First impressions - Konica Auto Bellows : LUSENET : Konica 35mm SLRs : One Thread

Hi all,

Some may be interested in initial impressions using the Auto Bellows I recently acquired. Yes, this the one with the nylon bushing problem, I stripped a set from my Standard Bellows 3 for the time being, still looking into getting replacments (and spares!), but that's another story.

I have and have frequently used Standard Bellows 2, Standard Bellows 3 (with a Minolta focusing stage), Konica Auto Ring, Konica Macro Rings, various 3rd party Auto Macro Rings, various lens reversing and lens stacking adapters, assorted macro lenses with & without dedicated extensions.

Film is off to processing so I am not yet talking about results, just the process of using the Bellows on a couple recent photo excursions.

For those who have never used one, a bellows can give you substantially greater magnification than extension rings, the magnification is "stepless" across the length of the bellows and an "auto" bellows or "auto" ring is not "auto exposure" per se.

To explain the latter statement, with "auto" extension rings (3rd party, Konica never made them), set on EE or AE, the camera's meter readings are mechanically passed along to the lens. With Konica Extension Rings and all bellows systems, you must "match needle" meter your shot. This means manually adjusting aperture and shutter to get the meter (or LED with the later cameras) to the right point on the scale. With the T4 it's a little bracket up by the f1.4 point on the scale. With an FT-1, it's the LED at the f1.0 point on the scale.

The "auto" portion of the Auto Bellows and Konica Auto Ring refers to the fact that these devices are spring loaded and, once metering is done, they re-open the aperture wide (like the camera does with the lens directly attached). This makes focusing much, much easier than trying to see through a stopped down lens! The double cable release necessary to operate the Auto Bellows or Auto Ring does two things: first it releases the spring so the lens stops down to your aperture setting, then it fires the shutter.

The Auto Bellows brings a lot together in one package! My favorite feature so far is the Depth-of-Field preview! It is a tremendous tool to be able to see what is in focus with the incredibly narrow DOF of macro work. I used a Hexanon 100/2.8 lens most of the time, along with a T4/Winder. All was mounted on a Bogen/Manfrotto tripod with their 3030 head.

Incidentally, I figured out (d'oh!) that you can get DOF preview with an Auto Ring! The first half of the stroke on the dual cable release (required with either Auto Bellows or Auto Ring) will effectively stop the lens down to the set aperture. If you are careful not to press it too far, you can simply & effectively use this to examine DOF. (Pressing too far will merely release the shutter and take the pic before you are ready, so not too major a disaster, just wasted film.) Of course, in macro work you can get DOF preview just about any lens manually, but you stand a high liklihood of bumping the focus off in the process.

The first couple outings with the Auto Bellows, I've concentrated on fairly immobile, tame subject matter: flowers. I'll go spider hunting once I'm more practiced with the set up! I say "fairly immobile" because even the slightest breeze becomes a hurricane at 3:1 magnification! Still, with patience I think I got most of the shots I wanted (except the "operator error" ones where I used the wrong procedure for metering!)

Working with the Auto Bellows on top of a tripod is reasonably easy. The built-in focusing rail makes for a more compact package than the separate stage I used on my old Standard Bellows. A focusing rail is pretty much essential. Set the lens on infinity, roughly extend the bellows for the magnification you want and move the tripod within range, then fine-tune the focus with the rail, by moving the entire camera/bellows/lens assembly nearer to or away from your subject matter. The Auto Bellows is the only Konica bellows that offers geared movements on both the front and rear uprights. The rear upright on the Standard 2 is fixed, the Standard 3 allows movement by loosening a clamping knob and sliding the upright.

So, with several California Poppies and other mundane flowers quickly and successfully bagged, I got daring and decided to go after an amazingly colorful weed blossom which has begun to establish itself in my back yard! I have no idea what it is, but I can tell you the blossom is about 1/4 inch across and it only grows two or three inches high! I wanted to do "mug shots"... straight on and also from the side. Thank heaven for the Bogen/Manfrotto tripod design that allows you to flip the centerpost over, so that it points straight down between the tripod legs. Carefully positioning the whole assembly over an unsuspecting weed, I arranged everything so no shadows fell on it. Hey, don't laugh! You really do have to sneak up on it... the blossoms close up except in full sun!

So there I lay in the back yard, trying to peer through a viewfinder that was about 5 inches off the ground (even an angle finder didn't help much). Thankfully, as far as I could tell, my dog hadn't "used" the immediate vicinity in recent memory.

Now what they don't tell you about tripods with reversable center columns is that, yo dummy, the equipment will be upside down! So now all the controls are the opposite of what you are used to. Not to mention that there is very limited space between the tripod legs to maneuver the equipment and, YES, it is possible to get your head stuck! Note to self, next purchase: one of those Bogen clamps that allow you to attach a ball head low on one of the tripod legs (or just about anywhere else, like maybe an assistant's ankle), to get the same low angle, but with everything upright and outside the legs of the tripod!

