Miranda Sensomat Japanese Film SLR Review
With the Waist-Level Finder & a M39 Lens Adapter10 min read by
Miranda Sensomat is a Japanese full-frame SLR for 35mm film with a versatile lens mount and a swappable viewfinder.
Miranda Sensomat is affordable. My two lenses (including an adapter with an original box), two viewfinders (stock and waist-level, also with a box), and a mint-condition body ended up costing less than $300 — including shipping.
In this review of the mid-century fully-mechanical budget camera, I’ll go over the brief history of its maker, the pros/cons, and my experience with the kit that converted Sensomat into a pocketable SLR*.
✱ — Not every pocket will fit this adapted camera (a wool jacket or heavy hoodie works). With my Industar-50 and waist finder (both lighter than the kit), the camera weighs 702g (1.55lb) and measures 14.5cm × 9cm × 7cm (5.7” × 3.5” × 2.8”).
A brief history of the Miranda brand.
Miranda was called Orion Camera Company when it was founded in Japan in 1955.
They started small: first focusing on accessories and eventually releasing their first SLR — Phoenix. But a trademark dispute forced them to rename the camera into Miranda. Subsequently, the new name’s success and the team’s marketing decisions of the time turned Orion into Miranda.
Miranda film cameras were almost always a smart purchase. These SLRs came with interchangeable viewfinders: a feature usually reserved for more expensive bodies. Plus, they featured the “Dual Purpose” mounts that accepted both the native glass — Auto Miranda — with a bayonet clip and a confusing but useful 44mm thread.
Paired with the relatively short flange focal distance of Mirandas, the 44mm mount made a great variety of screw mount lenses adaptable to the body. With the right hardware, you could use Pentax/Yashica/Praktica, older Contax, Canons, Nikons, and many Soviet lenses with either M42 or M39. And you could focus them all on infinity.
☞ You’ve read that right: M39/LTM lenses for SLRs exist. They were made for the old Zenit cameras.
Along with their flexible lens mount and excellent finder design, Miranda SLRs featured quality finish and thoughtful design.
But alas, the company folded in 1978, unable to compete in the ruthless market that was in the midst of the transition to new technologies.
Miranda Sensomat’s technical specifications.
Sensomat uses a focal-plane cloth shutter that can fire from 1s to 1/1000th + Bulb. You can synchronize your flash(es) at 1/60th via two PC sync ports. A cold-shoe attachment is mountable over the film-rewind lever.
The camera comes with a weighted through-the-lens light meter that works off the PX675 battery (modern, non-mercury version linked). It uses a match-needle system in the viewfinder that guides toward its measured exposure as you adjust the exposure manually. You will need to dial in your film’s ISO by lifting the ring on the shutter knob and choosing values between 25 and 1600.
The lens mount is Miranda bayonet/44mm thread mount combo. It takes native lenses and is adaptable for M42, M39, and a few others (see above).
This camera comes with two shutter buttons: top plate and front plate — for optimal shake reduction.
There’s a DOF preview button on the bottom of the camera’s front plate (the large silver one). A smaller button next to it cancels the preview mode.
Miranda Sensomat in use: design and ergonomics.
Miranda Sensomat is a beautiful camera. The brushed metal, stunning typography, and black leatherette finish set it apart from most SLRs.
I love the enormous round window on the camera’s stock prism finder. It’s very comfortable — although the eye relief isn’t enough to see the entire frame with the glasses on. There isn’t much information in the window — other than the meter needle and the focus aid — but that’s how I like it: no distractions.
The top-plate layout is excellent and easy to understand. The film rewind knob/memo doubles as a mount for a removable cold accessory shoe; twisting the ring on its base unlocks the finder for swapping. On the other side, there’s the shutter speed/ISO selector; each speed, including sync, has clicks. To sync with flash, you’ll need place the shutter dial halfway between the 30/60 marks. The film counter with a magnifying bubble is situated between the silver shutter button and the film advance lever.
There’s a lot there, yet visually, this camera does not suffer from clutter or fiddly controls.
