Friday, March 19, 2010

How to modify any bellows so it works with your camera

Hit the Jump to read all about it

Macro of salt shaker top

I have a close friend who works in a nearby camera store. One day out of boredom, I searched their warehouse database for “Minolta” because I have a Sony SLR, and I was hoping to find some leftovers they could unload on me that I could use. Lo and behold, they have over one hundred and fifty Macro bellows for the Minolta MD (manual focus) cameras. They haven’t sold any in a long time for obvious reasons. I had always wanted to try using a bellows, but they start at about $50, and I wasn’t interested on spending that kind of money just to try something. Recently I found an article with simple instructions to modify a bellows to fit your camera, and I figured it was worth trying. I called my friend, and he said I could get it for less than half price, below their original cost! So I bought one and tried it, the whole operation took 10 minutes, and you are seeing the results.

What you need:

1. A Macro bellows ($23 +9 Shipping if you get it from me -see below, but available [used or new] all over!!)

2. A body-cap for your camera (it comes on your camera when you buy it, or you can order one for your camera here, you may want to buy 2 because I have another tutorial coming up that destroys uses one of these)

3. Either a lens that fits your bellows, or the back cap from a lens you want to use

4. Some sort of cutting device (see below)

5. Epoxy glue (optional)

Note: for best results, you want to find a lens that has a manual aperture ring, something most modern lenses don’t have. That’s why I encourage you to find/buy a Minolta MD lens to match the bellows I have.

Modding the bellows:

The simple trick is that in order to use a bellows, all you need to do is attach your camera body to one end, and your lens to the other. To attach your camera, follow these steps.

1) Take your body cap, put it on your camera body

2) Hold the camera up to the bellows as if it were mounted, and figure out which part of the body-cap must be mounted upwards. If you misalign this, the camera will be mounted crooked (which is bad).

3) Figure out how large a circle you need to cut in your body-cap to cover the hole in the bellows but still be able to mount your camera and lock it onto the body cap. Make the hole as large as possible without destroying the body-cap’s attachment parts

(I found that on my Sony alpha SLR, by cutting right around the inside of the ring in the cap, it was a perfect fit)

4) Cut out the hole

a) I use a nail, a pliers, and a stove for this. I hold the nail in the pliers, heat it till it’s pretty hot on the stove flame, and then I use the hot nail to cut the plastic I need, and smooth the edges. (Do this safely, have some water nearby, don’t drop the nail, and don’t inhale the fumes, do it outdoors or in a well ventilated place.) It usually takes several times, if you know a better way, hit me in the comments

5) You now want to attach your body-cap to the bellows, making sure it ends up oriented properly so the camera mounts level. There are 2 ways to do this.

i) Remove the screws that are holding the old mount in place and epoxy the now hollowed out body-cap to the hole

ii) See if you can jimmy your body cap over the existing mount (what I did. I pushed the body cap over two of the lens mounts on the bellows, and then used a knife to pry it over the third. It is now on very firmly)

6) Now if you are using a lens that fits the bellows (like I did), then you are done! Let the epoxy set well, test it for sturdiness, and mount your camera. If you are using a lens that does not fit the bellows, you have to do the opposite of what you did for the body cap with the lens-rear-cap. So attach a rear-lens-cap to the front of the bellows (same way you did for the body cap) so you can mount your lens there.


Some notes:

· I actually think it’s better to use a Minolta MD lens with this mod for these reasons:

(a) They are dirt cheap on craigslist and ebay, you might be able to get one for free even! People are throwing these away, and camera stores would love to get rid of them (I may be able to get you a discount on one from my friend’s store email me for details)

(b) It will probably have a manual aperture ring, something you REALLY want. When shooting macro, you want the maximum aperture possible because the Depth of Field is pretty shallow, and there is no way to change the aperture on the lens in this setup unless it has a manual aperture ring

(c) It will fit perfectly (if you use a Minolta MD bellows)

· This rig will only manual focus, which is no big deal in macro photography, because you have to use a tripod anyway. It’s not like you are in a rush or things are moving. So you want to take your time and manual focus anyway

· While my body cap does mount onto my camera (duh), it doesn’t lock in when it’s twisted all the way, and can twist off without pushing the lens release, unlike a regular lens. Keep this in mind when moving the setup

How to buy a Minolta MD bellows from me:

a) If you trust me completely: Send me a paypal payment to, include your shipping address. Obviously, correct the additional "@" I put there for the spambots benefit.

b) If you only trust me a little, go to THIS ebay auction and buy through ebay. The price is marginally higher to cover my ebay costs.

c) If you want to come pick one up from me in Brooklyn, NY, and save on shipping, email me to arrange that


  1. nice article, really, explains some specifics like using md on alpha mounts, ect. and here is an idea for you - why not to cut several sony body caps and offer together with the bellows? this way you would add value and customers won't have to worry about cutting and gluing anything. plus through in an md lens from your friend and you've got a real setup on sale.

  2. Thanks for the compliments Andrew.
    I am not offering modded body caps b/c I dont have the resources to do that regularly, my apt would soon smell like melted plastic all the time. if there is an interest in MD lenses i can have a talk with him, anyone else interested in one?

  3. I'm interested in some cheap MD lenses! I still have my XD-11 from my school days and wouldn't mind shooting some film again.

  4. i can offer brand new in box 35-70 f3.5-4.8 MD Lenses for $50. you could probably do better on craigslist or ebay, but if you want order one, please contact me

  5. What is the non ebay price for this bellows?

  6. Andy please email me, Obviously, correct the additional "@" I put there for the spambots' benefit.