ORION/MIRANDA T

So much new from Japan in 1954 !

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Excerpt from the introduction in the dx-3 handbook:

"In 1946 (Orion Seiki Company) was established in Tokyo. Initially it manufactured a limited line of photographic products, but most of its business was as a top notch service center for professional photographic equipment. The company continued to produce photographic accessories for 35mm rangefinder cameras, but in 1948 they very quietly began investigation and development of a revolutionary 35mm SLR. <...> The world was unaware when the Orion Camera Co. introduced the Phoenix in 1953. Although only a few handmade samples were available, word spread like wildfire that a new type of camera had been born. The actual production model rolled off the assembly line shortly thereafter, and was marketed in 1954 as the model 'T'. Instead of Phoenix the name MIRANDA was emblazoned on the viewfinder.  The Miranda T was the pioneer of a new breed of camera, a 35mm SLR with a built-in mirror housing and upright image pentaprism. It was the first modern Japanese SLR as we know it today. "

Other sources indicate that Mr. Ogihara, the founder of Orion Seiki, took about two and a half years to bring his idea for a new camera to fruition. We see in it features from other classic cameras of the time. Miranda's shutter is a quiet Leica type focal plane, the viewfinder prism is interchangeable in a similar manner to the Exakta, except that the screen is fixed, and thus more robust in construction. The mirror box and shutter mechanisms are both integrated to the camera body, so that a separate shutter crate was not required. Knob wind and rewind is typical of the quality rangefinder cameras of the era. The camera is compact and unobtrusive in use. Because the name "Phoenix" was already in use with a German firm, the camera was named "Miranda".  Orion Seiki became the Orion Camera Company, and the original production rate was about 50 cameras per month. At the beginning, marketing was not terribly systematic, and one source indicates that many of the initial sales were through the US Armed Forces PX system.

As Orion Camera Co. became Miranda Camera Co. in 1955, the name engraved on the front plate of the model T was also changed. Leatherette inserts were added to the sides of the prism finder. And by 1957, there was a second version of the Miranda T available, which provided the same specification with small cosmetic changes, being a black shutter dial and black painted recesses in the wind and rewind knobs. Finally, a small number of Miranda T's were made with a new shutter mechanism, offering 1/1000 top speed instead of 1/500. There is still research and discussion as to whether the all-chrome models were continued for the USA market, and the second version built for the Pacific countries including Australia.

The Orion T has achieved definite collector status as the first Miranda and modern Japanese SLR, so that a nice example will attract serious prices, particularly in Japan. 1999 prices on eBay were typically at least $1000.

Orion Camera Co. made all the parts for the camera, but not the lenses. These were supplied under various contracts, and Mr. Ogihara built his camera to have a wide mount, and short back focus. It was expected that many users would want to use their existing German lenses, and indeed we understand that the Phoenix used Contax or Tessar lenses re-mounted to to suit the Miranda T. I have tabulated the standard lenses further down.I

Orion T Miranda T Miranda T (ii)

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Miranda T standard Lenses:

50/1.9 Zunow (chrome finish)
50/1.9 Ofunar (chrome finish)
50/1.9 Soligor Miranda or Miranda (chrome finish)
50/2.4 Arco (chrome finish)
50/2.8 Soligor Miranda (chrome finish)(shown at right)
50/1.9 Soligor Miranda (chrome and black finish)

Later preset 50/2.8 black/chrome lenses from the S, ST, C and D cameras are often also found on the T.

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Other Lenses:
All MIRANDA screw mount lenses, in manual or preset operation.All other MIRANDA or SOLIGOR lenses with external PAD  diaphragm control, can be used.

The Miranda T case was an elegant, all-leather polished brown unit, with a hexagonal shape to the lens front rather than the later full round type.

Viewfinders
VF-1     Waist level viewfinder with flip up magnifier
VF-3     Combination critical focus viewfinder,with 15x magnification in one position, and 5x magnification in flipped up position.This finder was introduced after the T but will fit and work properly. Other later model meter finders for the F and G models will also work on the T models.

See also the following link:
http://www.cameraquest.com/orion.htm
Stephen Gandy's Orion page,
a detailed discussion and his beautiful
images of the first Miranda.

User Notes and what to look for:

These original Miranda models are almost 50 years old and are frequently in need of a mechanical service.Usual problems are sticking or inoperative slow speeds, and weak curtain springs such that the shutter does not work quickly or the second blind does not completely traverse the film gate. Sometimes also, this languid operation of the shutter curtain will fail to trip the mirror rise or close, so that the camera will jam and not wind on. Less frequently, mirror itself may not release properly and will jam, so that the sequence of mirror and shutter is incorrect and again, the camera cannot be wound on. The film wind is robust, but if it is found to be stiff, then CLA is called for. Essentially the Miranda T is a simple SLR and there are not too many ancillary mechanisms to go wrong. 

However... the leatherette cladding is almost certain to be brittle, so if a service procedure requires that the mirror box has to be removed, then it is very difficult to remove the leatherette undamaged and put it back on afterwards. For this reason alone, collectors may prefer to keep the camera cosmetically intact; if you are offered a T which has been significantly repaired, you need to look at this aspect. Basic CLA such as the slow speeds, curtain tensioning, shaft and gear lubrication can mostly be done via the top and bottom plates only, so this service should not cause a problem. It is normal to find that certain of the screws in the front and back of the body, under the leatherette, will protrude slightly and cause bumps to be visible in the leatherette. Don't attempt to fix this.

Chrome finish on these early Mirandas is reasonable rather than superb, so you may find flaking or brassing around the shutter dial, or where the prism scrapes the top plates on being installed. The all-chrome prism is not robust, the edges appear to be very easily and visibly damaged, even light marks and scratches show up readily. The later leatherette-sided prisms are better in this respect.

Flash synch speed is 1/30 second, use slower if you are not sure of the shutter accuracy.

Lenses for the Miranda T are hard to find, not least because the maker intended that most accessory lenses would come from other suppliers. However, any T2 lens can be used with the appropriate Miranda M44  T-mount adaptor. These are not plentiful but not impossible to find, either. Most of the fixed mount lenses found are marked Soligor-Miranda and can be used on any of the later Mirandas which do not have internal automatic diaphragm control, such as A, C, ST, D, and DR.

Lenses and accessories are unlikely to be found in normal shops,  but the www.eBay.com site regularly has many Miranda items available. The 135mm is most common, also the  35mm types. In T2 mount, many makers provided lenses during the 60's, including house-specific but often very solid units from Spiratone, Accura, and others. Soligor provided several ranges of T2 lenses from about the model C onwards. Strictly for the particular collector these were too late for the T, but naturally they will fit and look the part properly on these early model cameras.

Test the shutter by opening the back, taking off the lens, and pointing the camera at a white wall or sky. Release the shutter at each speed. You should see the complete film gate evenly exposed at each speed. Top speeds may show part of the film gate blacked out if they are not operating properly. If a Miranda T has not been used for some time, don't be too surprised if it doesn't work properly on all speeds.