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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Forgive my ignorance but how much 2x3 sheet film is available?
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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.
Brian, if you're looking at/for a 2x3 Arca, take a look at this: http://www.galerie-photo.info/forumgp/read.php?6,2869