Monday, August 20, 2007

Vintage Camera: Miranda G

In my last post I mentioned that I collect vintage cameras. I thought I'd share one of them with you. It's the one that really got me started on this kick.

When I was in college, my dad gave me his old Miranda G outfit. A fully mechanical 35mm SLR, with a 50 f1.9 lens, a 135 f3.5 lens and a 2x teleconverter. Having only used Kodak Instamatics up to this point, I was eager to try it out. He also gave me a small hand-held light meter...a necessity with this camera, since it had no meter built in.

I would point the meter at the palm of my hand in bright sunlight (or the brightest part of a room), then again in the shadows (or the darkest part of a room) and that would give me my range of F-stops and shutter speeds. Then I'd tuck the light meter in the back pocket of my jeans and wouldn't need to take it out again unless the light changed. Shooting this way forced me to be aware of how the light fell on my subject...or didn't...and adjust my settings accordingly. Of course, back then, I wouldn't know if I'd done it right until days later when I'd get my prints back from the lab. That was before the invention of the 1-hour labs!

I discovered that those old Miranda lenses were pretty sharp. Later when I decided it would be nice if I could get another lens or two to add to this outfit, I started doing some research about Miranda cameras. No internet access then, so I got most of my information from Shutterbug magazine. I found out that the Miranda camera company had been out of business for awhile, but back in the 1960's they had a good reputation and were used by some pros. They were one of the camera companies, along with Nikon, to come out of Japan and catch the attention of the working pros of the time.

But the camera I had, the Miranda G, was a professional model. It had mirror lock-up, a feature considered a necessity for doing good copy work. It also had a removable pentaprism with several different versions available, including a couple with light meters, one with a flip up viewer (like you'd find on the Rolleiflex), and one with a flip-up magnifying viewfinder. It also had interchangeable focusing screens so you could pick your preference.

But what really set the Miranda apart was the lens mount. It was a dual mount, with an external bayonet and and internal screw mount. With these two mounts and a variety of adapters Miranda made, you could use your Miranda SLR with just about any lens on the market, including Nikon, Pentax, and even Leica lenses.

I always thought this was a very elegant looking camera, with some distinctive features. The front-mounted shutter release was one of them. I found that I could easily take pictures at slower shutter speeds with this camera that with others because the placement of the shutter release allowed me to gently squeeze it between my finger on the front of the camera and my thumb on the back, making camera-shake much less likely.

You can read more about Miranda Cameras here.

Now here are a few photos of my Miranda G:








24 comments:

  1. Great photos, nice comment, lovely blog!

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  2. Did I say "comment"? Oops! Camera, rather.

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  3. Oh excellent. I enjoyed reading about that Miranda.

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  4. I have found that some of the lenses are as good or better than Asahi or Nikkor glass. 25mm 2.8 and the 50mm 1.4 and the 135mm 3.5.

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  5. never realised there was a camera with multiple mounts on it before. I'm a Minolta man but looking for an article about the Miranda Panorama I found this.

    Very interesting, might have to check out the Mirandas.

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  6. Oooh, nice!
    My very first SLR was a Miranda G, which unfortunately was stolen (not this one though, I would recognize it anytime). I just loved that camera and I miss it.

    These pictures are great and awakens great memories.

    Mads

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  7. Mirandas are such sweet cameras to use and those Soligor lenses are very nice, the 135mm f/2.8 is an especially beautiful portrait lens.
    I've used Mirandas since a DR became my first 35mm in 1964 and love the gentle way they handle, exemplary to me of the best mechanical devices ever built.
    Ironically, an unscrupulous seller on eBay recently used these very pictures to sell me a thoroughly abused and broken Miranda G! It's such a pity, a wonderful camera completely jammed, the wind mechanism apparently sheared off, and shipped with a wad of wrapping paper stuffed into the mirror chamber!
    Caveat emptor, folks.

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  8. It's true, my 135 f2.8 lens is very sharp and I've taken some beautiful portraits with it. I've always considered this Model G to be a very elegant camera, both to look at and to use.

    Is this the ebay listing you bought? I see the seller put a link to this blog in his description but that camera was clearly not this one, although it is the same model and he listed some great accessories for it, too.

    http://offer.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewBids&item=170530662622

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  9. Hey!

    I am looking into buying a good 35mm film camera. I am moving to South Africa in January and want to sell some of my cameras and take others with. I need one that is not that heavy and takes great film photos oh and isn't pricey....recommendations?? Is this one a good buy?? I saw you had it on Etsy.

    Thanks a bunch!

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  10. I would recommend you check with KEH.com and get a good used film camera from them. They buy and sell used equipment and they have a great reputation. I've dealt with them before and found they grade their items conservatively so you can trust what you're getting. This camera is not for sale and if you're looking for a good outfit to use and add to later I would recommend a Minolta SRT series camera or Nikon FM. Both are widely available and should be easy to have repaired.

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  11. Hi, Donna,

    I found your site tonight after I dug out my Miranda G I bought at the PX in Cu Chi, Vietnam, in 1967. The rest of it is around here somewhere, but what I found was the camera body, 2x Soligor magnifier, 135mm lens, and shutter cable, all still working. Not found yet is the pentaprism, other lenses, and case, but the overhead viewer is mounted.

