Thursday, May 11, 2023

Spotlight: Miranda Fv

The Miranda Camera Company gets a lot of flack, if it's even remembered in the first place. Most photographers don't know about Miranda cameras, which is understandable since the company went under forty-five years ago. I've always had a mild interest in Miranda, partly because of their ridiculous advertising campaign that could be mistaken for softcore pornography while flipping through a vintage camera magazine. That said, the only model I'd previously used of theirs was the Sensorex, a camera I enjoyed and have since lent out to students in my darkroom classes. Hungry for more, I asked an older local dealer if he had any Mirandas, and the man (his name's Howard) made a face like he just sipped months-old milk. "Why do you want one of those?" Howard asked. 

Maybe it's because of the nearly naked women in the ads. Maybe it's the because they're now defunct and the company holds an air of mystery. Maybe it's because the cameras have beautiful design. Maybe it's because most other brands have become ridiculously expensive lately. I don't really know, I just have a curiosity for Miranda. I eventually found an Fv model on Ebay for a decent price and put a roll through it. 

The 1963 Miranda F was the first Miranda to feature automatic aperture diaphragm control built into the camera body.  Before the F, you needed to buy lenses that had automatic diaphragms, or otherwise stop the lens down manually before exposures (a horribly tedious process). The 1967 Fv model that I have is pretty much identical to the original F, but with a removable shutter speed dial that you can replace with an optional light meter accessory. 

The Fv has a timeless SLR aesthetic -- I especially love the look of the chrome eye-level prism with its leather accents. The slight roundedness of the body gives the camera a unique look and feels great in the hand. In fact, the Fv is probably one of the most comfortable cameras I've ever used. This is in-part thanks to its twin shutter releases -- there's a permanent one on the front, and a removable one on the top plate (once removed you can insert a cable release). The top release is great for landscape shots, while I find the front release more convenient for vertical compositions. The front release is also nicer to use while holding the camera at waist level, as the finder is indeed removable and interchangeable! 

The camera is entirely mechanical. Shutter speeds cover the standard 1 second to 1/1000th range, plus bulb. The focusing screen has a central microprism assist, and is fixed. The microprism spot really pops when your subject comes into focus, but the screen as a whole is not exceptionally bright. There is no hot shoe on the standard finder, but the camera has sync ports for X and FP flashes. The Fv has no self-timer, mirror lock-up, or multiple exposure functions. Similar to Olympus OM cameras, aperture preview is located on each individual lens. 

The Fv's frame counter deserves a special mention. Its circular glass window radiates class, but the best part is the frame indicator. When the shutter is cocked, the indicator turns orange. After exposure, the indicator turns black. It's a very cool way to tell if the camera is ready to fire or not! 

Build quality is good, but not on the same level as, say, a Nikon or a Pentax. My main complaint is that lenses do not fit 100% snug in their mount, and jiggle a tiny bit while focusing or changing aperture. The non-ratcheted advance lever feels cheap, and has a long throw. Long-term reliability also seems to be a problem with Miranda cameras in general, as most of the Mirandas I find in the wild are non-functional. My Fv is fully working, aside from a bit of shutter capping at 1/1000. 

Overall I like the Miranda Fv. Unique features like swappable finders and double the shutter releases make it more interesting than the average consumer-level SLR. If you can find an example in working condition, I recommend picking it up! Below are some photos I made with my Miranda Fv. The lens was a 50mm f/1.8 Auto Miranda EC, and the film was Ilford HP5+. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Friday, April 21, 2023

Collage: Cash Box Kings

The Cash Box Kings performing at Evanston Space. The man on the left is my good friend Tom Foley. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Spotlight: Revere Stereo 33

Stereo (3-D) photography is pretty rad. Over the past few years I've taken to creating my own stereo cards and viewing them through stereoscopes that I've gathered at various antique malls and flea markets. While a bit of a lengthy process, I find making 3-D images to be worthwhile, as it's a unique and immersive way to look back on events. Lately, my go-to stereo camera has been the Revere Stereo 33, from 1953. Out of the handful of stereo cameras that I've used, I find the Revere to be the most precise, as well as the quickest to operate. I recently used the camera to document my brother's bachelor party weekend in Orlando, and got some great results! 

The Revere Stereo 33 takes 35mm film. Unlike some stereo cameras that I've used, the loading process is quick, and just as simple as with any normal 35mm camera. On a standard 24-exposure roll, you get about 16 stereo pairs (32 individual negatives). On my Orlando trip I got greedy, and tried to expose an extra few frames on one of my rolls. As a result I successfully ripped the film out of the cassette and had to take it it out of the camera back home in my darkroom (luckily it was the final roll of the trip). The frame counter does not reset automatically, and must be manually turned back to zero at the beginning of each roll. Oddly, the frame counter also doubles as the camera's rewind release. Once your roll is finished, you must turn the frame counter to "R," which disengages the advance sprocket and allows you to rewind the film. Weird! 

Focusing is achieved via a knob on the top plate of the camera. Like many stereo cameras, the film plane moves instead of the lenses while focusing to keep everything in alignment. There are two windows on the back of the camera: one for focusing via a rangefinder patch, and one for composing the image. The focusing knob is positioned so it can be easily turned with your right thumb while your eye is to the rangefinder window. It can feel awkward at first, switching between the focusing and composing windows, but with some practice the process becomes second nature. If it's a bright day out you can shoot at f/16 and just scale focus (there's an awesome depth of field scale around the focusing knob). 

The left window is for focusing, while the right is for composing

The matched 35mm lenses provide a slightly wide field of view, and are pretty sharp! Apertures range from f/3.5 to f/22. Each lens has a leaf shutter, with speeds ranging from 1/2 to 1/200. 1/200 doesn't sound like much, but it's par for the course when it comes to stereo cameras. Most of the time you'll want as much depth of field as possible for your 3-D photos, so faster speeds aren't really necessary. Exposures with my particular camera aren't 100% matched (one negative always seems a little thinner than the other), but this is understandable for a 70-year-old camera, and it's easy enough to correct these slight differences in post. One extra feature that I love is the camera's ability to perform multiple exposures with a simple flick of a switch beneath the lenses. Multiple exposures in 3-D can look pretty trippy! 

Unfortunately, the Revere Stereo 33 does not have a standard hot shoe, nor does it have a sync port for attaching a flash. My workaround is with a Vivitar 283 flash, which sets its flash output automatically based on your camera's aperture setting. I match the output level on the flash with the aperture setting on the camera (usually f/16 so not too much ambient light gets in), start a bulb exposure, fire the flash manually using the test button on the back, then finish the bulb exposure. It's a pain for sure, but it works. 

But yeah, overall I love the Revere Stereo 33. I've yet to find a 35mm stereo camera that is easier to use, or one that has more precise focusing. I plan on doing a lot more stereo work with this camera over the summer. Below are some stereo pairs that I made documenting my brother's big bachelor weekend. Unfortunately it's very difficult to see the 3-D effect without a viewer, but if you stare past the center of the pair, you can sometimes trick your eyes into seeing a 3-D image. It's also somewhat effective if you flip rapidly between the left and right eye images using a GIF, but in my experience, this doesn't work with every stereo image. The film was bulk-loaded Ilford HP5+.