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Minox C
Subminiature espionage camera

The Minox-C is a small high-quality subminiature camera that was build by Minox in Germany as the successor to the Minox B. For many years, Minox subminiature cameras were amoung the worlds most famous spy gatgeds, right until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. The Minox C was in production from 1969 to 1978, when it was replaced by the smaller Minox LX.
At first sight, the Minox C is similar in design to the Minox B. There are, however, a few significant differences. The selenium-type light meter of the Minox B has been replaced by an Cadminum Sulfide one (CdS) which is present at the front right of the camera (the small square).

Furthermore, the camera has an electronic shutter, rather than a mechanical one. For both these features, the camera requires a battery, which is installed in a compartment to the right of the light sensor. As a result, the camera is significantly larger than the Minox B.
The Minox C in extended condition (i.e. ready for use)

When closed, the camera measures 120 x 27 x 15 mm, which is over 2 cm longer than the Minox B! This makes the Minox C the largest subminiature camera ever produced by Minox. It does, however, also have advantages over the Minox B. For example, when opening and closing the camera, the film will only be advanced when a picture was actually taken, whereas the Minox B advances every time the camera is closed.

The Minox C lens has a fixed aperture of f/3.5 and can focus from 20 cm to inifinity.
The closed storage box The Minox X in its leather case, complete with measuring chain. The Minox C can be operated from within the leather case, due to the special design of the case. A typical Minox C camera in closed condition The Minox C in extended condition (i.e. ready for use) The compartment for the film cartridge accessible from the bottom of the camera. The fixed aperture f/3.5 lens, here shown with the Neutral Density (ND) filter half-way in position. The new electronic CdS (Cadmium Sulfide) light meter

The leftmost dial is used for film speed selection in DIN units (between 6 DIN and 27 DIN). Using the centre dial, the shutter speed can be set manually between 1/15th and 1/1000th second. The Minox C has an electronic shutter that is coupled with the electronic exposure meter at the left. Setting the shutter dial to A (automatic) allows the light meter to control the exposure time.

In order to avoid motion blur caused by slow shutter speeds, the camera is equipped with a speed check facility. When using automatic exposure (A), a slide-switch on the speed dial (speed check) can be activated to test the exposure time. When a shutter speed lower than 1/30th second would be used, a LED (slow speed indicator) will light up.

The rightmost dial is the distance setting (focusing). As the Minox C is a true spy cam, it has a macro-lens and allows objects to be focused as close as 20 cm. Like with the Minox B, viewfinder and lens are a few centimeters apart. In order to avoid parallax errors when photographing documents at short distance, the angle of the viewfinder lens is changed when the focusing dial is rotated.
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


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

Walker spy ring
A good example of the use of the Minox C in espionage, is the Walker Spy Ring, lead by US Navy chief warrant officer John Anthony Walker from 1967 to 1985. Walker had offered to spy for the Soviet Union (USSR) when he experienced financial problems after a series of business faillures.
During the 17 years that he and his spy ring worked for the Russians, he supplied them with the keys of several cipher systems, such as the KL-7, the KL-47 and the KW-7, in return for which he received thousands of dollars. It is believed that this has enabled the Russians to decrypt at least one million secret documents.

The Russians also gave Walker a Minox C camera to copy secret documents and cipher material. In fact, Walker used this camera so much that it eventually wore out [1]. After his arrest in 1985 he demonstrated to the FBI how he used the Minox C and its measuring chain to photograph documents.

 More information

  1. H. Keith Melton, Ultimate Spy
    1996-2015. ISBN 978-0-2411-8991-7. p. 54.

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