View Full Version : Conundrum - Ebony SV45U2 or Linhof MT 2000

5-Aug-2005, 14:24
Hi! I'm so glad to have found this site! I'm new to LF (as my name suggests), and have mainly been working in MF with my Hasselblad up until now. I have been thinking about going to LF for a long time, and have decided to take the plunge. I do mainly landscapes, and as you can see from my subect line, I am facing a dilemma. I understand that the Ebony has a lot more movements, but my question is, what would those extra movements allow me to do that I wouldn't be able to do otherwise on the Linhof? (I have already decided against buying a used, cheaper LF camera to "try it out" and then upgrading later - the reasons are lengthy so I will spare you guys.) I am (perhaps stupidly) attached to the Linhof, but a few people have advised me to go with the Ebony b/c it has "lots more movements. I'm just not sure whether I would actually need these extra movements.

Thanks in advance!!

Juergen Sattler
5-Aug-2005, 14:42
I guess you didn't like the answers on the APUG forum?

5-Aug-2005, 15:45
It is hard having to make these decisions. I know I just couldn't decide between a Burke and James 4x5 and a Calumet. In my med format days I would lay awake nights; do I get the Yashica Mat or the Seagull. Good grief! It's just a light tight box that holds a lens on one end and film on the other. Rent a camera from Calumet and go make some pictures. You're only going to know by doing. Spend all the extra money you seem to have on film and paper or traveling.

5-Aug-2005, 16:54

If you read my question here, you'll see that I'm asking whether the "extra movements" available on the Ebony would be missed if I bought the Linhof. It has nothing to do with not liking the answers on APUG! Please don't think that. I just happened to be on this forum when this question came to me.

jerry brodkey
5-Aug-2005, 18:14
I have the 5X7 model of the ebony you are considering. These 2 ebony cameras each have

asymmetrical tilts and swings which the Linhof doesn't have. I came to love this facility

on the Sinar and it truly makes setting up the focus much easier. In my mind that would be the most

important deciding factor. The Linhof is certainly more robust and hand holdable which could be factors in your case.

If it is not, I would personably opt for the Ebony........

Steve Hamley
5-Aug-2005, 18:27
Usually more movements are needed when you're close to your subject. For example macro, tabletop, or "semi-macro". There are of course, given situations at disatnce where more movements are more better, but in landscapes at least they really don't occur all that often.

The Linhof is a fine camera; if that's what you want get it and don't look back. Many fine photographers use one because they're solid, dependable, and support is available. If you like that "machined by German elves" feel, the Linhof is your camera.

I personally use an Ebony and happy with it, but some folks are wooden camera people and some are not.

Here's a shot taken with the Ebony SV45U and a 135mm lens. The camera movements were maxed in the rear and I had quite a bit of front movement too. The lens was about 18" from the front of the flowers and a lot of movement was needed (mostly tilts but some swings) to get the flowers sharp. I doubt the Linhof could have done it.



Brian Ellis
5-Aug-2005, 19:24
I don't know that the Ebony has "lots more movements." The Linhof doesn't have front fall or base tilt and of course doesn't have an asymetrical back. Apart from the asymetrical feature, the movements on the Ebony back are done in more conventional field camera fashion than the Linhof but I don't think it has any back movements that the Linhof doesn't have though they operate differently and may be more extensive (i.e. move farther) than the Linhof.

I owned a Linhof Technika V, then for not very good reasons I replaced it with an Ebony 45 Ti (mahogony wood), after being used to the metal Linhof I found it too loose, imprecise and "unsmooth" so thinking that one with ebony wood would be better in those respects I replaced it with a new 45 Te. It wasn't any better than the Ti in those respects so after a couple months I replaced it with a Linhof Master Technika which I still own. I didn't get the SV45U because I seldom use back movements so for me the asymetrical back wasn't worth the extra $1000. By wood camera standards the Ebony certainly isn't "loose" or "imprecise" or "unsmooth," it's just not the same as a metal camera in those respects. But if I had never owned a Linhof I probably would have been thrilled with the Ebony.

As to whether you'd need the extra movements of the Ebony, who knows. Front fall isn't a big deal to me, on the rare occasions when I would use it if I had it I just point the camera down and brint the front and vack to vertical. Base tilt is there only to allow the use of certain wide angle lenses, I don't know of any other reason to use base tilt when you have axis tilt available. The back movements of the Ebony are easier to use than the Linhof and are more conventional but I don't know that the Ebony can do things with the back that the Linhof can't in terms of movements, they're just operated differently.

If it were me I think I'd try to evaluate the importance of the asymetrical movements of the Ebony, with which I have no experience, and the otherwise more conventional back of the Ebony, vs the firmness, precision, and smoothness of the Linhof. Not an easy thing to do without any large format experience but one thing is for sure, either way you're starting at the top when it comes to field cameras.

David A. Goldfarb
5-Aug-2005, 19:49
I use front fall quite often on my Linhof Tech V (I guess I like elevated vantage points). If I need a little, I just drop the bed and tilt the front standard back to vertical. If I need a lot, I just remove the accessory shoe and mount the camera upside down with the tripod socket on the top. If you have a strong tripod head, you can also rotate the camera 90-degrees on the tripod, rotate the back to the desired orientation, and use the front shift movement for front fall.

