Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

MB No 4 Field Camera

Marlow Brothers

Name: MB No 4 Field Camera
Type: Field Camera
Manufacturer: Marlow Bros.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: The camera is constructed of Honduran mahogany, with simple finger or comb joints. It has double extension bellows, with focusing by a single rack and pinion. The front standard fastens to the front of the baseboard using a U-section bracket and thumbscrew. The front standard is permanently attached to short bracing side struts and folds down into the base of the camera. The rear standard is supported by longer slotted side struts that are clamped by thumbscrews to provide some tilt. The rear standard is clamped to the baseboard, but can be released so that it can be pushed forward along the side rails for wide angle use.
Production Period: Approx. 1893 - 1909 (see notes)


Plate / Film Size: ½ plate
Lens: Rapid Rectilinear (TBC), f8
Shutter: Unmarked roller blind shutter, 1/15 to 1/100
Movements: Reversible and tilting back; rising front
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1896
Serial Number: Inside of rear screen and back of camera have 71 stamped into the wood. The rear of the lens board has 55 stamped into the wood. Either or both may be manufacturing batch numbers rather than a serial number.
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 518


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The MB No 4 field camera by Marlow Brothers is a fairly typical example of a mahogany and brass field camera of the period (mid 1890's). This example carries a badge on one side that clearly identifies it as The "MB" No. 4; the MB uses the form where the two letters are merged together in the centre. On the opposite side is a roundel bearing the makers name.

The double extension leather bellows are of a square section tapered format. The leather bellows have a green tinge to them; the colour is much stronger on the underside where it has not been shaded from the sun. There are some pin holes in the corners. It has rack and pinion focussing.

This model of the MB No 4 has a reversible tilting back; the lens standard has a rising front but no cross movement. The front standard fixes to the base using a simple U shaped bracket and thumbscrew arrangement. The same thumbscrew and a similar bracket on the top edge of the camera body are used to clamp the camera in its closed configuration.

The mahogany is in good condition. The brasswork is intact but tarnished. The ground glass screen is intact.

Advert for Marlow Brothers Cameras (1898)

An advert in the Photographic News for June 17 1898 shows this MB No 4 field camera alongside the No 1 model. (Click on the thumbnail to open a larger version).

The format shown in the advert is very similar to this example, although not identical - the support for the front standard differs and the diagram shows a brass cross piece across the top of the lens standard. The date is a guess, based on the assumption that this model may pre-date the advert by a year or so.

The roller blind shutter is unmarked. The 1898 advert suggests the camera is equipped with a Thornton-Pickard shutter. It also states that it comes with a Rapid Rectilinear lens; the outline shown in the diagram is very similar to the unmarked lens that came with the camera, which retains its leather lens cap. The lens is in good condition and came in its own leather case.

The advert also states that camera comes with one DDS. This example has two, but only one is marked with the MB symbol; the other is an unmatched DDS of poorer quality. The camera has a contemporary canvas case with two sections within, lined in green velvet. The case is now in rather poor condition.

The camera came with a contemporary tripod. The 1898 advert states that the outfit is supplied with a three fold tripod, so this may be original to the camera. A turntable tripod base was available as an option according to the advert; this camera is equipped with the turntable.

The camera still has its original leather handle, but this is now in poor condition.


Marlow Brothers (Bros.) were makers based in Birmingham, England who took over the business started by their father in 1875 (Channing and Dunn, [2] p82) in March 1893. Most cameras that appear that are easily attributable to this maker bear the 'MB' logo, often stylised to join the vertical strokes of the two letters, as in the example here. In 1901 the company was taken over by Hurman, but it is apparent that the cameras continued to be sold with the same 'MB' marking after the takeover. Channing & Dunn report that they could not find any records of Hurman after 1909.