A brief history

Introduction | A brief history | 60 years | Key Events | Minox is an eye | Seeing with the Minox | Minox Focusing Tips  | The Mysterious Door ... | Design Influences of Leica on Minox | Die MINOX ist Mein Leben | Walter Zapp 1905-2003

The Minox family of subminiature cameras are truly the "long-distance runner" of subminiature photography with a continuous production of over 60 years and film, although not as readily available as it ones was in the 1960s and 70s, can still be obtained world wide. Minox have produced some fifteen models since World War II (see Minox Variations in 8x11 - Serial Numbers) and have revolutionized photography by making tiny cameras available to the masses.

Minox is not the only company to produce cameras for the 8x11 Minox cassette. Among the most well known are the Yashica Atoron (1965), that was a contemporary of the Minox B and the Yashica Atoron Electro (1970) of the Minox C. In 1984 Acmel introduced the MD and Minox supply their own version as the Minox MX. The most recent additions using the Minox cassette are the Classic Collection of 1/3th scale replicas of classic cameras from Sharan including the Leica IIIf, Leica M, Rolleiflex 2.8F, Pentax SP, Nikon F, Contax I and HasselBlad SWC.  Minox supply their own re-badged versions of the Leica IIIf, M3 and F1 and also the Contax I.

The famous Minox subminiature camera and its 8x11mm daylight-loading film cassette was designed by Walter Zapp in Latvia in the mid-1930s. Despite its reputation as a "spy camera," the Minox was envisioned primarily as a means of conveniently copying office documents in the pre-Xerox machine era, and as an "elegant companion, like a fine watch, for sophisticated ladies and gentlemen to carry and use to record the events of their daily lives." Of course, Minoxes have also been used for espionage purposes by nearly every world government from the moment they first became available! By virtue of their exquisite design, precision lenses, and astonishing mechanical engineering, Minox cameras were—and are—capable of producing amazingly good enlarged images from their tiny 8 x 11mm negatives. Given the advances in film emulsion technology in recent decades, moderate-sized prints blown up from the slower-speed available films are nearly grainless.

The subminiature Minox camera was used widely by British intelligence when they bought all available cameras in late 1939. The Minox subminiatures were ideal for spies because they were unobtrusive and easy to use. The push pull film advance is linked with the shutter cocking thereby removing potential faults such as multiple exposure or no exposure at all. One spy who made good use of the camera was Heinz Felfe who in 1962 was arrested with a dozen Minox films hidden in his case. Working for West German intelligence he had photographed thousands of documents over an 11 year period for the Russians. In 1977 an employee of TRW corp. In the USA he snapped top secret documents relating to satellite reconnaissance programmes. The FBI were able to match tiny irregularities in negatives with a Minox B found in room of his associate.

In 1948 James Stewart used one in Call Northside 777. Minox cameras continue to be used in the movie and in television programs (for more details see http://www.mwbrooks.com/submini/index.html) but the Minox B is still the most often seen, even in 1996 films. The fact is that a 1960's Minox still appears to be modern and continues to work with minimal TLC (tender loving care)

Of course you don't need to be a spy to own one, Prince Philip has had a Minox for more than 40 years. And the Times revealed that John Moore-Brabazon, later Minister of Transport used a Minox to take clandestine photographs in the House of Commons in 1940, perhaps the first ever photograph taken of the interior of the House while in session. Minox cameras are still made to the the same high standards of German precision.

All Minox subminiatures are viewfinder cameras with a fixed-focal-length 15mm lens, which has a similar field of view on the 8x11mm negative to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. Except for the EC/ECX, all are manual focus [20 cm (8") to infinity] f/3.5. The EC's lens is fixed-focus [two metres/six feet to infinity] f/5.6. They all take the same film cartridge, a daylight-loading affair, still available. Minox now has Ektar 25, whose resolution helps make up for the small negative format. All except the EC/ECX  have parallax-corrected viewfinders for the close-focusing. Besides uses for document duplicating, this is handy for other macro shots.

"The Collection" section, attempts to sort out the significant differences in the fifteen different production models that have been manufactured in the sixty years since the "Ur-Minox" prototype was built by Zapp and his associates and outlining over 120 variations in these models. Over 900,000 8x11mm Minox cameras have been manufactured altogether so far, thus a large number turn up on auctions and in shops. Although it is impossible to give an accurate evaluation of a used camera, where ever possible, details are included of Ebay and shop prices in North America, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Minox 8x11 cameras have always been system cameras with a wide range of precision accessories. These deserve to be considered with equal care as the cameras themselves along with the variations in design over the six decades.

introduction | brief history | 60 years | key eventsmysterious door | Die MINOX ist mein leben | Walter Zapp 1905-2003 | camera | accessories

Last Updated on 18th July 2003