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Small handcrafted film camera company Ebony to close up shop

ebony camera closes shop 11909835  lens for large format
Yang Chao
While big-name camera companies moved to digital and mass production, Ebony quietly started handcrafting large-format cameras. That’s changing in just two days, however, as the company officially ends orders on June 30, ceasing production shortly after.

Ebony’s traditional folding cameras are made from ebony or mahogany wood, titanium, and leather. While not as widely known, many photographers admired the construction and operation of the folding cameras. Fine art photographer and unofficial U.S. Ebony Camera spokesperson Richard Sexton, who shared the news of the company’s closing, described the cameras’ build as “jewel-like.”

Unlike most film companies, Ebony didn’t actually take root in the U.S. until the late ’90s when digital was first arriving on scene from a consumer standpoint. The company actually tried to launch in the U.S. about 10 years earlier, but without the internet as a sales option, it didn’t succeed.

 While companies like Hasselblad sell medium-format digital cameras, many photographers continue to use medium- or large-format film not just for the experience and quality, but because film is much more affordable than a digital medium-format camera. While the Ebony cameras use the larger format than the $9,000 to $45,000 Hasselblads, the two options still available for order at the U.S. retailer Badger Graphic Sales are $2,995 and $4,995.

Ebony cameras started when Hiromi Sakanashi, a photographer from Kyushu, Japan, couldn’t find a large-format camera that he liked that was both light and portable. When he crafted his own, other photographers noticed and started asking for their own. Ebony cameras are produced in a small workshop in Tokoyo that employs just seven people.

While digital advances in photography and the limited availability of compatible lenses are partially to blame, the closure isn’t exactly due to a lack of business. Sakanashi still inspects every Ebony camera — and he’s now 73.

While Ebony will no longer accept orders after June 30, the company will continue to provide support for its products.

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