Thoughts on Ebony 2x3 cameras

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by brian steinberger, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I've been looking for a 2x3 view camera for some time now. I've been mainly looking at Ebony's and Arca Swiss cameras, but have given the Shen-Hoa a look too. I'm looking for a small view camera to travel with. Something I will use to shoot landscapes and architecture (nothing extreme), and still life. I would like to use focal lengths equivalent in 35mm to 28, 50, and something longer. I want something strong and tough, that will last a lifetime.

    I have found an Ebony 23s for $1600. The Arca Swiss F line looks fantastic but is well out of my price range at 4k +. There is one of ebay now for $2800. Even the Ebony cameras brand new are a bit expensive.

    Anyone have any thoughts on the Ebony 2x3's? Ease of use, durability, amount of movements, etc? And also, how it compares to the Shen-Hoa 2x3 or other 2x3's.

    Thanks!
     
  2. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    There are a lot of cameras on the e-bay etc. I will argue there is a HUGE oversupply. The only reason people are getting the prices they are as they "don't need the money".
    I may offend some folks here.. but Sinars are everywhere and I don't think are really worth half of what people are asking. GREAT camera and a bargain now but overpriced because of oversupply.
    Ebony is more rarefied. But then again I am sure more 23 are out there than what people are actually using.
    Heck my 5x7 Toyo has been collecting a lot of dust. It makes me happy knowing it is there. But I bet I would be hard pressed to get the $1000+ I have in it out of it in a reasonable amount of time.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2013
  3. LJH

    LJH Member

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    Are 2x3" cameras much smaller than, say, a Chamonix 045n and a couple of Grafmatics?

    Personally, I'd prefer the larger GG and larger film if there's not too much difference...
     
  4. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    If you're trying to do quality work in terms of sharp focus etc the quality of build does make a difference. It's harder to critically focus a 2x3
    camera than 4x5, and slight errors in tilts and focus etc make a bigger difference. Ebony cameras are well worth the price but obviously aren't cheap under any definition of that term. I just find a dedicated 2X3 camera to be very limited in terms of versatility. What I sometimes do is use Horseman 6x9 backs on my Ebony 4x5. It's nearly as compact and light as 6x9 only camera, and it can still be used for 4x5 work. If you prefer metal cameras, Horseman technical cameras are beautifully made, but without the range of movements as a "baby Technika",
    Arca, or Technikardan, but much better priced at the moment. Many view cameras are incredibly well priced at the moment, including Sinars - but the latter would seem to be a bit bulky if you're just going to size them down for roll film use.
     
  5. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    +1 to Wiley and LJH and limiting to a small camera... in the end we all have our reasons.
     
  6. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    +2, you may have a rally good reason for wanting a 2x3, but I would opt for the 5x4. I often use a Linhof 6x9 back on my Technika and Ebony, but the option is still there to add a 5x4 DD. The Ebony's are really light and beautifully built, not hewn from granite like the Technika, but great to use all the same.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a 4x5 Technika and got a 2x3 Technika for travel when we had a child. The 2x3 kit is about half the size of the 4x5 kit, set up in a similar way, so it is more compact.

    At the same time, I didn' feel comfortable with a 2x3 view camera until I was comfortable with larger formats. If this is your first view camera, consider starting with something large enough to see what's happening on the groundglass without a loupe at first. My first was 8x10.
     
  8. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Thanks guys, my reason for wanting a 2x3 is that I'm limited to enlarging roll film. I had a Wista 45D metal field in years past and it's just too bulky for me, and I'm not a fan of sheet film in general, atleast not at this point in my photographic career.. haha. The Ebony 23s looks very lightweight and compact, something I desire. And the ground glass swinging out of the way seems a huge benefit as well. Basically I'd just like a MF camera with movements.
     
  9. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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    Fyi, the shenhao specs say the camera only goes as short as 50 something. It does look nice but I'd get a folder first.
     
  10. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    Fair enough too. I used to have a Technika 70, but it was damn near as large and heavy as a 5x4 Technika. I don't know the Ebony 2x3, but imagine it would be light and top class. You can, of course, get pretty much 5x4 quality from 2x3 with the right film/dev combination. I use my Ebony these days much more than my Technika, getting old and creaky!
     
  11. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Tony, your thoughts on metal vs wood view cameras? Besides weight. How about rigidity?
     
