1992, Phillips Publications
end of the book is a letter from Walter Zapp dated October 1981,
correcting the previously reported history of the developments of the
MINOX. The letter was to Frederick Luther. The letter appears to be
translated badly or incorrectly reproduced, as in parts words are missing,
perhaps even whole sections and clearly some sentences do not make any
sense at all.
I note with particular interest:-
"Karl Zapp born in Germany, but, as his father before him, raised and naturalized and employed as a businessman in England, came to Riga after visiting several countries in a trip abroad where he was introduced by a friend to the business family of my grandfather Julius Burchard. The result was his marriage to the eldest daughter of the family, Emile, and on 4th September 1905 came the beginning of my sickly childhood, ...."
"Unfortunately the background of my father did not stop him (Walter Zapp's brother) from being classified as a "full-blooded German" by the Russians after the outbreak of the war and this result in the exile of our family from Ufa to Ural."
Walter Zapp attributes the date of 16th August 1932 as the start point of the MINOX in a letter of Jürgens confirming the oral agreement of funding the project for a half share in the anticipated proceeds.
6.5x9mm was chosen from dividing 35mm into 8 and to allow a cautious border. At the time of the patents and submission to VEF a proposal of MINOX accessories the film format was 8x11 mm which Zapp later learned had already been used in the history of photography. "I came to know about this directly from leaning about the use of the old 9.5mm film size which had been used but at that time was already extinct."
It remains unclear why 8x11 was chosen or who may have influences the change from the Minox Ur 6.5x9mm to the later format. Several times Zapp repeats that in Latvia the knowledge that was know in production, manufacturing and photography was unknown to him and his co-workers.
The re-telling of his story to Jürgens to convince him about the size of the camera he had in mind is even more obscure in this text and the important detail of the Holzmodell (wooden block) omitted here although mentioned elsewhere.
A whole paragraph full of colons and semi-colons mentioned being asked if a 16mm camera would be possible on the basic principles of the Minox Riga.
"This I thought it not quite possible for that time and place, had good cause; according to calculations this would effect an enlargement of 60% linearly or two half divisions to the surface, which would be more realized in calculations than in the actual result; this was due to the fact that even this possible gain was only partially obtainable by using adequate but inferior lens."
"So in order that self-stirred obstinacy might not influence me, I developed, at once, a basis of evaluation from which the best possible measurements and structures were evident. Although these objections to the 16mm camera had not appeared so crudely as with the present pocket version, they fulfilled their purpose; interest was extinguished."
Out of which I only understand that he objected to a larger format because it would spoil the pocket line and dreamed up a way to put a wet blanket over the interest in a slightly larger format camera.
The Minifex was one of the first 16mm cameras in 1932. The larger Sola was released in 1938 with a 13x18 image area and the Sanwa Mycro was also launched in 1938. The post-war Steky as a small volume in a less pocketable shape than the Riga. The design of the Riga was largely down to the fact that he had to find a way of making workable a camera that would fit into his waist coat pocket. The fact that this became possible was still disbelieved by Zapp himself.
During the early development of the Minox Ur Zapp attempted to include a light meter with automatic light regulator but the technology available to him at that time was too large to be included - layered insulated batteries and moving-coil instruments. The construction of the spool (before cheap plastics) was a major problem.
I like the comment on the Leica (1925) "it was fortunate for me that Rambach created the first LEICA in Revel, which provided me the opportunity to lean by experiencing its inadequate bothersome performance and its limitations, but at that time, this was still informative."
This letter covers in more details the problems they had in the design of the lens and again later in making the aluminium Minox (Minox A) in Germany.
The story of the American merchandizing house" just before the out break of war ends with "With this, an interested expressed by KODAK came to nothing."
Zapp carefully out lines all who took part in the development of the MINOX and the extent and involvement of each of them giving full credit to Seibert for the objective lens and correcting credit given to others for the invention of the MINOX.
"An all too late, written warning of a wise, well-intending, unnamed person demonstrated the insufficiency of the procedure them contemplated, with those unhappy reconstruction I, being too involved would be annoyed. It is sufficient that at the beginning of 1950 I had the written abbreviated communication that empowered a certain Mr. Baumgarten, who prior to this was unknown to me, with the output of the camera and he was already in charge. After receiving this information, I heard in passing the final word of his inaugural speech before the staff. - Thus ends, after good efforts for 15 years, my participation in the MINOX as an object and as a form, with this, essentially, the goal of my account in the sense of the question set forth on the previous January 31."
Without the later account given by Hubert E. Heckmann, Morris Mosses and D. Scott Young and more importantly in the video of Walter Zapp recounting this in his own words this letter of October 1981 would be incomprehensible in numerous places.
In addition to several questions that I regard as still unanswered I wonder if Zapp had, as early as 1981, been working on his camera for the 21st Century.
If you don't have the $50 for this book do request if from the library. For anyone interested in Minox and it's history it worth the time spent reading the letter Zapp wrote in 1981.
Last updated 3rd May 2004