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The selenium-type light meter of the Minox B has been replaced by an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.
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
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
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
This should reveal a small recessed rig
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.
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
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 . After his arrest in 1985 he demonstrated to
the FBI how he used the Minox C and its measuring chain to photograph
➤ More information
- H. Keith Melton, Ultimate Spy
1996-2015. ISBN 978-0-2411-8991-7. p. 54.
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