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Subminiature espionage camera
Minox-B is a small high-quality
subminiature camera that is small enough
to fit in the palm of a hand. It was built by Minox in Germany
as the successor to the post-war Minox A.
For Many years it was the worlds most famous and widely used camera
for espionage photography right until the end of the Cold War in the early
1990s. Production started in 1958 and ran to 1969 when it was replaced
by the improved Minox C, but it never surpassed the
popularity of the Minox-B.
Like its predecessor, the Minox-A,
the body of the camera is made of aluminum.
When closed, it measures only 97 x 27 x 15 mm, allowing it to be
concealed easily, e.g. in the palm of a hand
or somewhere in the operator's clothing.
The camera is operated by opened by pulling it outwards
from both ends. When closed, the film is advanced to the next position.
The image on the right shows a Minox-B camera ready for use.
that also acted as a measuring device, could be
attached to one side
of the camera, allowing it to be affixed to the
The negatives are only 8 x 11 mm small.
The Minox-B is fitted with a very high quality lens. When used in combination
with high-grade film, it allowed black & white images with enormous
detail to be obtained from the small negatives.
The film strip itself is 9.2 mm wide and is rolled-up on a supply spool
inside a small cartridge. It has no sprocket holes and allows 50 images to
be taken with a single cartridge.
In later years, colour film became available for the Minox-B, but it had
signifficantly lower detail than the high-grade black & white film.
The Minox-B was the first Minox subminiature camera to have a built-in
light meter. The meter didn't require any batteries as it was based on
a selenium cell.
This ensured that the camera was always ready for use, even if it
had been stored for a long period of time.
Because of the built-in light meter, the Minox B was about 15 mm longer
that its predecessors the Minox Riga
and the Minox A.
Minox-B cameras have been in production from 1958 to 1969 and were
by far the most popular of all Minox cameras.
Approximately 384,327 units were manufactured .
In 1969, the Minox B was replaced by the Minox C, but
in 1972 and 1973 an improved version of the Minox-B, called the
Minox BL, was produced in small quantities. Apart from the
new exposure meter (Cadmium Sulfide rather than Selenium) the BL
remained a fully mechanical camera.
The Minox-B has a mechanical shutter with speeds ranging from 1/2 to 1/1000
sec. The high-precision lens allows focussing from 20 cm (8 inches) to
infinity. When turning the focusing dial, the viewfinder moves in tandem
to correct for parallax errors.
Above the viewfinder is a so-called filter bar allowing a green or a
neutral density (ND) filter to be moved in front of the lens
(image #7 above).
These filters are used to increase contrast and to reduce brightness in
full daylight. The latter is needed when photographing outdoors whilst the
camera is loaded with a highly sensitive film.
When photographing documents, the measuring chain comes in handy. It is 60 cm
long and has small markers (bullets) at 20, 24, 30 and 40 cm, just like the
markings on the focusing dial. When using the full length of the chain (i.e.
60 cm) the distance is ideal for photographing A4+ size documents.
Each time a picture is taken, the frame counter increases, up to the maximum
of 50 exposures.
Closing the camera, also protects the lens by moving a plate in front of it.
Please note that each time the camera is closed, the film is advanced to the
next position, regardless whether a picture was taken or not.
This was solved in later Minox models.
Opening the camera in order to replace the film cartridge is simple.
First extend the camera in the usual manner, as if you want to take pictures.
Then turn the camera around
so that the bottom is up (1).
Next, extend the camera a somewhat further until a
recessed rig becomes visible
Use the nail of your thumb to
press down the recessed rig
This should unlock the camera.
Whilst pressing down the rig, slide away the body of the camera to
reveal the film cartridge
If a film is present, turn the camera upside down until the
film cartridge falls out
Take a new film
(6) from its
place it in the camera
Then close the camera. Note that the first image is
lost as it is already exposed. Release the shutter and close/open the camera
to advance to the next position. Then release the shutter again.
The camera is now ready for taking pictures. In the images below, the camera is
loaded with a 36 exposure colour film.
Black version of the Minox-B
Some Minox cameras were produced in an alternative finish.
This was generally done as a limited edition or for special OEM projects.
One example is the rare black variant of the Minox B shown here.
As the camera is less shiny than the standard version, it's even more
suitable for covert operations.
The one shown here has an original Minox lens. With serial number 983 481
it was built just before production of this model ended in 1972.
More images of this camera below.
- H. Keith Melton, Ultimate spy.
ISBN: 0-7513-4791-4, 1996-2002
- Wikipedia, Minox
Description of the various Minox models and their history
- Anna Belinda, Der Mythos lebt!
Background information on Minox, models and serial numbers (English)
Any links shown in red are currently unavailable.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 22 March 2012. Last changed: Saturday, 01 July 2017 - 22:30 CET.