View Full Version : Bellows leaks - to fix or to replace, and how?

24-Sep-2006, 13:36
I've been having some problems with the photos i've been taking with my first large format camera, an older Shen Hao.


mainly leaks of various kinds across a lot of the pictures. I'm still not 100% sure its not a problem with the holders, handling of film, or my developing.. though a set is some i sent away to peak imaging and got developed (though again these were loaded film from the seller of the camera) which would hopefully eliminate home developing a little bit.

Anyways I've took a torch to the inside of the camera in a dark room and i can see quite a lot of light leaks in the bellows.. pin holes in a lot of the corners of the pleats.

I'm based in the UK, not sure what options are available to me in this country. Being the older Shen Hao i don't think its trivial to replace the bellows.. are there any places in the UK that will do this for you.. how much will they typically charge for this..

Is it perhaps worth trying to plug up these problems temporarily, and see if i can start getting some images out that have no noticable problems.

I've done a search and found some people describing various attempts at bellow repair.. i wondered if someone who had done this could take some snapshots of those repairs to give me more of an idea about what it should look like after completing the task.

Cheers guys, don't know how much of this is causing my problems.. it varies quite a lot so I dont think it can be the only cause, of course light varies but you'd think the leaks effect would be relatively consistent. Still I don't like the idea of them leaking at all and would love to cover (and fix) all bases to start with, and hopefully start getting some "correct" images :)

Jim Jones
24-Sep-2006, 14:11
I'm not convinced that many of the light streaks are caused by the pinholes in the bellows. Film holders and leaks between the holder and camera could also be the cause. I've fixed small pinholes in bellows by scrubbing artist's black liquid acrylic paint into the corners of the bellows with an old soft toothbrush. Don't build up much thickness. This works on bellows with fabric liners. I haven't tried it on other substances.

24-Sep-2006, 14:22
I've discovered that new bellows will cost £100, if they are the same as the ones for the current model.. sadly this model of camera doesn't offer easy bellows replacement as they're glued on, the question is whether the costs will become a bit out of proportion to the fact that a new camera is available for only £500..

For now i'm going to definitely look into bellow repair options.. i think i'd rather repair from the outside as its quite small to fiddle around with inside.

I also think you are perhaps right that the bellows may not be causing these problems, i'd still like to hopefully fix them.


24-Sep-2006, 14:24

John Hannon
24-Sep-2006, 14:30
I have never tried this but here is a link that may help.


It uses Elmers glue mixed with a few drops of lampblack and liquid detergent. I think these types of repairs are temporary at best.

24-Sep-2006, 14:43
Pinholes are a relatively easy to fix. Buy a roll of black photographers tape. It is like masking tape but is black and light proof. Mark the holes with small pieces of regular masking tape. Extend the bellows to their full length. Remove the back and lens board to get as much access as you can. Put the photographers tape on the inside. Use larger pieces then required. If there are a number of holes in a row, use a single piece for all. Using your hand as backup on the outside, press the tape as tight as you can to the bellows. As you contract the bellows you will have to reshape the folds to get the tape to bend correctly. It takes a little time and patience but it isnít hard.

Now, the bad news is that this probably wonít solve your problem. Pinholes in bellows donít usually cause streaks. They might cause a slight fogging or if you are using a very long (minutes) exposure, they might create a secondary image or images, but not streaking.

Fix the pinholes. Then look for other sources for the streaks. It would help a lot if you could post an image so we could see what they look like. Check around the lens board. Check the felt (or whatever your camera has) where the film holder seats. Or, it could be that you are pulling the film holder away from the seat when you remove or replace the dark slide.


Ron Marshall
24-Sep-2006, 15:33
Bostick and Sullivan sell a very good bellows patch kit:


Kirk Gittings
24-Sep-2006, 16:24
For pinholes I have found that the thick black inks (which dry flexible) used for drawing on fabric found at fabric and craft stores works well. I crank the bellows out all the way and put a dab on the inside where the pinhole is, let it dry and dab it again. It makes a pretty flexible long term fix.

24-Sep-2006, 18:03
Being the older Shen Hao i don't think its trivial to replace the bellows..

Have you tried contacting the factory in Shanghai about getting replacement bellows? You may find it isn't as expensive as you think.


Ole Tjugen
24-Sep-2006, 18:40
I second that recommendation, especially since they're local (to you).
Just go to their website, fill in the forms, and ask for an estimate. The estimate costs nothing, and then you'll know if it's too expensive for you.

25-Sep-2006, 14:02
Thanks for all the suggestions guys.. I'm thinking too that these holes may not be causing too many problems at the moment.. for one i think they're only as visible with bellows fully extended which with my 150mm lens is not the case.. I'll check again for this in a second.

Also i've took 1 polaroid that was fine.. I need to try a few more.. some with the camera fully exposed to bright sunlight.

Still if bellows are meant to be perfect i'd like to chase up fixes or replacements..

Shen Hao have gotten back to me with a price for new bellows much less than the quote i'd already had.. the only issue being one of how to get payment to them.

I did spot the camerabellows site and will happily fill it in.. I'm assuming their offer is for bellows only, not for replacement of those bellows?? its shaping up now that its this that will be the sticking point for me... not really sure how easy it'll be to take the old bellows off, get all the glue off cleanly, and then get the new bellows on securely and light tight.

I'll check into all the other suggestions.. Thanks guys.

Jon Shiu
26-Sep-2006, 11:54
I've used a product called liquid rubber from the loctite company. Just painted it on the corners of the bellows when extended and then a few more coats. It works well, but sticks to itself when dry. A little powder fixed that.