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!