Saturday, November 3, 2018

Agfa Jsolette V Bellows Repair

Some months ago, I decided to enrich my collection of medium format cameras by a model that is literally pocketable.
During a stroll in "de bazaar" I found a Agfa Jsolette V, the most primitive one of the Jsolette family. Just about perfect for what I had in mind. For the looks of it, the camera was in mint condition... sold by a serious collector.

The Jsolette V was build between 1950 and 1952. So, consequently, I had to assume that the bellows were probably not a light tight as they should be any longer. And, guess what, when sending photons off some semi-conductor device inside the camera, while being in a dark room, the bellows gave a preview of a Christmas tree all along the folded edges. No surprise, really.

Before I put any film into the camera, I figured it would be a good idea to fix the bellows first. And yes, one can order replacement bellows... while the replacement process is well documented, combined with time of shipment to arrive... this is just not worth the effort.

When browsing for bellows repairs, one finds strange methods using pins and needles combined with dyed glue... not sure about this! Well, this might just work, who am I to judge, but for now long?
Further, one finds comment like "electrical tape is for electricians, not photographers". Hmmm, OK! I remember that in photography, gaffers' tape is commonly used... however, I never came across the comment that "gaffer's tape is for gaffers, not photographers". Something seemed wrong with that electricians tape statement...

And guess what, I grabbed a roll of black electricians tape and put a generous amount along the edges of my camera's bellows. Using about 30% more than the actual length of the edge fives sufficient material to fold the tape into the undulations of the bellows. Too long, and there might be too much tape to squeeze in, too short and the tape might just peel off every time you open the camera.

With the tape applied, I noted that the camera folds open a lot slower, i.e. with a lot less force. What I am trying to say here, you should never just let the thing snap open (as many folks show in Jsolette videos). Push the release and let the camera gently open by holding the front mechanism.
And here is the reason why: the atmospheric pressure against the bellows will weaken the most agile parts of the bellows by airflow. Once a hole was created, the airflow when opening or closing the camera will weaken that particular spot, thereby creating a light leak and/or pinhole.

While the bellows of the Jsolette are made of a material that appears to call for electricians tape, that solution might be valid for other cameras using bellows, e.g. large format.

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