Bellows cameras get their name from the folding box
of pleated material That forms the light tight seal between lens and film.
The folding camera exists because of the desire to take cameras into the
outside world and the requirement to keep them as small as was practical.
The earliest form of collapsing the camera for storage was to make the
camera from two boxes, one sliding inside the other. The bellows offered
still greater shrinkage, and also flexibility to move the lens off centre.
Early lenses and films required the use of a fairly sizable negative -
which in turn led to a fairly sizable camera. The folding bellows camera
evolved very early in the development of the camera and the principle
stayed in widespread use for over a century, even today new models for
studio photography are being created - as a result there are literally
thousands of different models. The idea is simple enough, a pleated cloth
or leather bellows collapses as the camera is closed, to occupy a fraction
of it's volume when open. Most bellows cameras have a baseboard to which
the front lens board is attached by some means, the exceptions are the
scissor strut type. Most, but not all, have a means
of altering the focus either by changing the
distance between the lens board and the film or by moving the lens independently.
Generally, the earlier types had ground glass focus screens - that is,
the image was inspected by the photographer as projected
on a piece of ground (frosted) glass in place of the sensitized plate,
this was removed just before taking the picture. Later and/or cheaper
types evolved scale focussing, that is focus was set against a distance scale, the distance
being measured or guessed. Three broad types of bellows cameras evolved,
those where the lens board was removed from its housing and clipped into
lugs or sockets, those where the lens board is pulled out, located in
and then slid along a rail built into the lens board and finally the self
erecting type which neatly extends and locks into place as the camera
is opened. An example of this latter type is shown at right. The longevity
of the principle means that there are considerable detail differences
and they have serviced every film type and format from the earliest Daguerreotypes,
wet plates, dry plates, roll film and 35mm cassette film. Body