I own an 80 year old 11x14 Eastman View camera. It went unused in someone's basement for a while, and while the bellows are light tight, they aren't black on the inside. They are a dark gray, about two stops below my gray card. There is also some mildew spotting, but no active infection.
Question: Do people paint, ink, stain, wash, or otherwise blacken the innards of bellows? Wouldn't dark, inky bellows cut down on flair? Is there a wrong way to achieve blackness?
My negatives show acceptable contrast and no increase in fog, but I'm only trying for absolute perfection |: -)
You raise a valid question.
The matter of bellows flair comes up from time to time. I spoke with Western Bellows about this some months ago and they indicated to me that it was not a matter of a verifiable nature.
I have three sets of bellows that they have made. Two for 8X10 Deardorffs and one for my 12X20 Korona. All bellows that they made were not of an absolute black nature on the interior. They seem to work very well.
My bellows on my Zone VI 4X5 are more black on the interior. I can not tell any difference with densitometric tests of negatives, using the same film and developer from any of these cameras.
I would go out and make photographs if I were you.
Test and see if it's a problem. Dying your bellows some darker shade of black would probably reduce internal flare (on the other hand dying them purple might increase their "flair"), but there are other approaches.
The easiest way to reduce internal flare is to restrict the image circle with a compendium lens shade. This will usually improve contrast with any format--even 35mm. The shade should be set just short of where it vignettes.
Using a larger format camera with a reducing back also reduces internal flare, but this gets to be an unattractive proposition at 11x14".
Set up your camera as for a picture. Remove the ground glass and look at the inside of the bellows. You will see if there are bright places, usually on the lower side of the bellows. Cut some pieces of black card stock and stick them in the folds of the bellows between the bright spots and the film plane. Don't glue them in because the locations of the flare may be different for other setups. Obviously, the cards should not impinge on the field of view. A little playing around will give you the idea.
There will always be some reflected light from the film itself. Some of this reflected light will in turn be reflected back onto the film by the lens (mostly the rear element, especially if it is uncoated) and other parts of the camera internals. This light should be well scattered and should simply decrease contrast (and appear to open up the shadows on negatives). The extensive blackening on modern cameras is there to increase contrast as much as possible. If you are not struggling for contrast and like the “look” the camera gives, then why bother ?