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Minox is a former Latvian, now German, manufacturer of miniature cameras. They are most famous for their range of subminiature espionage cameras such as the Minox-B that became extremely popular during the Cold War when it was used on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The CIA used Minox cameras from WWII to 1974 and the Soviets even used them until the late 1990s.

Starting with a piece of wood of the desired size, inventor Walter Zapp developed his first subminiature camera in 1936. This resulted in the so-called Minox Riga, that was introduced in 1937. More about this in the history below.

Over the years, Minox produced a wide range of 8 x 11 mm subminiature cameras that were ideally suited for the expionage trade. The Riga was renamed to A I and was followed by the A II and the A III. The Minox-B and C, introduced at the height of the Cold War, became extremely popular with intelligence agencies world-wide.
A range of Minox subminiature cameras

From 1974 onwards, Minox also developed a series of small 35 mm cameras. As they were about the size of a pack of sigarettes, they too became popular items in the espionage business. The first model, the Minox 35 EL, was so popular that the Russians copied it as the Kiev 35 A. Some of the Minox cameras are described here. Click any of the images below for more information.

Minox cameras on this website
Minox-Riga, the smallest Minox subminiature camera Minox-A, the smallest Minox subminiature camera Minox-B, the most famous spy camera of all times Minox-C, the largest minox spy camera Minox-LX, the electronic minox spy camera Minox-EC, the plastic spy camera Minox 35 EL, the smallest 35mm camera in the world

Over the years, Minox developed a range of accessories for their subminiature cameras. Some of these were developed for a specific model, but others were suitable for more than one model, or even the entire range. Click any of the images below for a full description.

Minox measuring chain The famous Minox tripod Minox tripod adapter Minox Copy Stand Minox Binocular Attachment Different types of right angle viewing mirrors Minox film viewing magnifier Minox Cube Flasher

8 x 11 mm film
All analog Minox subminiature cameras use tiny little 8 x 11 mm negatives. Using high-grade black & white film in combination with the high-quality COMPLAN or MINOX lens, offers sufficient resolution for document photography. This is further supported by the presence of the measuring chain, the ability to focus as close as 20 cm and a wide range of accessories.

In later years, colour film was added to the Minox product range, but it was less useful for document duplication due to the larger grain and, hence, the lower resolution.

Even today, offering Minox films for processing at the local photo store, often raises eyebrows. Minox films are still available today, directly from Minox who also handles development of the films. Furthermore, equipment and consumables are available to develop and print your own Minox films (see the links at the bottom of this page).
Placing a new film cartridge in the camera

The first Minox subminiature camera was developed in 1937 in Riga (Latvia) by Walter Zapp [1] (Latvian: Valters Caps, 4 September 1905 - 17 July 2003). His aim was to design a camera that was small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and yet was capable of taking high-quality spontaneous photographs. He started with a small piece of wood that was used as a reference.

During the 1930s, Zapp managed to conceive a camera that met these requirements and in 1938 the first Minox camera was produced. Although the camera was intended for regular photography, it soon became the world's most popular spy camera.

During WWII, it was so popular that it was difficult for the various intelligence agencies to obtain enough Minox cameras for their tasks. Ironically, they were first built in Latvia under Russian control, then under German occupation and then under Russian control again. After WWII, production was moved to Germany, where the first Minox-B cameras were built [2].

The image on the right shows the inventor, Walter Zapp, holding one of his Minox cameras. He designed his first camera when he was in his early 30s. Zapp died in 2003 in Binningen (near Basel, Switzerland) at the age of 98. A few years earlier he starred in a televison documentary, telling the story of his successes. This video clip is available on the Minox website.
Photograph copyright Minox GmbH

Analogue Minox subminiature cameras are still available today from Minox and their selected dealer network. In 2005, two years after Zapp's death, Minox even released a special edition of the Minox LX to celebrate the 100th birthday of the inventor. Following the rest of the industry, Minox has now also developed a range of digital miniature cameras, which are sold alongside the older analogue models.

Index of Minox cameras
Below an overview of the various miniature cameras produced by Minox. Click any model name for further information. Items shown in red are not featured on this website.

*) see below

Minox DSC - not a spy camera?
At present, Minox produces two nice digital cameras: the Minox DSC and the Minox DSC Silver, both known as Digital Spy Cam. Although the DSC has an excellent lens and a resolution of 3.2 MP (Megapixels), it should not be classed as a spy camera. With a minium focus distance of 1 metre, it is unsuitable for document photography. On the other hand, it is perfectly usable for inconspicious photography.

The later DSC Silver however, is perfectly suitable for document photography, as it has a minimum focussing distance of 50 cm. Furthermore it has a resolution of 5.1 MP and is only slightly bigger than the old Minox-B. Further information is available from the Minox website.

  1. H. Keith Melton, Ultimate spy
    ISBN: 0-7513-4791-4, 1996-2002.

  2. Wikipedia, Minox
    Description of the various Minox models and their history.

  3. Wikipedia, Walter Zapp
    The inventor of the Minox subminiature camera.
Information on Minox website
Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 01 April 2010. Last changed: Saturday, 01 July 2017 - 21:40 CET.
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