Nikon PB-4 Bellows (exploring tilt/shift options)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Paul Furman, Dec 3, 2007.

  1. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    I have a few questions for anyone who has a PB-4 or is familiar. And
    some discussion below.

    1. Do I need an extension ring to mount on a D200?

    2. Does at least one of the end caps on the 4 rails come off? I saw one
    modified to shorten it and am also curious if two female PB-4 mounts
    could be attached, switching out the actual mounts for more flexibility
    in tilting & shifting. Shortened modification:

    3. When rotating from landscape to portrait, can you stop anywhere
    between? I'm guessing it's just a matter of possibly being too loose so
    that things wouldn't stay put but if there's enough tension this might
    be workable.

    4 the adjustments for tilt & shift are levers on the front, how do these
    work? Does the lever just loosen it and you push it with your hand or
    something else? Are these pretty secure for a heavy lens if the unit is
    set at 90 degrees to get vertical movement?

    5. What does the small 'thing' on the front lens mount do? It looks like
    maybe a place to attach an aperture diaphragm... if there was more
    mechanisms inside..

    Here's an interesting modification allowing a lens to get closer to the
    sensor for infinity focus by mounting it on the inside of the mount.

    An off-the-shelf setup for this kind of work is a Novoflex Balpro TS but
    that costs $1,300. One neat feature is it mounts on the lens, not on the
    body which should make movements more intuitive (and more precise for
    panorama shifting though that's not much of an issue with today's
    stitching software). Another nice thing is it looks quite a bit more
    compact than a PB-4 although I wonder how sturdy it is. The Balpro has
    movements in front & back too. A sawed down PB-4 would be a much more
    manageable size. In fact if it could be mounted on a simpler old 2-rail
    bellows that would be even smaller and the focusing rack isn't needed
    for infinity work:

    The other option is a Zork setup but that gets real expensive when you
    put all the parts together: info/product_guide_current.pdf
    $550 MFS tilt
    $330 Tilt tube for
    $229 Mini Makro Mount adjustable 'extension tube' for focusing)
    $139 additional set of tubes
    $50 35mm adapter
    $600 shift adapter
    $95 Tripod socket for mounting lens instead of body
    $89 L-bracket for maintaining nodal point
    $1,300 total.

    This has a nice 30 degree tilt and parallax free shift for pano's and
    it's super compact but I think only really works at infinity with large
    format, or medium format without the shift adapter and I assume a heavy
    lens would just flop over by it's own weight on the tilt mechanism.

    Here's a detailed summary of pretty much all the options:

    This quote from there is funny:
    "Once upon a time in the far, far away land of Finland there was
    developéd a system quite similar to the Cambo Ultima 35 but a lot
    cheaper and more innovative and yea! it was slain by mysterious and
    arcane forces of darkness and thus it was smote and lain low these many
    years hence."
    ...perhaps refers to this:
    btw that looks a lot like the Novoflex but a bit smaller... it's not
    something that can be found any more and if you did find it the price
    would be silly.
    Paul Furman, Dec 3, 2007
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  2. Paul Furman

    Frank Arthur Guest

    If you can find one HAMA made a bellows to fit the Nikon. I am
    currently using mine on my D80. It is similar to the Hasselblad
    Flexbody and has all the swings, tilts and shifts of many
    Sinar type view cameras.
    Frank Arthur, Dec 3, 2007
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  3. Paul Furman

    Matt Clara Guest

    Matt Clara, Dec 3, 2007
  4. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Hmm, pretty compact for medium format:
    The one in the link above is the Hama... it's so tiny,
    that would be nice but it does not exist. The Novoflex seems comparable:

    I even looked at a DIY solution:
    but those aren't cheap either & probably more precise than is needed
    (slow). Add a turntable in the xy & another in the z direction & it
    would probably be $2,000 before connecting to a camera & lens.
    Paul Furman, Dec 3, 2007
  5. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Paul Furman, Dec 4, 2007
  6. Paul Furman

    Toby Guest

    I've never used one and it hasn't hurt anything as far as I can tell.
    All the end stops come off. You'll need an optical wrench with points to do
    it right, but small needlenose pliers might work.

    That looks totally stupid. Why not just not extend the bellows as far?
    There are no stops, but there is a fair amount of drag so it could be held
    in place manually.
    They are friction locks, and yes, they are quite secure if you tighten them
    enough. Mostly you just use your thumb and push them one way or the other.
    I don't remember and I am not near my unit. If you are really interested
    remind me to look when I get back to Tokyo mid-December.

    I have an old brass barrel 135mm lens that works fine on the front. If you
    go with a 150 (or probably 105) enlarging lens you wouldn't need to go
    through such contortions, plus you would have wider coverage for extreme

    Personally I have been quite underwhelmed by the capabilities of the PB-4.
    You don't have anywhere near the kind of movements that a view camera has:
    the back rail is fixed and the front simply slides from side to side and
    does horizontal swings. Mounting vertically you do have the option of
    dropping the front but that is of limited use in controlling plane of focus
    because the back is fixed. Obviously Nikon knew this as well, since the PB-6
    went back to fixed rails. I suppose that with the lensbaby craze it is of
    some limited usefulness, but in that case you are better off with a

    Be aware that the D200 body can only be mounted and dismounted with the
    bellows in portrait orientation. No big deal really, but a bit of a pain...

