MPP 5x4 kit

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by andrew_gardiner, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. I am being offered an MPP 5x4 Field camera kit by a friend which includes, as well as the camera (I don't know the model number yet), two lenses; both Schneider, one 150 and a wide angle, a Manfrotto tripod and 10 dark slides all for £700 ( $1,140). All are in good condition and he will set it all up for me and probably let me test it out before I decide. Does this sound like a reasonable deal? I am new to large format and have been looking for a while and becoming ever more bewildered. What is the reputation of this camera?
    I need a LF camera for a specific ongoing project of mine. I need to photograph both landscapes and portraits and also lug it across tropical climes.
    Any input gratefully received.
  2. Good price if all working and no servicing required. If the outfit has been together since new, the lenses will almost inevitably be a 150 Xenar and a 90 f6.8 Angulon - the Xenar is still good to use, the Angulon offers limited covering power by modern standards and you need to shoot at no larger an aperture than f16. As regards the camera, a Mark VII with a Graflok (international) back is preferable to a Mark VI or earlier, which just has a spring back and is less flexible in what rollfilm backs it can take. MPP cameras are durable and good to use but be aware of how much they weigh before you take a final decision (the Mark VIII was the most sophisticated design but does not necessarily feature the best materials - possible problems with embrittlement of duralumin).
  3. It might be a good price or it might be a bad price. It would all depend on the condition of the kit. If it has been in recent use then ask to see some of your friend's results with it.
    As David says the camera should be a Mk VII or Mk VIII in good condition - and in all probability it is as these are the most common. Here is THE website for MPP cameras which will tell you all you need to know and more. In use the MPP Mk VII and VIII are rugged and well made though if you want extremes of movement you should maybe look elsewhere. They are heavy but then most LF kit is heavy especially the metal cameras. My camera kit ended up weighing about 20 lbs. Check as to whether it has a bright screen as these are useful but can be added later. Check corners of the bellows for wear. Check that the front standard is rigid when locked and moves smoothly.
    As far as lenses go I am assuming the lenses are all nice and clear with no internal fogging or fungus and that the shutters are in full working order. The 150 might be a Xenar or a Symmar. Both are good if old lenses buit the former is quite restricting in movement while the latter has a larger image circle. The wide angle might well be a Schneider Angulon 90 f6.8. These are OK but have a limited degree of movement. The Super Angulon is usually more recent, quite a bit better and has a useful image circle. I suggest you get your friend to show you the lenses working and check the shutters - especially the slow speeds as these are the usually first things to give trouble. If you get the serial numbers of the lenses you can look up their dates here :
    Overall, guessing what you are likely to be getting I think in strict money terms £700 is OK but maybe just a touch on the steep side. But probably not by much. I got a lot of fun out of my MPP VII and ended up with a camera, 6 lenses from 65mm to 270mm, various roll film backs, grafmatics and many othe extras. If you have as much fun with it as I did you will easily get £700 worth of value from it.
  4. Not much to add except confirmation of the earlier comments.
    Sounds a fair price, but it does depend on the model and condition of both the camera and the lenses.
    If it were a slightly worn earlier model camera with the basic original lenses, the price would look high, if a later model in really good condition, and especially with, say, one of the Symmars in a good shutter, then it starts to look like a bargain.
  5. Sounds like you really need to see it all first. Let us know the specifics . . . .
  6. Thank you all very much for your knowledgable replies. I've got more details now, which are:
    Its a MPP Mark vii technical camera (sometimes known as a field camera) described as being in very good condition.
    Two lenses:
    1. Schneider-Kreuznach APO-SYMMAR 5.6/150mm multi coated standard lens
    2. Shneider-Kreuznach Angulon 6.8/90mm wide angle lens
    both mounted on lens boards and described as being in immaculate condition.
    Also included in the sale is: A Manfrotto tripod and head, 2 lightmeters and dark slides.
    There is a photograph also, but I've never quite worked out how to upload to so suffice to say it actually looks fairly dusty with some scuffs and wear to the body. The 150 lens appears to be in a copal shutter No - it could be a 0 or a 6 or an 8.
    Many Thanks.
  7. Andrew, what I take from your mail above all is that the camera is described as in very good condition, whereas you say in the picture it looks scuffed and worn. As regards the lenses, "immaculate" sounds good but is vague - some people do not understand the need to check lenses by shining a torch through them and rejecting any with mold or haze (one e-bay seller even pours scorn on people who do this). Mold and haze are deal-breakers - even if the lenses can be cleaned (possible only with light haze) it will cost a lot, more than just buying a perfect lens. It is important too that the shutters work accurately at all speeds, otherwise servicing at £50 a time is required. Other things that make a difference are the bright screen that Colin mentions and the domed lens panel for the 90 mm lens. An Angulon lens, as mentioned by Colin and me, is not as desirable as a more modern lens. The Apo-Symmar is still good by modern standards. It begins to look as if the deal may be a little expensive.
  8. I agree with David's reply. The Apo-Symmar is probably a fine lens and the Angulon is probably usable but a bit past its sell-by date. The MPP MkVII is probably usable too as a few scuffs probably won't hurt it, but will reduce its value. As has been said it all depends on the specific condition of each item which you would really need to know before buying.
    So : questions I would ask your friend are :
    1) do the shutters on each lens work correctly - including the slow speeds? The Angulon is almost certainly in a Compur No 0 shutter. The speeds go from 1/500 down to 1 sec, and B. The speeds from 1/10 down to 1 second are the slow speeds and these have separate gear train. This is normally what gives trouble first. £50 to sort this. The Apo-Symmar sounds as though it is in a Copal No 0 shutter. This should be good but the same caveats apply as to the other lens.
    2) are the lenses clear from haze and fungus? If they are hazy you will not get a sharp image. £50 to sort this. Fungus? Incurable.
    3) Is the MPP body in working condition? Bellows light proof? Focusing racks all working smoothly? Front and back standards all working with no wear? Anything wrong here I would suggest you look elsewhere.

