Fuji GS645 Bellows Replacement

   I know why you're here.    You bought one of those neat little Fuji folding 645 cameras to shoot some nice vacation snaps, but the pictures came out all light streaked 'cause the bellows is shot full of holes. 
In the past I might have chuckled, and called you a friggin' loser, but nowadays that's sadly self-defeating.    The digital era has threatened the end of film, so we now need as many of you losers film buyers as we can get.

You've gotta give Fuji credit, though.   They were the first camera maker to market a biodegradable bellows.    The only flaw was they forgot to put on a "best before" date, but I guess that's the price you pay for thinking ahead of the curve.

Still, they really are nice little cameras, so here's how you can get this thing usable again.    The first thing you need to decide is if you're going to get a new bellows, or try to fix up the one you've got.   A new bellows is going to cost you some serious cash.    I've seen some advertised on the web, but it's going to be a crap shoot.    Do some Google searching and take your chances.    The advantage with a new bellows is that it will hopefully be thin enough to allow you to close the front cover.   That's clearly important to retain the compact size that makes these cameras so attractive in the first place.    The second option is to try and fix up the existing bellows.   The advantage of fixing the bellows is that it can be done cheaply.   The disadvantage is that the repair will almost certainly make the bellows too thick, and you won't be able to fully close the front cover.   Do not be fooled into thinking that only the odd corner needs to be patched.   I wasn't joking when I said the Fuji bellows is biodegradable.    Patching a few spots isn't going to work.   You've got to give the entire bellows a new skin.   Just do it once and be done with it.

   O.K., now it's time to do the dirty.    No matter whether your going with a new bellows, or repairing the original one, you've got to get the original bellows out of the camera.   You're going to need some precision screwdrivers.   If you don't have any, or don't know what they are, then just sell your GS645, and go buy a nice disposable digital camera.    For the rest of you, you'll also need some type of adjustable pin wrench tool to get out two special screws with an unconventional head.    I was able to do it using a cheap vernier, but I'm sure there are other ways to get them out if you get creative.   That's really all the tools you need.

   The first step is amazingly easy.   Open the back film door, and look at the back end of the lens.   You'll see 4 small Phillips screws just outside the perimeter of the lens.  These attach the front bellows adapter plate to the lens/shutter unit (see the picture).    There's easy access to these screws, and there shouldn't be any problem getting them out.    They're really small, so make sure you're doing this over a large soft surface where they won't bounce away if they happen to fall.   Once you've got those first 4 screws out, you should be able to pull the front part of the bellows away from the lens/shutter unit.   There's probably still some stickum there holding it together, so you might have to pry it apart with some light force.



    Alas, this is where the fun ends.   The 4 screws that hold the rear bellows adapter plate to the film window frame are a royal pain in the derriere to get out.   You can clearly see the threaded end of the screws just outside the corners of the film frame opening, but the actual screw heads are only accessible from inside the bellows.   Even though the front part of the bellows is now separated from the lens/shutter unit, there's still no way to get at the screw heads from the front, since the lens/shutter unit is blocking direct access.   In order to gain access to those screw heads, you have to remove the lens/shutter unit from it's swinging support arms, so you can get it out of the way.

    Now you've got to detach the lens/shutter unit from the support arms.    There are two support arms above the lens, and two support arms below the lens.   There is a big support arm, and a small support arm, at top and bottom.   The big support arms attach to the lens/shutter unit using a special screw head with two holes.    Ideally, you would have some precision adjustable pin wrench to get these out.   I didn't have such a beast, but I was able to get them out using the I.D. tips of a vernier caliper (see pictures).   These screws also have some Loctite type sealant on the threads, so it takes more force to get these turning than the other screws.

  
  The smaller support arm is hidden under the larger support arm when the lens is in the fully extended (full open) position.    You can't see the smaller support arm until the lens is in the partially retracted (partly closed) position (see picture).    Don't forget to wind the film advance lever, and set the focus to infinity, before partially retracting (closing) the lens/cover.   I've got one camera where these screws have Phillips heads, while another camera has straight blade type heads.    In either case, it's still a conventional screw head.