  12. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Interesting question, probably with no straight forward answer because in the end much of this comes down to build quality. There is also precision to consider. Unfortunately strength/rigidity and precision don't necessarily come in the same package. Ebony wood cameras are said to be very rigid and precise. Linhof metal cameras are said to be very rigid and precise. Etc.

    The great frustration for me with this stuff is not being able to just go to a store and try them. Ebony, Linhof, Sinar, Arca, Toyo. Who knows. And this is big ticket stuff, even used. Which one will best serve my needs? Will I get what I'm told I'll get? You have to buy based purely on specifications, "research" and opinion, and speaking for myself, no matter how much time I spend researching and how hard I try to make the right move, I end up going in circles, and I've been disappointed.
     
  13. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    I don't have a set-up 5x7 enlarger... but contact prints are dandy. I do use the roll-film back a lot for things I will enlarge.
     
  14. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Unfortunately, you have to wiggle your toes into the water to know its temperature. If you don't have the ability to actually see one of these cameras in use, you're going to just have to dive in and learn the hard way. If your initial hunch is reasonably correct, you'll simply get used to the camera pretty soon and not worry about which model might have hypothetically been slightly better. With Ebony you have to differentiate between full-featured folders with relatively long bellows and non-folding cameras made primarily for wide angle lenses only (though these can be lenghtened using back extensions. You also have to decide what kind of med format film and holders you want to work with - sheet or roll (more likely). ... and not all roll film holders are created equal or attach in the same manner. A relatively heavy holder on
    a cheaper, flimsier (but otherwise good) camera might actually tug the image slightly out of focus.
     
  15. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, to muddy the water a little, there are 2x3 monorails. Modern ones are highly precise, heavy, and expensive. There are, though, older ones that sometimes sell for relatively little. A couple of centuries ago when I was thinking about moving up to 2x3 from 35 mm I looked into the 2x3 Galvin, wasn't thrilled by what I saw. Got to touch a 2x3 Linhof Color (Technika on a rail, very heavy) that scared me away from 2x3 view cameras for years. Instead I got a 2x3 Graphic, absolutely not a view camera, that met my needs but won't meet yours, Brian.

    When one of my friends was on his deathbed he gave me his 2x3 Cambo SC (SC-1). I've since bought another for a little over $100. Also a complete 4x5 SC for parts to make a camera with a 2x3 front and 4x5 rear, the better to shoot 6x12. The 2x3s are no less precise than the 4x5 and considerably smaller. Cambo SCs aren't precise enough for digital because they have friction focusing and their movements aren't geared; for digital you want something a lot more modern and expensive. 2x3ers seem to pop up around once a quarter, typically sell for no more than $200-300. If you want one, watch patiently ...

    Very capable used 4x5 monorails that accept roll holders can be had for a small fraction of the amount you propose to spend. The Sinar system is vast and well-supported. Same goes for Cambos like mine.

    Brian, about focal length equivalences. The normal lens for 2x3 is 100 mm, the normal lens for 35 mm is 43 mm; that people think of 50 mm as normal for 2x3 is due to an historical accident. The 2x3 equivalent of 28 mm on 35 mm is 65 mm. 50 mm, 116 mm. My little Cambos will focus a 47 Super Angulon on a flat board to infinity. My 6x12 rig will make infinity with a 35 on a flat board.

    Good luck, have fun, and accept that whatever you do will be wrong,

    Dan
     
  16. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    well now there's an Arca Swiss F line compact on Ebay for $1500. I'm not sure if I should wait and try to get an Ebony or other 2x3 for cheaper?? I mean the Arca is $4400 brand new, so wouldn't $1500 be a steal? Or even $1600 for the Ebony 23s that costs $3400 new.
     
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  17. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Forgive my ignorance but how much 2x3 sheet film is available?


    Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For sheet film, it's mainly the Ilford special order these days, but 2x3 view cameras generally take rollfilm backs. Ilford 2x3 sheet film costs about as much as 4x5.
     