    Toby, Dec 4, 2007
  7. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Thanks for the detailed answers! :)
    The reason is for discrete shooting in public and convenience: for
    infinity focusing, there is no need for a long rail, that's only for
    macro. I figure around 1-1/2 inches of movement is enough for general
    photography. Extension tubes could be added for macro work or an
    unaltered PB-4.
    Zoerk sells their system with these medium format enlarging lenses:
    $850 80mm f/4 APO Rodagon (modified) ($655 at B&H)
    $650 90mm f/4.5 Schneider APO Componon ($630 at Adorama)
    $350 80mm f/4.5 Schneider Componon S (modified)
    $350 90mm f/4.5 APO Rogonar S

    With some modifications on a PB-4 to mount closer, a 35mm shift lens can
    be used to get wide angle although the lens needs to have the mount
    removed. On an APS DSLR those lenses will tilt & shift more than full
    frame 35mm. With the finest setup, a DSLR can be shifted behind a tilted
    large format lens and stitched into the same image that a view camera
    would capture, although with more DOF. This requires full independent
    front & back tilts & shifts, I think only the huge $4,000 Cambo will do
    Yes those are some of the things I'd like to change. The Hassleblad
    flexbody link I posted was modified for these reasons. It's also
    possible to simply mount a DSLR on the back of a cheap old LF view
    camera but you are again stuck with only telephoto large format lenses:
    I tried a lensbaby, they are fun but they suck. I'm exploring better
    optics but the movements suck with a handheld lensbaby approach and
    that's why I'm looking at this idea. The PB-4 is good but yes it's
    limited and that's why I'm interested in maybe putting the front tilt
    mechanism on the back also. Vertical tilt would be nice, and vertical
    adjustment. Even better if the lens remained fixed and the body did most
    of the movements like the Novoflex.
    Paul Furman, Dec 4, 2007
  8. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Just copying these answers to the DSLR group...

    Max Perl wrote in
    Paul Furman, Dec 4, 2007
  9. Paul, I've used a PB-4 quite a bit with a D-70. Based on that
    As others have commented, you have to mount and unmount the bellows to
    the camera in portrait orientation, which is a minor annoyance. Then
    rotate the camera body into shooting position.
    John Shaw also mentions using a shortened PB-4 in his great book,
    Closeups in Nature. I'm not convinced.
    The rotation of the camera back vs. the bellows has solid click-stops
    only at landscape and portrait. In between, mine is stiff enough to
    hold the camera. Another PB-4 might be looser.
    Shift... You move the lever to loosen, slide the lens with your hand,
    then tighten. While loose, it slides pretty easily. Hard to make
    precise small adjustments; sort of a hit-or-miss thing. You'll want to
    have a hold on the shift mechanism when you loosen it. Swing is about
    the same.

    The PB-4 is elegantly designed and well-made.

    You can use your tripod head to flop the bellows on it's side so that
    the left-right shift becomes a vertical shift and the swing becomes an
    up-down tilt, but beware of one thing: You'll want your tripod to flop
    90 degrees in the correct direction; otherwise your camera body will be
    upside down. On my Tiltall tripod, the tilt is in the wrong direction.

    Flopped over, the whole rig is pretty heavy. Watch tripod rigidity.
    Could even be tipped over depending on the geometry.
    Lens release button.
    Doesn't sound practical to me.

    With camera directly on bellows, it focuses to infinity with Nikkor
    short-mount 105/4 bellows lens. Ditto with several enlarging lenses.

    I think the PB-4 is terrific for close-up/macro work. I like the
    Micro-Nikkors (55/3.5, 105/4 bellows), Olympus 80/4, APO Rodagon-D 1x.
    The shift-swing are helpful in controlling the plane of focus in macro.

    You can add extension tubes (M, PN-11, etc.) to get more extension, but
    the practical limitation is when the flex of the whole rig combined
    with magnification starts to have the image jittering. In my
    experience, you won't want to add much more extension.

    With the 105/4 bellows, you have a small, limited movement, view
    camera. But, it's a tele rig, not a wide angle. I used it with a
    vertical tilt/shift for a scene 20 feet deep and it was fine. I cannot
    imagine using it to shoot a building.

    I have a couple of other comments:

    1. Tilt/shift controls the plane of focus. But bracket-focusing and
    then compositing with Helicon-Focus gives much, much more depth of
    field than you'll ever get with tilt/shift. George Lepp wrote up
    Helicon Focus in a recent magazine article. I think it's a
    breakthrough. (Depth of field is a huge problem in macro; of course the
    subject has to be static; as with a bellows, you'll be using a tripod.)

    2. Tilt/shift controls perspective distortions. But, these are now
    very managable with Photoshop.

    My NET-NET after a lot of experimenting: I'd rather shoot with a
    simpler camera rig (body + macro lens), bracket focus and composite
    with Helicon Focus to get depth of field, then do my perspective
    control in Photoshop.

