Minox A →
Subminiature espionage camera · 1938-1943
The Riga is the first and the smallest
subminiature camera ever sold
commercially by Minox. It dates back to before World War II
and was in production from 1938 to 1943. With a body made of stainless
steel, it is way heavier than the other Minox cameras,
but a few millimetres smaller than its successor, the Minox A.
Althoug officially designated Minox Riga, it is als known as Minox I.
The image on the right shows a typical Minox Riga, which can easily be
concealed in the palm of a hand.
Although it was designed in 1938 — before the start of WWII — it already has all the typical Minox features, such as the automatic winder, the
speed dial (1/2 to 1/1000th second) and the viewfinder with parallax correction.
As the camera body is made of stainless steel, the Riga is not only
extremely robust, but also quite a bit heavier than its successors,
which had an aluminium body. Due to the use of stainless
steel, the Riga is also the most shiny Minox.
The Minox Riga was designed by Walter Zapp and was built by VEF in Riga
(Latvia). It was in production from 1938 to 1943, right through WWII.
Initially autonomous, then briefly under Russian control, followed
by German occupation and finally under Russian control again.
After WWII, production was moved to Germany and the company
name was changed to Minox GmbH.
Minox Riga cameras are extremely rare today and the ones that have
survived are often in deteriorated condition. They are sometimes
offered on Ebay, but one has to be cautious for post-war remakes, especially
when offered from countries such as Latvia. Such cameras are often built from
post-war spare part finds. When in doubt, check the
official Minox serial number list
The Minox Riga is a fully mechanical camera. The shutter is operated by an
internal clockwork that allows exposure times between 1/2 and 1/1000 sec to be
selected with the speed dial. Longer exposure times are possible by opening the
shutter manually (B).
The high-presision lens allows focussing from 20 cm to infinity. At close range,
the viewfinder is moved in tandem with the focussing dial, in order to eliminate
Above the viewfinder, at the front of the camera, is the so-called filter bar,
that allows a yellow filter to be moved in front of the lens. A yellow filter
was generally used to improve contrast when using black & white film.
Unlike the later Minox subminiature cameras, the Riga does not have
provisions for attaching a measuring chain.
The first camera with that feature was the Minox A.
Each time a picture is taken, the frame counter is decreased, showing the number
of exposures left. This counter always counts down from 50.
Note that each time the camera is closed, the film is advanced to the
next position, regardless whether a picture was taken or not. Later cameras,
such as the Minox A
and the Minox B, suffered from the same problem.
It was fixed in the Minox C and later 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.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 30 April 2010. Last changed: Tuesday, 08 January 2019 - 16:47 CET.