5-Aug-2005, 19:53
Steve, you have quite the portfolio. Were all these made with your Ebony? Very nice!

Thanks guys, for your help. I'm definitely going to give it some more thought. At this point, it really only comes down to whether I will need the asymetrical back. What I've read about it mirrors what Jerold said - that it makes focusing so much easier. So Brian, you're absolutely right - I do need to evaluate the importance of the asymetrical movements. I just wish I can actually try out the cameras before I buy them!

Danny Burk
5-Aug-2005, 19:54
My primary camera is an SV45U2, and I've used a Linhof belonging to one of my workshop participants. While it takes time to become comfortable using any camera, and I'm first to admit that I used the Linhof for only a short time, for my money I'd choose the Ebony in a heartbeat. Why? Ease of use, for one thing, and it does everything I want. I'm completely pleased with everything about my Ebony.

But another big reason is for the asymmetric tilt. Those who haven't tried the latter are at a disadvantage, since it really *is* a great benefit and it's one of those things that may be hard to imagine until you actually see it for yourself. I'm a believer in streamlining view camera operation, and asymmetric tilt (and swing) lets me do that in the same way that using Quickload film and a bino reflex viewer do.

You can't use asymmetric tilt on every shot. If you need perfect perpendiculars, for example, you'll want to use front tilt. But for 75-80% of what I do (which is nearly all landscape), I'm able to use asymmetric tilt/swing very effectively.

Another plus of the Ebony is that you can use much longer lenses than the Linhof allows. I'm a long lens fanatic and use a Nikkor 720mm (telephoto design) frequently; I wouldn't be able to use anything close to that on a Linhof.

Danny www.dannyburk.com

5-Aug-2005, 20:00
doesn't matter which camera you buy there can only be one plane of sharp focus and most landscapes dictate only slight lens tilt for foreground sharpness. If the subject is not planar then you will lose sharpness somewhere in the image by using excessive tilts and swings. The more you tilt a standard the narrower the depth of field and the greater the lens aberations will be. In other words, the nearer to parallel you keep the standards, the sharper your images will be. Or to put it another way, you will soon find yourself trying to avoid using excessive tilts, shifts and swings, so in my view the linhof would be a better choice for landscape work.
Large shifts are useful in confined spaces, especially for architectural work, but most lenses run out of image circle well within the cameras shift capability and the linhof will easily have enough shift and tilt for virtually all of your landscape shots.

Work out which lenses you want first and see from the lens specs how much shift is available given the image circle size. That should tell you if the linhof is able to give you what you may need in extreme cases. 55mm of shift is a lot (the camera can be mounted upside down for that much lens drop) and 40mm is a lot of lateral shift too. Then get hold of a camera in a shop and see for yourself how much difference 40mm of shift really makes.

remember, you will be using longer focal length lenses on your LF camera so you will be getting shorter depth of field. Yes, you can change the plane of sharp focus, but landscapes frequently require a lot of depth of field and using tilt and swing throws that away. You can't afford to do that with longer focal length lenses so as I said before, you will find yourself trying to minimise the movements you need to make.

Just think how much dof you get with a 150 lens on your MF camera. Great for selective focus but not for landscapes ( at least not usually). The equivalent on lf will be a 260 - 300mm lens. Not much dof to play with there!

Eric Leppanen
5-Aug-2005, 20:05
Until you have sufficient experience with LF, there is no way to know how much in the way of movements you'll need. This is a function of your individual vision and shooting style, some folks don't use much in the way of movements; others (like myself) use movements a lot. Most folks experience an evolution (often a considerable one) in their photographic vision once they have absorbed the creative power of an LF system (due to movements, a different aspect ratio, a more deliberate way of working, composing on the ground glass, etc.), and until you progress through this evolution its hard to say where you'll end up and what movements you'll want.

As you are a beginning LF'er, I will suggest that you get an Ebony for a strictly pragmatic reason: the asymmetric movements. Camera movements can be one of the most frustrating things to learn for a beginner, and asymmetric movements make life MUCH easier. I've been shooting LF for a number of years now (starting with 4x5, now mostly shooting 8x10) and I use asymmetric movements for over half my shots! Learning LF is going to be enough of a learning curve as it is; I think with the Ebony you'll enjoy it a bit more.

As for Ebony folding vs. non-folding: if your shooting style were well defined, this would be a much easier question to answer. Are you a long-lens person? If not, the 45SU is the easier camera to use. But what if it turns out you like using long lenses? I faced this question four years ago, and I ultimately bought an SV45U2 because I didn't want to prematurely limit myself. And in my case, I'm very glad I made this choice. I've frequently used my Fuji 450c for close ups (Indian petroglyphs, for example) and my Fuji 600C (mounted on a two-inch extended lens board) for distant subjects. Both of these lenses require considerable bellows extension in these applications, and for various reasons I prefer "standard" lenses such as these to telephotos in most cases. Other folks have found the SV45U sufficient for using the 450C, and are satisfied with the Nikon telephotos (500T and 720T) versus the 600C for long lens shooting. YMMV.