    In the 1970's the Miranda G was in great demand for astrophotography, because of the overhead viewer and mirror lockup. I used it in 1976 to shoot Comet West, including a photo printed in the now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald.

    When I was in Dau Tieng in 25th Infantry Division G-3 during Nov-Jan 67/68, I dug a sandbagged trench beside my cot so I could just roll out and into the trench when needed, and I dug a special slot near the head, where I could drop the case for the Miranda G.

    They never got me or the camera, but I came back to the tent one morning to find an inch-long piece of mortar shrapnel that had gone thru my skeeter net where my leg would have been if I'd been sleeping there that night... but I worked a 12-hour night shift, so it missed me.

    I dug it out of the sandbag and still have it as a souvenir.

    The Miranda G is definitely a classic SLR.

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  12. If you're looking for a good used film camera, I would definitely NOT recommend a Miranda, sadly. I have two, and I love 'em to pieces, but if you walk into a repair shop with a Miranda, they will almost throw you out. They are apparently not very "standard" in mechanical design, and require a lot of specialised knowledge. I think there's a shop in Chicago that handles them, but I don't know of any others.
    I use mine (an A and a G) with my Steinheil Macro lenses, made for Exaktas. I have the 35mm Macro and the 135mm Macro, and I use the Miranda adapters for Exakta lenses with them ... the left-handed Exaktas result in my using the lenses "upside-down", but I soon got used to that. I use a Soligor 1° spot meter, with my markings, adapted for colour from Ansel Adams' Zone System.

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    1. The old Essex in New Jersey repaired mine (no longer open), but it took them two tries. I heard the shutter has a ton of moving parts, that's why it's so soft and quiet. Another person I know with one told me to take it to an independent Leica repair person, they'll know what's going on in there. When I was using it as a pro, back in the 70's, one of the reasons I got rid of it is that the shutter would all of a sudden not open any more, hence I'd have no exposure, but it never made a different noise, it'd sound like it was working correctly. They had some problems with early Miranda Sensorex shutters having the second curtain mechanism hold it back correctly.

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    2. I knew I should have sent my G to that Essex place years ago! The relatively quiet and smooth shutter was one of the things I really liked about that camera. Thank you for your comment - I love hearing from people who used Mirandas when they were new!

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  13. I still have mine. I liked the way the entire focus system - lens, focus screen, prism - could be changed.
    Had been using rangefinder cameras. the first time I put this to my eye, I was amazed at the clarity and brightness of the image.

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  14. I used Miranda cameras when I first started out as a professional photographer. They were quiet, reliable cameras with sharp Auto Miranda lenses. The Miranda G (which had an optional through the lenses meter prism) evolved into the stop down meter Sensomat which was my first "pro" camera. I then evolved to the Miranda Sensorex with wide and tele lenses. My favorite lens was the 105MM f 2.8 for photojournalism and portraits. I sold them to buy into a NIkkormat system because the studio I was working with had all Nikons and Nikkor lenses. There was no visible improvement in optics, however, and the Nikkormat was loud and clunky compared to the whisper quiet Sensorex.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I love hearing from a pro who actually used the Miranda G! I also had a Sensomat and a 105mm F2.8 lens that I loved but I sold them to another collector years ago when I was saving up for my Minolta X-700 outfit that I used for years as a free-lancer.

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  15. thank's Donna Pool,
    My first camera was a MIRANDA SENSOREX II. or better my old brothers camera ...
    wonderful camera. heavy beauty||
    sergio italy

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    1. Thank you for sharing your comment about your Miranda camera! I love hearing from people who have actually used them!

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  16. I had one too.
    I think it was my first SLR.
    One of the photos I took with it when I was 17 is still in my portfolio... and I've been a full-time pro for over 35 years.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! Was yours the Miranda G or the Sensorex? I just took a look at your online portfolio and you do beautiful work. Is one of those shots the one you took with a Miranda?

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  17. I was a pro who used the Miranda Sensorex in the 1970's. Quite a good camera and if you bought the actual Miranda labeled lenses, they were good too. Gave up on them because their development sometime in the 1970's was just strangled. I read on a website one time (no longer in existence) that Miranda was sold to some Americans at Allied Impex, and they drove it into the ground through mismanagement; resulting in the Japanese putting the kibosh on Japanese companies being bought by outsiders. Don't know if it's true or not. The shutter was quieter than almost anything but a Leica, which makes the one I have hard to get repaired. Compared to a late series Pentax K-1000, the Miranda truly seems like comparing a Leica to a Chinon.

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    1. Here's a site that has one mans recollection of the Miranda Camera company during the years it was going out of control:

      http://web.archive.org/web/20091021103012/http://geocities.com/bill14210/demise/demise.html

      Interesting. One wonders if they had not been sold to AIC, if they would have kept their slow steady development and interest among the "pro-sumer" camera buffs. Can't say enough about the fit, finish and feel compared to even pro stuff of the era.

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