    Now that you've removed the 4 screws that attach the lens/shutter unit to the support arms, the lens/shutter unit will still hold in place.    You need to gently pry the larger support arm away from the lens/shutter unit to get it out.  You can do this by hand without tools.   Once the lens/shutter unit is detached from the support arms, there is still a thin electrical wire that remains attached to the camera body.   That wire isn't very long, so you can't move the lens/shutter unit completely away from the camera.   Be careful not to get any stress on that wire, or you risk breaking it.   You can at least move the lens/shutter unit far enough out of the way that you can now stick a screwdriver in through the front bellows opening to get at the 4 rear bellows mounting screws.   Once those 4 screws are out, you can pry the rear bellows adapter frame away from the film window frame, and then remove the bellows completely from the camera.

   Re-installation of a new or repaired bellows, is just the reverse procedure.

  For you cheap bastards (like moi), who just want to make the camera functional, here's my bellows repair strategy.    I use 3/4 inch wide electrical tape.   Get the good quality stuff that has a greater working temperature range.   DO NOT use the junk from the dollar store, no matter how tempting.   It takes me a couple of hours to do the bellows repair, so the cost of good quality tape is nothing compared to the amount of time you need to spend.  My strategy is to build up the tape over the entire surface of the bellows.   You essentially end up with a tape bellows.   The original bellows is only there to provide the support structure.

   The bellows is made up of what I call ribs and valleys.   If you look around the perimeter of the bellows, a rib side will join to a valley side, then another rib side, and then a valley side, before coming back to the original rib side again.   A rib side will be opposite a rib side, and a valley side will be opposite a valley side.   A rib side will be adjacent to a valley side.   Think of slicing a bellows into one segment.   You'll have a rectangular frame with ribs on opposing sides, and valleys on the other opposing sides.   That means a rib side only joins to a valley side.   I want to tape two adjoining sides of a single bellows segment at a time.    I cut the tape length so that it is roughly two thirds the length of one side, plus two thirds the length of the adjoining side.   I start on a side with a rib, and center the width of the tape over the top of the rib.   Then I fold the tape down over each side of the rib.   The width of the tape should NOT be so wide that it reaches fully down to the valley from the top of the rib.    It only needs to come down about two thirds of the way from the top of the rib to the valley.   I slit the 3/4 inch wide tape down the middle, and that seems to be a nice width for these bellows.   So repeating again, start on a rib, and center your tape width over the top of the rib, about two thirds along the length of the rib.   Now fold the tape down over each side of the rib.   Now you want to fold the tape over on to the adjoining side that is a valley.    To do that, take a finger and push that valley up from inside the bellows so that it flattens out.   That flat surface is what you want to fold the tape over and press down on.   Keep the tape centered in the flattened surface of the valley.    Now you should have two sides taped, with tape running about two thirds the length of each side.   Push in the valley section that you just taped, so it becomes a valley again, and close up the bellows so that the tape is now forced into the conventional bellows form.   Next you want to start on the same rib, but this time start two thirds of the way from the other end, and fold the tape over to the other adjoining side.   There will be significant overlap of the tape on that rib now.   Once that is done, then go to the opposite rib and do the same thing.   You'll need 4 pieces of tape to do each segment, and there will be significant tape overlap.   Just keep doing this for each segment as you work your way from one end of the bellows to the other.

Note:  The green outline represents the tape.   Start on the rib, and then fold it over onto the flattened valley on the adjacent side.

   This bellows repair procedure seemed to work pretty well for me, even with one bellows that was badly disintegrated.   The big downside is that the bellows is now too thick for the lens to retract far enough to close the cover completely.   Oh well.  The bellows itself doesn't look too bad cosmetically, and at least the camera is fully functional again.   That's better than letting it rot away in a drawer.



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Rob Rob,
Apr 3, 2014, 6:13 PM
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Rob Rob,
Apr 3, 2014, 6:14 PM
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Rob Rob,
Apr 3, 2014, 6:15 PM
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Rob Rob,
Apr 3, 2014, 6:14 PM
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Rob Rob,
Apr 3, 2014, 6:14 PM
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