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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