If your negatives are fogged
Check the bellows of your Graflex Camera.
If your negatives are fogged or even worse, completely ruined, than there is a big chance that your camera is not light-tight. Finding a light-leak in your camera will be not easy. The light-leak is hard to find in the bellows or in the construction of the housing, the standard or the lens mount.
Sometimes you can see on the outside if the bellows are worn on some places. If the leather looks brittle or cracked, you will suspect there are pin holes or worn edges on top or between the folds. To be sure where the light leak can be found, you may use an electronic flash light. The flash light should be small enough to fit into the camera bellows. The flash gun should have a remote control to fire the flash. A normal flash coil or cable would do.
First check the back of the camera. Place the flash-light inside the bellows. The flash can be fired from the front standard. The square lens opening should be covered with cloth or something. Next check the front side for leaks. Bring the flash in from the back and lead the cable trough the side of the spring-back. Use some tape to cover the opening where the cable runs through. The flash can be fired now from the back side enabling you to search for leaks on the front, lens standard and lens mount.
To make it much more convenient I made a test unit out of a lensboard, electronic flash light and a bell switch. More than a good description are the two photos below to show you how it works. Place the camera equiped with the flash testing unit in a darkened room and pull out the lens standard. Fire the flash while watching the camera if and where there is coming light out of someplace. Could be a pinhole in the bellows or light coming out of the backside - spring back or Graflok or else where. Place a film holder in the back before testing.
Pull the bellows out as far as possible and turn the focusing knob till the folds of the bellows are almost straight. Put the flashlight inside the bellows and cover the flash cord and tape all the other openings of the camera. Put the camera in a dimmed or dark room and fire the flash while watching if you can see any light coming from the bellows, Fire the flash several times while watching the camera from different angles.
If no light of the flash is visible, you can be assured that your camera is absolutely light-tight and you may skip this article and look for other causes such as old film, developer, fixer or whatever that fogs the film.
How to disassemble the bellows from your camera.
The most common failure is there where both ends of the bellows are glued together. It separates due to moisture, extreme cold or heath. That is the bottom side of the bellows. There where the iron hangers are fitted to the leather. Whether you have to glue them together again or use tape or what else, you can decide for yourself. It is difficult to give any advice as the cause of the light leak can be very different. I myself prefer gluing both ends together again and use some black tape to finish it.
The best thing to work on the bellows is to remove the bellows from the camera completely. However, I don't know your technical skills, so I give you an alternative. You may remove the front standard which is less complicated than dismounting the whole bellows from the camera body.
Take some precautions to avoid any damage on the fragile parts such as lens and ground glass. Remove the lens board with the lens. Remove the Graflok-back and put it apart. If your camera is equipped with a spring back, slide a piece of cardboard between the spring back and backside of the camera house to protect the ground glass.
Pull the standard half way and lock it. On the front standard there are two slide locks. Unscrew one of the two screws of the upper slide lock. While holding the bushing nut on the rear side of the standard under control, remove the screw on the front but make a note of the position of the washers. Now remove the bushing nut and repeat the procedure with the other screw. There are two more screws on the bottom side of the standard. It is not necessary to unscrew them completely. Just one or two turns would be enough to tilt the bellows out of the standard. This is very convenient when remounting the bellows again.
Try If you can remove the right (seen from the back of the camera) standard nut and pull off the release cable assembly and slide the standard from the yoke and work freely on the bellows. Push the release cable back between the release cable hangers of the bellows bottom and tape the assembly to the camera body to avoid damaging the release cable while working on the bellows.
However if this screw can not be removed from the thread of the standard, don't force and continue as follows:
Turn the screw a few turns back and use a magnifier. You'll see a very tiny washer on top of the screw or somewhere on the thread. Try to remove this thing from the thread and throw it away. The screw should come off very easy now. If it does not, try again to find the the tiny washer and try to remove it from the thread. A needle could be helpful. The washer is about one mm...!!!
Now free the release cable from between the hangers by pushing it back to the camera body and tape it to the camera body to avoid damaging the release-cable. Slide the standard from the rail and put it apart. The bellows are partly free now to work on from the front side only...but definitely enough for repairing.
Removing the whole bellows could be a problem because of the light tight connection between the bellows and the camera back. There are several modifications for the Speed as well as for the Crown. My advice is leave it as it is if you can achieve your goal as described above.
One of the modifications.
There are 6 clamps making part of the rear frame which holds the bellows on the back light tight.
Think twice.. it is not just done by unhooking the clamps.
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