Miranda

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Miranda was a Japanese company that made a long line of 35mm SLR cameras.

Contents

History

Early period

The company's founders were Ogihara Akira (萩原彰, 1920–1992[1]) and Ōtsuka Shintarō (大塚新太郎, 1921-2005[1]). Ogihara studied aeronautical engineering in the Imperial University of Tokyo (later University of Tokyo) during World War II, and worked on pulse jet engines for the Japanese Navy in the University's aeronautical research center.[1] He notably developed the pulse jet engine of a manned flying bomb inspired by the German V1,[1] certainly the Ka-10 (カ10) engine for the Baika (梅花). Ōtsuka graduated from the same department one year after Ogihara, and worked on the compressor of the Ne-20 (ネ20) engine for the Kikka (橘花) jet fighter.[2]

When the war ended, all military research was halted in Japan, and Ogihara started a small camera workshop in a room of the former aeronautical research center.[2] He was offering repairs and modifications for professional cameras, notably making Leica mount barrels for older lenses or military camera lenses.[2][1] At the time, Ōtsuka was working on gas turbines for civilian applications; he soon became aware of Ogihara's activities and partnered with him.[2]

Ogihara founded the company during the period, under the name Orion Seiki Sangyō Y.K. (オリオン精機産業有限会社[1], meaning Orion Precision Products Industries Co., Ltd.), perhaps in 1947 — some sources say 1946 but this seems too early.[3] The company was named after the constellation of Orion, because Ogihara had a special interest in astronomy.[1] Its early logo consisted of the word ORION with three stars and an arc; the three stars correspond to Orion's belt, and the arc is often associated with the figure of the mythological hunter Orion in drawing the constellation.

The company's first product[2] was the Coupler, an adapter designed by Ōtsuka[2] to use Contax lenses or Nikon lenses on Leica screw mount cameras while keeping the rangefinder coupling. The next products, released in the early to mid 1950s, were the Mirax reflex housings, Supreme lenses and Focabell bellows. These were first distributed by Summit Shōkai, then by Matsushima, managed by Mikami Makoto (三神誠). In addition to these early products, it is said that Orion Seiki worked as a subcontractor for Yashima Kōgaku on the production of microscopes.[1]

From Orion to Miranda

In 1954, the company presented the Phoenix 35mm SLR prototype to the Japanese photographic press. Ogihara and Ōtsuka had been developing an SLR camera for several years, and the Phoenix was mainly developed as a promotional product to advertise their future camera.[4] Ogihara visited various distributors to obtain funds for the development of the production camera,[4] but the only one who accepted was Mikami, who provided financial support.[5] Orion Seiki was renamed Orion Camera K.K. (オリオンカメラ㈱) in 1955, with an equity base of 3 million yen[6] (it seems that the name "Orion Camera Co." was already in use for some time as an English translation of Orion Seiki).[7] The production SLR was released that same year and named the Miranda T, the first Japanese 35mm SLR camera commercially available with a pentaprism.[8]

The company finally named itself Miranda Camera K.K. (ミランダカメラ㈱) after its main product in 1957.[9] On the Japanese market, the early Mirandas were still distributed by Matsushima for some time, then perhaps by the company itself.[10] The distribution was briefly taken over by Ricoh from early 1959, as prominently announced in early advertisements for the Miranda B.[11] It is said that this decision to join with Miranda was directly made by Ricoh's founder Ichimura Kiyoshi (市村清).[1] The agreement was however short-lived: the sales of Miranda cameras abruptly stopped in the domestic market in mid-1959 for an unknown reason,[1] and for a few years Miranda cameras were made only for export.[12] The US importer by Allied Impex (or AIC), owner of the Soligor brand, notably used on the lenses for the Miranda cameras.

In 1960, the company dropped the original dodecagonal body for a rounded body on the late-model Miranda D. It also released the Automex, with a built-in external selenium meter, and new lenses with internal diaphragm actuation and a cam transmitting the aperture setting to the body for meter coupling.

Into Allied Impex

It is said that the Miranda company set up its own lens factory in 1963[1] (earlier lenses were supplied by various manufacturers, except for the first Supreme). The company returned to the Japanese market in autumn 1964,[13] but the US importer Allied Impex gradually took control, and fully owned the company by the late 1960s.[14]

The Sensorex model was released in 1967, with TTL exposure metering. It is said that a new factory was opened outside Tokyo in 1970 or perhaps 1971.[15] In 1971, the company introduced the Sensorex EE with shutter-priority automatic exposure and a new set of viewfinders. Upgraded as the EE-2 in 1976, it would be the last Miranda with interchangeable viewfinder.

