Nikon PB-6 Bellows: Great for Macro Photography

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: November 17, 2020
Nikon PB-6 Bellows

The Nikon bellows PB-6 is the last bellows that was made by Nikon.

In a change from previous designs, the bellows has a monorail design. The single rail makes it possible to use extensions and to raise the standards.

Unlike the previous Nikon PB-4, tilt/shift adjustments can not be made.

The bellows uses the Nikon F-mount, which means macro accessories are widely available. It is also cheap and easy to adapt other camera systems to the bellows.

Used PB-6 Prices

Prices for a Nikon PB-6 are going to vary based upon what is available. The longer you spend looking, the better deal you'll find.

Prices slowly trend upwards. Check eBay to see what the current prices are.

Check the "Sold items" box under the "Show only" heading on the left menu. Good deals sell the fastest, so this will allow you to see the lowest prices the PB-6 bellows have sold for.

They also show up at Amazon and large used photography sellers.

Nikon PB-6 Specs

Here is the approximate size and weight of the Nikon PB-6 bellows. The extension range can be increased by using extension tubes or a bellows extension.

Extension48mm - 208mm
Weight2lb 4.2oz (1028g)
Dimensions (L x W x H)9.25” x 3.875” x 6.25”

Bellows Manual

Nikon PB-6 Bottom Tripod Mount

A PDF scan of the Nikon PB-6 manual can be found on Butkus.org.

It has two helpful sections. The first is how to calculate reproduction ratios. The other is about calculating the correct exposure with extension and reversed lenses.

Build Quality

All of the knobs on the PB-6 are made from plastic. This is different from the Nikon PB-4, which is all metal.

The rest of the bellows feels well made and looks great considering any PB-6 you'll come across will be at least 30 years old.

Features

Nikon PB6 Bellows Side View

Both of the standards can be moved forward and backward. This is a must-have feature for lenses that have short working distances.

The front standard can be moved all the way forward so the rail does not interfere with the subject.

On the bottom of the rail is a tripod mount that can be adjusted. Moving it will allow you to evenly balance the weight on a tripod for maximum stability.

The lens mount rotates so landscape or portrait orientations can be used.

On the front standard, there is an aperture control lever and cable release attachment for stopping a lens down.

Rear Standard Camera Clearance

Nikon PB-6 Clearance Problem
Nikon PB-6 Clearance problem with a D750.

You can run into problems when mounting a DSLR. The bellows were designed with 35mm SLRs in mind.

With my D750 on the PB-4, a small spot under the flash rubs when the camera is mounted.

I did not have this problem with the PB-6. However, the camera does need to be mounted in portrait orientation or the top of the locking knob for the rear standard gets in the way.

Cameras with built-in grips will likely not fit. A workaround can be to use an extension tube, like the PK-13, to have the camera mounted further back.

Bellows Lenses for the PB-6

Nikon PB-6 Bellows Lens Nikkor 55mm Micro

There are only a handful of lenses designed only to be used with a bellows. They have shorter mounts, which require extension in order to focus correctly.

The advantage of the short mount is that it allows tilt/shift adjustments to be made with the PB-4.

  • Nikkor-P 105mm F/4 Bellows Lens
  • Nikkor-Q 135mm F/4 Bellows Lens
  • Novoflex Noflexar 105mm F/4
  • Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 – Not a bellows lens, but works well.

Alternative Lenses

A common way to get higher magnification is to reverse mount lenses. 50mm lenses or wider work best, along with enlarger lenses.

The easiest way to reverse a lens is to use a Nikon BR-2A 52mm reversing ring. Combine that with a step-up or step-down ring and you can reverse mount any lens you want.

Another option is to attach microscope objectives to the bellows with an RMS adapter.

Bellows Accessories

Almost all of the bellows accessories made by Nikon are inexpensive and easily found.

Nikon BR Accessories are used for reverse mounting and controlling the apertures of lenses. They are not specific to the PB-6, so check out that page for more information.

If you have very specific needs that can't be met by a vintage bellows, check out Novoflex's extension bellows.

Nikon PB-6D Spacer

The spacers can be used to raise the standards. Cameras with motor drives will then have the clearance to be mounted to the bellows.

Unfortunately, they cost $120+ each. They are also difficult to find.

For the money, I think you'd be better off buying a Novoflex bellows, or a smaller mirrorless camera body.

Nikon PB-6E Extension

Nikon PB6 Remove Standard

The PB-6E extension rail screws into the front of the bellows, increasing the length. It also has a bellows extension.

In order to use the PB-6E, the front standard of the PB-6 must be detached from the bellows. Then the front standard can be removed and put on the extension.

Extensions can be hard to find and expensive. You will likely only see them bundled with the bellows and other accessories.

Nikon PB-6M Macro Copy Stand

Nikon PB-6 Slider Copier PS-6

The Nikon PB-6M is a copy stand that attaches to the front of the bellows. With the PB-6M attached, the bellows can be used in a vertical orientation.

Nikon PS-6 Slide Copying Adapter

The PS-6 attaches to the front of the bellows and holds slides for duplication. They sell for $60-$100 on eBay.

Unmounted, film can not be used. This rules out using one to digitize negative 35mm film.

If you want to "scan" film with a digital camera, look into the Nikon ES-2. It attaches to the front of a macro lens. No bellows required.

AR-4 & AR-7 Double Cable Releases

Nikon PB-6 Remote Cable Release

Double cable releases make automatic stopping down of a lens on the bellows possible. One of the cables attaches to the camera, and the other to the bellows.

BR-2 & BR-2A Reversing Rings

Nikon BR-2A Reversing Ring Adapter for Macro

Reversing lenses often produces sharper images at high magnification than adding additional extension. The BR-2 and BR-2A reversing rings have a lens mount on one side and 52mm threads on the other.

Once mounted to the bellows, lenses can be screwed onto the adapter with their filter threads. Step up or step down rings can be used for lenses with filter threads that are larger/smaller than 52mm.

Mini Review

I prefer the Nikon PB-4 over the PB-6, but not by much. The PB-4 has a more robust feeling build and is all metal. The plastic knobs on the PB-6 feel cheap.

While the built-in aperture stop-down is nice, I never use it. I either reverse mount lenses or use a microscope objective.

Expensive accessories look interesting, but that money would be better spent on a product like the WeMacro motorized focus rail.

Alternative Bellows

Through the 1980s all of the major camera brands and third parties made bellows. Many high-quality ones are available for discontinued camera mounts for low prices.

One issue you'll have is in finding high-quality accessories. Reversing rings are expensive and hard to find. Cheap aluminum ones from China are round, but the quality is poor.

  • Canon Auto Bellows
  • Minolta Auto Bellows III
  • Kenlock 35mm Tilt, Shift, Swing Bellows - Rare and hard to find.
  • Kopil Bellowsmat – Has tilt/shift and rise/fall movements.
  • Yashica Extension Bellows
  • Pentax Auto Bellows

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