REVIEW: EBONY 45SU by Richard White
I have been asked many times why I prefer to use the view camera for most of the work I do when there is clearly an alternative that appears to be lighter, easier and more convenient especially with post production.
It's a question that I always answer with basically the same words each time it is asked, however the really short answer is, I just prefer it to anything else.
I prefer it for several reasons. Firstly I love my camera. The camera I use now is an Ebony. Model 45SU. It is hand made from Ebony wood. In fact 20 year old quarter-sawn ebony heartwood. The bed rail is made from titanium. The bellows is calfskin. The wood is dense and hardy and the titanium is corrosion resistant. The movements are precise. It has all the attributes of German engineering without being German. It is made in Japan. The finish is exquisite.
It has a bellows draw that allows me to use lenses from 58mm to a telephoto 500mm (approx 19mm to 170mm for 35mm equivalent). More than I need. You can focus the camera from the front or the back of the bed rail. You can swing the lens, tilt the lens, raise the lens, shift the lens. You can do just about anything.
I love the look of it. It is a work of art. When it is open and ready to go it is a pleasure to look at. Discipline requires you to look away and concentrate on the job at hand and the reason you got the camera out in the first place. I love the process you have to go through to organize the shot.
Choosing the lens so as to do the right amount of justice to what it is you are looking at. Framing the scene from underneath the dark cloth. Letting your brain adjust to the upside down back to front image on the ground glass, which is a visual and artistic advantage when framing up a picture. Most intrusions are revealed in the upside down image.
Having the ability to have camera movements such as tilting the lens forward to make everything sharp. Raising the front element so as you avoid converging lines that can make the image look out of place. Just knowing that you have a movement on the camera that can correct just about anything that may distort the image you want.
Taking meter readings and deciding on the correct filtration, if necessary, so as to enhance the photograph. Setting the lens to the most appropriate setting that will render the photograph sharp from front to back if that is what you want.
And then pressing the cable release and hearing one of the greatest sounds in the world, the long drawn out release of the shutter which means that you have captured what it is you are looking at. That you have breathed life into the piece of film you are using. That you have made the photograph. That another image is born.
Fortunately it doesn't end there. You then get to process the negatives and once done they look so elegant. Rich textures that leap out at you from off the light box. The joy of knowing that you have a well exposed, piece of film that will hopefully deliver you a beautiful print once you commit it to a silver rich piece of fibre base paper. Then the job is complete and you have your masterpiece.
My outfit would be no heavier than if I had the equivalent in DSLR gear. I would buy the best and the best is heavy too. I have tried it. I am comfortable with the view camera. I would hope to be after 16 years. I am also comfortable with film for black & white work. In fact TRI-X film. I am sure I was born with a roll in my hand. I feel that I can convey what I see best through this medium. However if and when I shoot colour I prefer digital capture, but in essence I feel photography is all about seeing. Seeing and capturing. I have said it many times: seeing past the normal and isolating the incredible that this world has to offer. That's what I feel photography is all about.
The equipment really is secondary, but my preference is, and has been for a long while, to use the view camera and my camera of choice is an Ebony.