The Minox went into production in 1938, after
many years of pre-production development work. Walter Zapp, the designer,
wanted to develop a serious camera capable of high-quality work, which
was as small as possible. He accidentally designed the ideal spy camera,
but there is great deal more to the Minox than James Bond antics,
real or fictional.
After 1945, Zapp moved to West Germany, and set up
in Wetzlar (also the home of Leitz at the time), founding Minox GmbH
in 1946. Later Minox expanded into premises near Giessen.
The Minox is an international camera; Zapp was born
in Britain, had German nationality and lived in various European countries
including Latvia, where the first Minox cameras were made, and Switzerland.
Post-war Minox cameras were made in Germany.
The Minox can be used to take pictures surruptitiously,
although as many people do not recognise it as a camera, surprisingly
little subterfuge is required. Fred has taken one picture simply by
standing in front of the subject and taking a snapshot. The subject
had no idea he had been "snapped" until later.
It has famously been used to take pictures in the
British House of Commons, and is responsible for the only picture
of Winston Churchill in the House. It was also used to produce a picture
of the execution of James Morelli in 1949. And it really has been
used by spies.
I am not detailing every Minox camera here, only
what I see as the major cameras i.e. the first models, and the two
biggest selling models.
All of the Minox subminiature cameras have the same
push-pull wind-on, and they all have similar styling, with rounded
corners, controls on one large face on top of the camera, while the
lens and viewfinder are in the smaller faces.
The Riga Minox, named after the place where it was made, was the first
of the commercially available Minox cameras. By 1939, over 17,000
had been sold. The camera was first advertised on the UK in September
1939, when it cost over £18. In the US, it was advertised at
It is made from stainless steel, and has a simple
three-element uncoated f/3.5 15 mm. Minostigmat lens. It has an optical
viewfinder, one built-in filter, and a shutter speeded from one-half
to 1/1000 second.
It is said that this is the only subminiature Minox
camera for which there are no spare parts available.
II. The first Minox II appeared in about 1948.
Although it looks similar to the Riga, in fact the camera has undergone
a complete redesign. The body is made from aluminium, while the Pentar
lens is a five-element design which rests on the film (causing some
problems with scratching and trapped dirt). The viewfinder and shutter
are completely redesigned, and two built-in filters (usually orange
and green, but some early cameras have yellow and green) are included.
Minox A/Minox III. This camera
is similar to the Minox A/Minox II, but has a four-element Complan
f/3.5 15 mm. lens. It replaced the Minox A/Minox II in about 1951.
Minox A/Minox IIIs. Minox
cameras after 1954 have flash synchronisation. The designation "A"
did not actually come about until the introduction of the Minox B,
in 1958. Later models have a neutral density filter and a green filter,
instead of the earlier green and orange combination. The filter is
automatically retracted after exposure, as part of the wind-on process.
Production ceased in 1969. Picture
This is one of the most common of all Minox cameras. It was introduced
in 1958, and not discontinued until about 1971. The B differs from
the A in having a built-in coupled selenium meter, designed by Gossen.
Incredibly, the meter required an increase in the length of the camera
of only five-eighths of an inch (15 mm.), and an increase in weight
of less than one ounce (c 25 g.). The feature which retracts the filter
automatically is not found on this camera.
This is another very common Minox camera. Over 160,000 were sold between
1969, when it was introduced, and 1976, when production ceased. The
C has fully automatic metering.
It also corrects a major annoyance with the earlier
Minox cameras. The push-pull film wind-on was connected to the shutter
to prevent double exposures, but until the arrival of the Minox C,
the film was always advanced when the camera was closed. For anyone
who, like me, gets out the camera and then, for varous reasons, changes
her mind, this means there a lot of blank frames on the film. The
Minox C corrects this problem, and only advances the film if a picture
has been taken. It also has a different frame counter, which indicates
the number of unexposed pictures, rather than the number of pictures
which have been taken (which was the case on the Minox A and B).
The Complan lens is replaced by a Minox lens, although
some early cameras have Complan on the camera.
This camera requires a PX-27 battery (or equivalent).
Note: I like to give price information in both sterling and American
dollars. However, this information is not always available to me,
in which case I use whichever I can get. I do not convert from one
currency to the other; market conditions vary and camera prices were
often very different in the U.S.A. and Britain, so conversion would
not give an accurate picture.
Other Minox Information
Minox LX picture
Minox tripod picture
Minox negative viewer
Minox slide viewer/cutter
Minox flash (takes