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The best Nikon bellows?

 
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henrikfoto



Joined: 06 Feb 2015
Posts: 37
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:37 am    Post subject: The best Nikon bellows? Reply with quote

I want to buy a Nikon bellows for macro-work. There re many types, so I
wonder what type is the best/most steady one?
I don´t need tilt and shift because I will use it for focus-stacking.

Henrik
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enricosavazzi



Joined: 21 Nov 2009
Posts: 1212
Location: Borgholm, Sweden

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:42 am    Post subject: Re: The best Nikon bellows? Reply with quote

henrikfoto wrote:
I want to buy a Nikon bellows for macro-work. There re many types, so I
wonder what type is the best/most steady one?
I don´t need tilt and shift because I will use it for focus-stacking.

Henrik

If you mean bellows branded Nikon, there aren't that many types. The PB-6 was the last to be made, and possibly the most common. It uses a prismatic rail with nylon inserts, which may tend to slip if the bellows are mounted vertically with a heavy camera body or lens. Overtightening the locking screw to avoid slipping is not good for the mechanism in the long term. The PB-6 allows a Nikon-mount macro lens, usually a 52 mm, to be reversed on the bellows while keeping the aperture preset function (lenses with filter mounts other than 52 mm may require a filter step ring).

Nikon used to sell risers (one to mount under the rear standard, one under the front one, good luck finding two of them today at a reasonable price) to be able to move the rear standard of the PB-6 with large SLR/DSLR bodies. Without risers, the camera body is stuck at the rear of the bellows rail. It is often necessary also to mount an extension ring at the rear of the bellows to accommodate DSLR bodies.

There is even a Nikon PB-6E extension for the PB-6 (uncommon on the second-hand market) that nearly doubles its length.

The older Nikon PB-4 bellows use four cylindrical metal rails. If I am correct, the sliders use metal-on-metal contact, without plastic inserts. For this reason, it might be stiffer than the PB-6, but the sliders are potentially more vulnerable to friction wear in the presence of dust/sand, and attract dust if greased to improve the movement smoothness. Other (than the PB-4) bellows of this type that I used also have a tendency to seize if mounted vertically with heavy camera or lens.

Then there are literally dozens of third-party bellows models with Nikon attachments, of all prices and quality. The modern no-brand ones made in China are cheap, but you get what you pay for. I would rate the PB-6 among the good ones. The Olympus OM bellows are remarkably similar in construction to the PB-6, and might be cheaper. You would of course need adapters at the front and rear. There was a firm selling replacement Nikon F mounts to use Olympus OM equipment with Nikon cameras, but I forgot its name.

The Olympus OM macro system also included a telescopic, lockable extension ring equipped with tripod collar that might be an alternative to bellows and is very stiff when locked. Some 10 years ago I replaced its rear mount with a Nikon F one made by this firm. This variable extension ring, unlike bellows, allowed fully automatic aperture control by OM bodies, but the function is lost with the Nikon conversion.
Edit: This Olympus variable tube is not a focusing helicoid. It works by (1) unlock by turning a collar (2) pull/push (3) lock. Among its attractive features is that it is less delicate than bellows while lighter than typical bellows (both attractive in the field). If you need the full length of bellows or the minimum length of bellows, however, you need to combine it with one or two extra (fixed) extension rings.

[Edit AdminCR: first 52 was 55]
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Choronzon



Joined: 21 Feb 2010
Posts: 384
Location: Chicago USA

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without doubt, the best/ most steady Nikon bellows made by Nikon is the PB-6 with the base from the PB-6E. If you want to mount a huge camera, simply rotate the back standard to vertical.
The only downsides are the base gives up focusing movement, and the knobs are plastic instead of metal. But if you're focus stacking, you already have another focus mechanism.
I'll gladly give up base mount focusing for stability. A single 1/4 thread is not my idea of stability in a bellows.
If you really want rock solid, buy a Multiphot.




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henrikfoto



Joined: 06 Feb 2015
Posts: 37
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:45 am    Post subject: Bellows Reply with quote

Thanks a lot to both of you!
I will start looking today Smile


Henrik
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Lou Jost



Joined: 04 Sep 2015
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't underestimate the utility of the shifting mechanism. With the right adapters you can mount the camera on the side that shifts, and the lens on the other end where the camera normally would be. Then you can stack-and-stitch from a single aerial image, so that there is no lateral change in perspective (there is still the axial change of perspective). This facilitates stitching.


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Last edited by Lou Jost on Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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ChrisR
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Joined: 14 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing " other adapters are available " Laughing

I agree PB6 with the 6E base is very good, but an expensive combination.

If you use a PB5, which is like the upper part of a PB4 without the shift/tilt, and without the lower pair of rails, you can fix it to a cheap 225mm+ Arca type plate with two 1/4" x 20 tpi "tripod" screws.
Then with an Arca clamp or two of your choice, you have something rigid, and adjustable by sliding.

The PB6, Olympus, Pentax and other bellows all have a similar X rail.
Olympus fittings are rather a pain, but Pentax M42 is easier, and should be a reasonable price.
(It's even possible they're interchangeable, I've never tried).

Another possible is Vivitar. They made a few models, some modular and quite good. Some at least are T mounts both ends.

All the two-rail bellows (at least) have slide copier attachments which can be cheap. I have them for the above. They make handy small macro stages.
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ray_parkhurst



Joined: 20 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have examples of PB3, PB4, PB5, PB6, Vivitar, Pentax, Novoflex, plus several others. The one I use on my system is the Canon Auto Bellows FD. It's a lot like the PB6 and Pentax, but I find the build quality and operating smoothness a bit superior. It suffers from the same lack of rigidity, due to nylon bearings, as the Pentax and PB6, but these nylon bearing bellows seem to have a nice dampening.
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Lou Jost



Joined: 04 Sep 2015
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ray, I would think that for coin photography, a tilting bellows would open up interesting lighting and photographic options. Nearly flat coins are perfect subjects for that. And shifting with your telecentric lenses would be really useful too. Have you experimented much with those techniques?
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ray_parkhurst



Joined: 20 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lou Jost wrote:
Ray, I would think that for coin photography, a tilting bellows would open up interesting lighting and photographic options. Nearly flat coins are perfect subjects for that. And shifting with your telecentric lenses would be really useful too. Have you experimented much with those techniques?


Lou,

I use a tilt adapter on camera end. I see you are doing a similar thing with your PB4 by mounting camera to the lens standard. You are right that this is a good thing for coin photography. Toned coins especially benefit from having direct light reflection to bring out the colors. I tilt toned coins using a goniometer, then match the tilt at camera side using the tilt adapter.

Tilting at camera end minimizes the amount of "shift" that occurs along with the tilt. Would be best to tilt right at the sensor plane, but the mechanics for that would be complex.

Ray
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jcb



Joined: 11 Jun 2011
Posts: 48
Location: France

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use a Nikon PB5 with an Hejnar 8" rail (reference G010-80 that is 1/2" thick). The rail just fits in the PB5 fixation holes with the 2 screws at the extreme opposites of the rail slots.
It makes a stiff low profile rail (stiffer and lower than the PB4) with the sliders locking metal on metal and the possibility to adjust the position of the bellows (front to back) by sliding the rail in the arca style clamp.
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