You are watching a movie and a spy pulls out a small, silver camera and begins to photograph documents. Most likely he’s using a Minox camera for his covert work. This sub-miniature camera was used by intelligence agencies and embraced by gadget lovers throughout the world.
The Minox Camera: History
Invented by Walter Zapp who, in conversations with friends, in 1922 conceived a camera that you could carry with you all the time. Invented in 1936 with production beginning in 1937 the Minox cameras were referred to as “sub-miniature”. The company operated from 1937-1943 in Latvia and then after World War 2 in Germany from 1948 onward.
Walters idea that there should be a camera for everyone (those without extensive photographic knowledge) to carry everyday never truly came to fruition. The Minox cameras were expensive to produce and as a result became luxury gadgets for the more affluent.
Because of it’s small size it quickly drew the attention of intelligence agencies. The Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, purchased 25 for use by their agents. It was used by intelligence agents on both sides during the Cold War. Notably, the Soviet spy, John Walker Jr. used a Minox camera while stealing U.S. Navy cryptography secrets.
One of the interesting features, and one that appealed to various intelligence agencies, was the Minox measuring chain. Looking like a watch chain, with a clip to attach to your clothing, the length of the measuring chain gave you the perfect focus for photographing documents.
Minox Camera: Model A IIIs
We recently found this Model A IIIs and thought it would be interesting to show some of the features and details. The Model A is the second model that Minox produced. Their first model the Riga was featured a stainless steel case. The Model A changed to aluminum making it lighter.
There were two variations of the Model A - II and III and one subset the IIIs. Often they are referred to by number instead letter (Model III instead of Model A-III).
The Minox IIIs was made for the American market and has a flash synchronization connector. Interestingly, the measuring chain and the focus wheel are measured in inches / feet rather than centimeters and millimeters.
Operation is simple. Open the camera. Turn the dials to adjust the camera. There are two dials, one for exposure and one for focus (distance). Click the button to work the shutter. Close the camera to advance the film. Note: The film advances regardless of whether a picture was taken. This was changed in later models.
To replace the film turn it over. Press in on the indentation and slide it apart. Insert your film and you are ready to go! This camera used film capable of capturing 50 pictures. Inside the back case is where you find the serial number. This particular serial number: 129033 was produced in 1956.
This very cool camera, light meter, measuring chain, cases, and film is currently up for auction on eBay. If you’ve always wanted to be a spy here’s your chance! Auction Link!