View Full Version : Ebony Camera - what a beauty! A first time user's comments - long post.

Peter Brown
18-Oct-2001, 01:29
Dear fellow LF users,

This is a long post and I hope that doesn't offend anyone.

I have recently been researching which 4x5 camera would be suitable for my field photography work and the selection of lenses I have.

This research took me many months (since May 2001), and much of the information I gathered was from the excellent data base and the kind assistance of members on this LF forum. I was unable to actually test out or see in person any large format field cameras so I relied heavily on comments from users and those with experience with field cameras. I am grateful for all the information received and I thought it was my turn to return the favour and give my first impressions of the camera I finally decided on - the Ebony 45 S. I have no connection with the Ebony Camera Co and only heard of them 6 months ago. These comments are MY impressions of this fine camera.

For those not familar with the Ebony camera line, these cameras are hand made in Japan by the Ebony Camera Co who produce a wide selection of field cameras from 6x9 cm to 8x10 inch. The cameras are expensive but have an excellent reputation as high quality, well designed photographic tools. I think they are more than this.

In my opinion the Ebony camera is a beautiful piece of fine art! The craftsmanship is incredible and it looks just wonderful. The rich lustre of the ebony wood combined with the cool titanium fittings and the black leather bellows is almost sensual in it's appearence. It truly is a most unique camera and in all my thirty plus years experience as a professional photographer, no other camera has taken my breath away quite like this Ebony. The pictures just do not do it justice and it is not until you can hold it and drink in it's wonderful design and features that you can appreciate it. Even if I never took a shot with it, it would be worth having just for the sheer beauty of looking at it, but I'm sure that using it in the field over the years will be an experience in itself.

The 45 S is a non-folding type of field camera and the reason that I chose this model was it's ability to use a wide range of lenses on the flat board and with the standard bellows, although the 45 S comes equipped with Ebony's unique "universal" bellows which provide lots of movement even when closed down for wide angle use.

I wanted to be able to use wide lenses without having to resort to recessed boards and the 45 S will allow use of lenses down to 47mm before the need for a 10mm recessed board. The camera as standard has a bellows draw to 270mm but this can be extended with the optional 452 back to 360mm or with extension tubes giving the option of using reasonably long lenses. I wanted a camera that was lightweight (the 45 S weighs in at 2.1kg), compact and rigid with extensive movements. The 45 S met my criteria.

The bubble levels (three) on the front and rear standards help immensely with easy setup and levelling. Opening up the camera and being ready to take an image takes seconds rather than minutes. The knobs and locking levers look strong and work with presicion and the movements work with just the right amount of tension making for precise control.

The ground glass is bright and clear and I can not imagine the need for a fresnel screen except perhaps on very wide angle lenses, 55mm or wider, certainly it's not neccessary with my Nikkor 65mm/f 4. Under a cloudy sky or in shade even a dark cloth may not be needed as the image is so bright - my experience viewing through Sinar GG has been the exact opposite. I wanted the Ebony to be able to accept the Horseman Reflex Viewer and sent the camera and viewer to the factory for modification. The end result is excellent, the modification looks like it is part of the original design and the viewer fit s perfectly. The only downside is that when it's attached, my well-used viewer detracts from the beauty of the Ebony ;-)

On the tripod the camera feels rigid even at full extension and all movements work easily and smoothly. It feels so light and compact for a 4x5, more like a medium format than a large format. There are more movements than I will probably ever need but it is nice to know they are there if I do extend my photography to incorporate architecture, an area I can imagine this camera excelling in.

I am quite overwhelmed by the workmanship and design of this camera and even without having used it much (yet!) I can recommend it, even if it's just for the joy of looking at it and holding it. I can imagine having the pleasure of using this piece of artwork for many years to come. I'm already saving for one of the 5x7 or 8x10 models. Dealing with Ebony was a pleasure. All correspondence was answered efficiently and politely and Hiromi and Kuniko provided an excellent service. Thank you for a beautifully designed camera, Hiromi.

