View Full Version : Ebony 6x9 for 4x5?

Andrew Ito
15-Sep-2005, 12:56
So I've been shooting with a sweet little Ebony 23S for around 5 years or so. It's gotten a new bellows from Hiromi in Japan and he outfitted it with the Horseman angle viewer. I also acquired a Maxwell screen for it and it focuses just beautifully. No fresnel lines at all and so smooth to look at even under higher magnification loupes. Lately though, I've found that I miss the 4x5 proportion that I liked shooting with so much in the earlier days. The convenience of 120 film is incredible and so is the price of processing though so I'm torn. I've got a few cases of Velvia 100 from Japan in the freezer too. (The pre-US Velvia 100. It has very similar characteristics to the old Velvia 50 but at 100 speed. It was sold in Japan but not in the US until recently, but may be a different emulsion.) At any rate, any comments on whether or not I should make the switch? And, anyone care to offer a trade of their Ebony 4x5 for my Ebony 23S with Maxwell screen and Horseman Angle viewer? Email me at: akivisuals(at)yahoo(dot)com

J. Wolfe
15-Sep-2005, 13:54
Pretty funny!

Donald Brewster
15-Sep-2005, 15:42
I'll give you my old Linhof Color for it.

Craig Wactor
15-Sep-2005, 16:00
I'll trade you a 1960's calumet...

Andrew Ito
15-Sep-2005, 16:06
Wow... tough crowd over here... I actually got an offer for a Wisner Tech 5x7 trade on a more serious note. It's not like the Ebony 23S is a slouch or anything...

Craig Wactor
15-Sep-2005, 18:38
Oh, I would love to have one, I just don't have anything to trade that is worthwhile...

George Hart
16-Sep-2005, 00:25
Andrew, you must have given your camera some heavy use to have required new bellows in 5 years! Therefore, I suspect that you are well able to answer your question as to whether you should make the switch. FWIW I have your camera's bigger brother, the 45S, and although I enjoy shooting 4x5, funnily enough I use much more rollfilm than sheet film, even in B&W! It's just more convenient and there's little difference in the results in the sizes that I normally print at. Focal lengths are shorter, film flatness is excellent, and I greatly prefer the aspect ratio of 6x9 over 4x5! Your wish may be for the squarer format, but I suspect that if you do get a 4x5 camera, you will still end up shooting mainly rollfilm!

John Cook
16-Sep-2005, 03:53
Andrew, I would suggest rethinking the nifty 6x9 format. While it is a tad narrow for a vertical portrait, used horizontally for landscapes it is very close to both the 35mm format and the Golden Section. I find both 6x9 and the Golden Section much more pleasing than the 4x5 format.

Note also the economy of print paper. All common USA sizes of paper when cut in half along the short axis will equal this format: 8x10=5x8, 11x14=7x11, 16x20=10x16, etc.

For more on what the Greeks were up to, see:


Wilbur Wong
16-Sep-2005, 10:23

Will you be planning to carry a replacement in a backpack? I was amazed at how you had carried the 23S in a fanny pack!

Andrew Ito
16-Sep-2005, 12:44
George, I bought the camera used from Jim at Midwest Photo so it had a few miles on it already. When I began shooting with it I noticed some telltale signs of light leaks on my film so I turned the lights out got a flashlight and noticed some spots on the bellows. I contacted Ian (the US rep for Ebony) and he set up the repair with Hiromi in Japan. At the same time I purchased the Horseman angle viewer and had Hiromi do the modification for that. So, although I haven't used it heavily in my time with the camera, it may have had more heavy use before I bought it. While it's been in my care I have probably used it an average of less than a few days per month with many months of just sitting in my closet unused. Although it's used, it's definitely not abused and looks great.

Wilbur, good to hear from you my friend! It's been a while since we had the opportunity to shoot at Per's workshops. I'll be carrying the replacement in a backpack. For those of you who don't know, the Ebony 23S is a very compact camera. I carry it in a LowePro Orion AW waistpack with 3 lenses on boards, a Horseman 6x9 magazine, angle viewer, loupe, filters, meter and other extras. That's all in the waistpack section too, the backpack top portion holds my hiking essentials for the day.

John, I've never really caught on to the 6x9 format. Even when I make prints they inevitably get cropped to the 4x5 proportion anyways so I figured I'll probably get more use out of that format.

Here's my rationale for buying the 23S:
Size and weight - I really wanted a lightweight, portable camera that I could take hiking and backpacking with me. I can fit my whole setup in a LowePro waistpack instead of a trekker backpack. That counts for something when I need to watch what I carry when hiking.
Speed of operation - The 23S is a non-folding camera and stores easily with a lens mounted, so I can very quickly grab the camera, mount it on my tripod, focus, meter and shoot. No unfolding, no mounting lenses so when the light is fleeting, it is very easy and fast to use.
Ease of film use and film economy - I don't care much for loading sheet film holders and the 120 format saves me from that. I can carry all the film I need into the backcountry without the bulk of readyload packs or boxes of film and a changing tent. The film is also much cheaper and also cheaper to process. Since I typically shoot color transparency and don't normally print above 20x30 this format works well for me.
Wide choice of lenses - I can use a wide choice of lenses since I have coverage to spare with the smaller neg size. Also, I'm in the sweet spot of all these lenses since the size is smaller.

Rationale for switching to 4x5:
Bigger piece of film - This is the obvious choice. I can print a 30x40 if I wanted to and not worry about grain. I also much prefer the proportions of 4x5 versus 6x9.
Shooting panoramics - Here's one of the main reasons for me wanting to make the switch. I want to shoot 6x12 or even cut a slide to split a 4x5 into 2 panoramic sections. I really enjoy the format and crave the real estate a 4x5 will give me.
Folding cameras can be somewhat more compact. This is somewhat of a toss up. My 23S is VERY compact, but takes up a wider block whereas a folding 4x5 can be less than 3 inches thick.
I'll be investing in a full frame Canon digital SLR to cover making smaller prints and currently have a 24mm tilt/shift lens for some limited movements. (I know you guys will hate this reason!) I already have invested quite a bit in the DSLR format for my portrait/wedding work.

My reasons why I might not want to switch:
The compactness of my current system would be hard to beat with any 4x5 setup.
Having to load sheet film holders and carry sheet film.
The cost of 4x5 film and processing is generally much more than 120 film.
I don't regularly print large (30x40).
I've gotten my current Ebony system to exactly where I want it to be other than the inability to shoot larger.

So, with this information do any of you have any more insights?