Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Polaroid Packfilm Bellows transplant-one may die so that another may live

This is a very easy swap that I have performed many times. Over times the bellows(accordion-like leather or leatherette) can sag or get damaged. Sometimes the bellows can form pinhole light leaks, sometimes get caved in by a careless hand.
The Polaroid Automatic Land Cameras, despite being built very well, were susceptible to damage. One saving grace was a strong, light leak resistant, double layer bellows made of leatherette and fabric. Though I love the look of a leather bellows, the leatherette allows these bellows to survive the test of time. Mold is easily wiped off with these bellows, where leather bellows can be eaten and stained by mold and fungus. In fact, if you can mod them to fit, I suggest replacing any worn out mid format camera with these bellows(I may do that to my 2x3 Speed Graphic- the bellows is crusty leather with lots of light leaks).
These bellows, whether on the metal packfilm cameras or the plastic packfilm cameras, are easy to remove.
When I am doing this, I am always sacrificing the bellows from a plastic packfilm camera for a metal packfilm camera. If for some reason you are doing metal to plastic, there may be some extra steps involved in reattaching the bellows to the front standard.
The first thing to do is decide whether you want to preserve the tabs that hold the shutter cable and the automatic exposure wire. The camera will survive without these, but it is a good idea to rescue them as they help the camera fold up easily without kinks in the line or cable. There are two ways of rescuing them. One is to carefully pry them free of the old bellows, leaving them threaded on the cable and line. When you put the new bellows on, just glue them back on to the bellows. The second way is more involved. Unhook the cable from the front standard by LOOSENING the three screws. Unhook the line by clipping it in the battery compartment and remove a little staple holding the line in. Upon installing the new bellows, thread the cable and line back through. This method is waaaay more involved- I suggest you just glue the old ones.
Next remove the screws that hold the bellows on to the front standard. If you are sacrificing a plastic packfilm camera, there will be plastic posts with friction washers instead of screws. Just grip the friction washer holding the front standard and snap it off.
These next steps could scratch the black paint on the inside of your metal camera's enclosure. I will assume that you will take measures to avoid this(or don't care, as it is cosmetic). Any area you pry can be protected by masking tape or a well positioned piece of cloth.
Pry the tabs connecting the bellows to the camera. Use a small screwdriver or knife for this. Be careful not to puncture the bellows at this stage. Pry the tabs straight up, not prying them back any more than necessary. Pry only three out of four sides, and leave the 4th side untouched. Remove the bellows. If you are re-using this bellows, see to it that you save the little foam gasket that is under the bellows. If it is too far gone, you can use thin felt, black silicone, or just about anything black to help avoid light leaks there. Or you can go without. I have not had an issue with leaving this part out.
The replacement is pretty much the reverse of the removal. Slip the new bellows in with the tabs that are not pried back. Bend the tabs back in place starting with the ones opposite the ones that were not bent. Pinch the tabs down tight using needle-nose pliers. Make sure you are just pinching the metal flange and not the cloth of the bellows.
Now screw the front standard connection back on. Thread or glue the tabs back in place. It is that easy!
Remove these screws to detach from the front standard.

Pry back these tabs with a thin screwdriver or knife.

Notice the tab connecting the bellows to the shutter release cable.

If you choose to disconnect the shutter cable, just back out the three screws(do not remove them as they are very difficult to put back).

Camera with bellows removed.

Hook the new bellows on by bending the tabs back on.
Put some cloth or tape on the areas that are at risk of being scratched.
Use needle-nose pliers to tighten down firmly.

Here tabs are bent back in place tightly.

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