5 frames with a Centon DF-300 & Miranda 24mm f/2.8 MC MACRO
5 frames with...

5 frames with a Centon DF-300 & Miranda 24mm f/2.8 MC MACRO – by Charles Higham

July 11, 2020

One of the things I’ve discovered learning about photographic equipment is that the name on a camera or lens doesn’t always tell you the whole story. Occasionally you’ll see the same lenses or cameras but with different branding. The manual focus Centon DF-300 SLR is a case in point. It’s a Minolta X-300/X-370n.

I’ve read that in the late 1980s Minolta sold the injection moulding machinery and tools for the X-300 to the Shanghai General Camera Factory (which was in fact several factories) often known as Seagull, and they made it on condition it was for sale in China only. When they were released from the sales restriction sometime in the early 1990s they were free to export them. They came over in various guises and all Minolta MD mount: Seagull DF-300, Vivitar V50, Centon DF 300, Soligor SR-300 MD, Revue DF 300, the list goes on. There’s a page on Wikipedia for the Minolta X-300 which mentions the variants.  If you look hard enough you might find slight differences in finish and detailing, but essentially they’re all the same model. And as you would expect were competitively priced and would often significantly undercut similarly specified cameras by other manufacturers.

Centon was a brand name owned and used by Jessops, a chain of stores familiar to generations of British photographers and who are still with us. Not only did they sell the Centon DF-300 I’ve just tried out, but also a range of budget Centon lenses. In use, the DF-300 looks and works like a Minolta X-300 because it is one. Aperture priority in auto mode, and in manual mode a dial-controlled choice of twelve shutter speeds up to 1/1000. It has a good viewfinder and LEDs with a useful exposure information system.

Dixons, a chain of electronics retail stores, acquired the Miranda name in the early 1980s for use on a range of lower priced photography products. After some detective work I’m confident that the Miranda 24mm f/2.8 MC MACRO is more or less identical to the Cosina 24mm f/2.8 MC MACRO. Cosina is a Japanese company that made glass and cameras for all sorts of other companies, and it seems this 24mm lens was additionally released with Exakta, Vivitar and Carl Zeiss Jena II labels in a range of mounts.

The five photos here were shot on Kodak Portra 400 and show the greenhouses at Tyntesfield, a National Trust property near Bristol, and two Cotswolds scenes. I’ve found the Centon has consistently underexposed a little, so it’s helpful I used Portra which has famously generous latitude. My copy of the lens is I would say averagely sharp, but it’s not bad bearing in mind it’s inexpensive glass from the 1980s, and handy to have that wide 24mm plus a reasonable macro capability.

So to summarise, I’ve used a Centon camera sold by Jessops and made by Seagull, but could be found with different brand names and was originally designed and produced by Minolta. The lens was sold by Dixons and is branded Miranda but was also offered by them in different mounts, and was made by Cosina who also released it under their own name, and other names too.

I trust that’s all clear then…

 

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Rock
    July 11, 2020 at 10:43 am

    It’s all clear to me…and nice photos!

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      July 11, 2020 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks Rock! I think the lens is a keeper and glad you like the photos.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    July 11, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Charles, given the constraints in designing an adequately performing 24mm lens back then, your results here show you seem to have a little bargain. I particularly enjoyed the last two, with your penultimate image strongly reminding me of Constable’s Haywain. The film certainly likes to depict nature in summertime and your final image is an excellent reminder of what summers in the UK can be like. Thanks for posting.

  • Reply
    Charles Higham
    July 11, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks Terry, they come up on ebay quite frequently in different mounts and don’t cost a lot, so as you say good value. Thanks for your generous comments about the photos. I wasn’t sure when loading the camera with Kodak Portra 400 whether it would be right for landscapes, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it rendered lush greens. The shot of the ford was taken on the edge of the village of Swinbrook near Burford. Despite everything, I think we’ve blessed with a lovely summer so far.

    • Reply
      Terry B
      July 12, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      Ah, the number of times I must have driven through Burford without realising this little photographic gem at Swinbrook.

      • Reply
        Charles Higham
        July 12, 2020 at 5:58 pm

        As you probably know, Swinbrook is only a couple of miles away and has a gastropub called The Swan Inn with a strong link to the Mitford sisters who have very local connections, so the pub is themed on them. Not eaten there myself but told it’s good.

  • Reply
    Matt
    July 11, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    I have one of these with the Kalimar badge, and didn’t have much info on it. I picked mine up with a 135mm Kalimar lens and have really enjoyed shooting with this combo. I have been using Kodak gold in mine but will try the Porta, as I really like the vibrance in your landscapes.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      July 11, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks Matt. Kalimar… there’s a lens name I haven’t come across for a few years. It’s worth giving Portra 400 a try for landscapes and other subjects. I was surprised how well Portra potrayed natural colours in quite vibrant fashion. I thought it might be slightly restrained or even washed out but not a bit of it. Maybe good natural light is needed to make the most of the film. Having said that, I’ve used Kodak Ektar 100 recently and its colour and contrast is a lot more in your face. Fine in the right situation but the latitude of Portra 400 is a godsend.

  • Reply
    Michael Boffey
    July 12, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    I have one of these DF300s sat under my bed. I had a short love affair with it until I broke the film advance when I was messing around trying to get it to do double exposures. This is tempting me to find a replacement.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      July 12, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      Just checked now and there’s an almost mint and boxed Centon DF300 on ebay for £28.99. But you can get working examples for less. Quite a lot cheaper to buy than the original Minolta it’s based on.

  • Reply
    bp reid
    July 12, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    The Miranda 24/2.8 is pretty well known as a decent performer, better than the RMC Tokina but not as good as the Sigma super-wide II.

    Incidentally, As well as the cosina, CZ Jena also rebadged the Sigma super-wide II, so you can’t really go wrong with their late 80s 24mm lenses.

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