I started with a Miranda DR. The story of Miranda cameras (Japan) is both interesting and sad. In the 1950’s Miranda (formally Orion) was a quality 35mm SLR camera. It pioneered many things and was duly proud of the cameras it made. In that, perhaps, was it’s undoing.
It’s main difference from other SLR’s from Japan at that time was the interchangeable viewfinder. This was changed easily by the release catch to the left of the viewfinder housing. (on the right in this photo) Fitting the waist level finder was a simple operation.
Being able to do this quickly and not exposing more of the camera interior than was necessary was a users dream. Sometimes you have to get your camera above a crowd. By removing the prism you can hold it above your head, upside down and frame your shot. This very useful feature uncommon in most other Japanese SLR’s after Miranda (a notable exception the Nikon F)
Perhaps in promotion literature it doesn’t look so important but being able to do it help me enormously when photographic celebrities in big crowds.
In addition the waist level finder has a ‘pop-up’ lens for close focusing.
The next innovation was the lens. At first a step forward but ultimately its downfall. The lens could do full aperture focusing or depth of field preview by the selection of the switch on the lens. The lens would shut down when the shutter was pressed. The shutter button being on the front of the camera, via the lens body. In my opinion, a much better position for comfort and camera stability. For this to be a practical proposition the lens mount had to be a bayonet fit. That also made for very quick lens changes…a feature most camera makers subsequently went with. However the Miranda went one step further, it also included a screw lens mount. This was 44mm. And here is where it all went wrong. The 42mm lens thread was making a mark although not a ‘standard’ at that time. We had a BetaMax, VHS situation. Other camera makers, notably Practika, Pentax (citation needed here) had opted to go 42mm. and others followed. What became known as the ‘Pentax thread’ prevailed though greater numbers and lens interchangeability. Auto diaphragm was still uncommon. Miranda refused to change, believing their system to be superior. Stop down exposures were the norm. so the bayonet auto shutdown was better. Again at that time, through the lens metering was yet to appear.
An added drawback was Miranda didn’t make lenses. Soligor lenses came as standard on their cameras so they were at a disadvantage.
The standard 50mm, f1.9 lens is a very good lens. At the time Miranda boasted that the glass was from a ‘rare’ piece of ‘special’ glass that had been used to make the lenses. Even a photo of the huge ‘rock’ was presented on their sales brochures.
Other features, a single lever wind film advance and an easy to see film counter (on top red). Easy film loading and a self return mirror.
The lever wind was a problem sometimes in that it was prone to fail (I had one and did a mod. more like a Zorki 4) and was a little stiff by modern standards.
Nevertheless the Miranda DR was and is a great camera from that period and doesn’t get the respect it deserves. From the D & F models they were in decline (in my view) and their ultimate demise was looming…just like BetaMax. A T2 mount was available for 42mm lens fitting but required stop down exposure as the D & F body didn’t have a diaphragm release.
The Miranda name was relaunched by Dixons Photographic on its range of 80’s cameras.
A piece of Japanese camera history and should command higher prices on the collectors market in my view but such is life.
One final point, the grease in the lens blades has degraded over the years and the iris can become jammed or stuck. Be sure to check this if you are looking to buy one. It is a very common problem and difficult to correct. If you force it…it breaks the blades…so be warned. I hope you find this article interesting.