View Full Version : MPP micro precision 4x5 camera, any opinions?
Hi everyone -- I've got the itch to get into LF. Yes, I know, it must be insanity. But I've got a box of 100 sheets of Ilford in my fridge, and I thought it would be fun to try out large format.
Anyways, I've been doing lots of research, but I still feel somewhat bewildered about the models and functionality of different 4x5 cameras.
Since I am a beginner, I think it would be important to not spend too much money at the outset ... I have been looking at various view cameras and press cameras. Things like the Crown Graphic, or a basic view camera.
On fleaBay, there is an MPP Mk III available right now:
I have heard good things about the MPP cameras, in the sense that they're underrated and good performers. Would anyone care to comment on this particular model, or the MPP line in general?
Thanks in advance for your help.
If you haven't already been there, there's a mine of information here:
I've never used one (preferring Linhof Technikas), but my understanding from those that have is that the MK VIII is the one to go for.
Thank you John -- I have been to the MPP site, and tried to digest the info that's there.
I really like the Linhof cameras, they're amazing ... but it seems that even a cheap Linhof III or IV is around $1000.
Your statement about the MPP Mk VIII seems to be true. It is considered a 'poor man's Linhof', from what I have read.
This particular MPP MkIII that I saw on fleaBay seems to be a much earlier model, probably from around 1951. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.
IŽm a beginner myself. IŽve made my own 4x5 camera without movements (P+S) and hopefully will be going full blown soon. What I have read is that when starting off with an LF view camera, it would be a good idea to get one where nulling out all movements is easy. On this most agree.
Advice often differs on other aspects. Some say start simple and upgrade, others say go for a proper full movement camera right away. The latter group claim that a lesser camera will put you off as youŽll very soon be frustrated with its lack of movements (and therefore a lot less of an improvement on MF than one would want and expect). The former group claims that going too complicated to begin with will put you off as youŽll not get going, and results may be late in coming.
Personally IŽll be looking at field cameras with full frontal movement and at least rear rise and fall, and maybe shift, tilt and swing too. Monorails are big and heavy, and I donŽt see myself lugging one around outdoors (I donŽt yet do studio work). As you said, there is an incredible number of choices to be had. Getting to a point were you think you know what you need in an LF camera can take a while.
If it's anything like an early Linhof then the rangefinder cams have to be matched to the lens in order to use the rangefinder accurately. So it would be worthwhile checking to see if the lens and cam match, also the availability of other cams (or fabrication) to use with other focal length lenses, should you wish to do that.
All of this assumes you will want to use the rangefinder. If you just want to focus on the ground glass, then you don't need to bother with the cams.
matthew J Shaw
It looks a good solid camera.
Couple of points to check...
The lens is not an original unit to the camera, so it would be worth checking the rangefinder is fitted with a suitable cam, otherwise it wont work.
See if you can get a close up on the base board hinges, the early MPP's had the tripod mount on the fold out base board, this was later dropped as it can strain & weaken the hinges.
Despite these couple of points to check, I would say I got into LF with an MPP (MK VIII) and I've never upgraded or changed it as it seems perfect, a great well made camera with loads of movement, that also doesnt tie up a huge amount of money.
What and where are you going to be photographing? i.e. landscape, portrait or macro?
The MPP(and technika) has focussing on front standard only I think. That makes them not so good for macro work but it can be done to a point. Field cameras have shorter bellows extension so have limited macro capabilities compared to monorail cameras.
Any clamshell design like the technika makes packing the camera much easier. Infact the Linhof technika can be folded and closed with some (not all) lenses in place which is even better news.
Tilt and shift are overated. For most purposes nearly all cameras have more than enough and are limited more by the lens design than the camera itself. For the vast majority of landscape you will never want more than small amount of tilt. For portrait you will probably use no movements and for product photography or macro you would be better off with a monorail which give more control on the rear standard and much more bellows extension. For 1 to 1 i.e. lifesize on film, you need twice the lens focal length to have enough extension.
So an MPP would be fine for landscape work and maybe some portrait work. But if you want to hang a 300mm lens on the front (roughly equivalent of 100mm in 35mm format) then you may be struggling for bellows extension and rigidity of camera. And if its a press camera I doubt it has very much extension anyway. The Linhof Technika would have a lot more allowing greater choice of lenses.
