The Ebony camera company was founded by Japanese photographer Hiromi Sakanashi in 1981. The Sakanashi family has been in the photographic business since 1871, when Hiromi Sakanashi's great grandfather founded one of Japan's first photographic equipment stores in the town of Kumamoto, Kyūshū.
Sakanashi is a graduate of Tokyo Photographic University. In the 1970s, he worked as a professional photographer, doing architectural and studio work. He also ran the family business, which by then had evolved into a store specializing in professional photographic equipment. He also led workshops for Japanese photographers in various European countries.
In the course of his work, he became dissatisfied with the view cameras that were then available. He began to conceive of a camera that would have the functions and rigidity of a metal monorail camera, while being as lightweight and portable as a wooden field camera. The resulting 4x5 camera, made for his own use from ebony and stainless steel, eventually became the prototype for the SV45-series cameras that are still made by Ebony today.
Sakanashi then saw the need for another type of camera designed for use with wide-angle lenses. The resulting WIDE45 was the first wooden field camera with the radical nonfolding design, although it has been superseded by the SW45. Shortly thereafter, Sakanashi founded a company to manufacture these cameras, called Ebony. He quickly switched from using stainless steel for the metal parts to titanium, and introduced the option of mahogany for some models. In the early days, almost all the cameras were built to the customers' specifications, and Sakanashi is still asked to build custom cameras for various specialized applications.
Ebony currently makes about 40 models of camera, in formats ranging from 6x9 through 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, and up to 20x24. They are available in both the traditional folding versions and the non-folding versions, and are made either from Honduran mahogany or Indonesian ebony. In both cases, the timber is quartersawn heartwood, aged over 20 years (bellows are made of leather). The larger models tend to be made from mahogany to reduce weight. Some models are available with asymmetrical back movements, which allow easier and faster focusing.
Folding 4x5 view camera with asymmetrical rear swings and tilts