UPDATE 9-8-2015: Modern Studio Equipment no longer stocks the MP-9 clamp. If you got one consider yourself lucky because it doesn't look like they'll be coming back anytime soon.
It's not that often that something new comes along in the grip world. Especially when it comes to the world of clamps. Thats why I was so excited when I visited Modern today and saw something I didn't recognize. That isn't anything new on it's own, Modern is always coming up with new widgets that adapt this to that or the other, but what I was seeing wasn't something modern designed. At first I thought I was looking at the Cardellini's ugly cousin, but upon further inspection I realized I was looking at a new and brilliant design that only loosely belongs to the same family tree as the Cardellini.
Introducing, the MP-9! No, not that MP9. This guy is the answer to a lot of the problems I have with Cardellini's and then some. No, it's not a replacement for the old faithful Cardy, but it does bring a lot of features and capabilities to the table.
First and foremost is it's ability to expand as well as compress. I'll grant you that it's not every day that you need a clamp to expand into a gap, but when you do, this is the guy for the job. This ability is one of the first things that differentiates it from a Cardellini, the knob that's used to tighten/expand the clamp is captive with the jaw that travels on the threads. It feels a little weird the first time you use it, but you get used to it. It does eliminate the ability to use the common practice of opening the jaws wider than you need to, close the jaw to size around the object, free-spin the knob till it makes contact, double check jaw alignment, and then tighten. The knob being captive also means that it doesn't turn quite as freely as a Cardellini knob, but the added benefit of expanding clamping is worth the speed loss.
The jaws of the MP-9 are also full of interesting details. It's double sided and since it expands as well as contracts it has a total of 8 working faces. One inner face pair is a rounded V formation much like a Cardy, but unlike a Cardy the V zigs one more time making the outer face pair form the same rounded V. These faces make for optimal grabbing/expanding of round/rounded objects. The opposite pair of faces are flat, making it ideal for clamping on to flat surfaces, one weakness of Cardellini's. Both inner and outer flat sides also have a very small V notch but it's not big enough to reduce the flat surface area significantly. Now is also a great time to mention the tolerance on the jaw's central hole. As far as I can tell, Cardellini's are designed have a little play in the moving jaw so that the knob tightening on the jaw creates leverage which helps it hold better. This is good sometimes but in many cases leads it to bind on the ACME threads. The MP-9 by contrast has almost zero tolerance in the fit of the jaw to the ACME threads. This creates two distinct advantages. First, the makers of the MP-9 guarantee that it will never bind. I haven't tested it out enough, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're right. Secondly it means that while clamping the jaws always stay parallel to each other. Cardellini's jaws on the other hand almost always angle towards each other on the thread side, leading to uneven pressure and sometimes damage to the object because of the reduced clamping surface area. Speaking of damaging things, all of the contact points on the MP-9 are coated with something that feels a little like spray on bedliner material. Feels pretty soft to the touch and doesn't look like it would come off very easily. It does look like the application of said coating might be prone to spatter, leaving some drops of coating on areas that were meant to be left clean. It reduces the overall fit and finish of the product but doesn't detract from its usefulness.
Lastly and possibly most importantly is the baby pin. "It's a baby pin, what's so special about that?" I hear you say. My friends, this isn't your father's baby pin. This baby pin can go into any one of nine threaded holes on the clamp. "What's so special about putting threaded holes on a clamp?" That's when I tell you that this baby pin can't twist. That's right, they are using a specially designed baby pin that once seated doesn't twist either clockwise or counter clockwise. It uses a special baby shaped sleeve with a notch that's held onto the clamp in special holes with roll pins to catch the notch. You can see the placement of the holes in the picture, they are in almost all the places you would want them to be. I'd like to see a hole perpendicular to the threads coming out the ends of the flat jaws, but I'm just being picky. While it might not seem like much, I think this is the most innovative feature of the MP-9 and I would love to see it included in more designs.
Like Cardellini I think the MP-9 could benefit from multiple versions. While the double sided design makes it versatile, it also makes it pretty big. A single sided version with just flat or just curved jaws would be excellent. Other versions could include: longer thread, narrow jaws, and smaller expanding jaws for the tiniest of cracks. I'm excited to see what the designer of this clamp has in store for the future!
While not set to replace the faithful Cardellini by any means, the MP-9 brings some pretty awesome tricks to the table. It's ability to expand as well as contract combined with its well padded and variously profiled jaws and versatile pin placement make it a must for any key grip's specialty drawer.
Right now they are only available at Modern Studio Equipment and priced at $100(after discount).
Tech Specs for the MP-9
- Weight- 2.2 lbs
- Materials- Steel, Aluminum, Brass, Nylon(?), Bedliner(?)
- Jaw Width- 2 7/8"
- Jaw Depth
- Flat- 1 7/8"
- Round*- 1 5/8"
- Clamp Capacity
- Flat Jaw- 3 3/8"
- Round Jaw(bottom)**- 4 1/4"
- Round Jaw(top)**- 3 3/8"
- Expansion Capacity
- Flat Jaw- 1 1/4" - 4 5/8"
- Round Jaw(bottom)**- 1 1/4" - 4 5/8"
- Round Jaw(top)**- 2 1/8" - 5 1/2"
*from the threads to the outer lip
**bottom and top refer to the valley of the V versus the lip