Nikon F and F2 Bellows and Slide Units


In general, bellows units are difficult enough to use indoors that many people do not consider them portable. Although having a continuously variable extension (within limits) is quite tempting, extension tubes and double-helicoid mounts (as on most older Micro-Nikkors, e.g. 55f/3.5, 105f/4) provide more than enough flexibility for most people. Besides which, Nikon only got around to incorporating a semi-automatic diaphragm mechanism on its last bellows, the PB-6, whereas many extension tubes are both meter and auto-aperture coupled.

On the other hand, although bellows are bulky and fragile, they provide tremendous versatility and rigid extension. With at least one, the PB-4, you can get a few view camera-like movements (and for not that much more money, you can buy a cheap 4x5 monorail ...).

Bellows Types 2, 2A

These are the original bellows for the Nikon F-bayonet mount. The first bellows units ever made were in the S-bayonet (rangefinder) mount and were known as "Bellows 1". Both the front and rear standards may be moved; the front standard moves along a geared track via a rotating knob, and the rear standard is slid back and forth along the rails after unlocking a lever. The extension is continuously variable from 51.6 to 184mm on the Bellows 2 and 54.6 to 187mm on the 2a. Incidentally, these bellows have serial numbers.

The 2 was upgraded to the 2a to accomodate users of Photomic finders. With the 2, these finders must be removed when changing the camera's orientation from horizontal to vertical because the rear standard provides insufficient clearance. The 2a's standard is extended by 3mm to clear these finders; this modification is present on serial numbers 106700 and higher.

Nikon has thoughtfully provided focussing scales for the 50f/2 and 135f/4 Bellows in normal position. There is a standard tripod bushing at the front of the bellows. The appropriate slide-copying unit is the otherwise unnamed "Slide Copying Unit"

Magnification Ranges obtainable with Bellows Model 2 (lens set to infinity, except where noted):

21mm f/4
2.3-9x (normal position)
11-5mm working distance (normal position)
4.7-11.5x (reversed)
11-9mm working distance (reversed)
  • image quality is best at f/8 and degnerates as lens is stopped down further (normal and reversed)
24mm f/2.8
4.5-10.5x (reversed)
38-37mm working distance (reversed)
  • image quality is best at f/8 and degnerates as lens is stopped down further (reversed)
28mm f/3.5
1.6-2.8x (normal position)
7-0mm working distance (normal position)
3.9-8.8x (reversed)
42-38mm working distance (reversed)
  • suitable for normal close-up photography but unsuitable for copying (normal position)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • image quality is best at f/8 and degnerates as lens is stopped down further (reversed)
35mm f/2
1.3-5.2x (normal position)
20-0mm working distance (normal position)
3-6.9x (reversed)
50-42mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • image quality is best at f/8 and degnerates as lens is stopped down further (reversed)
35mm f/2.8
1.3-5.3x (normal position)
20-0mm working distance (normal position)
3-6.9x (reversed)
48-40mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • image quality is best at f/8 and degnerates as lens is stopped down further (reversed)
35mm f/3.5 PC
1.3-5.3x (normal position)
25-3mm working distance (normal position)
3-6.9x (reversed)
55-47mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal and reversed)
50mm f/1.4
0.8-3.7x (normal position)
52-9mm working distance (normal position)
2-4.8x (reversed)
62-48mm working distance (reversed)
  • suitable for normal close-up photography but unsuitable for copying (normal position)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • corner image quality degenerates at low magnifications (reversed)
50mm f/2
0.9-3.7x (normal position)
68-26mm working distance (normal position)
1.8-4.4x (reversed)
68-49mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • at high magnifications, corner-image quality degenerates somewhat when the lens is stopped down further than f/8 (reversed)
55mm f/1.2
0.8-3.3x (normal position)
69-15mm working distance (normal position)
1.9-4.4x (reversed)
76-47mm working distance (reversed)
  • suitable for normal close-up photography but unsuitable for copying (normal position)
  • since corner-image quality is poor, it is advisable to stop the lens down as far as possible (normal position)
  • corner image quality degenerates at low magnifications (reversed)
55mm f/3.5 Micro
0.8-4.5x (normal position)
66-15mm working distance (normal position)
1.8-4.5x (reversed)
68-50mm working distance (reversed)
  • image quality is best at f/8 and degnerates as lens is stopped down further (normal and reversed)
85mm f/1.8
0.7-2.3x (normal position)
210-88mm working distance (normal position)
0.6-2.2x (reversed)
190-80mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • corner image quality degenerates at low magnifications (reversed)
105mm f/2.5
0.4-1.9x (normal position)
330-160mm working distance (normal position)
inf-1.2x (reversed)
inf-120mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • image quality is good a high magnifications but corner image quality degenerates at infinity (reversed)
135mm f/2.8
0.3-1.5x (normal position)
510-220mm working distance (normal position)
inf-0.9x (reversed)
inf-200mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • image quality is good a high magnifications but corner image quality degenerates at infinity (reversed)
135mm f/3.5
0.3-1.5x (normal position)
530-240mm working distance (normal position)
inf-0.8x (reversed)
inf-250mm working distance (reversed)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
  • image quality is good a high magnifications but corner image quality degenerates at infinity (reversed)
135mm f/4 Bellows
inf-1x (normal position)
inf-230mm working distance (normal position)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
200mm f/4
0.2-1x (normal position)
1260-550mm working distance (normal position)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
300mm f/4.5
0.1-0.8x (normal position)
2390-980mm working distance (normal position)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (normal position)
500f/5 Reflex
0.3-0.4x (normal position)
2140-1650mm working distance (normal position)
43~86mm f/3.5 Zoom
1.1-4x (normal position, 43mm)
30-0mm working distance (normal position, 43mm)
2.4-5.4x (reversed, 43mm)
55-46mm working distance (reversed, 43mm)
0.8-2.2x (normal position, 86mm)
160-65mm working distance (normal position, 86mm)
0.9-2.5x (reversed, 86mm, focussed to 1.2m)
134-68mm working distance (reversed, 86mm, focussed to 1.2m)
  • the further the lens is stopped down, the better the image quality (all settings)

