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Minox A
Subminiature espionage camera

The Minox-A is a small high-quality subminiature camera that is small enough to be hidden the palm of a hand. It was built by Minox in Germany between 1948 and 1969. It has the same size as the earlier Minox Riga and is therefore the smallest subminiature camera ever made by Minox. The camera is also known by its numerical denominator: II or III (I was the original Minox Riga).
 
The body of the camera is made of aluminium. When closed, it measures only 82 x 27 x 15 mm, allowing it to be consealed in the palm of a hand very easily. The image on the right shows a typical Minox A III.

The camera is operated by pulling it outwards from both ends. When closed (i.e. fully pushed-in), the film advances to the next exposure, even when no picture was taken. This 'feature' was also present in the successor of this camera, the Minox B, but was solved in the later Minox C.
  
Minox A in 'extended' state (pulled out), ready for use

The Minox A II was produced from 1948 to 1950. It was followed by the A III that was in production from 1951 to 1954. In 1954 it was followed by a special variant for the US market, the IIIS, which had a flash-synchronisation connector. The latter was produced until 1969.

Unlike later models, the Minox A doesn't have a built-in light meter, making it rather difficult to estimate the correct shutter speed. To obtain good quality pictures, the user needed an external exposure meter, or a lot of experience. The presence of an exposure meter in later models did come at a price though; the Minox B was 15 mm longer and the Minox C nearly 4 cm! Check the rightmost images below to compare the A, B and C models.

The camera shown here is a model III. It has serial number 55055 and was built in 1953. Please note that, at the right hand side, it doesn't have the flash connector that is present on the later IIIS model, the Minox B and the Minox C.
 
Minox A III camera is closed state Minox A in 'extended' state (pulled out), ready for use Minox A in 'extended' state (pulled out), ready for use Red and green filter The film compartment of the Minox A III The film compartment of a Minox A III, showing the serial number of the camera Minox A III, B and C Minox A III, B and C

 
Operation
The Minox A has a fully mechanical shutter with speeds ranging from 1/2 to 1/1000 sec. It also allows the shutter to be kept open manually (B). The high-precision COMPLAN 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 the so-called filter bar, that allows a red or a green filter to be moved in front of the lens. These filters are generally used to increase contrast.


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 the Minox C and later models.
 
Opening the camera
Opening the camera in order to replace the film cartridge is rather easy. First open the camera in the usual manner, as if you want to take pictures. Then turn the camera around so that the underside becomes visible (image #1) and stretch the camera a little bit further. This should reveal a small recessed rig (image #2). Use the nail of your thumb to press down the recessed rig (image #3). This should unlock the camera. Whilst pressing down the rig, slide away the body of the camera to reveal the film cartridge compartment (image #4).

If there is a film present, turn the camera upside down until the film cartridge falls out. Take a new film from its protective container and place it in the camera. Then close the camera. Please 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 use. In the pictures below, the camera is loaded with a 36 exposure colour film.
 
The bottom of the camera in normal position Extending the camera a bit further reveals a recessed gap Use the nail of your thumb to press down the recessed gap Slide away the body of the camera to reveal the film cartridge Take out the film cartridge by holding the camera upside-down Close-up of the film cartridge The film outside the camera, next to an empty film container Placing a new film cartridge in the camera

 
Accessories

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

 
Further information

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Crypto Museum. Last changed: Friday, 04 September 2015 - 15:52 CET.
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