    One more for D-70 users: The D-70 won't meter at all without a modern
    lens attached directly to the camera. I use a modified M tube to fool
    the camera into doing matrix metering and TTL flash with the PB-4 or
    with old macro lenses. See Bjorn Rorslett's excellent article at

    (The D-200 and D-300 WILL meter with old lenses and the PB-4.)

    Good luck and have fun. Let us know how it turns out.

    -=- Rick
    Richard Karash, Dec 10, 2007
  10. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Thanks for the detailed reply.
    Those are rather expensive & hard to find lenses these days.

    Hmm, it occurs to me that the PB4 does not include a focusing rail so is
    a completely different rig than would be used for focus stacking.
    Paul Furman, Dec 10, 2007
  11. Members of the proletariat use an enlarging lens.

    Cut a hole in a body cap and mount the lens to it.

    You can use all sorts of lenses ... from old Kodak folders,
    back-to-back close-up lenses ... magnifying glasses ...
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Dec 10, 2007
  12. Or do it right and get an adapter. They're easy enough
    to find. A bit more difficult is finding the right
    adapters to reverse the lense, which is also a good
    But in fact there are several really good enlarging
    lenses in the 50-200mm range which will provide very top
    notch results, and at least for the shorter focal
    lengths they are dirt cheap.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Dec 10, 2007
  13. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Zoerk sells their system with these medium format enlarging lenses for
    the widest practical high quality lens:
    $850 80mm f/4 APO Rodagon (modified) ($655 at B&H)
    $650 90mm f/4.5 Schneider APO Componon ($630 at Adorama)
    $350 80mm f/4.5 Schneider Componon S (modified)
    $350 90mm f/4.5 APO Rogonar S

    The EL-Nikkor 135mm F5.6 goes for as little as $50 on ebay but that's
    pretty long:

    PS I recieved my PB-4 today in the mail, I see that it does include an
    integral focusing rail. The tilt & shift are more awkward than I'd hoped
    but it seems pretty nice in general. I shall report back when I've had a
    chance to play with it.
    Paul Furman, Dec 11, 2007
  14. True... But, if you are gonna use the bellows, then there is not much
    benefit to staying in the manufacturer's own lens line, you can shop.

    Any of the 100mm bellows lenses can be put on the PB-4 quite easily.
    Bellows Takumar is nice and not too expensive. May focus at infinity,
    maybe not, depending on the mount. The optimal magnification for these
    lenses is probably in the close-up range (0.1x to 0.5x). A 100mm lens
    will get to 1:1 or more on the PB-4.

    At 1:1, a 75mm f/4 APO Rodagon-D 1:1 is hard to beat for any price and
    is for sale today on eBay at $99 buy-it-now. It's mag range on the PB-4
    is roughly 0.8x to 2.7x.

    An enlarging lens in normal orientation on the bellows is optimal at
    1:4 or 1:6x (that is, 0.25x to 0.16x or roughly a 4-inch field imaged
    on your sensor). A 135mm Schneider Componon will focus at infinity to
    about 1.0x on the PB-4.

    For macro at 2x, 3x, 4x up to 6x, a 50mm f/2.8 high quality enlarging
    lens reversed is hard to beat. In this range, the 55mm f/2.8
    Micro-Nikkor reversed is also terrific.

    Lots has been written on mounting lenses for macro. Getting the lens
    mounted is easy. Shooting macro is harder.

    All this assumes you are interested in macro. None of the above will
    help if you want a view camera to shoot larger things, like buildings.
    You probably know this, but for anyone reading along... The PB-4 DOES
    have a focusing rail. But, it's integral to the bellows unit and can't
    be removed to use with a camera and directly-mounted lens. For
    lens-on-camera work, I like the Olympus focusing rail. On eBay from
    time to time.

    -=- Rick
    Richard Karash, Dec 11, 2007
  15. Reverse the lens for macro, i.e. magnification greater than 1x. A BR-2
    and step-up or step-down rings does the job nicely.
    A lens around 100mm or 135mm is a nice place to start for working with
    a bellows.

    -=- Rick
    Richard Karash, Dec 11, 2007
  16. Those are pretty steep. The El Nikkor 50mm f/2.8, 75mm
    f/4.0 and 80mm f/5.6 are commonly available under $100.
    If I remember right the all come in two models, the older
    ones are of course lower cost than the newer ones.

    Rodagon's are also generally under $100, and the 105mm
    f/5.6 is a good lense.

    Wollensak lenses are probably pretty good too (I can't
    positively verify that however), and they are also
    extremely inexpensive.
    It has the smoothest movement of any bellows I've used
    (I haven't used the newer Nikon models or any of the
    $1800+ varieties though. :)
    Floyd L. Davidson, Dec 11, 2007
  17. True. But it is the small sized step rings that are the
    hard parts to find.

    I use a reversing ring for 39mm, just because I use a
    number of 39mm lenses and that way the all work the
    same. I more or less have the step rings permanently
    attached to an El Nikkor 50mm f/2.8, so that it can be
    mount forward or reverse as needed.
    Rodagon 105mm f/5.6 enlarging lenses are common and
    Floyd L. Davidson, Dec 11, 2007
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