Marshal press

The birth of Marshal press

Marshal press (released in 1966) is the most unheralded camera in the four medium format cameras with Nikkor lenses. However, the camera is designed by famous camera designer Seiichi Mamiya who contribured founding Mamiya and made various unique cameras as Mamiya Six and so on.

Originally, Marshal Optics Co. was a camera manufacturer which had released only one camera, Marshal press. Mr. Seiichi Mamiya was the fonder and the advisor of this company and designed the camera. Why he established the company? I had heard the rumor that Mr. Mamiya did not like their own Mamiya lens... Anyway, he equipped the originally designed Nikkor lens for the camera designed by himself. The camera looks like Mamiya Press, but strangely, the lens NIKKOR-Q 105mm F3.5 is fixed to the camera. Instead of interchanging lenses, two exclusive front tele converter had been released at the same time. The total focal length with these teleconverters are 135mm F4.7 or 150mm F5.6, and the range finder of the camera still works coupled. However, the manufacturer said that the images taken with these converters are a bit soft when wide-open. It seems to be a forced interpolation of the aberration of the lens, but I think the controllability of the image delicacy have taken over to the DC Nikkor, doesn't it?

The features of Marshal press

rangefinder coupling (front view)

rangefinder coupling (rear view)

zooming finder

focus at infinity

focus at near distance
The exterior of the camera looks like Mamiya press, but it is a little bigger than it. Contrary, the film-back is not interchangeable but fixed. The focusing mechanism is so called as "thumb focusing", because a focusing wheel is settled at the position of the thumb of right hand. The scale of distance can be seen through the window of the right side.

The highlight of the camera mechanism is the range finder which couples to all standard 105mm lens and two 135mm and 150mm tele converter. The finder has a zoom optics, and the angle of view is narrowed down when the lens is focused nearer. Simultaneously, the frame mask of the finder moves down cornerways and compensates the parallax. Yes, the both angle and direction of view are managed, so the complete parallax compensation is realized.

Then, the question is how to attach the tele conversion lens. However, you can not find any dials or knobs to do so. Actually, this camera has no switching mechanism to attach the lens, but you can simply extend the bellows more, and you can attach the converter. The bellows can extend over the uncoupled area, and then the masking frame for the parallax compensation goes back to the initial position. Also the range finder returns to the infinity. But the zooming mechanism which narrows the angle of view of the finder works continuously to adapt to new longer focal length. To prevent moving the bellows out of coupled rangefinder limit, ON/OFF dial around the shutter release button can be used. If you set it to OFF, the bellows can be extend without limit. The dial also works as the infinity stopper when we are using the conversion lens. For example, two tele converter lens extend the standard focal length 105mm to 135mm or 150mm. If you want to use 135mm converter, you must set the limit dial to OFF position at first. Next, extend the bellows to the 135mm area, then return the dial to ON position. After these operation, you can get coupled rangefinder, parallax compensated finder frame, and infinity stop of the focus dial. 150mm converter can be used with same operation.

The current setting can be confirmed from a window above the finder eyepiece. The letter "135" is colored green, and "150" red. Also the focus scale is colored. The orange area of 105mm focus scale is uncoupled rangefinder area. Of course, the converter is not always necessary when extending the bellows, you can take close-up photo by using the long bellows. But you know, the rangefinder does not work for closer than 1m, and focus scale also disappears at closer than 0.6m. For that case, you can use ground glass in the film back. The film back can not be detached, but the film rail can be exchanged to the ground glass or sheet film case.

For those odd function described above, the internal mechanism is a bit complex. In the right-hand of the body, bellows extending mechanism and focus scale is built in. In the opposite side, there are shutter release coupling and zoom finder link, and in the top cover, finder mechanism here. The range finder is coupled by chain to the three rotary cams. The bellows holding mechanism is very particular, a bar and compensating cam keeps the front lens board parallel.

The lens of Marshal press

The name of the lens is NIKKOR-Q 105mm 1:3.5. Yes, the lens is tessar-type, 4 elements / 3 groups lens. The coating is single. The shutter is made by Seiko, and it has a shutter opening lever which is usually equiped on large format lenses. This feature is used for close-up photography using ground glass.

The front converter lens changes the spec of the lens to 135mm F4.7 or 150mm F5.6. These converters are different from the usual "front tele converter", because the lens is not "afocal optics" but "diversing optics" (or lenses with minus power). Usual teleconverters keep the focus at infinity when attaching/detaching, but the converters for Marshal press are attached when the master lens focuses to closer distance (and the focused distance is now changed to infinity). Also usual teleconverters keep the F no. of the master lens (when no bignetting), but the special converters changes it. For these characteristics, Marshal press camera and the particular Nikkor lens system are indivisible.

The same spec Nikkor lens are the leaf shutter lens for Zenza Bronica and generic lens for large format photography. I think, the lens for Zenza Bronica and the for Marshal press are identical.

Anyway, I must talk about the quality of taken photo .. I thought that simple tessar-type lens is not so good, but I was surprised at the very sharp image. The format size is large 6cm x 9cm, but it can proof to ISO100, 30x roupe test completely. Overall, this camera is very suit for landscape or still-life photography.