In 1972, the company released its only non-SLR camera, the Sensoret compact rangefinder. In 1975, it made an attempt at a compact SLR with fixed prism and electronically controlled shutter, called the Miranda dx-3. Neither of these met with great success, and the Miranda company went bankrupt on December 10, 1976[16] and stopped camera production the same month.[17]

The Miranda brand was re-used in the 1980s for cheap SLR cameras (made by Cosina), lenses, flashguns or point-and-shoot cameras.[18]

Serial numbers

Early products by Orion and Miranda have six-digit serial numbers. The first two look as if they might indicate the year of production, but this is misleading: they might be related to the release year of the camera model or device, but do not give a precise indication of the production year of the particular example.[19]

Camera list

Cameras made by Orion or Miranda Camera

35mm SLR

M42 mount

Scientific

  • Mirax Laborec
  • Mirax Laborec II
  • Mirax Laborec III
  • Mirax Laborec Electro-D

35mm rangefinder

Cameras made by other companies

35mm SLR

  • Miranda MS-1
  • Miranda MS-2
  • Miranda MS-3
  • Miranda Memoflex

35mm point and shoot

6×6cm folder

The Orion Six was made in the second half of the 1950s by a company called Orion Seiki, perhaps a successor of Kyōwa Kōki. This company was probably not related to Miranda's predecessor, but perhaps adopted the Orion name to draw on the good reputation of Orion/Miranda products.

Other products by Orion or Miranda Camera

Notes

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Main page of the Miranda Society Japan.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Hagiya, p.9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64.
  3. The year 1946 is found in the historical section of the Miranda dx-3 user manual, p.2, available in PDF format at butkus.org. It actually seems that all the years quoted in the user manual are one year too early (see the bibliography section of this page). Other sources mentioning the same date, such as McKeown, p.688, might be based on that same document, see e.g. this page of the Miranda Historical Society which quotes the user manual verbatim.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hagiya, p.10 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64.
  5. Hagiya, p.11 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64.
  6. Hagiya, p.11 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64. The name "Orion Seiki" still appears in the advertisement by Matsushima in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, reproduced in this Flickr page; an article by Ogihara in Shashin Kōgyō September 1955 shows the new name "Orion Camera K.K."
  7. The name "Orion Camera" or "Orion Camera Co., Ltd." is found in some original brochures or user manuals for the Mirax and Focabell, certainly printed before 1955.
  8. McKeown, p.688, says 1954 for the release of the Miranda T, but this is a mistake.
  9. Hagiya, p.11 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64. The first advertisement mentioning "Miranda Camera" reported in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.370, is in the May 1957 issue of Asahi Camera. The year 1956 found in the user manual of the Miranda dx-3, p.31, available in PDF format at butkus.org, is one year too early (see the bibliography section of this page).
  10. The advertisement dated October 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.200, was placed by Matsushima whereas those dated October 1957 and February 1959 reproduced on p.306 were placed by Miranda Camera.
  11. Advertisement dated March 1959 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.306. Another advertisement by Ricoh, dated July 1959, is reproduced on the same page, and others are reported on p.408.
  12. There is a gap in the advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.408–9, from August 1959 to September 1964.
  13. Advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.408–9.
  14. This page of the Miranda Historical Society says that AIC took control of Miranda in 1963, whereas the Main page of the Miranda Society Japan says that it bought all the shares in 1968 and took complete control in 1969.
  15. User manual of the Miranda dx-3, p.31, available in PDF format at butkus.org. The date might be one year too early (see the bibliography section of this page).
  16. This page at www.collection-appareils.fr.
  17. This page of the Miranda Historical Society.
  18. This page of the Miranda Historical Society.
  19. Mirax reflex housings with Miranda Camera Co. markings, surely made after 1957, are known with 54xxxx serial numbers (see Mirax).
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 Advertisement in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, p.22.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Advertisement in Shashin Kōgyō April 1958, p.317.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Price list in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, p.119.
  23. Device reported by Jeffrey Felton.
  24. Brochure Mirax & Focabell, Orion Camera's Product's.

Bibliography

It seems that all the years quoted in this user manual are one year too early, perhaps because of a mistake in the translation of the Japanese Shōwa year:
  • 1953 instead of 1954 for the Phoenix;
  • 1954 instead of 1955 for the Miranda T;
  • 1957 instead of 1958 for the Miranda A, A2 and B;
  • 1959 instead of 1960 for the Automex;
  • 1970 instead of 1971 for the Sensorex EE.
All the other dates mentioned in this document should therefore be handled with caution.
  • Orion Camera. Mirax & Focabell, Orion Camera's Product's. (ミラックスとフォーカベル, Orion Camera's product's.) Brochure in Japanese language, c.1953.
  • Photo Art rinji zōkan: Kamera akusesarī zensho (フォトアート臨時増刊・カメラアクセサリー全書, Photo Art special issue: All the camera accessories). June 1955, no.80 of the magazine.
    • Advertisement by the photo department of Matsushima Megane-ten on p.22.
    • "Shashin no kaimi wa sessha to bōen satsuei kara: Purokusā, Ōtoappu, Refubokkusu, sonota." (写真の快味は接写と望遠撮影から・プロクサー・オートアップ・レフボックス・その他, Because the appeal of photography comes with close-up and telephoto pictures: Proxar, Auto-Up, reflex housing, etc.) Pp.118–20.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.72, April 1958. Advertisement by Matsushima Shashin-yōhin on p.317.

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