Seriously, even in full sun, using fairly small apertures, high magnification and long bellows extensions, I found myself using shutter speeds of 1/30, 1/15 and 1/8. Mounted atop the tripod, and even moreso dangling upside down below it, camera shake was a major issue. I was quite glad I'd loaded & was using the T4 because by using the self-timer I could get the camera to lock up the mirror several seconds before the shutter fired. Too bad Konica didn't carry this feature over to the FT-1!

What I saw through the viewfinder told me the Hexanon 100/2.8 was working well. I've used it before with other bellows and am quite am confident in it's capabilities! I do want to try a Tamron 90/2.5 macro on the bellows. This lens can be stopped down to f32, two stops beyond the Hexanon. Maybe some day I'll be able to try a 105 Hexanon, too. Although the f4 max of that lens will make for a bit more difficulty focuing, it has f22 and infinity focusing ability on the bellows. In the past I've put 85/1.8, 135/2.5 and 200/3.5 Hexanons on bellows or extension tubes with great results, looking forward to trying them on the Auto Bellows.

Another area I want to experiment with is lens reversing (where wide angle lenses and normals really shine), have recently picked up a reversing ring and an adapter that allows me to put a lens shade on the back of the lens (made one from an old spray paint can lid). Reversed lenses can get into the really high magnifications, 5:1 and 6:1 range.

Incidentally, I recently stumbled across a Contax/Yashica bellows outfit at auction on eBay... from the pictures, I would swear it's identical to the Konica Auto Bellows set up, just with different lens and camera bayonet mounts, of course!

The really great thing about macro photography is all the different equipment you can rationalize buying, lugging around and methodically setting up! The Auto Bellows is an important step in my evolution as a photographer, because it combines a lot of the features I "need" into one package, thereby simplifying my life and lightening my camera bag (actually backpack for my macro gear). Man, I'm getting really good at this rationalizing! Seriously, it is great fun to work with and I'm about to head out & burn some more film!


Alan Myers

-- Anonymous, March 25, 2001


Novoflex auto bellows

Since we're on the topic of bellows, I wanted to put in a pitch for the Novoflex auto bellows. I first read about the Novoflex bellows in a book on macro photography written by a Nikon user - he thought they Novoflex unit was the best designed bellows he had tried. Novoflex made their bellows in a Konica mount along with several others. While not common I think they are definitely worth looking for.

The Novoflex auto bellows has two dual rails, one governing extension and the second acting as a focus rail (tripod use). They have a very solid, quality feel (those Germans!). The key advantages, in my experience, are:

1) Novoflex achieves auto-diaphram functionality with an ingenious system using two square rods running just below the bellows. One rod transfers the maximum aperature of the lens to the body, the second allows the body to stop the lens down before the shutter opens. This arrangment gives you auto functionality without the need for an external double cable release, regardless of the amount of extension. Very compact, and nothing to snap on bushes, flowers, etc.

2) the focus and extension rails have a tooth and cog arrangment which provides very smooth, positive movements. This allows you to make precise adjustments, and the settings can be locked in position where you want them.

3) the whole arrangment is so compact that it can be used handheld! I often use the Novoflex handheld (with flash of course) to take photos of insects and flowers. You simply lock the bellows extension where you want it (to give the desired magnification with the lens you have mounted) and focus by slowing moving the bellows mounted camera closer and closer to the subject. You essentially keep leaning forward till your bug snaps into focus, and then press the shutter. I have been using a hot shoe mounted Vivitar 285 flash with a Sto-fen omnibounce for diffusion. Because of the close proximity to the subject, you have to set the flash manually to 1/4 or 1/16 power. I set exposure using a handheld flash meter, adjusting for the light loss due to the bellows extension. Because the flash duration is so short (probably 1/10,000 to 1/20,000 of a second when the flash is set to reduced output) camera movement isn't really an issue, and you can get sharp photos handheld. My next project is to invent some type of dual flash arrangment using two small flash units to give better modelling of the subject.

In any event, if you can find a Novoflex auto bellows in a Konica mount, I highly recommend them.

-- Anonymous, March 29, 2001


Yes, I've heard a lot of good things about Novoflex bellows and lenses ... and you're right, the trick is finding them in a Konica mount! Occasionally I see the mounts separately on eBay and I think there might be a supplier somewhere on the Internet.

I'm curious what lenses you are using on your bellows and, when using your flash setup, how you are calculating the allowance you make for bellows extension? I use a Minolta IIIF meter & have been pretty successful metering for macro lenses with magnifications up to 1:1 (with both single flashes and the dual flash set up described below). But, beyond that, i.e. with the bellows, I'm at a bit of a loss and haven't really experimented much. I'm tempted to try to get one of the extensions available for this meter, to read flash output through the viewfinder. Pretty expensive, though.

