Nikon Bellows & Slide Copiers

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by lfbrown, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. I have a lot of slides that I want to copy to the computer and would like to set up a bellows/slide holder/flash mounted on
    an aluminum rail to do this. I have a few questions, however, for the community.

    One, the actual bellows/slide copier setup. There are at least two bellows units (PB-4 & PB-6) both with their own
    accessory slide holder. All of the units I see on Ebay, however, only have the primary bellows between lens and camera.
    I've looked at some "how to" sites and they have photos of setups using a second bellows between the front of the lens
    and the slide copier. Is this necessary? Does anyone know a model number? How does it attach to the front element?

    Two, is there anyway to use an APS-C camera? I gather the usual 50/55mm lens prohibits getting the full frame in.
    Can you go wider on the lens or do you have to use a micro? I'm shopping for a used D700 at the moment but will have
    to have to wait for prices to drop a bit more. This project I would like to get started on now.

    Three, once set up will an F/8 have enough depth of field that close to cover the slight curvature of the film in the mount?

    Any help or input on these questions would be much appreciated.

  2. SCL


    I used a different copier on an APS-C sensor camera body (one of the old Spiratone Dupliscopes) and found that f8 worked just fine. My problem was that I wanted the whole slide, and the cropped sensor of course just got the center. Eventually I just made a fixture to hold slides in place on a spot on my slide table and used my macro lens to capture the whole area.
  3. The only slide copier, per se, that I have ever found that was actually usable is the Honeywell Repronar.
    I have purchased several of the bellows-attachment sort that you ask about. They are always "like new" because few people have ever tried to use any of them more than once. I'm sure the Nikon brand will be the "king" of the breed, but IMHO that's like being the "King of the Hobos"
    In my opinion, an actual slide scanner, even the flatbed ones now widely available, will be very much simpler to use, especially if you have "a lot of slides". They will also produce superior results, I am sure.
    On the other hand, I did get my "Honeywell Universal Repronar" (a model without a camera that can be easily used with modern digital cameras) for $15 on eBay and another $15 for shipping. I suspect, that like me, the others who looked at the offering thought it was the older model stripped of the Pentax copy camera.
  4. Here's the alternative Spiratone Dupliscope ad from Spiratone's 1979 catalog, purely for historical reference.
    (I love old Spiratone ads ;)
    BTW, the Repronar came with an excellent Honeywell copy lens, as well.
  5. First, the difference between the PB-4 and PB-6. The front standard on the PB-4 could be shifted slightly (ala view camera) to increase depth of field. That feature was eliminated in the PB-6. However on the PB-6 the front standard could be reversed which eliminated the need for the BR2(a)/BR3 which provided the correct threads after reversing a lens. Finally, the bellows you see between the lens and slide copier is part of the slide copier attachment (PS-4 or PS-6). The camera body, bellows and slide copier attachment all sit on a rail which has a support for a tripod. The flash unit only needs to be supported somewhere near the front.
    Either setup will work but I don't have any experience regarding image quality. I have copied slides (using slide film) and their are some 'tips' to get better results. I would guess some experimentation will be necessary with a digital camera. The fact that I haven't heard much about using a digital camera and bellows method is that there are problems but I could be wrong.
    Nikon used to make a 'slide copy' attachment which consisted of a telescoping tube with a slide holder and translucent plastic backing plate. Originally designed for use with the Nikon Super8 video camera it was a very simple affair for making 1:1 slide copies. However you need to use a macro lens capable of 1:1 mag or a set of extension tubes to make a normal lens produce 1:1. I think other companies have made something similar. Don't know what's out there today.
    Something I know works well is to use a film scanner. I have a Nikon Coolscan V which gives great results with Kodachrome, Etkachrome and Velvia. There are also flat bed scanners (Epson?) which can scan several slides a once. Bear in mind that copying slides is a rather labor intensive task so you might want to look into having it done by a third party with automated equipment.
    Good luck.
  6. After I started using a flatbed scanner that allowed me to batch scan up to 24 slides (mounted or unmounted), I stopped using my Nikon PB-4 bellows, Nikon PS-4 Slide Copy Attachment, and 55mm f/3.5 macro lens to convert slides to digital images. The only time I need to use my old set-up is when I need to make slide-to-slide copies.
  7. There's a similar device to the Repronar that was made by Bowens, called an "Illumitran". It's basically a small copying stand and lightbox with a built-in flash and slide-holder. These sometimes come up on the auction site quite cheaply. You would, of course, have to source a bellows and good quality macro lens as well.
    Some general pros and cons of copying versus scanning:
    Scanning is generally very slow to get any sort of decent quality. For the best price/performance I can recommend Plustek's 7400 film scanner, which is being sold off quite cheaply these days - cheaper than a decent set of bellows for sure. It's reasonably quick (as film scanners go), but don't bother with the awful Silverfast SE software that comes with it, use Vuescan instead. WRT Epson flatbeds; least said about these the better! Yes, you can batch scan several slides or negs at once, but they'll all be soft as a marshmallow and will probably need a lot of afterwork individually to get the colour and density right.
    Camera copying can be very quick once you've got it set up properly, especially if you've got an AF macro lens that focuses to 1:1. Again though, you'll probably have some afterwork to do if you want dust-free and well colour-corrected results. Sharpness should be much better than using a flatbed, but this will depend on the lens and stability of the copying rig.
    PS. Love that old Spiratone ad. Notice that the flash synch lead shown isn't nearly long enough to reach the camera socket?
  8. Rodeo - yes, the Bowens Illumitran is a very similar device to the Repronar. In fact I had been looking for a Repronar or an Illumitran when I found the Universal Repronar shown above.
    I've found that I don't have to use the flash at all on the Universal Repronar, for digital use, and with AWB or adjustment, the preview light actually is bright enough.
    A home-made solution is to use a (upside down) color enlarger head to illuminate the slide, and set up the camera on a copy stand with bellows and copy lenses. It might even work with one of the slide copiers, but you have more flexibility with bellows and a copy lens, I think.
    I noticed that about the Spiratone flash cord too, but I think the coiled line at the camera end probably is the extension cord. ? Spiratone did sell a "assembled" equivalent of the Repronar of their own at one point.
  9. The trouble with all Spiratone-like duplicators is accurately focussing them in my experience. I have a zoom one and I tried with 10 x Live View. Impossible, as they are very slow (f8+) and dark. Getting them in focus is so difficult that assessing whether the actual optics are any good I found impossible. A priori I doubt they are much good simply because they are so cheap: this may be unfair, but I doubt it.
  10. I don't know if they will be easy to find, but I have the Nikon Bellows Focusing Attachment II (for F) and the Nikon F slide copy attachment. I can copy an entire 35mm slide.
  11. Check out this earlier thread looking at the same situation:
    The biggest problem has been the crop factor and focusing distance. But when you add more gear, you can get around it.
  12. Good luck finding new Nikon Bellows equipment. They have been discontinued for a while. I think I found the last new PB-6 in America a year ago, after contacting over a hundred photo stores across the country. If buying a used one, be sure there are no light leaks.

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