My Photographic Time Tunnel – Miranda Sensorex

Alexander from Jerusalem knew about my crazy bug with film cameras and tried for a long time to raise my interest in his SLR’s collection. A trip to Jerusalem doesn’t take more than one hour drive from Tel-Aviv, but still, I had no big rush to see a Canon or a Nikon. About a week ago he called me and said he has something very special for me. An SLR I just can’t miss. When I asked which SLR he was talking about, he whispered only one word: “Miranda…”. “Miranda who?” I asked. “Check it out” he said, and the conversation was over. I went quickly to the nearest Internet portal – in this case, my Ayo (That’s how Gefen calls my IPhone), and googled “Miranda camera”. Well, of course I was interested – Miranda is a beauty.

Miranda got me thinking all over again about what is it with old cameras we just can’t resist? Is it the mechanic ingenuity that runs by many small metallic parts as a clockwork and snaps light upon chemical papers? Is it the time-lapse that runs through the tool every time we touch it? Or maybe it’s only the end product that we get after 36 clicking or so? I’m sure it’s all of the above and more… You may add your own likeness to this list. When laying my eyes on Miss Miranda I was aware to the fact that beauty is a very important quality, and was immediately drawn to it. I held Miranda in my hands and was amazed how nice it looked. But it was also very heavy in comparison to other cameras I knew (about 988g with the lens). Well people, what can I say? It ain’t heavy… it’s my camera.

And now for some history if you’ll like: Miranda is a Japanese camera manufactured first in 1955 by a long dead company originally called Orion Camera Co.  A lot of thought and ergonomics went into their line of products, but eventually they didn’t last the race and had to close in 1976, leaving behind enough cameras to fill both collectors and users cabinets. The Miranda Sensorex was manufactured between 1966 and 1972 and considered to be a very popular model at the time. It has two unique features that I find to be very interesting. First, if you consider the ergonometric aspect, is the front-mounted shutter release. It will take you some time to get used to it, since we are so used to the shutter release on top of the camera, but once you’ve got it, you’ll ask yourself why it isn’t more popular in the world. The second feature, even more interesting, is the interchangeable prism allowing you to release the viewfinder and look at the prism from above like you’ll do with most medium format cameras. I, for one, am not familiar with this technique. Getting used to it let you take photos from a lower angle. It’s very confusing shifting and rotating the camera in all directions until you get hold of the opposite way in which you have to grasp the view. Nevertheless, having done just that may reward you with something a little bit different.

As always, in order to know a camera, you have to shoot with it. I must admit that lately I’m changing cameras like you’ll change your socks, and with time it’s starting to make me want to stick with just one favorite one. I wanted Miranda to be my companion to take with me for the long yellow brick road of my life. I have 3 lenses for it, ranged from 35mm to 200mm, and it has a very convenient Through-the-lens (TTL) light metering system that makes it easier to shoot. And sure, she is a looker, and you always want to be with a beauty by your side. But the thing that made me go on to the next camera was the weight she carry with her almost Full Metal Jacket of a body. It was like carrying a stone in my bag, rumbling all around inside of it. By the end of the roll I was happy to be done with it and leave it behind when going out. Hell, it was a hard breakup for the both of us. Miranda will find her way, I’m sure of it. Such a beauty doesn’t goes to waste. No doubt she will find her glory behind some glass window drawing dirty looks. Someday I’ll settle down with a camera, and when that day comes, you’ll be the first to be invited to the wedding…  My only hope is that you won’t go whispering behind my back: “You see this guy, he gave up a Miranda. Just look at what he ended up with… The poor bustard…”.

Anyway, here are the results from our short love affair:

The Dome of the Rock overlooking the wailing wall in the old city of Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall

Tel-Aviv beach at sunset – My favorite setting

Ingrid Feldman – a model and a make-up artist. I took a similar photo with the Kiev 4AM.

Chompi the cat

This is Mazen the butcher from Tira.

