great camera for my needs. I regurlarly use a 65mm lens without any problems, although you do have to fiddle with the front tilt. I would say that if you regurlary use 65mm or shorter lenses, then the RW45 is not for you. There are a few cameras in the Ebony range that handle wider lenses with more ease (SW45, SV45Ti?).

For me, the only downside of the RW45 is the setup time, and if I could go back and make my chioce again, knowing what I know now, I would go for the 45SU. HTH



paul owen
23-Apr-2005, 03:59
Hi Laura, some excellent information and advice given (as usual). The RW is a fine camera considering the competition at this price level and the support offered by the maker, Hiromi Sakanashi is first rate. Any problems/queries are dealt with quickly and efficiently through Ian Wilson their Rep, who is English (so no language problems etc). The criticisms concerning handling of wide angle lenses is fair - but very few cameras will do "everything". If you plan on using wide lenses then also take a look at the non-folding Ebony cameras, the 45S and 45SU. The "S" is an excellent all rounder, handling wide lenses with ease as well as longer lenses with either extension lens panels (cheap) or the extension back. The ease and speed at which the non-folders can be set up is quite amazing - many users leave a lens attached and it is a case of simply lifting the camera out of the pack/bag, attaching it to the tripod and racking the lens rail out! That's it! I would certainly recommend a look at this model. BUT you need to realise that wooden cameras differ to metal ones - they will not have the "geared,precision" of a metal camera but they do have something that metal/plastic cameras don't ... SOUL! Makes the whole LF experience more enjoyable :)

Armin Seeholzer
23-Apr-2005, 06:08

A camera is only a tool and I did till now never see a soul on one of my tools. But I think you should have a tool thad is doing everything as good as possible, but every cameras has it pros and cons.
Good would be if you could get the fingers on some cameras and then deside wich is your tool.
A possibility would be to ask a new question on this forum for photogs in your era wich would show there cameras to you!
Good luck!

P.S. If you are in Switzerland for the next fiew months I show you my SINARS, Horseman and if I still have my Arca F line !

Donald Hutton
23-Apr-2005, 08:56
Laura Lee

While getting the choice right may seem essential, I think your shooting style evolves constantly. So what you may envisage doing now with the camera may turn out to be way off the mark. I have owned many 4X5 cameras. Most of them are great but they all have compromises. The good thing is, there's a very steady market in all of this gear, so if you have to buy and sell a couple of times to get you where you need to be, it's no big deal. Basically, get something which you think is going to be perfect, but don't worry too much when it turns out to be otherwise.

I have owned 2 RW45s. The universal bellows are essential. I think it's a really nice camera which can do most things for most shooters. I cannot remember what it's like with very wide lenses as I was shooting mostly landscapes when I owned them, and rarely used anything wider than a 110mm (a 90 sometimes). I am a big fan of Ebony cameras and still own one. And, if it turns out that it's not the ideal camera for you, you'll be able to sell it in a flash - they are always in big demand. I second the recommendation of dealing with Jim - a good relationshaip with a first rate, knowledgable guy like Jim will make the process of putting you gear together much easier and more enjoyable (and in the long run, probably cheaper).

steve simmons
24-Apr-2005, 17:34
Before buying a camera I suggest reading some of the Free Articles on the View Camera web site. If I already suggested this to you I apologize.


Don't select a camera until you decide what features you need/want. The range of lenses you will be using is the most important consideration. Next is the subject matter you will be photographing and the movements you will need.

If you can make it View Camera is doing a conference May 20-22 in Springfield, MA. You will be able to see and fondle many new and used cameras at the trade show.

steve simmons