I hope that the above information has been of use to anyone contemplating a 4x5 field camera purchase and I'd be happy to answer any questions from anyone interested in a Ebony 45 S.

This isn't a camera you own - it's a camera you experience!

Kind regards

Peter Brown

Alan Davey
18-Oct-2001, 06:06
Peter, After many years using a Linhof TK I have just invested in an Ebony RSW for landscape work and I can only agree with your comments. One question, I also have a folding Horseman reflex viewer and intend to have it modified by Ebony for use on the RSW. Is the modification to the back, the viewer itself, or the metal frame into which the viewer fits, or a combination of these? Also, do you need to continue to use the extremely nasty Horseman metal spring when using this on your S?

QT Luong
18-Oct-2001, 15:12
Peter and others, nobody is offended by long posts here. They tend to be more informative than short posts. On the other hand, information is more easily accessible in the long run on the LF page than in this forum, and therefore if you have a lot to say about something I always encourage you to submit an article rather than just posting on the forum.

Peter Brown
18-Oct-2001, 19:37
Hi Alan,

Ebony modify the metal frame into which the viewer fits, so there is no need to send the entire viewer for modification. In fact Hiromi may now even have a template and you may only need to send the camera back - but check with him first. The modification was very reasonably priced and he did a beautiful job. As I say above, it looks like it is part of the design and doesn't detract from the appearence at all.

As far as that nasty metal spring is concerned, well as I didn't receive one when I got my viewer (second-hand), so I just attach a thick rubber band to the viewer and to the 'cold shoe' & srew knob which Ebony put on the top of the rear standard for the modification. This works extremely well and I'd imagine it is just as effective as the spring, it holds the viewer tightly to t he back but allows movement of the back to insert film holders.

Hope this helps

Kind regards

Peter Brown

Natha Congdon
18-Oct-2001, 19:48
They are indeed beautiful and VERY hardy, usable cameras. Mine has been as far afield as Cambodia, China and India. I have the SV810U (the 8X10 with asymmetric tilts) and would be happy to talk with you about my take on their 8X10 options. The level of service from Ebony with my every request only makes me gnash my teeth with frustration when I think of the fact that Wisner has still failed after 11 months to come up with the 12X20 camera I ordered from him!

Happy shooting,


Peter Brown
18-Oct-2001, 20:13
Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your offer on information about the 8x10U. I have been considering either the 5x7 or 8x10 (U models) as another camera (more for the ability to take longer lenses than I can with the 45S and of course for the larger image). I was intending to use the 45S as my LF travel camera as I too visit the Asia region often and I plan to make a trip using the LF format rather than the 35mm and MF of earlier trips ( you can see some of my editorial images at www.contax.ch - look under 'Photographers - Peter Brown' ).

The 8x10 U is most appealing and I admire you for taking the opportunity to travel with such a camera through Asia - it must have been an experience? I'd enjoy hearing your comments about your experiences using this as a travel camera (you can email me offline if you prefer).

I agree with you about the excellent service Ebony offer, something sadly lacking with so many manufacturers and dealers.

Kind regards


paul owen
19-Oct-2001, 08:35
Peter, What about the SW version in 10x8?? The "ultimate" LF camera?? Or how about asking Hiromi to custom build a 12x20?????

Peter Brown
19-Oct-2001, 19:51
Yes Paul a good idea. I hadn't thought of a SW 8x10 - I'm sure it'd be just right for travelling around with. Now where is the bank manager's phone number?



Peter Brown
20-Oct-2001, 03:53
If anyone is interested to see what the Ebony 45 S Ti looks like, I have just taken some photos showing it from various angles and I'd be happy to email them to you.

Just contact me at photo_illustration@bigpond.com

Kind regards

Peter Brown

Peter Brown
20-Oct-2001, 19:46
I have an expanded, more thorough review on the Tuan's large format page at:

http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~qtluong/photography/lf/cameras/ebony-45s.ht ml



Jerry Gardner
22-Oct-2001, 13:38

Do you keep the photos of your new camera in your wallet? ;-)

Peter Brown
22-Oct-2001, 19:09

Only to keep to show to my grandkids!