I'm restoring and old 4x5 - questions on lens and bellows

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Hello, All. I was recently given an old view camera that is in horrible condition due to poor storage, but I'm still very excited about trying large format. The brand of the camera is Brand, and I've found out that it was made just after WWII. I received two lenses, neither in good shape. The better (and the one most suited to beginner use, I think) is a Xenar 4.5 with shutter speeds (Compur) of 1 to 200. The diaphram worked fairly well, and the shutter functioned until I pushed the cocking lever too far, and the speeds were obviously off. The lens had some sort of cloudiness but no scratches. I got an estimate from Houston Camera Repair on repairing the lens for $174, which includes a new main spring and several other replacement parts and a thorough CLA. I was told that the lenses could be cleaned with a safe acid, solving the cloudiness problem (humidity, I was told) and removing some mildew or mold that they found. Do you feel that this lens is worth repairing at this cost? The camera has full movements, which I'd like to make use of. Does this lens have sufficient coverage? I need to keep costs down because there are many other things I'll need to buy to be ready to take pictures. The bellows is beyond repair, I think. I tried www.camerabellows.com, but the site was unavailable. Is the company still in business? Can anyone give me information for Flexible Products in Florida? Are there any other sources? The bellows is simple, just a wood frame in each end that gets screwed to the camera at the front and rear. Thanks so much for your help, and again, I'm very excited about the opportunity to try large format.

-- Stephen Parks (sdparks@mindspring.com), November 05, 2001


Hi Stephen Welcome, I also am a new comer to the world of L.F. I started about a year ago and still consider myself a rank beginner. Yes Camera Bellows is still in business. The url you have is correct. I just communicated with them last week. I got very quick response. As far as the lens goes, it sounds like it might be a little far gone to spend that kind of money on. I think you could buy agood lens with plenty of image circle for that kind of money. In fact I have a servicable Kodak 135mm wide field ektar gathering dust in my basement if you're interested. Good luck

-- Rob Haury (rdhaury@earthlink.net), November 05, 2001.

I picked up a Calumet (Schneider) 150/5.6 in a Copal shutter on eBay for $200, so you may want to check out other options for a lens.

-- Dave Willis (willisd@medicine.wustl.edu), November 05, 2001.

I think I can help you with the shutter. Some designs of Compur shutter had the delayed action combined with the cocking lever. There's a small button on these shutters, which, if you push it aside, allows the cocking lever to be moved further than normal, and this sets the 'self-timer', or delayed release mechanism.
It's quite common for the delay to become sticky with lack of use, and a little bit of gentle persuasion on the cocking lever won't come amiss. Release the shutter while applying a SLIGHT pressure to the cocking lever. You should be able to get it moving very slowly, and it'll make a slight buzzing noise as the delyed action runs down. After a few seconds, it should reach the point where it triggers the shutter and flicks back to its normal position.
It may come right after a few workouts like this, or it may just stubbornly refuse to work and need some repair.
$174 sounds reasonable for the work involved, but I think the repairers might be being a bit optimistic in claiming they can remove the cloudiness from the lens. You might just be throwing good money after bad.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), November 06, 2001.

I think Pete is right that you may have set the self timer. A little pressure may get it working. If not, remove the lens cells(they are made to unscrew easily on LF) and give the shutter a wash in mineral spirits. Just pour some sprits in a clean plastic container, drop in the shutter, and swish it around a bit. While it is wet with the spirits, operate the shutter a few times at all speed ranges. Let it dry, and it may be fine. LF shutters will work well for a long time without lubricant, as you aren't shooting thousands of shots. While the lens cells are out of the shutter, very gently clean the inside elements that are exposed. I recommend the above procedure for this lens because it is not worth what they are asking to refurbish it. If it doesn't work, call Midwest Photo Exchange or another company dealing in used LF lenses. You should be able to find one for less than the cost of the repair. Welcome to LF. Enjoy.


-- Doug Paramore (Dougmary@alaweb.com), November 06, 2001.

Repairing old gear is a good hobby but doesn't make much sense if you have to spend a lot of money to do so. If you have the skills to do it yourself , do it and you will be very proud of your workmanship. If you have to rely onto somebodyelse ,then , I am afraid, you better buy something already in working order, regardless of the fact wether the shutter works and the lens will be cleaned properly, after repairing them you will still be left wit an old camera and an old lens, both of which would never perform as newer material.

The world of second hand is immense! Have a look on e-bay ad wait for the good occasion. A good working camera gives you plesure every time you use it, some people like vintage cameras and lenses but their motivation is a different one than the using of a camera to take pictures. If you, on the other hand, are a conservationist then go for it. Good luck

-- andrea milano (milandro@wanadoo.nl), November 06, 2001.

Thanks for the replies. I neglected to say that the focal length of the lens was 150mm. I've read elsewhere in the forum that this lens has limited coverage. Based on that and your responses, I'm not going to have the lens repaired, but instead attempt to improve the condition of the lens myself (I'm mechanically inclined), and if that fails, I'll look for a used lens in good shape. Thanks for the tips.

-- Stephen Parks (sdparks@mindspring.com), November 06, 2001.

Go to http://www.micro-tools.com/ for alot of supplies from replacement leather and tools ect. As far as Flexible products, I have heard pluses and minuses... mainly that their bellows don't compress as much as the original one. This can be a problem with a closing field camera! There is a guy in VT that I have his email who repairs... when I was talking to him, he uses the bellows manufacturer in Britian. As I recall, I got a price of $125. USD to replace my Linhof Tech III bellows with an exact duplicate. The only other alternative is to make your own bellows. If you plug in homemade camera bellows (as I recall) you will get all the info to make your own.

-- Scott Walton (scotlynn@shore.net), November 07, 2001.

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