PB-3 Bellows

The PB-3 is a nice compact bellows unit. It only engages to the camera in a landscape (horizontal) format, so you get to do fun tripod tricks when taking vertical shots. The extension provided ranges between 33 and 142mm. There is a lock at the bottom of the front standard to hold a given extension, and a tripod bushing at the bottom of the (fixed) rear standard. Instead of the twin tracks of the Bellows 2, the PB-3 uses a single triangular-cross section rack. The bellows are octagonally shaped, instead of the squarely-shaped bellows found on all other Nikon units. For the collector in you, the PB-3 is darn-near impossible to find.

PB-4 Bellows

There are many who mourn the passing of the PB-4, as it provides many useful features. One of them is a tripod foot mounted on its own geared twin tracks (which obviates the need for an additional focussing rail -- i.e. for a given magnification ratio setting, you can move the whole assembly back and forth on top of your tripod until everything's in focus), which the PB-4 shares with the PB-6. But what most people buy the PB-4 for (and why, used, it often costs more than the PB-6) is the ability to swing and shift the lens. The front standard shifts (horizontally) 10mm to either side and swings (horizontally, again) up to 25 degrees to the right or left. These may easily be converted into rise/fall and tilt by flopping the tripod head to the vertical.

Generally, the PB-4 is paired with the 105f/4 Bellows, which allows the swings and shifts to be used at minimum extension. Since most lenses' image circles will increase in area as they are focussed closer via extension, many other lenses will cover the film area adequately with the proper amount of extension. Since the total price of the PB-4 with the 105f/4 Bellows is fairly steep (the 105f/4 Bellows is a rare lens -- although it is inconvenient to use [preset diaphragm], and the optics of the 105f/4 Micro are the same, there aren't too many Bellows lenses floating around), many Nikoneers choose to use either the old Canon FD 35f/2.8 TS (adapted or on an old F-1 body) or one of the newer EF TS-E lenses on a cheap EOS body (having an automatic diaphragm, not to mention a choice of focal lengths [24, 45, 90] and tilting available, is a godsend).

Both the front and rear standards may be moved along the top twin tracks independently, although only the front standard has the shift and swing available. All of the movement knobs (front and rear standards, tripod foot) are on the left side of the bellows; the semi-triangular knobs on the right side all lock the appropriate movements. The extension ranges from 43 to 185mm. The camera may be rotated from horizontal to vertical (and back again) via a button on the right side of the rear standard. You may use either the PS-4 or PS-5 on the PB-4. The two levers on the front standard lock the (friction-set) shift and swing movements; the top lever (i.e. closer to the lens) locks the shift and the bottom lever locks the swing. To release these locks, slide them towards the left side of the bellows (i.e. the side with the movement knobs, not the movement locking knobs).