The shutter is relatively quiet and well-balanced. There isn’t much camera shake at slower speeds, and it sounds excellent — as if it’s some kind of a pneumatic device.
The front plate is uncluttered, though without any markings, it may take a few tries to understand what button does what. There are three: a shutter button, placed close to the top plate and the lens mount, one more button closer to the bottom plate: DOF preview, and a smaller button next to it to cancel the preview. There are also two flash sync ports; the bayonet unlock button is on the lens barrel.
To activate the through-the-lens light meter, you’ll need to press the DOF preview button. When using an adapted lens, the meter will work as usual; however, you won’t be able to preview your depth of field as the arm on the camera’s body that triggers this function isn’t compatible with non-Miranda lenses.
Loading film into Sensomat is straightforward, aside from the unlocking mechanism: you’ll need to press a semi-circle button and pull a small metal lever up on the camera’s side to get the door open.
The bottom plate rounds up the controls with a tripod hole, battery door, and a film rewind unlock button.
In the field, this camera feels hefty but relatively easy to grasp. Thankfully, the weight reductions with a lighter finder and lens make it feel more ergonomic.
The placement of the controls is excellent. One can easily operate this camera without distracting themselves from framing and focusing while looking for the right button.
The build quality of this camera is fantastic. Everything fits nicely, and nothing jiggles or rattles. The camera is made almost entirely from metal alloys — which adds in weight and prestige. If you compare your equipment to Leicas, this one comes pretty close.
My only criticism is the stock lens, which, while built well, doesn’t support the camera’s brilliant minimalistic design.
Chest-level viewfinder Type-I for Miranda Sensomat.
Chest-level viewfinders are relatively easy to find for this camera.
These are fantastic if you are used to TLRs’ top-down focusing and framing experience — or if you want something novel to inspire your composition. And they are significantly lighter than the stock pentaprism.
However, if you aren’t used to panning right while your image is moving to the left, you may need a few days to train your brain for one of these.
The Type-I finder opens up to shade the ground glass from external light and shows everything reasonably clearly. But it may not give you enough detail to focus precisely when your depth of field is small. A small magnifying glass is built in to help with that: it enlarges the center of the frame for greater focus precision.
I found that using Type-I on Miranda is a slower experience that takes more deliberation than with the stock pentaprism. I’d say it’s ideal for seeing your scene in a new way and keeping your camera light — but not for action shots.
Miranda M44 to M39 lens adapter.
Miranda M44 to M39 lens adapter is a thin metal ring that screws into the camera body and then accepts M39 lenses.
With an adapter, there’s no way to preview your depth of field with a button — other than by twisting the lens’ aperture ring.
The M39 mount is typically used by rangefinder cameras with a different flange distance — and thus, with the most common M39, you’ll be confined to macro shots. However, there are some that will work normally (see below).
Auto Miranda 50mm 𝒇1.8 kit lens image quality.
The 50mm 𝒇1.8 Auto Miranda kit lens delivers reasonably-sharp images consistently across apertures. There’s slight vignetting in the corners, but most other distortions and aberrations out of the way.
The controls are well-made, easy to grasp, and smooth to rotate. There are light clicks for each aperture stop. The focus ring includes a DOF calculator; it turns about 270° to set a range of distances between the closest .43m or 17” and the infinity.
But I can’t say I am in love with how it renders scenes.
A “pancake” lens option for Miranda Sensomat: the Soviet Industar-50.
Though it was harder to focus in dim light, I liked my Miranda with the Soviet Industar-50 much better.
This lens gave Miranda a unique look, it was much slimmer and lighter than the stock, and it rendered images in a more interesting way.
Check out the Industar-50 review for more details on its performance and sample images.
How much does Miranda Sensomat cost, and where to find one.
You can find this camera for less than $100 (although I would recommend buying from a seller who’s tested it). Accessories aren’t particularly expensive either: a finder may cost just under $100. The original lens adapters are rare but available.
Given that you’ve got a copy that works, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a camera of this calibre for any less than that
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Miranda Sensomat camera and accessories purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!