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Questions regarding Bellows  

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Pillar of the Community
United States
6456 Posts
 Posted 02/16/2012  01:36 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add westcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Probably best answered by those that have experience in using several different brands. (Ray)?

I used to have a Pentax Auto Bellows II unit, which was like new and I stupidly sold it when I wasn't using it, thought I'd have no more use again for it.

I'd like another one, but see so many different bellows units out there, is there a reason to go with another of the same it has super fine control in all axis including the fine focus rail, using nylon bushings and fine teeth vs the older dual rail system I see on many eBay auctions of bellows, I know the old Honewell and early PX Pentax bellows were dual rail, they don't look as sturdy as the Auto Bellows II I had previously.

I do know enough to stay away from the really cheap China made stuff, as it won't be structurally sound and metal in the 1/4-20 threads tend to be over sized and cause issues (from previous experience on tripod mounting systems).

I know the Nikon, Olympus, Canon, and Pentax all make good Bellows, I like the Pentax as they are easyiest to adapt other lenses too, and I already have a bunch of PK mount lenses in storage, I also have a lot of Canon FD and Olympus OM lenses, but mostly Telephoto on the OM stuff and the Canon I may have sold (I can't remember all I sold before putting it in storage, I think the Canon stuff went away though).

Thanks for your insights on bellows and any tips or hints provided.
"Buy the Book Before You Buy the Coin" - Aaron R. Feldman - "And read it" - Me 2013!
ANA Life Member #3288 in good standing since 1982, EAC Member #6202, NBS Member, 2¢ variety collector.

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Pillar of the Community
United States
564 Posts
 Posted 02/16/2012  09:17 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add brg5658 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I have a Pentax Autobellows with M42 mount screw threads. This was purchased at the recommendation of Ray, and I can't rave enough about it. Having the flexibility of three movement points for the dovetail system is immeasurably useful. In addition, the adapters for M39 enlarger lenses to the system are very inexpensive and extremely efficient (you just screw the 42mm threads onto the 39mm threads and they are as if the lens was threaded for M42 already).

There are usually a couple of these available on the BAY for Buy It Now prices around $180-200. If you're patient, you can pick one up for around the $100 or even slightly less range. As Ray has pointed out before, make sure the nylon bushings that slide along the dovetail are not cracked, as that's a common problem with these systems.

Good luck!
Pillar of the Community
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2883 Posts
 Posted 02/16/2012  10:37 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add rmpsrpms to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
To add to brg5658's input...

If you will be mounting the bellows to a tripod, or a big stand that does not have nice fine-focus ability, you need the focus rail, and in this case you have just a few choices:
- Nikon PB4 or PB6 (Nikon F mount)
- Vivitar Bellows System (T-Mount)
- Canon Auto Bellows (FL or FD mount)
- Novoflex (various mounts and combinations available)
- Pentax Auto Bellows (M42 mount)

You could also buy a separate focus rail and use the following:
- Vivitar Triple Track (M42 or T-Mount)
- Spiratone RapidRail (M42 or T-mount)

The PB6, Canon FD, and Pentax all have the similar precision nylon bearing and all are good choices from adjustability perspective.

The PB4, Novoflex, Spiratone and Vivitar System have round rails with metal-metal interfaces and are acceptable precision but often are more difficult to adjust.

The Vivitar Triple track has a center rail for the adjustment and locks on both sides, so eliminates the binding problem and locks down very rigidly. But these don't have integrated focus rails!

Height above the mount varies widely between bellows. The Vivitar Triple and Spiratone have very low heights, about the same as the camera itself, so are suitable for certain apps (like mounting on a microscope stand). This also reduces the tendency to vibrate a bit. All the others, with the integrated rails, sit much higher, with the Pentax having the lowest standoff and the PB4 and PB6 the highest.

Ultimately, my preference for bellows with integrated rails is the Pentax, as most cameras will need adapting anyway, and the M42 mount is easy to find adapters for either end of the bellows. Second choice is Vivitar System, as T-mount has same considerations as M42. Third is the PB6, but only if you are shooting Nikon.

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Pillar of the Community
United States
6456 Posts
 Posted 02/17/2012  04:53 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add westcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks just as I thought, I should have never sold my Pentax auto bellows II it was like new in box and one of my early eBay sales, I was just starting out on eBay 15 years ago and was looking to sell anything I hadn't been using much, the Pentax bellows fell prey to the quick buck - I didn't even need at the time, at least I sold it for a good amount I think I got $300+ for it, it was like new in box, scale was still in plastic bag, dual cable release in box, and I had several adapter rings and reversal rings along with a horrid Chinon 55mm lens for it. Probably why I never used it much! The only thing I didn't have was the slide duplicator, which I don't need now.

I will get another Pentax since I am familar with them, thanks Ray!
"Buy the Book Before You Buy the Coin" - Aaron R. Feldman - "And read it" - Me 2013!
ANA Life Member #3288 in good standing since 1982, EAC Member #6202, NBS Member, 2¢ variety collector.

See my want page:
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