View Full Version : Ebony camera rigidity

Mark Muse
14-Feb-2004, 10:34
My Ebony 23S, purchased new last summer, is exhibiting some lack of rigidity in the standards. With the camera set up the standards will rock front to back a bit. The standard assembly, including the geared rails, seem to be rigid and rock in unison. I have been told that this is normal with an Ebony due to wood shrinkage resulting from low humidity. But I thought one of the reasons for the choice of ebony wood is its dimensional stability and resistance to moisture absorption. The actual amount of movement is not large but it is more than enough to impact focus at 5.6 with a 135 Sironar S.

If I have it adjusted to be rigid now (in the winter) will I have problems with the rails sticking when I try to focus in the summer when the humidity is much higher here in the US mid-Atlantic region? If so, perhaps it was a mistake to not buy a metal camera. Or am I expecting too much? Comments/ suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

14-Feb-2004, 10:49
Hi Mark,

I'd be awfully surprised if a company like Ebony would deliberately make a camera that would allow such leeways. Afterall, isn't that one of the reasons why these cameras are finished in the way they are? Others can correct me in this but it just doesn't sound right. However, you might want to experiment with this to see if it changes things... increase the humidity a little and see if the rigidity in the standards revert back to normal.

Secondly, I'd be on the blower to Ebony in a big hurry to see what their thoughts are on this matter.

Good luck on resolving this issue....


Gem Singer
14-Feb-2004, 11:07
Hi Mark,

I am not exactly sure what you mean when you claim that the small amount of play impacts the focus at f5.6 with a 135 Sironar S. This is something that I have not been able to duplicate on my Ebony SV45TE.

My camera also exhibits a small amount of play when tightened down, but not enough to affect the focus. It's a lot more precise than the five former wooden field cameras I owned. They were made of mahogany, cherry, or teak wood. Ebony seems to be the wood that is least effected by humidity. It certainly looks the nicest. Also, the entire focusing mechanism on Ebony cameras is made of titanium metal. The ebony wood rails merely support the metal gears that interact with the metal pinion gears and focusing rods.

Perhaps you are expecting too much.

14-Feb-2004, 12:12

I'm not an Ebony user, but it would seem that you really should contact the manufacturer regarding your concern. Certainly if something is wrong with your camera, then they're the ones who can fix it.

Wood cameras are inherently going to be victim of moisture changes. I had the experience last June in Virginia (since you mentioned the mid-Atlantic region...) of my Wisner 4x5 almost completely locking up because of the humidity. I was drowning in my own sweat already, so this only added to my misery! Once back in the air conditioning the wood relaxed (as did I) and it operated normally again. I realize mine is not an Ebony, but wood does move with humidity changes. You may be disappointed if you expect it not to. In the meantime, check with Ebony.


Steve Hamley
14-Feb-2004, 13:05

Here's an excerpt from a previous post elsewhere, attributed to Ian Wilson, Ebony's representative:

...., I contacted Ebony directly, and here is the answer from Ian Wilson (representative from Ebony, I quote him here with his permission):

"(...) the remedy is simple: all Ebony cameras have two metal baseplates, one on each side of the camera bed. The wooden rails to which the front and back standards are attached slide underneath these baseplates. The baseplates are attached to the bed by small phillips screws, 4, 6 or 7 on each side, depending on the model. If the front focus knob is stiff, loosen the front two screws on each side (4 altogether) by a small amount - a few degrees is usually all that is required. Similarly, if the back focus knob is stiff, loosen the back four screws. On the other hand if the focus knobs feel a bit loose, the same screws need to be tightened slightly.

In case you were wondering, by the way, all wooden cameras are liable to suffer from this problem, however Ebony are the only cameras which allow the problem to be resolved so easily. (...) In fact Ebony believe that the type of construction materials they use, together with the way they are treated and the way they are put together, make their cameras harder-wearing and better suited to changing climatic conditions than all-metal cameras."



14-Feb-2004, 13:26
Hi Steve,

You're quite right in that wood does have the tendency to expand and contract with changes in the humidity levels.

However, (and, I may be reading Mark's posting incorrectly), it seems as if the problem lies in the standards rocking forward and backwards rather than this being a focusing lock-down issue. It sounds more of a hinging problem rather than a lock-down issue.

So, I wonder if the adjustment of those screws will resolve this problem, or not.


Jonathan Brewer
14-Feb-2004, 14:19
'The standard assembly, including the geared rails, seem to be rigid and rock in unison. I have been told that this is normal with an Ebony due to wood shrinkage resulting from low humidity.'.............................................................Mahongany is known as 'the wood all other woods are judged by', and Ebony is more exotic because it is an even more beautiful wood, both woods are very stable, so you have the best wood availbable(unless you go Teak which is the all time champ in terms of stability but tends to be bland looking in its character) and you're getting the best there is in the camera, maybe it's some other type of 'glitch' other than an issue of moisture/humidity.

Henry Ambrose
14-Feb-2004, 16:44
The post above by Steve Hamley quoting Ian Wilson is the answer, in my experience. I recently bought an Ebony camera and when I received it the front and rear standards were quite loose, moving back and forth along the lens axis, rocking where the rails joined. For a camera touted as solid and rigid mine was very sloppy. I had grave reservations about keeping the camera.

The seller (Jim at MPEX) asked Ebony about this problem and shortly I received an email from Ian Wilson that answered my question. After reading the information which Ian sent me (which is contained in the Ebony FAQ on their website), I tightened the screws in tiny increments and the play is gone. Even when compared to my Arca Swiss the little Ebony is now quite rigid at full extension and the focusing is still smooth, actually better than when there was too much play in the rails. By design the camera is tuneable to varying environmental conditions. This tuning is quite easy to do, requiring only a phillips head screwdriver and a little care. A great feature on a wooden camera.

paul owen
15-Feb-2004, 07:04
Hi Mark. I can sympathise with you! When you paay so much money for a camera you want/expect it to work fine!! A few years ago I found my SW45 to be sloppy but a quick email to Ebony gave the same response as above! IT WORKS! Being able to adjust the camera yourself to different climatic changes is VERY useful - Ebony really are cameras for all seasons! If Ebony supplied a small screwdriver with the camera then most peoples mind would be at ease! Just think....a titanium screwdriver with an ebony wood handle!!!!!!!!

Mark Muse
15-Feb-2004, 17:20
Thank you to all who contributed!

Jorge Gasteazoro
15-Feb-2004, 20:10
Just think....a titanium screwdriver with an ebony wood handle!!!!!!!!

Yeah for $500 ......:-)

Michael J. Kravit
16-Feb-2004, 20:36
I also noticed a bit of play in my Ebony 45SU. A quick adjustment as noted above took care of the problem. It has been several months and everything is as rigid as ever.

I applaud Ebony for the forethought in manufacturing a camera that is of such high quality that it allows for end user adjustments to keep it operating as it was when new.

Thanks Ebony.

Mark Muse
25-Feb-2004, 17:44
The information provided about tightening the screws on the top of the bed proved to be the right answer. It resolved the problem completely. This is a really well designed camera! Thanks again to everyone who replied.