Regardless of which way you go, best of luck and have fun!

Doug Dolde
5-Aug-2005, 20:30
I'd pick a non folding Ebony as well. For me, not having to unfold the camera is a big plus. In fact I have one. I have basically an SW45 which only weights 1.5kg and weight is a big deal to me when I have the kit in a backpack.

The Ebonys don't have quite the precision feel of the Linhof MT but are not as quirky either. They do have something the Linhofs do not...and that has something to do with their handcrafted ebony wood and titanium character.

The Ebony would be a bit (or a lot) lighter depending on which model you chose. If you want to go all the way get the 45SU. The 45S would be a lot cheaper and only lacking the asymetrical back tilt.

5-Aug-2005, 21:05
Wow! You guys have been most helpful! Thanks again!! Definitely food for thought. I'm planning to make the purchase within the next two weeks, so in the meantime, I'll keep reading and try to evaluate what is most important to me. Much much appreciated! :)

David Karp
5-Aug-2005, 22:50
Here is some more food for thought. The cameras you are talking about are pretty expensive. Why not try an inexpensive used camera, buy a good quality used lens or two, or three, and see how you like LF, and learn a bit about your likes and dislikes. We can all tell you a lot of things, but they are all colored by our preferences and experiences, which might not be the same as yours. Most people will tell you that your first LF camera won't be your last.

So, my advice is to get an inexpensive Calumet or Cambo monorail (like the one pictured in Simmons' Using the View Camera), and learn how to use it and all the movements. Once you have played with it for a while, then you will know what movements you use, and those that you don't. If you buy a camera without the movements, you will never know if you would have used them. Once you have some LF experience, you can sell the camera, or keep it as a spare. The cameras I mentioned are pretty inexpensive lately. The lenses will work with any camera. I recommend used, but make sure that they are in good shape.

I also recommend that you contact Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange (MPEX.COM). He is a straight shooter and will give you good advice. I have purchased several used lenses from him at good prices and they all look just like new. He sells the cameras you are considering, plus just about everything else. Don't worry about relying on him. He talked me out of buying a camera from him that he did not think would meet my needs. I trust him when it comes to LF advice.

Good luck. LF is great fun.

Michael Yuen
6-Aug-2005, 07:16
Both of these cameras are very capable and... expensive. For landscape, either one will probably be more than adequate for you. To me, it's the synergy between you and the camera. I would go play with both cameras if possible and see which one you feel more comfortable with. I used to own a Wista 45SP, it has similar design and operation to the Linhof, but I adsolutely hated it. It was a good camera and there was nothing really wrong with it. I just didn't like it. Several years ago I traded the Wista to an Ebony 45SU, and I found this non-folding camera much more enjoyable to use. One the other hand, there are people in this forum don't like the Ebony wooden cameras. They think Ebony are junk in comparison to Linhof.

So my point is, go play with the cameras and decide for youself.

Steve Hamley
6-Aug-2005, 14:03

Most of the pics were made with a SV45U, although the people pics were done with a Mamiya 7. A few were done with a SV810.

Good Luck!


6-Aug-2005, 18:34
Newtolf.... plenty of good advise above..... people are passionate about LF cameras....

The only things I would add are....

Not everyone has problems adjusting to LF. I went from 35mm to 8x10 and it was simple, of course I had sound photograhic and math knowledge of optics.

If you are just starting.... the one thing you need to consider is size of the gear you want to carry.... for example, if you backpack, you will most likely have smaller lenses with small image circles, so movements will be of limited value.

Also, what type of scenes you enjoy shooting will also dictate how much movements you need and therefore how big of Image circle lenses you need to buy.... of course, the easy answer is, get the biggest and best of everything to cover all bases, which is fine, but it comes at a huge price in $ and more importantly size. If you shoot by the car a lot, this is not a big deal.

As for movements in landscapes.... i find front rise is the most valuable as a general rule.... front fall can be simulated as mentioned above, or by lowering the tripod. All that remains is front tilt....and scenes that greatly benefit from front tilt are very rare.... notice the word, greatly.

So evaluate what scenes you like to shoot, the size of the pack you want to carry, your budget, then backtrack into the amount of movements and features you need on the camera and the types and number of lenses you need to meet your primary objectives. Its hard to prepare for everything in the field! Although i certainly have, and need a motorhome to carry all the crap..... OCD is alive and well....

7-Aug-2005, 04:52
Thanks again.

Steve, an 8x10....that must be a heavy sucker.

Bill, thank you for your suggestsions. I do tend to hike with my gear, and am not much of a car shooter. I shoot more wide than telephoto. I know that everyone's shooting style is different, so it's asking "which camera is better" is always going to bring forth many different responses. But it is great to get the opposing viewpoints here as I can use them to evaluate my positioin.

Yes, I have noticed that LF shooters are very passionate about their craft!


Steve Hamley
7-Aug-2005, 18:05

The SV810 is mahoghany and only weighs about 10 - 10-1/2 lbs - or about 4 lbs more than the 4x5. In 8x10 it's the film holders that kill you if you're talking about hiking. Three is about the limit.