PB-5 Bellows

The PB-5 is a PB-4 with three critical exceptions:
  1. The lower rails are removed, so the tripod mount(s) are fixed in place at the front and back of the rails.
  2. The front standard does not shift.
  3. The front standard does not swing.

Again, the movement knobs are on the left side of the bellows unit, their corresponding locking knobs are on the right, and the front and rear standards may move independently. The extension range is also 43-185mm and it also accepts the PS-4 or PS-5.

PB-6 Bellows

This unit was introduced towards the end of the F2's career. Its design blends elements of the PB-3 and PB-4. Like the PB-4, both the front and rear standards may be moved independently, and the tripod mounting foot may also be moved along its own track (it has a total travel of 180mm); the top and bottom tracks have a dovetail cross-section, like the PB-3. It also offers the longest extension of any Nikon bellows, from 48 to 208mm (which can be extended to a mind-boggling 438mm with the appropriate extension bellows), continuously variable, of course. Unfortunately, the front standard neither swings nor shifts, so perspective and focal plane controls are not as extensive as the PB-4's.

The PB-6's front standard can do a variety of tricks which make it useful for all but the very dedicated Schiempflug Principle photographer. It incorporates a plunger-operated semi-automatic diaphragm (like the BR-4) and may be used with the lens reversed without resorting to a BR-2 (or BR-5).

PB-6D Bellows Rail Spacer

This little widget mounts between a bellows standard and the focussing rail of the PB-6. It provides enough room to mount a motorised camera (or that hulking F4/F5 beast you have lurking around somewhere) on the PB-6. Note that you will need two of these, one for the front and one for the rear standard. On the other hand, with the appropriate lens (probably a converted large format lens with fairly long infinity flange-to-film-plane focus distance), you could probably use these singly to provide either front standard rise (slip a PB-6D under the front standard only) or drop (put a PB-6D under the rear standard only) for perspective control. Of course, this is the PB-4 (not to mention also the Horseman View Camera Converter)'s raison d'etre ...

PB-6E Extension Bellows

This unit couples to the PB-6 and offers from 83 to 438mm of extension. It attaches to the PB-6's moveable tripod foot (no longer moveable with the PB-6E hanging off of it) via a plate that is threaded with a standard 1/4-20 tripod socket. Yes, if you really wanted to, you can now get that 400f/4.5 out to slightly beyond 1:1.

Based on a picture that I have, it seems that you mount this accessory between the front and rear standards -- detach the front standard from the PB-6, attach the free end of the bellows to the back end of the PB-6E, hook the two focussing rails together, and the slide the front standard onto the front of the PB-6E, securing it to the free end of the PB-6E's bellow (Nikon even says that the standard on the PB-6E is a "center" standard).

Slide Copying Attachment

This is the unit to use with the original Bellows 2 or 2a. It holds a slide, has its own bellows, and attaches to the front of the lens via a 52mm thread. It has a rod which engages the corresponding socket in the front "foot" of the Bellows 2. With this unit, you may copy from 1x to 2x (of the middle, since the unit itself does not allow shifts) of the slide. Nikon has been very kind and provided you with two circular trays on either side of the unit to hold unmounted film rolls.

PS-4 Slide Copying Adapter

This unit is similar to the original Slide Copying Adapter, with the addition (possibly) of shifting movements for the actual slide holder. The slide may be moved up to 6mm vertically or 9mm horizontally. It also has its own bellows (with 60mm extension) to shield the original from stray light and added circular film-roll trays. The 55f/3.5 Micro is the preferred lens for use with this adapter, with the 50f/2 also quite acceptable.

PS-5 Slide Copying Adapter

Just as the PB-5 was a simplified PB-4, so is the PS-5 a simplified PS-4, lacking the film trays and shifting movements. Both the PS-4 and PS-5 feature magnets to hold their bellows shut when not in use.

PS-6 Slide Copying Adapter

This is essentially a PS-4 updated to fit onto the PB-6. It also offers the spare film trays, and slide-mount shifting (to the same extents as the PS-4).

PB-6M Macro Copy Stand

Nikon Description:
Provides the PB-6 with a convenient stand for small items. 18% grey surface.

ES-1 Slide Copying Attachment

This gizmo fits into the front of a 55mm Micro-Nikkor, and, presumably, allows for exact duplication of slides by holding the slide at the proper distance when at 1:1 and providing for illumination through an opal light window.


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