Square or Tapered?

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I've only ever had a camera with a tapered bellows. I was wondering, all other things being equal, which design is more flexible at short extensions, square or tapered? I notice most field cameras are tapered and most studio monorail cameras are square. Any particular reason for this?

Any other design or functional issues having to do with the two formats?

-- Kevin Bourque (skygzr@aol.com), January 16, 2002


A tapered bellows will allow the use of a shorter focal length lens - all else being equal. A square bellows on a studio camera is not at a disadvantage in this regard because: 1. You seldom work at infinity, so you have less worry about total collapse of the bellows. 2. You can conveniently change to a bag bellows when necessary. A field camera's bellows does double-duty (who wants to swap and carry an extra bellows?), and allows collapsing the whole rig into a smaller package for transport.

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), January 16, 2002.

Field cameras are designed to be folded for compactness and portability. The tapered bellows of field cameras allow the bellows material to nest in a progressive way, with the pleats settling in the most compact arrangement possible. If the bellows were square, it would not be possible to completely fold the camera along a bottom hinge. (It would be like inserting a small book into the middle of an open big book). If the designer of the field camera opted to use a square bellows, the only way of reducing the volume of the camera for transport is to make the front and rear standards meet along the camera bed. And, to reduce volume further, a section of the bed is folded to rest against one of the standards. The resulting configuration is the classic tailboard design of vintage wood cameras. Which, while reasonably compact, does not permit much room for movements.

-- Rico Obusan (eobusan@aol.com), January 17, 2002.

The square bellows of a monorail allow an extension to be added, give a larger area to the lensboard, and minimise internal flare. A tapered bellows sacrifice some internal reflection for compactness, and may limit the useable size of lens.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 17, 2002.

On a similar subject of bellows shape, what are the reasons for the square 90 degree folded corner bellows vs. the 45 degree folded corner, regardless of tapered or uniform length? I've seen alot of old view cameras with this style and have wonder about it. I've yet to try to make a bellows but might try it soon.

-- Tad Cornwell (zmountainogat@yahoo.com), February 27, 2002.

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