View Full Version : Bellows n pinholes

6-Sep-2011, 19:46
I think I already know the answer but because of the suddenness I'm asking anyways.

Took the Canham out yesterday for a shoot. SoCal sunshine. Every shot had light leaks. Tested Film holders--they're ok. Took camera apart to make sure I didn't do something stupid (you know how you can put the bellows in wonky on a canham metal). It's fine.

Then I stuck a lightbulb in the camera with the bellows fully extended.

Uh. lots. LOTS. LOTS!!! of tiny tiny pinholes in the folds of the bellows. I've taken the camera out recently and didn't have issues but I haven't shot through the early-afternoon sun before.

Did I just get away with it because I wasn't shooting in harsh light? Do lots (over 25) of pinholes just happen randomly?

And, is there someone that can rebuild my bellows instead of me shelling out $400 for a new set from KB Canham?


6-Sep-2011, 20:10
How about using your dark cloth to protect the bellows during your shot like the old guys in the old days. I'd think anything to rebuild a bellows would be nearly as expensive due to the amount of labor involved as a new bellows. I have also used thinned liquid tape to patch or thicken up some thin spots in a couple of cameras.

Jim Jones
6-Sep-2011, 20:34
I thoroughly scrubbed a very thin application of black liquid artist's acrylic paint into the folds from the inside. Don't let the acrylic build up any appreciatable thickness. Keep the bellows extended for several hours for drying. A soft toothbrush is a good tool for this job. Routinely covering the bellows and camera back with a large focusing cloth as bvaughn4 suggests is a good idea. It also helps protect leaky film holders.

6-Sep-2011, 21:02
Thanks guys. I appreciate humoring me (I realize that I could've/should've done a search before I posted.

Is there an issue using acrylic paint or black silicone on fabric bellows?

Also, I understand the inherent YMMV on this question but how long should I expect my bellows to be pinhole free?

6-Sep-2011, 21:17
Resurrection of my 1957 original Sinar taper bellows as follows: Dabbed black silicone sealant on all pinholes keeping thickness even. Kept bellows extended until dry. Applied molybdenum disulfide powder to silicone dabs to prevent silicone sealant from sticking to itself when bellows is contracted. Powdered graphite will work also. Flexed bellows repeatedly until all joints are sealed and not sticking to each other. Finally a light vacuum to keep things clean. Occasionally will give bellows a "workout " before going into the field. This has worked really well over the years.

Roger Cole
6-Sep-2011, 22:39
Gorilla tape. It ain't pretty but it's way easier than silicone and works. I've got several patches on my Linhof. OTOH, it might get pretty stiff with 25 of 'em.

Frank Petronio
6-Sep-2011, 22:46
I tried Plasti-Dip on a Calumet C1 bellows that was almost gone and it worked but there were so many holes that it would get sticky in the heat. Still, with the dark cloth over it, I shot all Summer, even in NY sun. Might not work as well in SoCal, which is a couple stops brighter.

I'd suck it up and order a new bellows and do it right. Kidneys and Gold are good to sell.

Asher Kelman
6-Sep-2011, 23:51
Searching KEH.com, adorama.com and ebay failed to turn up a replacement for my wretched 8x10 Toyo bellows. Then today, my luck changed! An essentially brand new long version appeared for $170 on Adorama, (new price ~ $1,000) and I got it! So my suggestion is to watch these places like a hawk and your bellows will appear at a price you can afford!

What size bellows do you need and what model. I'll keep my eyes open for you!


I was told at Adorama used department they are sending out at least 30 LF items a day as LF is becoming so attractive an option in competition with MF digital.

7-Sep-2011, 01:21
apply 3 to 4 times of artistic acrylic paint, wait it dry before you apply one another, use a soft flat head brush and dilute with water to make it easy to apply, maybe water to paint=1:4

you get a great bellows for another ten years.

Richard Wasserman
7-Sep-2011, 01:29
Or if you want new bellows contact Custom Bellows, who I believe makes them for Keith Canham. http://www.custombellows.co.uk/contact.html

7-Sep-2011, 03:16
The Black Silicone seal sticks better than artists acryclics. This is a long discussed topic here. Use search to read others comments.

Jim Jones
7-Sep-2011, 05:54
. . . Is there an issue using acrylic paint or black silicone on fabric bellows? . . .

Acrylic artist's paint is durable on fabric. As a sloppy artist, I can show you clothing where it unfortunately remains pristine after many years. Acrylic is intended to adhere to natural fiber cloth in paintings. Decades of use prove this. It may not stick as well to artificial fibers, though.

7-Sep-2011, 08:44
Chinese bellows makers will make any size bellows up to 8x10.

Mark Sampson
7-Sep-2011, 09:51
I used 'Liquid Electrical Tape' from Home Depot successfully. The acrylic paint or silicone seal techniques mentioned above might work better.

Kevin Crisp
7-Sep-2011, 10:02
I'm with Mark, the liquid electrical tape has always worked well for me. On the other hand if you have 25 pinhole leaks, more are going to show up soon. I am a little surprised that a bellows on a Canham would wear out like this.

Brian Ellis
7-Sep-2011, 11:03
apply 3 to 4 times of artistic acrylic paint, wait it dry before you apply one another, use a soft flat head brush and dilute with water to make it easy to apply, maybe water to paint=1:4

you get a great bellows for another ten years.

You mean patching the existing pinholes prevents new ones from developing? I thought pinholes were usually caused by wear. So that as you continue using the camera with patched pinholes new ones will continue to be created. Which if true would mean that patching is a more or less never-ending job and you'd need to check for pinholes each time you were going to use the camera to be sure you weren't going to have light leaks. All of which sounds like a PITA. But maybe I'm overlooking something.