For about a year I have been thinking of getting a large format camera. Or a medium format camera that has tilt/shift, OR getting a Flexbody for the Hasselblad lenses I already own.
But there is something about a large format camera.. it is even slower than medium format to work with, the image quality is exceptional, there are a lot of cool vintage lenses.. So I started looking to buy something cheap to start with. There are a lot of monorail cameras out there, for pretty cheap, so this is where I started. I guess there’s a lot of people like me who want to try out large format, get a monorail and then decide that it isn’t worth the hassle.
And I think it was good I thought about it for a good while before I decided what I really wanted.
Monorail cameras are for studio work. They are not something you want to put into a backpack and go somewhere with. What most people really want, but don’t realize it, is a field camera. Kinda like the Intrepid cameras, something lightweight, foldable, but still flexible enough for most situations.
For some reason I ended up looking at the british MPP cameras, based on what I read and saw, they looked very underappreciated and cost much less than other brands. They are post war copies of the Linhof Technikas, which cost around twice as much. The Mk VII and Mk VIII are the most popular, built in the 1960s. They both have a normal sized universal back, so regular film holders work fine. Both models feature all the movements a beginner large format photographer would need. For me, it’s all about front rise and front tilt. The rest are pretty much not interesting at this point in time for me.
Information about these cameras is scarce though, there exists a MPP users club, but all the information is nowadays behind a pay wall. You can find the manuals in PDF format luckily, but it is very short and a lot of small details got me confused even though I was having the manual in front of me.
Here are some hints if somebody else is googling for this stuff.
How to get the back cover plates out of the way when focusing with a loupe. Press this button:
How to get front tilt (lens angle forwards or backwards):
Loosen with the screw on the left side, then pull the centering tab on the right side while pushing or pulling it carefully.
How to get front rise (drop is not possible):
Loosen the lower left side screw, and turn the right side lower screw. Don’t use force, if you have to, you need to give it some new lubrication.
How to get triple extension (careful with this, you can push the rails too far back and its a hassle to get them back into the slot):
How to get front shift:
If you want to move the front standard sideways you loosen the screw in the middle there on it.
How to rotate back (portrait or landscape):
How to remove ground glass when using roll film back:
If you decide to get one of these cameras, I do recommend you grease up every place where moving metal touches metal! Get rid of all gunk with some isopropyl alcohol, q-tips and wipes, and then reapply something suitable. I think lithium grease works the best. Do not use anything like 5-56! And a little goes a long way, don’t overapply anything.
Also try to make sure you don’t get a camera that has holes in the bellows, getting a new bellows is possible but costs probably the same amount you are paying for the camera. These pop up quite often so don’t be in a rush and you’ll get a good deal.
Write in comments if you have any questions I can help you with!