  19. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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  20. GRHazelton

    GRHazelton Subscriber

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    Very little at this time. If you can mount a roll film 120 back you're gold, otherwise Freestyle lists only their Arista sheet film at 100, and Ilford FP4 and HP5, both out of stock till Sept 30
     
  21. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    For enlarging purposes, a well-made roll-film holder is going to keep the film plane more precise than a tiny sheet film holder. Focus is fussier
    as the format size diminishes - a lot less forgiving than when shooting 4x5. But I emphasize, well-made, when it comes to the choice of holder
    itself. The camera also needs esp precise seating for the relevant holder. And with roll film you have the advantage of a wide selection of films and ease of loading. Regarding folders versus non-folder and monorails. ... folders are slower to use, simply because you have to unfold them and attach the lens etc. With a monorail you can leave a darkcloth on, even a favorite lens if needed. Some technical cameras will allow you keep keep a very small lens attached. But folders are generally more compact for travel. Another advantage to certain monorail
    system is that if you need more bellows extension for a longer focal length, you simply add an extra rail section. I'm a long-lens addict myself.
    Camera like 2x3 non-folding Ebonys are oriented more to wide-angle architectural work, and typically come equipped with a bag bellows.
     
  22. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't see anything inherently imprecise about 2x3" sheet film. It's on a thicker base than rollfilm and has no curl, so those are advantages, plus you have the advantage of individual control of development, if that's important to you.

    Linhof rollfilm backs have excellent flatness, but they're also heavy and bulky. If you're shooting a lot of exposures, a rollfilm back is more compact, but for relatively few exposures, sheet film may be lighter or more compact.

    For my 2x3" Technika, I have rollfilm backs, regular holders, and Grafmatics. Usually I use a higher speed rollfilm for handheld rangefinder shots, slower sheet film for shooting view-camera style on a tripod. I also use rollfilm for color.
     
  23. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    All sheet film sags a little unless you have something like a vacuum back. Even lying flat, if you look at a reflection of something linear like a
    fluorescent light bank, you can often spot a bit of waviness. More a problem with thin films and large film sizes - but the shorter focal distance of comparable perspective lenses with these smaller film sizes just makes it all fussier. I've also measured true focal plane positioning with even expensive view cameras using a specially built depth micrometer, and about all it takes is a tiny bubble in the varnish, or a little burr on diecast alum to make an issue. Ideally, one would not want to stop down a lens for this size film as far as with a 4x5. ... 6x9 is different enough to make a real difference, and 645 way down the food chain. Different strokes for different folks. But if you're going to the trouble of taking along filmholders, might as well make em 4x5 to begin with. 2x3 sheet film will be just as much fuss, and only a modest wt
    savings. A properly made roll film holder will have no curl in the image area. A lot depends on one's expectations. My brother did a lot of
    Tecknika 6x9 work back in the 60's, and only about half of it ever came out really sharp. I don't know how much of that was due to focus
    issues, and how much due to less than ideal holders. I recently made a number of 16x24 enlargements of 6x9 Ektar roll film, which is pretty
    insane by my own personal standards (I rarely enlarge more than 4X - and NO I don't need any comments from someone who tells me how they create inkjet smudges four feet from MF film!) and at that degree, any little glitch becomes a real problem visually. It's just hard to make small film resemble 4x5 work, let alone 8x10, but it's something I'm seriously experimenting with so that I can keep backpacking with
    a view camera in old age. The days of lugging a 90 lb pack with a Sinar system in up the peaks and passes has ended. I'm not a fifty year old
    teenager any more!
     
  24. ghart

    ghart Member

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    Brian, I'm coming late to this thread but I'm happy to recommend the Ebony "S" cameras. Although I use it exclusively for roll film I went for the 45S, for the following reasons:
    1. More bellows freedom than the 23S. I wanted to use the 55/4.5 Apo-Grandagon lens and the 23S will not allow full use of the image circle because with rise, the top of the rear element of the lens hits the underside of the box which forms the rear standard. This box is bigger on the 45S, so allowing full rise with this lens.
    2. Ability to see outside the 6x9 frame on the ground glass. I find this to be a great help when framing a picture.
    3. Selling it on might be easier (I have no plans to do so!)

    Of course the 23S is a bit smaller and lighter, and users of the Ebony 2x3 cameras really like the hinged back, which does away with the need to remove the focusing frame and find somewhere safe to put it (often in a hurry). However the Horseman roll film backs fit like a glove on the Ebony 5x4 cameras, and they are not that much bigger or heavier than the 6x9 backs.

    George