View Full Version : 8x10 Century Universal bellows and restoration?

21-Nov-2003, 11:09
I have recently acquired an 8x10 Century Universal camera. Overall it's in basically useable and tight condition. But the bellows are original, dry, cracked (especially in the corners) and missing some small pieces (again, in the corners).

I have already found out that camerabellows will make a synthetic replacement for about $280 which doesn't seem too bad. They said they can't do leather...

I've also been told by others that if I replace the bellows, I will ruin the collector value of the camera! Same thing if I do a repair myself to the existing bellows...

So I thought I would ask the LF community. Should I replace the bellows to make a very useable and dependable camera. Should I search out someone who could make a replacement leather bellows? Would I be destroying a valuable collectors item if I did?

I won't be offended if you tell me that it's just another old camera and go ahead and do the replacement. Or even if you said it's not worth it... From the second I first saw the Century Universal years ago, I knew this was the only camera for me. Doesn't matter what it's worth, or even how well it functions. Well, as being solid, handy, and such. Light tight is obviously a must...

On a side note. Anyone know where I could find more details about the camera? I've seen the review here, but that's about all I can find except for a few mentionings about some historic photographers who have use it...

Thanks for any comments and suggestions... Rich...

Bill Jefferson
21-Nov-2003, 11:48
Hi Rich, If it was me, I d go ahead and go for the synthetic bellows, as I use all my bellowed cameras, I hace 3 sizes and when they wear out I'll be going that route.

David A. Goldfarb
21-Nov-2003, 12:06
Leather is nice, but synthetics are more durable in general, are often better in the rain or snow, and are usually IR-proof (if you think you might be shooting IR film at some point), which leather sometimes is not.

Mark Sampson
21-Nov-2003, 12:08
The camera collector books I've seen suggest that the values of view cameras in general and 8x10s in particular are governed by usability, rather than originality. They comment that even 100-year-old cameras are still in use. Leather bellows would be nicer though.... Unless your camera was previously owned by Edward Weston (who did use that model) I wouldn't worry about collector value.

Jim Chinn
21-Nov-2003, 12:10
Try Turner Bellows. I had an 11x14 made for $220 and it was very well done. I would imagine 8x10 would be somewhat less. It also synthetic and very durable.

Ernest Purdum
21-Nov-2003, 12:16
If the camera is otherwise in good shape, I think it has more user value than collector value. It is a very interesting design. With some protection for the groundglass, it is a sturdy item to move around. It apparently started out life the same year I did, 1929, and was made for about seven years. It was well-regarded because of offering more movements than its competitors. It's too bad that large enough pieces of leather are now unobtainable, but I'm sure Camera Bellows will do a fine job for you. Sending to England for a bellows may seem a little odd, but I have found the results worth it.

21-Nov-2003, 14:10
Thanks for all your responses. I am swaying towards a new bellows. Really, the way I figure it, the camera would be much more useable with a new bellows, maybe worth more or less, but as long I keep the origninal bellows it could easily be 'restored' the condition it is in now. What's the harm except the expense of the new bellows which just makes the camera work?

And I finally got a reply from Turner. They said $185!! And they're pretty much in my backyard so I could hand deliver the camera to them. I'll be calling them on Monday for final details...

By the way, I had no luck whatsoever finding their web site and had to call on the phone, where I was irected to their web site! So I'll mention it here for the search engines. It's www.turnerbellows.com oddly enough ;-)

Thanks again!

David F. Stein
22-Nov-2003, 05:41

I think the above site will give you a better idea of what collector's pieces are like. ENJOY THE CAMERA.

Linas Kudzma
22-Nov-2003, 07:25

I'd say just go ahead and change the bellows and refinish. I use a refinished/new bellows CU and absolutely love this camera. It's light, with good movements, and great with short and long focal lenses. Supposedly both Weston and A. Adams "traded up" from a CU for greater stability. I haven't had a problem in this regard.

Enjoy your Century Universal!

Richard Urmonas
23-Nov-2003, 16:49
Fit the new bellows, just be careful to minimise any damage to the original bellows when removing them. Carefully store the original bellows. If at some point in the future you want to return the camera to its "original condition" you can swap the bellows back.