So you need to decide which lenses you want to use and then be sure the camera you get has enough extension for them.
This is not so easy because with the larger format you don't tend to use 35mm equivalents and therefore without some experience you won't know what you really want.
And if you want really wide angle there are limits both because the focussing rail limit on how close it will allow the lens to move and the bed of the camera will obscure part of the image. Some cameras (linhofs) allow the bed to drop down out of the way so you can use shorter lenses. I suspect in that camera 90mm would be shortest but you would need to check specs.
Thank you to everyone for your comments. In terms of which subjects I would shoot, I would be experimenting with landscapes, perhaps some portraits. This is purely for my own hobby, nothing serious.
I checked with the auction on the Mk III -- the owner says the cams are matched to the lens. This is encouraging, but yes -- there's always the ground glass if I don't use the RF.
I am still confused about this whole LF adventure. The lure of the Linhof is enticing, but that's a lot of $$$.
There's nothing about 4x5 that doesn't make it more difficult and 10 times slower than a roll film camera. But it can be worth it occasionally and especially if you are wet printing. Thing is it's like starting all over again there is so much to learn.
I bought a Linhof Technikardan as my first 4x5 camera. Mistake, it was the wrong camera for me. Some people love em but I really should have bought a technika because technikardan just took too much space to backpack with and its not big but requires a lot of protection.
The technika on the other hand is self protecting so actually packs smaller, especially with a lens thats small enough to fold away. And then there is all the other gubbins you need such as film holders which need protection and lenses which need protection and dark cloth and tripod etc etc. If you are used to 35mm rangefinders you will get a shock with the size of the rucksack you need to carry everything.
Another thing is that MPP lensboards may be difficult to come by. A camera that uses Linhof (later size) lensboards means you can swap to another camera using linhof lensboards otherwise you have to replace them all if you change cameras.
Some of the wooden field cameras are much lighter but require more protection when packed. But they don't have rangefinders.
A beaten up old technika can easily be revamped with new bellows and covering. And on that point I would ask the seller of that MPP if the bellows are light tight with no pinholes. Old bellows leak light but can be replaced.
Some large format photographers seem to adopt the principle that if its more than ten paces from the car its not worth photographing :D
Might be hard to find boards and parts later on, and while you can compare them to Linhofs, they really aren't close to the same build quality. You get what you pay for.
Having owned or used most MPPs (I was a founder member of the Users' Club, and even visited the factory once) I'd not bother with a III: hold out for a late VI or VII, or VIII, unless the III is very cheap. It functions well enough but the later cameras are more of a pleasure to use, and have international backs (removable groundglass) instead of plain spring backs. Also, register is questionable on some early cameras. On any MPP, check the groove that takes the locking bar of the film holder, as it is parlous close to the end of the side-walls of the back, and with wear, you can get light leakage at one corner.
Only the VIII has tilt in both directions on the front standard: others are backwards only, so you have to use the camera upside down -- http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subscription/upside%20down.html (my last Mk. VII) -- or turn it on its side (there's a second tripod boss to allow this) and use the swing as a tilt.
I can't really agree with Frank about build quality: MPPs are very well made, and I know of two or three that have survived accidents which would have written off most cameras, including Linhofs. They're also lighter than what Neill (of the Club) calls 'Brand L'. MPPs also have the moving rear track (inside the body) for wide-angles, which I don't think pre-V Technikas do. Oh: and they're triple extension (except the wooden-bodied Micropress) so they focus as close as any normal monorail.
Surprisingly many parts are still available through the Users' Club, where you can also get cams: I cammed my 150 Apo Lanthar myself with sufficient accuracy to focus wide open at 5 feet.
Even so, I no longer see the appeal of 5x4 inch: I much prefer 5x7inch/13x18cm/half-plate, where you get decent sized contact prints.
Good comments and suggestions from everyone, thanks for that. With some sober second-thought I am leaning away from the Mk III ... I will keep on the look out for a MK VII, or something similar.
Frank's adoption of 5x7" LF is now looking attractive too. More homework!
Bobby. One thing is for sure. There are so many LF cameras on sale these days you have the luxury of waiting for the one that meets your requirements. DonŽt fret if one or other passes you by.
Ezzie -- very good point. You are correct, there are many 4x5 cameras on the market at any one time. I will be patient.
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