As to the dual flash set up, I'm using a pair of Vivitar 2500 flash units mounted on a partially homemade bracket (looking for used Lepp bracket, $110 new!). These are older flashes (no longer made, there might be a current model with the same number designation) and one major reason I use them is they work with the MFS-1 fiber optic Macro Flash Sensor. The MFS-1 kit has a pickup that clips to the lens hood and transmits the light output to the sensor on the front of the flash. I use a pair of the sensor, one for each flash.

By offsetting the flashes slightly so that one is a few inches closer to the subject than the other I can get some "modeling", where one flash acts as the main light, the other as a fill light. I am experimenting with various scraps of cloth as a diffusion filter over the head of the flash. It probably would be possible to introduce some subtle coloration (warming, etc.) with this, but currently I'm just looking for a nicer, softer, less "bug in the headlights" look.

Along with the sensor & fiber optic, Vivitar supplies a very handy little adjustable ballhead in the MFS-1 kit to mount the flashes and allow the user to aim them more accurately.

I also use a Vivitar 285 (and a Sunpak 444D), but have found it a bit too large, for my taste, for macro applications. Did look at the LumiQuest folding bounce kit last weekend (also trying to resolve that "bug/headlight" thing) and I can see where that or the Sto-Fen might be useful.

Another flash I have that may be good for a dual macro set up is the Sunpak 322D. This model has a 1/8 power setting, which would be about right for closeups. The Sunpak is about the same size as the Vivitar 2500, with roughly the same output, but also has an advantage of using 4 batteries (to the Vivitar's 2), giving more run time and a bit faster recycling. I picked up a Sunpak 322 (aka the 322s, I think) because all the different levels it can be set to, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 (ISTR more) would be really good for maco work. But I think this is just too big a unit to use comfortably.

As one of the dedicated models, the 322D has the interchangeable foot/sensor and can be set up to interface with FS-1, FT-1, etc. Although for this purpose, at least, the standard (universal) flash foot would probably work best.


Alan Myers San Jose, Calif.

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2001

Re: Novoflex, macro lenses, macro flash metering

I've only shot a couple of rolls with the Novoflex bellows, most of the time with the 55mm Macro Hexanon. I have two of these lenses, and my totally subjective non-scientific impression is that they are great up to 1:1 magnification, but when you get towards 2:1 and beyond the performance suffers - contrast, resolution, etc. I've also tried the 85mm Hexanon on the bellows, although not at great magnifications just yet. The 85mm gives more working distance to the subject and is brighter for focussing. For macro work, it is good but not quite up to the standard of the 55mm Macro. Also, it is not a flat field lens so the corners are not in focus when the center is sharp. This isn't a problem for many subjects (eg. bugs!) since the depth of field is so small anyway. Peter Ulvskov had commented in this group that the 100mm Hexanon (not the 105mm macro) was good on the bellows, so I'm going to try that lens next.

With respect to flash exposure, I have a manual procedure that is a little clunky but seems to work. I pick a lens (55mm Macro) and bellows extension to give me the desired magnification for the subject (say 2.0x for a ladybug). Using a chart which I have made from the bellows instruction manual, I know that this will require that I lock the bellows at something like 6cm extension (don't have it in front of me). I then use my Sekonic 308BII flash meter to take an exposure reading. Looking through the lens I basically simulate taking a picture of the incident ball on the flash meter. I "lean" forward to move the whole bellows setup until the incident light measuring ball snaps into focus (remember, your depth of field will be only a couple of millimeters). At this point I test fire the flash, and check the flash reading. If the reading is out of range (ie. f/64 or beyond) manually reduce the power of the flash and begin again. This technique allows you to determine exactly how much light the flash is putting on the precise point of focus given on your lens choice and bellow set up. You must then adjust that exposure reading for the light loss of the bellows, again using my chart - which derives an adjustment factor from the magnification achieved. For example, the flash meter might indicate f/45, but you need to open up by two stops to account for the magnification, so would set the lens to f/22. This exposure will be accurate for all subjects in focus at that magnification - you can cruise the garden with impunity and if it's in focus the exposure is set. If you interested in how I calculate the exposure factors, send me a private email and I will try to help.

My flash is mounted in the hot shoe, but the extended snout of the Vivitar combined with the Sto-fen Omnibounce gets a lot of light in front of the lens. I also tape some white cardboard to the front of the bellows to reflect some of the light falling on either side of the lens back on the subject. This works well when framing horizontally but not so well framing vertically (the light looks like it is coming from the side & shadows are unnatural).

I'm interested in a two flash setup on either side of the lens. Does the Vivitar macro flash sensor still work consistently with two flashes? I would have thought that the light output of one flash might confuse the auto sensor of the other - leading to exposure problems.

Anyone reversing or stacking lenses to get really big magnifications?

-- Anonymous, April 03, 2001

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