Viewing bellows instead of dark cloth? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm contemplating about aquiring the (non-selfsupporting) viewing bellows with the bino viewer (w/ integrated loupe) made by Arca Swiss.
Is anybody using this device? Does it prove useful, and if not, why?
An Arca rep at Fotokina said that he would recommend their reflex viewer over the viewing bellows, but I tend to think nothing compares to direct ground glass observation when judging sharpness.

Asking more generally, what are the pros, and especially the cons, of such (non-reflex) binocular viewing aids, compared to the traditional dark cloth?

-- Stefan Dalibor (, November 01, 2000


Stefan, I don't have the Arca but I use a viewing bellows on my Ebony. It's so compact I leave it attached at all times even when stored in the back pack. I also purchesd a s/h Sinar magnifier which I attach to the bellows for critical focusing of the gg. Focusing bellows such as this are quick to use, do not blow about in the breeze and depending on design can be stored attached to the camera back. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (, November 01, 2000.

I've been using the BTZS focusing hood on my 8X10 for the last three months and it has made an incredible difference from the traditional (and small) focusing cloth I had been using. The BTZS is a tube design and it keeps light from striking the ground glass from the the bottom. I had no idea that using this cloth would improve the groundglass image so much.

The BTZS was $64.95(US)for the 8X10 model and the 4X5 version is $54.95. The viewing bellows you describe above sounds like it would do the same thing as the BTZS, but I'd guess that any Arca Swiss accessory is likely to be LOT more expensive than $54.95

BTZS is sold by Darkroom Inovations and their web address is:

-- David Grandy (, November 01, 2000.

I've not used the bellows viewer on the Arca, but have also thought it was interesting. You might check the magnification you get with the Arca setup. I think (?) it may only be 2x. For me that isn't enough for critical focus. I also use the dark cloth mentioned above. Although it's expensive for a dark cloth, it is much less costly than the bellows viewer, and it works great!

-- Larry Huppert (, November 01, 2000.

When I bought an Ebony 4x5 earlier this year, they were able to customize a Horseman bino reflex viewer to fit. While it's bulkier than the folding viewer, it has really helped my viewing and composition, and it goes everywhere with me. It includes a 2x magnifier...not really enough for critical focusing, so I usually remove the viewer once I've set up, composed and focused, then use a loupe for final focusing. Ebony's fresnel is so good, though, that I can usually use the loupe without a dark cloth unless sun is directly on the GG.

-- Danny Burk (, November 01, 2000.

Before I owned an Arca F I owned a Sinar C and I used the similar device that Sinar makes (it is actually three pieces: a wide angle bellows, a board with the 2.5x diopters built in and a face mask) It was okay for general focusing and composition but when I wanted to be really critical I used a Schneider 4x loupe. I think if you can use both eyes it makes for more critical evaluation than if you are only using one eye, which is why the diopters are lower powered. The Arca reflex viewer is a gem.

-- Ellis Vener (, November 01, 2000.

I agree with Ellis. I have the same Sinar set up, and I find myself using the bellows without the Bino eyepiece more often than not. The Bino has a cute little elastic strap which is suppose to keep the thing comfortably positioned on your head, freeing your hands for making camera adjustments, but it just doesn't work, plain and simple. And using the bellows alone is fine in the studio where the ambient light is at a minimum, but in the field just too much light gets to the GG. There nothing beats the dark cloth my girlfriend whipped up for me. A standard black cloth sewned into a tube shape with an elastic band to fit over the GG. Holds snuggly and seals out all the light. Save the bucks and go with the cloth and loupe.

-- William Levitt (, November 01, 2000.

I, too, purchased a BTZS focusing hood for my TK 45. I do not recommend the product for two reasons

First, it takes more time to place this on the camera than it does to put on a regular dark cloth. If your camera design allows the hood to be left in place, this would be less of an issue. My TK 45 does not, because it is not possible to put a film holder in the camera with the hood in place without damaging the bellows.

However, the main reason that I dislike the BTZS is because it is constructed of waterproof nylon. I tend to be warm after hiking with my camera. Placing my head into a waterproof cloth tube has predictable effects: the ground glass and my glasses are quickly covered with condensation. In the winter, this turns to ice. I asked about returning this hood, they didn't seem interested.

If you decide to purchase a standard focusing cloth, make sure it is made from a material that breaths.


-- Bruce M. Herman (, November 02, 2000.

Norman Mcgrath used to use the Arca Bino Reflex years ago, but he seems to use just the viewing hood, according to my memory from an article in View Camera Magazine. There was a reason stated, but I don't recall it so someone could direct you which article was (a F- metric article, I think). Having used the Sinar Bino, bellows attached on the GG, and now a BITZ focusing cloth, I would say go with a folding hood which can be left on GG when the camera is even stored (if compatible), or the BITZ focusing cloth, especially if you are in field and location. When you decide on the BITZ, wear it through your neck like a shampoo cover for babies, take the cloth in and out as you are in action. The non-folding hoods like Sinar and Arca Bino reflexes are too bulky and impractical for fieldwork (and yes, heavier). Also they have disadvantages in shooting up from the ground close. They are good for studio.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, November 02, 2000.

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