View Full Version : ebony RSW for portraits... good choice?

26-Apr-2009, 14:17
it's the "robert white special". it's movements are limited to front rise and center tilt.

i shoot still life and portraits plus landscapes and have zero expeirnce w/ 4x5. it would be my first camera. i would have a 210mm at front and that camera asks for a "hat"lens panel. otoh i like it's lightweight and ultra simplicity, meaning a fast set up.
should i look for something w/ movements on the back as well?


Flavio Colker

26-Apr-2009, 14:52

I have an RSW and I bought it for its limited movements. I use it mainly for 6x12cm panoramas and 4x5" landscapes. I have never used it with anything larger than a 180mm lens, so I cannot help you there. But, for portraiture, you do not need a lot of movements. I have the 45SU which I do not use much since acquiring the RSW, and an AS Field Classic 4x5 that I use when shooting portraits with my Cooke PS945 (229mm). I feel the RSW is an excellent first 4x5, but others may chime in with other opinions.


Eric Leppanen
26-Apr-2009, 15:31
I also own an RSW, which I use as a wide-to-normal camera for 4x5 landscapes and architecture (I have not used it for portraits). Even with the 35mm "top hat" lens board, the camera will only support a maximum extension of 225mm (190 + 35), which I suspect will not be enough for a typical head-and-shoulders portrait using a 210mm lens (the Robert White folks told me some years back that the top hat was designed with the 210mm APO Symmar lens in mind). You may also need to add the 452 extender back, which gives you another 90mm of extension but adds cost and bulk to the camera.

If you only occasionally use lenses longer than normal for most of your shooting, then maybe the extender back would be a good solution. Otherwise you probably will be better off with a heavier camera with more extension.

As for movements, my understanding is that portraiture typically requires nothing more than a little bit of tilt (if even that), so the RSW will be fine from that perspective.

Drew Wiley
26-Apr-2009, 15:37
Would seem to be quite limited. What if you need a closer shot? It's rather clumsy
getting a 180 or 210 right in someone's face. The RW45 would seem to be a better
option for portraits, though less useful for architectural shots needing very wide-angle lenses.

26-Apr-2009, 16:58
i will have to go w/a shen hao.
my budget does not spread to anyhting Ebony other than the Robert white special.

26-Apr-2009, 22:21
My SW is my 12th 4x5 in 40 years (Plaubel, Sinars, Linhofs, Cambo, Gandolfis, Ebony45S) and my absolute favorite. It's better because it sets up instantaneously and alignment is guaranteed.
Next, and sorry again. Shoot portraits with a 180 or a 150. Why the mug shots? That's Nikon stuff. Use the shoulders for attitude and the hands for expression and print large.

Bruce Barlow
27-Apr-2009, 04:08
Please get a camera with full movements. While you want to make portraits now, who knows what you'll want to try in a year or so. And then, you may find that you want movements that you don't have with the Ebony.

My advice? If you're brand new to 4x5, get the least expensive wooden field camera you can find (Tachihara, Wista, Osaka, etc.). Buy it used, don't care what it looks like, and spend good bucks instead on a good used lens (portraits? 210mm in my book). When you find something that your beat-up old camera can't do, find a camera that can do it, and sell the beater for pretty much what you paid for it.

That said, I'm still using Baby Wista, as I call her, 25 years later, with a Schneider Symmar 210. Acquired an 8x10 with a 5x7 reducing back when I "needed" to make 8x10s. Now I love 5x7s more than 8x10s, and am considering a 5x7 rather than use the reducing back. Richard Ritter has hinted that he'll make me one, but he hasn't...yet.

Michael Alpert
27-Apr-2009, 10:13
Bruce Barlow is pointing you in the right direction As long as the camera works well, with a light-tight bellows and reasonable movements, you'll be able to learn where your photography will lead you.

27-Apr-2009, 10:38
Bruce Barlow is pointing you in the right direction As long as the camera works well, with a light-tight bellows and reasonable movements, you'll be able to learn where your photography will lead you.

I agree.:)