View Full Version : Leather or Synthetic Bellows?

7-Sep-2011, 07:23
All other things being equal, is there any benefit to using leather bellows over synthetic, in terms of performance or durability?

Both materials are offered in equivalent sets of bellows for my camera, though the leather version is significantly more expensive. Is there a reason to spend more on leather, other than the fact it looks and smells nice?

Carsten Wolff
7-Sep-2011, 08:12
...depends on the design. They are in general more pliable and thus better for (extreme) movements. Most manufacturers offer them as a wide-angle accessory, as they usu. fold flatter as well and are more manageable. Mention your camera and bellows model and more members may pipe in.
One caveat: Leather bellows are said to be usually not as infrared tight as most synthetic ones, i.e. if you're planning to use IR film, put an IR opaque sock over the camera.

E. von Hoegh
7-Sep-2011, 08:21
Leather can also be better in extreme cold. Some synthetics stiffen badly.

The original bellows on my Deardorff V8, made in 1950, are still good.
Leather does need periodic care, I use neatsfoot oil (the pure stuff, not "neatsfoot oil compound") applied very lightly once a year or so.

Ivan J. Eberle
7-Sep-2011, 08:34
I've got original triple-extension 14-1/2" synthetic bellows from the late 40's on a pair of Meridians that are light-tight and have no repairs. That's fairly commonplace.

Not typical of old leather bellows unless the owner has been meticulous about care and treatment, so I hear.

Jim Noel
7-Sep-2011, 08:36
The leather bellows on my 5x7 Deardorff is more than 70 years old and still very supple and light tight even to IR.

7-Sep-2011, 08:40
Leather shrinks if wet then dried

7-Sep-2011, 15:49
Is there any choice? Are any current cameras selling with leather folded bellows?

7-Sep-2011, 16:24
Historically, synthetic bellows replaced the leather bellows because of its advantage - mainly, but not only - in durability.

7-Sep-2011, 16:41
The camera is an Arca Swiss F monorail, they offer both synthetic and leather versions of their bag and standard bellows.

7-Sep-2011, 16:44
I'm sure I've see more leather bellows than any of you. Not bragging just a fact. Those cameras that the leather has been treated yearly have had few if any issues. Those not treated have been rotted. Now lets talk about leather today. I have tried many different leathers from many different suppliers.If you hold a skin up to a light that is the proper thickness you will see thousands of hair folical holes. it is not opaque. It is after it has been waxed and polished in the finishing process. So is there a good leather? Yes it comes from India. There is less fatty deposits in it and it is skieves nicely. Thats Cow Leather. This goes on 8x10 s The best sheep leather comes from england and I use that on 5x7 cameras with beveled corners. Good Luck, Ken