    So the underline what we have been saying in a harmonious chorus. It all comes down to condition. This gear is up to 50+ years old and although it has the potential to produce images to give quality to outclass almost anything else it completely depends on the detail of what state the camera and lenses are in. My feeling about this deal is that you need to satisfy yourself about that detail before you go ahead.
  9. Many thanks again for your incredibly useful (and harmonious!) replies. Thus prepared I'll go and check it out properly.
  10. As a last question, the consensus seems to be that other than condition issues, the weak spot in this system is the outdated Angulon lens. Could anyone suggest a more up to date replacement for this lens and how much I might have to pay for it second hand.
  11. There are several excellent replcements for the Angulon (which is pictured below):
    The advantages of the angulon is its small size and weight. Against that are the small image circle and lower resolution.

    The more modern lens used by many MPP users is the Schneider Super Angulon 90mm f8 or 75mm f8
    (picture is of the 75mm f8 but the 90mm is similar but a bit bigger and they both work on the MPP)
    This will give noticeably better detail and more accurate colour rendering. The Super Angulon is not a souped-up version of the Angulon but a different, more modern lens with larger, projecting front and rear groups. There is also a larger, faster f5.6 version of the Super Angulon but these do not work well with the MPP as the rear element is too big.
    Super-angulon's were made from the 1960's up to the present so there is a huge range available from older single-coated ones from 60's and 70's usually in Compur No 0 shutters. More modern ones are multi-coated and often in Copal No 0 shutters. In general newer is better but my 65mm f8 single coated Super Angulon from 1966 performed beautifully.
    As well as Schneider you can also get the excellent Rodenstock Grandagon 90mm f6.8, Nikkor 90mm f8 or the Fujinon 90mm f8. The differences are very small as these are all excellent lenses. If you look on ebay you will normally see examples of these for sale. As always with buying second hand always go for ones which say the glass is clear and the shutter works.
  12. I've just noticed the link to the Super Angulon above is for the 75mm f5.6. I should of course have posted a link to the f8 versions of the 90mm or 75mm Super Anguon as the 5.6 versions are too big for the MPP. Apologies for the confusion.
    For second hand prices I suggest you look on ebay at completed listings as they will vary quite a bit depending on age and condition.
  13. Don't give up on the Angulon Lens, if it is in good condition, and if there is a distance scale for it on your camera.
    People underrate this lens, since there are modern successors with larger coverage. However, I found that, putting the lens at f 32 or higher, your coverage is quite sufficient, except if you are seriously into architectural photography. In any case, this lens should not be used at an aperture larger than f 22. If abiding by these advices and applying a good lens shape, you will get pictures as sharp as the more modern lenses.

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