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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ebony Wholeplate

Ebony SV Wholeplate

And while we're posting pictures of super-cool new cameras, our friend and collaborator Oren-wan Gradobi has alerted us to the above apparition, which magically materialized in the Ebony web catalog between the 5x7s and the 8x10s. It's a "whole plate" camera, a size left over from the Daguerrean era, 6.5 x 8.5 inches, considered by some connoisseurs to be the ultimate in view camera perfection. The Ebony model is constructed of aged Honduran mahogany and titanium.

I'm after Oren-wan to write more about this camera in particular and the whole plate size in general, but unfortunately he is often called away to the farthest reaches of the Empire on business of the utmost import. Those of us who are bound to one remote planet shall have to wait and hope.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with apologies to Star Wars fans if I got any of the allusions to S.W. mythology gabbled; I never did see any of those movies past the first one. Obi-wan was a good guy, right?


Blogger JohnL said...

''a size left over from the Daguerrean era''

woaah there!

As an ex professional photographer we were using whole plate cameras and enlargers and even 10 x 8 into the late 1970's. Why is it whole plate and even half plate is looked upon as a pre-victorian ( slight exaggeration ) medium?

5:40 PM  
Blogger UncloudedBeing said...

"Whole plate(English)" is a magic format. It fits very nicely between 5x7 and 8x10. Contact images remain personal and fit nicely in the hand for viewing. One needn't participate in the spectator sport of looking at large prints and having to share personal space with complete strangers. :-)

... AND, if this Ebony is anything like my early Nagaoka-style Japanese Full Plate(English 6.5 x 8.5 inch) camera, it is a WHOLE LOT LIGHTER than an 8x10 view camera. In fact, my wood Full Plate camera weighs less than a stripped down model Linhof 5x7 III (non-Technika).

5:51 PM  
Blogger CH said...

This is actually a photo of the camera I took delivery of about three weeks ago. It is a great format.

7:05 PM  
Blogger gs363 said...

Mahogany, and especially Honduran mahogany, is considered an endangered species. Here's some info from the World Wildlife Fund: "conservationists are concerned about big-leaf mahogany because Honduran mahogany (S. humilis) and Caribbean mahogany (S. mahagoni) already have been over-harvested and are now considered commercially exhausted."

I think it's time that all who cherish photography demand environmentally friendlier photographic products.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Mahogany, and especially Honduran mahogany, is considered an endangered species."

The website specifies that the Honduran mahogany used for the cameras is "at least" 20 years old. Was Honduran mahogany endangered 20 years ago? If not, then the company is not using the material in an environmentally irresponsible way.


7:46 AM  
Blogger Player said...

"The website specifies that the Honduran mahogany used for the cameras is "at least" 20 years old. Was Honduran mahogany endangered 20 years ago? If not, then the company is not using the material in an environmentally irresponsible way."

That's correct Mike. Honduran mahogany was not endangered 20 years ago, it's within the last decade that it started becoming scarce.

For example, the Martin Guitar Company has started making guitar necks, which have always been traditionally mahogany, with Spanish Cedar. Many of the traditional mahogany guitar bodies, like the 15 series, are now being made with Sapele, sometimes called African mahogany, but it's not really mahogany at all. It's an entirely different species even though it resembles mahogany.

9:51 AM  
Blogger doonster said...

So I did a little digging on the Mahogany issue, I had the thought when I first saw mention and the other comments sparked my google instinct.

So I found
which suggests a different species and further down the WWF listing
"Because Caribbean mahogany and Honduran mahogany have been exploited to the point of commercial exhaustion, the vast majority of mahogany on the world market is big-leaf mahogany." That is, S. Macrophylla.

The others can be exported with a CITES certificate.
I suppose it would take deeper enquiry with Ebony to figure it all out. It seems there are plenty of ways they can source Mahogany in a responsible manner.

12:40 PM  
Blogger gs363 said...

Presumably, the purchase of the mahogany twenty years ago contributed to the near depletion of that resource today. When we speak about trees, especially ones growing in tthe wild, twenty years is a relatively short period of time.

The larger point, of course, is to me mindful of the materials and processes used to make our photo equipment.

1:18 PM  
Blogger tim atherton said...

"It's a "whole plate" camera, a size left over from the Daguerrean era,"

well, more like the post-Daguerrean era. Daguerreotypes were already on the decline for popular use by the 1850's when I believe the plate sizes were introduced weren't they? Although Daguerreotypes continued to be made, they were already being eclipsed by other processes. The "Daguerrean era" was really only 10-15 years

9:22 PM  
Blogger oren said...

Tim - perhaps not:

Daguerreotype Plate Sizes

11:53 PM  
Blogger tim atherton said...

I believe that's a retroactive application of the later plate sizes to the daguerreotype process after its popularity had declined. As the article points out:

"Popularity of the daguerreotype declined in the late 1850s when the ambrotype, a faster and less expensive photographic process, became available."

As I recall (though I'm not 100% on this without digging through the old papers...), the plate sizes were developed in conjunction with the Ambro and other types of processes that replaced it.

Originally there was no standardisation in terms of size for the daguerreotype process. But while it continued to be used - even while being superseded, it then adopted the plate sizes. That is, the process didn't adopt plate sizes until after it's heyday....

12:22 PM  

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