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View Full Version : 3rd party bellows - opinions on quality



mortensen
23-Jul-2012, 05:08
Having read the recent threads about replacement bellows, I was wondering what the 'general consensus' is regarding quality?
Which bellows maker delivers the best product?

I am about to purchase a used Technika V with a cracked and pinholed bellows, hence my interest. I've read several positive statements about both 'buyitjnow' (chinese), 'ecbuyonline' (chinese, too) and UK based Custom Bellows. What I've read so far seems to indicate, that Custom Bellows delivers the highest quality product of the three, but there are other players as well.

Those of you who have experience with several different 3rd party bellows producers, please air your opinions here. thanks

Joseph Dickerson
23-Jul-2012, 08:13
I only have experience with ecbuyonline, but the quality is very good. I had initial problems but they proved to be of my own making.

I got it all sorted out, and the Sinar replacement bellows is great.

A plus with ecbuyonline is that Rudy is a real gentleman and a pleasure to deal with.

JD

AuditorOne
23-Jul-2012, 11:00
I purchased a very nice Cambo 8x10 camera that I am very happy with, but the bellows was a disaster. It was one of the reasons I got the deal I received on the camera. I picked up a replacement bellows on the infamous E-Bay market site from one of the Chinese BIN deals. The price was right.

When I received my bellows there were no directions included, just the bellows. It was very well packed and was in excellent condition when it arrived. It is quite solid and does not feel flimsy at all. It does not collapse in any way when used and is light-tight. There is an inner and outer black, silky covering with a stiff, inner core for the pleats.

As this was my first bellows replacement it probably took a bit longer then someone who was more experienced but it turned out very good. The bellows fit perfectly. I did have to do a small amount of trimming to put a nice finish to my glue job, but nothing that I consider out of the normal. I am now very happily taking pictures with my 8x10. I think I have spent more on film holders then I spent on the entire camera/bellows package.

Based on my little sample of one I can certainly recommend these bellows.

jose angel
23-Jul-2012, 11:28
I replaced the bellows on my 5x7" technical Rittreck with a custombellows.co.uk unit. It is as good as the original one (if not better). The bellows fitted perfectly.
No doubt I`d ask them for a bellows again.

Noah A
23-Jul-2012, 12:02
I bought a chinese one from Ebay and it seems like it's pretty well-made. It's flexible and seems like it will fold up into the camera with no problem. I got it as a backup though, so while it looks nice I've never actually used it. But if I'm out of the country on a shooting trip and I have a catastrophic bellows failure, I can install it.

Having said that, when I returned home I'd probably get an original linhof bellows professionally installed. I know it's not cheap, but neither is film, travel, your time, etc.

But this is for my MT2000. If I ever got a 'beater' technika, I wouldn't hesitate to use a Chinese bellows or one from Custom Bellows in the UK, though I wonder if the latter is cheap enough to make it worthwhile, or if, for the price, you'd be better with the OEM.

mortensen
23-Jul-2012, 12:32
Well, the Tech V is actually in really good condition and a new bellows from CustomBellows is 'only' around twice the chinese ones (which are very cheap IMO). So it is still quite far from spending $4-500 US for a Linhof. (I got the camera for $600)

... thanks for the replies and safe travels to you, Noah

Ivan J. Eberle
23-Jul-2012, 14:58
I'd cheap out and go Chinese here. For me at this late date in the life cycle of large format, unless the camera is rare or of historical interest there just isn't the long-term investment potential for the gear to do anything more than capture great images in the near-term, so long as film availability holds. It's not as though you'll be ruining the value of the camera to put a good working bellows on it.

Thomas Greutmann
23-Jul-2012, 22:12
I have ordered replacement bellows from Custombellows (for a Toyo 4x5 Field) and from ecbuyonline (for a Master Technika). I was really satisfied with both and can fully recommend either one.

With Custombellows, I sent them the camera and they installed the new bellows and all for a very reasonable price.

ecbuyonline made a custom universal bellows for a Master Technika (in red) for me which gives more movements with short lenses than the standard Linhof bellows.

So, with either one you should be happy.

Greetings, Thomas

mortensen
24-Jul-2012, 02:27
... just got a price quote from custombellows: 125 ex VAT and shipping for at technika bellows. If there is no noticeable difference in quality and flexibility between ecbuyonline and them I might opt for the cheaper.

SergeiR
24-Jul-2012, 04:55
... just got a price quote from custombellows: 125 ex VAT and shipping for at technika bellows. If there is no noticeable difference in quality and flexibility between ecbuyonline and them I might opt for the cheaper.

I used ecbuyonline bellows to replace ones on my Tech V b/c i felt like its time to replacement and for aesthetic reasons. Installation was easy, quality is nice, weight is not noticeable, and they withstand elements greatly (mine were through cold of Sibera and heat of Texas and everything in between since then).

IanG
24-Jul-2012, 04:55
When you buy from Custom Bellows you are effectivelt buying originals as they are the OEM supplier to most conpanies in the West anyway.

I had some bag bellows made in the mid 70's and they went straight and fetch the original drawings from the late 1940's.

Ian

Noah A
24-Jul-2012, 08:00
Actually the Custom Bellows price isn't as high as I thought it would be, that makes the decision tougher.

Really I'd be more worried about the installation than the quality of the bellows. I guess shipping would be pricey, but it would be nice if they'd install it for you. I may be mistaken but from what I remember on a Tech IV that I almost bought, the bellows attaches to the rear frame only with adhesive. (On my MT2000 there are also metal strips and screws.) So you might have to be careful with your gluing technique. I think the Chinese bellows came with instructions, or maybe I found them online. It's relatively simple but the instructions did have some tips that seemed useful. Of course, as I said, I've never actually installed the bellows.

Glad you found a good deal on a Tech IV. Have fun with it!

mortensen
24-Jul-2012, 08:25
hmmm... hard to decide - just sent an enquiry to ecbuyonline to get a price quote
but yeah, $600 for a Tech V in really good condition (apart from the bellows) is quite a deal... can't wait till it gets here!

Noah A
24-Jul-2012, 11:33
That is a great deal. Congrats! You gonna pimp it out with a red bellows like Petronio's?

I just remembered, the one I got from ecbuyonline was the "New PU Bellows for Linhof Technika 3000, 2000, IV, V."

I guess it's a different material from his other bellows. It does look and feel similar to the original that's on my MT2000. It seems like it is sized right and it is of good quality, but again, since I didn't install it I can't say how it would work in practice.

I love working with the Technika so I'd be curious to hear how you get on with it.

Richard Wasserman
24-Jul-2012, 11:40
I replaced, actually Bob Watkins replaced, the bellows on my Horseman 45FA with one from ecbuyonline. I have been very happy with it. It is not quite as flexible and compact as the original—the camera works fine. It looks as if it should be much more durable than the paper ones Horseman uses, and which are available for about $400.00. I first contacted Custom Bellows, but they were unable to make one with pleats small enough for the FA.

mortensen
24-Jul-2012, 14:13
interesting, Richard. Btw, Noah, if PU indicates that its made of polyurethane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyurethane), then its certainly a nice feature. I'll go for black bellows and black vinyl/leatherette covering from cameraleather. I prefer stealth to flashy ;)