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Minox EC
Subminiature camera

The Minox EC is a subminiature photo camera introduced by Minox GmbH in Germany in 1981. Although it accepts the same 8 x 11 mm film cartridges as the previous models, it's design is completely different. With a low-cost body made of durableplastic, it is often regarded as the poor-man's spy camera. The Minox EC was succeeded by the Minox EXC in the mid-1990's.

The image on the right shows a typical Minox EC camera. The most obvious difference with earlier models is the fact that the enclosure is made of plastic rather than aluminium. Furthermore, the outer shell of the camera has to be removed completely when exchanging the film cassette.

Another major difference with earlier cameras is the fact that the EC has a fixed focus lens, that ranges from 1 metre to inifinity. This makes the camera less suitable for document photography. The film speed is set with a milled thumb-wheel just in front of the red shutter-release button.
Minox EC open

Although the camera is generally not regarded as a true spy camera, bacause of its fixed focus lens, it is in fact small enough to be hidden in the palm of a hand, making it the ideal companion for inconspicious photography. It is much smaller than the Minox C, the Minox LX and even the Minox B. It is about the same size as the earliest Minox Riga and its successor the Minox A. Furthermore, the Russian GRU modified the Minox EC for document photography (see below).

Minox EC in the palm of a hand Minox EC in operation Original packaging Minox EC is original storage case Minox EC closed Minox EC open Shutter release button and controls A Minox A (rear) and Minox EC (front) compared. They have nearly the same size.
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Minox EC in the palm of a hand
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Minox EC in operation
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Original packaging
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Minox EC is original storage case
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Minox EC closed
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Minox EC open
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Shutter release button and controls
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A Minox A (rear) and Minox EC (front) compared. They have nearly the same size.

The Minox EC came standard with a black metal chain that allowed the camera to be attached to the clothing. As it has a fixed-focus lens, there are no knots on the chain to measure distances. Also supplied with the camera was a small plastic flash cube adapter. It could be slotted on to one end of the camera by means of three contacts and two spring-loaded locks. The images below show the Minox EC with its flash adapter attached.

Flash adapter Attaching the flash adapter Minox EC with flash adapter attached Minox EC with flash adapter attached Film compartment
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Flash adapter
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Attaching the flash adapter
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Minox EC with flash adapter attached
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Minox EC with flash adapter attached
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Film compartment

Opening the camera
The Minox EC has two compartments that can be opened. One is the battery compartment at the right. It can be accessed by sliding back part of the right side. The camera takes a standard PX-27 battery, just like the other Minox subminiature cameras with built-in electronics.

In order to exchange the film, the outer shell of the body has to be removed completely. First the camera is pulled out in the normal way. Then, when pressing the small metal button to the left of the viewfinder, the outer shell can be pulled off completely, revealing the film compartment.

When inserting a new film, the user has to preset the exposure counter at the bottom to either 15 or 36 exposures, depending on the type of film used. When shooting, the counter decreases each time the shutter is released. It therefore always shows the number of exposures left.
Film compartment

When opening and closing the camera (i.e. preparing it to shoot), the film will only be advanced to the next position when a picture has actually been taken (i.e. when the red release-button was pressed). This was a major advantage over earlier cameras like the Minox B, in which the film was transported each time the camera was opened and closed.

The Red Colonel
In order to use the Minox EC for espionage operations, the Russian GRU modified its fixed focus lens for a distance of 42 cm, much better for document photography. Furthermore, they placed the lens under an angle making it easier to photograph documents, e.g. from behind a desk [1].

The Soviets supplied cassettes for the camera with very thin Agfapan 400 film, that allowed the camera to take 110 exposures, nearly three times the usual 36. This film was not normally available from the regular photography stores and was probably made by the Russians.

One example of the use of the Minox EC, is the espionage case of the Belgian Colonel Gustave (Guy) Binet, in the press often referred to as The Red Colonel [2], who worked for NATO and spied for the Russian GRU for nearly two years, before he was exposed by American CIA investigators.
ICF-2001D, Minox EC and one-time pad

After his arrest in 1988, the Belgian counter-intelligence service SDRA III found the modified Minox EC in his bedroom at his house in Eigenbrakel (Belgium) [1]. During the search, they also found the Sony ICF-2001D receiver that Binet had used for the reception of secret coded messages from Moscow. Binet was convicted to 20 years of forced labour, but was released after serving five years. He disappeared into anonymity and died on 2 July 2000. His Minox EC camera and the receiver are now part of the internal collection of the Military Intelligence Service ADIV.

 More about the Sony ICF-2001D receiver

  1. Kristof Clerix, Spionage, Doelwit: Brussel
    ISBN 978-90-223-2771-5, September 2013. p. 46 and p. 56.

  2. Apache.be, De KGB in België (5): De Rode Kolonel
    Website. 21 August 2011. Retrieved August 2014.
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