Changing focal lengths/lenses in Russian bellows cameras

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by jedrek, Jun 13, 2006.

  1. jedrek

    jedrek Member

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    Hi,

    I own a Moskva 4 6x9 camera with a 110mm f/4.5 lens. It's a great little tool, but the focal length is just too long. Using the 1/fl rule, I shoot only at 1/100 and 1/250 (always handheld) which seriously limits my ability to work the aperture in bright light.

    Also, I use it as a walk-around camera - so the 110mm length is a bit more than I'd like. I know 110 is pretty standard on 6x9, but I'd love to have a 65mm lens on there, go wide. I've looked at dozens of small, folding bellows cameras like the Moskva and have come up with nothing. Now, these cameras go for almost nothing over here in Poland, and I'm thinking - how card would it be to buy one, shorten the bellows and mount a winder lens with a shutter in the front? I know there are a few 65mm MF cameras out there, but they're a) large b) expensive.

    I'm just throwing this idea out there as I'm totally clueless as far as these things go, but am willing to work and learn. Is this idea crazy? Are there alternatives I should look at?
     
  2. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Doing that to something like a Moskva would be extremely difficult, because of the way the front standard is connected. You really need to start with something where the lens standard is on a sliding track. My first thought was to look for something like a Miniature Speed Graphic, but they are probably very rare in Poland. You might want to try to find an old 9x12 plate camera like a Fotokor or Voigtlander Avus, and modify that with a new lens, roll film back, and new focusing scale, or just change the lens and scale and carry sheet film. It's a little bulkier than the Moskva, but lighter. You may run into issues with the bed getting into the FOV, however. Some of the early Kodak roll film folders (e.g. 1A Autographic) have front standards on sliding rails as well, but I don't think there is enough room for a wide angle lens. Maybe there is a European equivalent that has a bigger front.
     
  3. derevaun

    derevaun Member

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    Many TLRs have wider lenses; the better ones have shutters that can be removed. For example, the Flexaret has a 80/3.5 lens in a shutter that probably is attached with screws or possibly rivets. The "Belar" lens is said to be better, and it might have better coverage? You could possibly make some kind of recessed lens board to bring it back the extra 2cm, thus saving the trouble of hacking up the standard mounting.

    There are also 127 folders, which might have around 65mm lenses in shutters. The Baby Ikonta, Certo Dolly, ZEH Goldi all had "better" versions.
     
  4. dmax

    dmax Member

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    Jedrek,

    The short answer is that transplanting a 65mm onto the standard 6x9 folder configuration does not work, nor is it possible without a tremendous amount of custom metal work. I design, build, and shoot with customized 6x6 and 6x9 folders (primarily the Agfa/Ansco lines) that incorporate many different components from diverse camera bodies. Like you, I wanted a simple and lightweight wide-angle 6x9 for my walkabout all-purpose camera. After a couple of years of work, I ended up with a few versions that do away with the folder configuration completely. The lenses I use are a 65 Mamiya Press lens, a 65/8 Super Angulon (smaller,older chrome version circa 1960's), and tiny 65/6.8 Angulons mounted on what is essentially a box constructed where the bellows used to be. Because of the difference in shutter dimensions, and as a result of many iterations, each has a different focusing mechanism assembled from various donor camera bodies or helical devices. In other words, the design objective of having a 65 mm lens on a 6x9 requires fairly extensive modification, none of which preserves the unique benefits of a folding camera.
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Jedrek, the least expensive way to get a wide angle roll film camera is to buy a crappy old 2x3 press camera that has a drop bed and put a crappy old 65 mm lens on it. In the US, likely prospects are Century Graphic and 65/6.8 Angulon, Raptar, Leitmeyr. AFAIK you'll have to shop on-line for the camera, possibly also for the lens. I doubt that many of them made it to east bloc countries in general or Poland in particular when they were new.

    FYI, I have a Century Graphic, shoot a 65 Ilex on it.
     
  6. Nathan Smith

    Nathan Smith Member

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    dmax, I'd like to see some of your modified cameras and photos shot with them ... do you have anything posted on line? Sounds sorta like Joe Lippincott's 'Lippinwides'.

    Nathan

     
  7. dmax

    dmax Member

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    Posting images of home-made 6x9 cameras

    Nathan,
    Thanks for your interest in the cameras that I have modified. Unfortunately, I have neither a scanner nor a digital camera, so I can't upload any images as yet. I may be able to borrow a digital camera sometime next week. I'll try to get images out by then and email some to you.
     
  8. jedrek

    jedrek Member

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    dmax, I'd also love to see some of them, would you mind posting them here?