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Thread: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

  1. #1

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    Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    I have an Ebony RWS 45 that I bought many years ago thatís now been dusted off and ready to go shoot. However, I noticed that the rear standard seems to be slightly loose, meaning when the bellows are extended the wood seems to droop slightly down, creating an angle (imperceptible to the eye) compared to the front standard, and introducing some play in the camera. The wood hasnít been damaged and the titanium parts work just fine with no loose screws. I am wondering whether itís something to worry about in terms of the focus place, or whether these small variances are to be expected with wooden field cameras? This is my only LF camera so I have little experience to go on.

    I can of course always check that everything is okay on the ground glass, however since I shoot a lot of architecture, it would be great to know whether the camera was level just be using the spirit levels when setting up and not have to worry too much about an accidental rear tilt (however minor) changing the perspective.

    Ebony doesnít exist anymore so I cannot ask them. Will contact Robert White but thought I would ask here first. Any help is much appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    The focus track is relatively short; and if particularly short focus length lenses are involved, very little of the track and its gearing are actually engaged, allowing rear flexing. What I do in such cases is push a little plastic shim in between the camera bed and the wooden part of the focus extension. It can easily be made using a pair of tinsnips from a plastic putty knife, or by buying the kind of tapered plastic shims used for door hinge aligning, found at construction stores.

    There is another method that works too; but it involves a minor alteration to the camera itself. I won't outline it here unless it is needed, and you're comfortable about drilling into some of your camera.

  3. #3
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    My 4x5 cameras have adjustable detents on the front tilt. Irrespective of any lack of perpendicularity of the rear standard to the bed, the front detents are set to be parallel the rear standard. This is easily accomplished wth a laser pointer.
    Last edited by ic-racer; 3-Feb-2021 at 19:23.

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    The rear of these cameras can flex despite the detents of both front and rear being engaged. The components themselves are quite rigid, among the very best for wooden cameras of this design. But in short profile, like this wide angle version, very little of the focus track is engaged, so what hangs out the back is not fully supported by the lower bed half. As I already suggested, it's easy to "pinch" the two surface together immovably using a simple shim wedge, so that the upper and lower components can't "rock" apart in a spacing sense. This has nothing to do with linear focus itself, which is secured by the focus tightening knobs. I suspect the issue exists on many other field cameras too; but the cost of owning an Ebony does tend to cause one to expect very precise results. It's a trade-off. Want rigidity of a Sinar? - it comes with the weight and bulk of a Sinar. In this case, it requires a minor tweak.

  5. #5

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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    I suggest checking out FAQ #3 here

    before making any modifications to the camera.

  6. #6
    Joe O'Hara's Avatar
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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    It is possible (even necessary, with humidity changes) to tighten or loosen the fit between the rails on this camera. If you feel that there is any excess play between
    the front and back rails, consider giving the phillips-head screws in the titanium plates on the top of the bed a 1/8 or less CW turn. I often do this in the winter time when the usually high relative humidity around here drops to the 20's or lower as the colder weather arrives. This is recommended in the instruction sheet that came with the camera.

    You may need to undo that tightening if you are working in high humidity later, i.e., if you find the rails binding up when you try to focus.

    FWIW, I have never noticed any slop or misalignment noticeable to the eye (or in the image) with my RW45.
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  7. #7
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    It's probably a gear/rack issue, independent of humidity, Joe. It's not misalignment either, unless something has been accidentally locked down askew. Gets worse if the back is weighted, like with bulky roll film back. This does not mean Ebony camera are less better built - they're probably the best of all in terms of wooden designs. I think the majority of photographers just don't take note of this particular issue.

    But just like Sal cautioned, making an outright modification to a very well thought out design is not wise. Ebony wood is more fussy than mahogany, and distinctly split-prone if not correctly machined and sealed. I'm going on the premise that persons with serious specific skills with these kinds of materials might have the knowledge and correct tools for a hypothetical tweak, but not the average photographer. And that's why I suggested the simple non-marring temporary wedge method instead if necessary.

    When longer lenses are being used, there's simply more friction in the gear/rack interface due to more cumulative contact, so it's a non-issue in that case. I personally have an additional custom nylon set screw tightening option as well as the wedge method, but never even use the set screw because the wedge is so easy, in those relatively uncommon cases I actually use wide angle lenses. It's with roll film back weight tugging rear protrusion down that I notice the issue.

  8. #8

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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    Thanks everyone. It seems like all the titanium parts are screwed down pretty tight. I have attached a video, showing what happens. It gets worse as the rear standard is racked out even more. I did have the camera stored (on display) on a shelf for a while with the front and rear standards extended somewhat. I am not wondering whether this has bent the wood out of shape? However, I think that should make it more difficult to rack and not looser?

    https://vimeo.com/508781382/b3a36633bb

    Last edited by macmx; 5-Feb-2021 at 02:55. Reason: Video link correction

  9. #9

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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    My SW 23 does the same. Drew's recommendation makes a lot of sense: simple and removable, doesn't impact anything else.

  10. #10

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    Re: Droopy rear standard on Ebony camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by macmx View Post
    I have an Ebony RWS 45 that I bought many years ago thatís now been dusted off and ready to go shoot. However, I noticed that the rear standard seems to be slightly loose...
    Quote Originally Posted by macmx View Post
    ...I have attached a video, showing what happens...
    Wow, that's an incredible amount of play. I own two Ebony cameras, both purchased brand new, and neither one displays anything like the gap seen in your video between their movable sections and the space between their fixed bases and their flat titanium retaining plates with adjustable screws.

    None of the wood appears warped, at least as best one can tell from the video. I'm at a loss to explain what caused your problem or how best to correct it. At this point, I'd suggest contacting Richard Ritter for advice on how to proceed.

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