Friday, May 27, 2011

every camera I own: the miranda automex ii

I had double the writing obligations this week: I filed two long-ish (in blog years) pieces for DCist  - an overview of the G40 Art Summit and a roundup of movies playing in DC this week. So I am only just getting down to this week's photobook review, and hope to post that tomorrow. While you're waiting, please to enjoy this week's camera-with-a-kitty.

The Miranda Automex II is a Japanese SLR. I was given the camera by the cow-orker who sold me his Hasselblads. It's still worked but was and is cosmetically rough, so I took it to Strauss Photo  for some TLC and now the lens no longer falls apart when you touch it. I can't pinpoint the date of this model but the Automex series was made in the 1960s. This camera is mounted with a 50mm f1.9 lens that stops down to f22. But I've been shooting with the lens fairly wide open - the more you stop down the lens, the less light comes through the viewfinder, making focussing indoors very difficult, and even focussing outdoors can be tricky if you don't have enough light.

Despite that limitation, the Automex II has some really keen features. An arm on the aperture ring is coupled with the diaphragm, and that information is matched to the metering system - when you look through the viewfinder, a needle marks the needed exposure, and all you have to do is slide the arm until a second needle with hooks at the end, grabs the first needle between its ravenous talons.  The grid you see in front of the prism is for the selenium meter, and for a camera that is about fifty years old, the meter is pretty accurate. But the most important design feature in terms of usability may be the shutter release. The shutter release on the majority of SLRs - the majority of modern-day cameras, period -  is placed on the top of the camera body, and at slower shutter speeds this increases the chance of camrea shake. The Miranda's shutter release is on the front of the camera, which allows for steadier handling.  And it's a fairly quiet shutter as SLRs go.

This isn't the first camera I've written about which I had only ever used once before - and some cameras to come will be used for the very first time. But the Miranda is calling me back already. This is from 2006, the only other time I used the Miranda:

available light
Hawk and Dove, Washington, DC. Kodak Gold 200.

Last week I loaded the Miranda with a roll of mildly expired (2008, which is peanuts for me) Kodak Portra VC400. This is from the Wal-Mart in Front Royal, Virginia. The meter seemed to expose for the ceiling lights - I should have over-exposed slightly to compensate.

customer service

This picture of my nephew shows the problems I had focussing indoors.

Photographers will sometimes tell you to "zoom with your feet," meaning instead of having a mongo telephoto lens you just get closer to your subject when you can. With the Miranda, I found it helpful to focus with my forehead, leaning just a little bit closer until I saw my nephew coming into focus.Which appears to be what he's doing with the subject before him.

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