What makes a camera your favorite camera? If you are early in your photography interest like me, you’ll probably say, “The camera that gets me the best, clearest, photographs.” While I agree the final product is pivotal, my favorite camera is the one that truly got me hooked on shooting film photographs: the Miranda Automex III, 35 mm.
I will never forget stumbling into a crystal shop in Connecticut where, in between old Guinness tin posters and hand-dripped candles on a shelf with old non-functioning camera parts, sat this hunk of metal from 1965 with a bent lens and no guarantee of actually working. It called out to me; it was on sale for $35, so I bought it on the spot.
It is not as important where or how your camera finds you; what truly matters is that it turns you on like a flash (eh?) and instills in you that confidence to walk around with a new appendage and stick it in a stranger’s face because you want to capture a piece of time that you find beautiful.
The Miranda weighs in at approximately 2 lbs., so it isn’t the easiest to carry around and sneak shots without your subject noticing. You will need to appreciate the practice and pseudo-weight-lifting that comes with using it. But trust me when I tell you: if you stick with it, the results are extremely satisfying.
My favorite film goes hand in hand with my favorite camera. For the Miranda, I have found that standard Kodak Gold 200 works really well; however, my preference is black and white 400 TX film. As an artist, my first true passion lied in trying to tell a pictorial story were drawing with pencil and charcoal. Now, I’m painting with the muted, bleak colors of the world. While the Miranda is best suited for close-up portraits – try using a 50 mm lens up to a foot and a half from the subject – it is also wonderful for capturing landscapes. Having always been fond of extended depth subjects in my paintings, I truly love the depth of field capabilities this camera permits.
The Miranda is equal parts challenging enough to keep one intrigued but not discouraged, and – with patience – capable enough for a beginner to produce results that keep the photographer willing to stand up to the challenge of using this practical antique. Ultimately though, it really is about the wizard, not the wand. But, if you’re looking for a versatile, sturdy, and fun piece of equipment, I highly recommend this wand, the Miranda Automex III. It’s my favorite camera and it’s changed my perspective on how to use photography to tell a story.
Sean Patrick Smith is a freelance photographer in Brooklyn.