View Full Version : Bag bellows versus recessed lens board

Scott Kathe
13-Dec-2007, 10:02
I posted a WTB add for a set of bag bellows for my Shen Hao. People brought up the legitimate point that I might be able to use a recessed lens board instead. I am using a 90mm f8 Super Angulon and I shoot mostly nature/landscape but will be shooting some classic New England architecture, old churches, barns etc.

First of all I would love to try a recessed lens board but I'm not sure if I should be looking at the 11 or 19mm recessed boards BUT it seems as if there is absolutely no doubt that the bag bellows would do what I want to do. A recessed lens board would be less expensive and I wouldn't have to swap out the bellows to use the 90mm lens. The bag bellows is more expensive but I would have the potential for a lot more rise, fall and shift-with a 90mm lens I don't really think I need front tilt. One minute I think I should go with the bag bellows and the next minute I think all I'll need is a recessed board.

Even with nature photography I'm wishing for rise an fall to maintain vertical trees.

Any thoughts?


Ralph Barker
13-Dec-2007, 10:10
A 90mm lens doesn't usually compress the bellows terribly, so you might well get by with the recessed board. If you don't like it, you can always re-sell it, probably at no loss.

Mark Sampson
13-Dec-2007, 10:21
Recessed boards on field cameras make it difficult to reach the shutter controls- in many ways they are a real pain in the neck. Recessed boards work better on cameras with large front standards. Since your camera will take a bag bellows, that's your best choice. The inconvenience of swapping the bellows is much less than fidgeting around trying to set speeds and f/stops.

Ed Richards
13-Dec-2007, 10:31
You might find that you can leave the bag bellows on all the time - I use 65mm to 210mm lenses on my Sinar F2 with the bag bellows - though I am not trying to do macro work.

Gene McCluney
13-Dec-2007, 10:33
On some cameras one needs to use a recessed lensboard because the front and back standards don't compress together enough to focus extreme wide-angle lenses, regardless of bellows. A bag bellows allows you to more easily do front rise and sift, that would otherwise be difficult to do with a conventional bellows almost fully compressed.

Michael Alpert
13-Dec-2007, 10:54

I have not used a Shen Hao camera, but most 4x5 camera work well with 90mm lenses. Are you sure that you need a bag bellow or a recessed board? (I think recessed boards are 11mm deep. A deeper board would be very hard to use.) Have you tried to adjust (i.e., tilt) the entire front standard backwards (also raising the lens and adjusting lens' center tilt forward so that the lens ends up in alignment with the film)? With this change, the lens board will be closer to the film plane.

13-Dec-2007, 11:03
Bag bellows. I use mine even with 135mm and 150mm on that camera when i need lots of rise. By the time you get the recessed board and cable release extension and a back up extension for when you lose the first one, how much are you saving? Leave the bag bellows on the camera at all times and you'll be happy
Scott, where are you located? If you're in the states, you could try my shen hao bag bellows out for a week or so.

Herb Cunningham
13-Dec-2007, 11:10
Bag bellows. I can't count the number of times I used a wide angle, was VERY careful to check the gg for vignetting, and still got it when i developed the shot.

Scott Kathe
13-Dec-2007, 11:16

I can do limited movements with the standard bellows and when I was using my plain old Angulon it was fine since that lens didn't allow a lot of movements.

Recently, I was shooting across a fast moving small river/large stream filled with rocks and ice was beginning to form around the rocks where the current was slower. To get the composition I wanted I needed quite a bit of front fall so I could get the rocks near my feet, the opposite shore and the hillside without a lot of washed out sky. If I lowered the camera the composition changed too much and I lost the feeling of looking across the flowing water. My 150mm lens worked but didn't have quite the feel I was hoping for.

I can foresee the opposite situation arising where I need front rise to keep trees vertical or the lines of a church and steeple or barn vertical.


Mark Sawyer
13-Dec-2007, 12:17
A recessed lensboard will change the axis about which the lens shifts a little bit, which can be good, bad, or neutral. I'm not sure about the Shen Hao, but on many cameras, a recessed lensboard can be reversed for a little extra stretch for a longer lens or macro work, if you can remount the other lens into the same hole.

Just muddying the choice further...

Jan Pedersen
13-Dec-2007, 12:41
Scott, i use a Shen Hao for 4x5 too and can concur that the standard bellows limits movements quite a bit. My 90 is a Grandagon 6.8 and i have the same promlems as you express.
A recessed lens board would help a little but not as much as a bag bellows.
I don't use one cause the 90mm does not see much use but, plan on buying a bellows from Badger in the near future.

Vick Vickery
13-Dec-2007, 15:02
I find I much prefer the bag bellows and a flat board with a 90mm on my Cambo; I started with a recessed board and found it limited the movement available when shooting at or near infinity with the standard bellows. Now I use the flat board, bag bellows, and a short rail with both standards in front of the tripod block; I can use this rig with up to a 160mm lens (with be tripod block back between the standards) or longer (haven't tried anything longer) and still focus fairly close. If I went to a 65mm lens, I'd almost surely have to use both the bag bellows and a recessed board.

Gary Tarbert
15-Dec-2007, 03:56
Recessed boards are a pain in the a** to be avoided at all costs.
I have a shen hao with bag bellows and can use a 90mm on a flat board.
There is one thing you must allways check when using bag bellows and that is you have all the corners pulled out and form a nice square .cheers Gary

David A. Goldfarb
15-Dec-2007, 04:09
A 90/8 Super-Angulon doesn't have such a huge image circle anyway, so a bag bellows is probably more than you need, and an extra bellows adds more bulk to your pack than a recessed lensboard, unless you find you can use the bag bellows all the time. I don't find it so difficult to use a Linhof recessed board, but I have narrow fingers. If you were using a lens with a much larger image circle, like the 90/5.6 SA XL, then a bag bellows might make more sense.

Joseph O'Neil
15-Dec-2007, 07:25
Recessed boards are a pain in the a** to be avoided at all costs.cheers Gary


I agree completely with that point of view. This is doubly true come wintertime up here in Canada - try using a recessed lens board with gloves on. Not saying it cannot be done, just pointing out that recessed lens boards raise the "S&M" level in large format to a whole new level. :)

I have a recessed lens board for my monorail, and a bag bellows for my Zone VI, and using each with a 90mm lens, the bag bellows wins out big time for me.


Scott Kathe
15-Dec-2007, 09:30

Thanks for the following comment:

A 90/8 Super-Angulon doesn't have such a huge image circle anyway, so a bag bellows is probably more than you need, and an extra bellows adds more bulk to your pack than a recessed lensboard, unless you find you can use the bag bellows all the time.

I keep going back and forth between the bag bellows and a recessed board. I really don't want to carry around another set of bellows and if the image circle isn't that big, why bother? I know a recessed board will be a PITA to use but I already have one of the little very flexible 3" Gepe cable release extensions. Are the no-name recessed boards out of China any good?


Ole Tjugen
15-Dec-2007, 11:54
A 90/8 Super-Angulon doesn't have such a huge image circle anyway...

No? It has 216mm according to Schneider, enough for 42.5mm rise or 37mm shift on 4x5" film in landscape orientation.

Depending on the camera (I don't know the Shen Hao from personal experience) you may find this more than the normal bellows can handle.