MLU on the EOS-3 and EOS-1V are as you say - embedded in the function. I never really thought of it as particularly clumsy in all the years I used it. However, now that I am immersed in pre AF cameras, I can see how adding it's own switch would make it more accessible.
Would the Nikon F be the first 35mm SLR with MLU? It is certainly the goofiest MLU implementation I know of! It has it's own control that you turn but it won't raise the mirror at this time. You have to first advance and fire the shutter once at which time the mirror stays up so that it would be in the up position for the next time you advance and fire the shutter.
The next goofiest MLU implementation I know of is the "unofficial" MLU on the Pentax MX. You advance the shutter and then "pop" the shutter release momentarily. This will raise the mirror and then after that you can just fire the shutter and the mirror would come back down as normal. This works on all of the MX's that I have owned (4) and other MX owners have also confirmed that this works the same for theirs too.
The only other goofy MLU configuration I have is on the Pentax LX. It is straightforward enough as there is a control for it. However, this same lever activates MLU when turned one way but the same lever is used for the timer release when turned the other way. This arrangement means you can't use the timer and MLU at the same time.
Otherwise, all the other bodies that I have with MLU are straight forward mechanical linkages that allows you to raise and lower the mirror at will.
But of all the MLU capable bodies I have, I find the way Nikon FA, FM/FM2/FM3, FE/FE2 and even the cheapest FG implementation to be the best even though they don't have an independent MLU control. In these bodies, MLU is automatic when using the timer.
Much ado about nothing.
You will also find MLU invaluable when using the TS-E 24mm F3.5L (I or II)!
Cf 12 1 or 0 accomplishes MLU activation or deactivation. It's usefulness is doubled with 2 or 10sec self timer for remote photography or when commencing an invervalometric process like star trails. There is no sweat to on any of the Canons — it is that you have not warmed to idiosyncracies with Canon. All cameras have their own personalities. I've been using the 1N since 1996 and know all of the custom functions to memory.
If you want it "up front and there to see", try the ginormous SLR-on-steroids Pentax 67 body with MLU. A tiny slider right side front mirror box engages with a gentle toot and the mirror's up (albeit draining the battery while you are procrastinating about a change in the scene before you...). With this beast, you need all the vibration dampening on offer, then some.
I use an EOS system almost exclusively and the mirror lockup isn't a problem for me to engage, I'm just used to it.
I guess if you are used to full manual 35mm cameras or some other system and switch to an EOS system it can be difficult. I've heard that from a lot of people who shot a different system then switched to an EOS, all other systems except for full manual feel alien to me.
5x7 Eastman-Kodak kit, under the knife for a bit
4x5 Graphic View / Schneider 180 / Ektar 127
RB67 Pro S / 50 4.5 / 90 3.8 / 180 4.5 / WLF / prism finder / polaback
Random 35mm stuff
Many classic mechanical SLRs have the "unofficial" MLU. For sure I've it used on Pentax Spotmatics, Leicaflexes and Rolleiflex SL35s...
Originally Posted by Les Sarile
Another "goofy" MLU is on the Pentax 6x7: while it does it's job as a MLU perfectly, I wish it *were* a little more fidgety as I set it off by accident quite often.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
It's a P.I.T.A., for sure. A tad easier on the digitals, as you don't have to memorize the function numbers, but a P.I.T.A. nonetheless. The only EOS cameras I'd suggest for mirror-up photography would be the EOS 1N-RS or the EOS RT. Both are incredibly cheap, and worth getting if you do that kind of shooting a lot. I'd get an RT for close ups, and use the 1V when you actually need autofocus and/or cannot afford the light loss of a pellicle mirror.
The bright side of the Nikon F's MLU is that you can always compare the MLU shot to the non-MLU shot!
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I do own Pentax 67II and in my opinion it offers one of the best designed MLU function. If you have a metering prism (which is fantastic by the way) activating MLU activates exposition lock. So, you don't need to think about hardware, you can focus on the scene.
Originally Posted by Poisson Du Jour
And this beast can be operated handheld withoud MLU and you still can get razor sharp pictures. This one was shoot with 105 mm lens and 1/60s (no MLU of course):
Canon’s target market for the EOS-1v was sports shooters and photojournalists, both of which would not use MLU often. It is therefore of no surprise that it feels like an "afterthought" when using it. Overall it is still a great camera though.
I am not sure but I don't think the Nikon F was the first with mirror lockup. MLU was popular back then and many cameras had this features. Only in modern time MLU became rare.
I haven't read of any other 35mm prior to the F with MLU. MLU couldn't have been popular then as there weren't many 35mm SLRs as the 35mm world was dominated by rangefinders that don't require MLU. The only other "professional" 35mm SLR at the time was the Canonflex and it doesn't seem to have MLU.
Canon could have at least made the custom function buttons behind the side door a little bigger. Those things are tiny. Anyway at least I get to use the TSE II. I've been through my share of 24s over the years across several brands. The TSE II is the closest thing to perfect for me for an SLR 24mm. So it's worth the MLU hassle.