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Thread: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Kansas City

    Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    What are the relative strengths of the following three types of 4X5 cameras?
    Monorail vs Metal vs Premium modern wooden camera. Sample cameras could include the Arca- Swiss F-Classic (or F-Classic Compact or F-Field) 4X5 vs K.B. Canham DLC 4X5 vs Ebony RW45E. Have any advantages changed in the past few years.

    I tried to pick the best of each category, but recognize I am just beginning the research process. If I decide to enter the LF field, I will probably purchase used equipment. Before I do that I would like to know what the holy grail is for 4X5 field cameras.

    Bonus Question: What 2-3 lenses? I would use LF for landscape, nature, and architecture. I would probably purchase 2-3 lenses in the 35mm equivalent range of 20mm to 100mm. Any ideas as to the most popular 4X5 LF lenses?

  2. #2

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    I have zero complaints about my Toyo 45AII. Solid, light, compact, awesome setup.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Holland + Brazil

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    Mono-rail versus folding: mono-rail suited in all situations, in the studio a focussing back (mono-rail) is a must.

    Monorail versus folding, weight: a Sinar P2 is heavier than a Chamonix.
    But there are lighter camera's than the Sinar like the Cambo's or Sinar F series.

    Lenses for architecture: (58XL), 75mm SA, 115mm Grandagon and 150mm Symar, 240mm.
    You can start-out with the 75 (a must for interiors), the 150 and the 210/240.
    I would not go for a 135mm because of it's limited IC.
    The 115mm Grandagon gives you a less pronounced perspective in architecture.

    Hope this has been of help, I have been into architectural photography for the past 30 years or so.


  4. #4

    Cool Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    If you are back packing, weigh is an issue, so a folder is usually a good choice, although the Toho is a really light monorail. I prefer Arca most of the time, but I don't backpack. Ebony RW is a really good beginners camera-the universal bellow will allow a 75mm with no problem, shorter would probably not work.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Knoxville, Tennessee

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony


    If you scroll down you should see a list of "similar threads" that will answer a lot of your questions.

    In short, unlike 35mm reflex cameras which are mostly the same, these cameras are quite different and have different advantages and "disadvantages", quirks, or trade-offs of weight versus features. Whatever you chose, you'd have to live with something that's someone else will criticize.

    Arca: versatile modular camera. You can configure anything you want with it. Smooth as most metal cameras are and is one of the main draws to people who don't like wood cameras. It's also heavy for the features. When I chose an Ebony SV45U over an Arca system, it was because the Arca that did what the SV45U would do would weight around 10 pounds, and require at least two rails plus two bellows. If you configure it more simply or don't mind the weight, great choice. It's one of the highest quality cameras, but support can be spotty. I don't believe Arca has a US/english website, so learning the system can take a little more effort. A good resource is Jack Dykinga's book - he uses the Arca system extensively and describes it well - and he also uses a Wista field camera to save weight when he needs to.

    Canham DLC: Main draw is the light weight for the features. Does everything the Ebony can do and lighter, but many people criticize the rigidity of the camera. Personally the lack of rigidity in a wooden Canham 8x10 didn't bother me, it took very sharp pictures, but the lever controls did. The bellows is also not attached to the rear standard, it's held in by the back so you have to make sure it's where it needs to be when changing the back from horizontal to vertical especially when the bellows is compressed with wide lenses. It never bothered me but it does some. It's a high-quality camera and the support is top notch.

    Ebony: Classic wooden field cameras with classic controls.

    The Ebony SV45U or SV45U2 are usually the models compared to the Arca and Canham, the RW45/E is Ebony's entry level camera, although many people find it an excellent lightweight and competent camera and use it instead of the "upper end". Ebony models with a "V" in the name are folders, "U" means asymmetric rear movements, and "E" means ebony wood versus mahogany in models where both woods are available as a standard order.

    I find the Ebony SV45U (and the mahogany RW45) a good balance of features versus weight, and I like the conventional controls. I also like the asymmetric rear movements. The same camera as the SV45U without the asymmetric rear movements is the SV45Ti/E, and might be a better camera to compare to the other two. People that don't like them for the most part don't like that they aren't as smooth or rigid as a Linhof Technika, which they aren't . Support is good but not as good as Canham.

    As far as lenses go, the standard 4x5 lens set is 90mm, 150mm, 210mm, and 300mm. I see a little bit wider and use a 80mm 110mm 135mm and 180mm. For a compact longer lens I use a 10-3/4" (270mm) f:9 process lens in shutter. The 4x5 equivalent to a 20mm lens will be around 65mm.

    Cheers, Steve

  6. #6
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    Landscape/nature lenses: Fujinon-W 125mm/5.6 ans a Fujinon A 240mm (or near equal). Small. Sharp. Tiny. Very sharp. I have the 125mm. I'm saving up for the 240mm. The Kodak Ektar 203/7.7 would be an alternative to the 240mm Fuji A.

    I place high value on small, light, sharp lenses. Small filters too. I can carry small lenses farther.

    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

    Wayne's Blog


  7. #7
    darr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    The South

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    Arca's are beautiful machines to operate! My studio 4x5 is a F Classic Field with micometric orbix. I have achieved this camera after years of upgrading. I do not take it on-the-road because for me, it is too much. (Petite female, age 50). It is my camera of choice for technical/operating reasons.

    Ebony cameras are very nice as well. I have owned the 45SU, SV45U, and the RSW. I currently own the 45SU and RSW. The 45SU will be up for sale in the future. Why? Not because of performance, but because of not using it. I have been shooting strictly panoramics when shooting outside for the past couple of years. I bought the RSW second handed very reasonable and started using it with a 6x12 back exclusively with excellent results. I love the 6x17 format so I recently ordered a Fotoman 6x17 and am awaiting delivery from the manufacture. So like everything else in my life, I evolve with the ebb and flow.

    If I was starting out and wanted a wood camera (non-folder), I would seriously look for a used RSW. They have limited back movements, but if one will be learning through the landscape, I think it is an excellent camera. I personally do not like folders as I think it can take from the rigidity and adds more setup/take down time. This is just my experience and others will have different opinions.

    The lenses I use for landscape/nature are: Rodenstock's 90, 135, 180 and an older Docter 240. I do a bit of macro and use a Rodenstock 120 macro for that. I am not an architecture photographer, but a portrait maker. The lens I use for portraiture is a Cooke PS945.

    Hope this adds something to the mix.

    Kind regards,

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    There is no holy grail, because to some extent every camera design involves some comrpomise. You must decide which compromises to make, and you can only do so with experience. Buy a starter and one lens and get shooting. Buy used and re-sell at little or no loss if you find you don't like what you bought. Then you will discover very quickly what you prefer.

    Lighter weight usually entails fewer features, less bellows draw, perhaps less rigidity.

    A lens kit covering the range you mentioned would be: 65-90-135-210-300.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    What Ron said, he is right on

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Carmel Valley, CA

    Re: Arca Swiss vs Canham DLS vs Ebony

    I'd second the idea that before spending thousands chasing the ne plus ultra of LF, you get a feel for the format and the workflow. Buy something reasonably cheap so you don't get too attached to the camera itself. This will help you decide what lenses you feel you truly need, which is important as final camera choice may be dictated by your selection.

    For instance, no folding metal camera I know of handles architectural moves using an extreme W/A with the aplomb of monorail and bag bellows. Too, if you decide you want fast W/A's for interiors, they simply won't fit through the front lens standard of any number of old metal technical folders.

    OTOH, most monorails and wooden field cams don't set up in 30 seconds as will my 60-year old Meridian 45B.

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