Miranda Sensorex Page on Facebook

Miranda Sensorex on YouTube:

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About Royalrat


7 responses to “My Photographic Time Tunnel – Miranda Sensorex

  • silvina

    Hi! It was a nice surprise to me finding this page and video!..
    i´m an enthusiastic amateur who shoots digital since 2 years, and my father gave me his miranda as a present ( he is a doctor, an ophtalmologist and used it a lot of years to take pictures of his patients) Now i´m interested to shoot film..I will try with this camera and your page was really helpful to me, thank you!

    http://www.silvinaderdoy.com

    • Royalrat

      It’s great to hear that! Miranda is a tremendous fun, and seeing your photos on your website, I believe you can make wonderful photos with it. Please share… Good Luck!!!

  • Evan M.

    My Miranda Sensorex’s viewfinder is stubborn and won’t come off, as it has likely been on for years. Any tips?

    • Royalrat

      Sorry, but I don’t know much about the mechanism of the viewfinder, or how to dismantle it. If you can use the camera without removing it, I believe it is good enough for working with it. Good luck!

      • Evan M.

        Thanks for your reply! I gripped the prism with a rubber pad, slide the latch aside, and gave it the business. It came off after some tugging, I guess it got stuck after years of being on. Now it slides off easily. I’m enjoying it immensely.

      • Royalrat

        Great. I’m happy to hear that. Have fun!

  • Andy Umbo

    Ran across your Miranda page, loved it, as I always loved the Miranda Sensorex itself. I was at the beginning of my career when I purchased my first one; it was definitely a “contender” in the professional camera market, it had a lot of features. I ended up getting rid of it as my career progressed (didn’t really do much 35mm anyway, mostly sheet film), and purchased one of the Canikon brands because that’s what the “pros” did (and it was easier to use lenses from work).

    Pluses:
    Super quiet and vibrationless shutter. Miranda always thought they were in competition with Leica, and the shutter shows it. It was supposed to have advance mirror dampening too. I bought a copy a few years ago, and had a Leica guy work on it to get perfect (he had to take a few tries too), and I was amazed how quiet and vibrationless the shutter was compared to a Pentax K-1000 or even a Nikon F!

    The meter was on the back of the mirror, in a pattern that metered mostly what would be the center bottom of the screen as you looked through, Not only was the meter usable with multiple focusing screens and finders, it wasn’t fooled by “white sky”: on over cast days! Prior to modern metering patterns, it was the most accurate metering I ever used. Wide open metering as well, which due to the systems of setting it, could be “fiddled” into working with adapted lenses by using the arm separately.

    Of course, the interchangeable finders.

    The front shutter release. You could squeeze the shutter, not pull the whole camera down by hitting the top. The best of all these was the Eastern European cameras that had the angled front release. Perfect.

    Minuses:
    There was something “hinkey” in the early versions of that super-quiet shutter. Mine use to fail, without making any distinct sound that told you it was failing, the slit just never opened. Had to have it fixed a few times after getting blank film; I heard they fixed it on the Sensorex II to make it more robust. After a while, as a professional, I just couldn’t trust it.

    If you could get Miranda branded lenses, they were pretty good, but since the U.S.A. importer also handled Soligor, you started to get a lot of “Soligor/Miranda” lenses which were not so good. Soligor was never a premium indy lens producer, certainly no where near Tamron, or Vivitar Series 1 at the time. The straight brand Miranda lenses I have today, tho, are amazingly good.

    The third minus is sort of an overall “fail” at becoming a major professional camera brand with motor driven bodies, more complete lens line, etc., etc. In the research I have done, this can all be placed at the doorstep of their U.S.A importers (AIC). Apparently AIC purchased Miranda, and proceeded to run it into the ground due to poor business decisions, ownership infighting, lack of financial development, and basically just bleeding the company dry. I read that it was such a monumental scandal in Japan, that the Miranda case in specific was responsible for the Japanese government putting a moratorium on all Japanese national companies but foreign companies.

    When one looks at the beauty of functionality of the early 1970’s Miranda’s, I certainly shed a tear. I’d like to buy the brand name, if I could afford it.

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