The archetypal sub-miniature camera. Was invented by the engineer Walter Zapp of Riga, Latvia, in 1936. Production in Riga at VEF ran from 1937/1938 until 1944. After WWII, production was re-started in Germany from 1948.
Although primarily marketed as a luxury item, the Minox was also used as an espionage camera. Its close-focusing lens and small size made it perfect for covert uses such as surveillance or document copying. The Minox was used by both Axis and Allied intelligence agents during World War II. Later versions were used well into the 1980s. The Soviet spy John A. Walker Jr., whose actions against the US Navy cryptography programs represent some of the most compromising intelligence actions against the United States during the Cold War era, used a Minox C to photograph documents and ciphers. The espionage use of the Minox has been memorialized by Hollywood movies, and some Minox marketing efforts played up the "spy camera" story in an effort to boost sales.
The Minox cameras use 8x11mm film in a small cartridge containing a strip of film 9.2mm wide, one-quarter the size of 35mm, capable of holding up to 50 frames
Minox 8x11 camera models:
Riga (attempts to call this model I failed)
A (Europe there was no distinction made between the three A models)
B - ultralight aluminium shell, produced from 1958 to 1972
C - introduced in 1969, electronic, used by spy John A. Walker, Jr.
BL - 1972 with Cds meter
LX - electronic
ECX, replacing EC
TLX, titanium titanal eloxat coated
CLX, chrome plated
and special editions
LX Sterling - 925 sterling silver hallmarked
LX Selection - gold with black dials
LX Gold II - anniversary edition, all gold, with Walter Zapp's signature
CLX - with Walter Zapp's signature
LX 2000 - brass black anodized with gold trim
Aviator - black anodized with luminous dials, logo and script limited edition of 300
EC - with Minox Histortical Society logo limited edition of 100
EC - 1st German Minox club in blue with club logo limited edition of 111.
The earlier mechanical cameras are collector's items. Newer electronic versions, such as the Minox TLX, remain in production yet today, essentially unchanged in general features since the 1970s.
Only one person, the esteemed Soviet spy John Walker, has the credit of wearing out a Minox camera. He used a Minox C supplied by the Soviets. The FBI estimates that the Minox wears out after around 300,000 exposures.
The CIA museum in the Virginia headquarters contains a Minox camera.
James Bond used one (except he held it upside down).
A nice Riga Minox runs around $1500
A nice Minox B runs around $200
Prices shown in USD.
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