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Tochka 58 (Точка)
Subminiature espionage camera

The Tochka 58-M (Точка 58-М) was a fully mechanical subminiature camera, built in 1958 by the special workshop of the Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod (KMZ), the Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk. The name Точка (Tochka) means POINT. 58 refers to the year of development. The camera was clearly modelled after the Latvian Minox subminiature cameras and was intended for espionage. It was used by the KGB and others, and is also known as the Necktie Camera [1].

Two different versions of the camera exist: the initial version, the Tochka-58/S-252 type A, that has no viewfinder, and a later version with viewfinder, known as the Tochka-58M/S-252 type B. At least three different versions of the latter are known. Both models accept standard Minox film cartridges with an 8 x 11 mm frame.

The image on the right shows both the 58 and the 58M models, together with a Minox III (also known as Minox-A) of the same era. The Tochka cameras have approximately the same size as the Minox on which the design was based.
  
Tochka-58, Tochka-58M and a Minox A (III)

Like the Krasnogorsk F-21 camera (Ayaks) and the famous Photo Sniper, the Tochka 58-M was very popular with the KGB and other East-European security and intelligence agencies during the Cold War. As the camera measures only 83 x 28 x 20 mm, roughly the same size as a Minox A, it was the ideal device to be fitted inside virtually any kind of concealment, such as a briefcase.

Unlike the Minox camera, which has its lens at the front (in-line with the film) the lens of the Tochka is at the side of the body, requiring an internal 45° mirror to project the image onto the film. Although this may seem unlogical, it makes the camera more suitable for certain types of concealment. Another difference with the Minox camera, is the way the film is transported. In the Minox, the movement of opening and closing the camera is used to transport the film, whereas the Tochka features a spring-loaded mechanism that must be wound-up prior to taking pictures.

The camera could be fitted to an aluminium frame with elastic straps, that allowed the camera to be worn on the chest, hidden under the operator's clothing. The camera could be hidden behind a specially prepared necktie, with the lens masked-off by a modified tie-pin. For this reason the camera is also known as the KGB Necktie Camera. A good example of a complete setup, with some very good photographs, can be found in Keith Melton's excellent book Ultimate Spy [1].

A remote control unit, similar to the one used with the F-21 camera, allowed the appropriate shutter speed to be selected and pictures to be taken right from the operator's trousers pocket. When shooting pictures, the operation of the camera is virtually silent.

Tochka-58, Tochka-58M and a Minox A (III) Tochka-58 (type A) Tochka-58M Tochka-58M fitting the palm of a hand Operating the shutter release button Winding up the camera Opened film compartment Tochka-58M with open film compartment and film cartridge
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Tochka-58, Tochka-58M and a Minox A (III)
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Tochka-58 (type A)
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Tochka-58M
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Tochka-58M fitting the palm of a hand
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Operating the shutter release button
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Winding up the camera
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Opened film compartment
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Tochka-58M with open film compartment and film cartridge

Tochka-58
The image below shows a typical Tochka-58 camera with the lens on the left half of the top surface. The lens has a threaded ring, allowing it to be disguised as a tie-pin. There is no viewfinder. The dial at the front is for setting the shutter speed to 1/10, 1/50, 1/150 and 1/400.

The rigged button at the right is for winding-up the clockwork motor. When fully wound, it can be used for a full film. The shutter release button is at the rear. It is released by pushing it sideways with a finger. The release button is not visible in the picture on the right.

According to some reports, the film frame size of the Tochka-58 is the same as for the Minox, but it uses a different type of cassette [3]. The model shown here however, fully accepts the standard Minox cassettes, just like the later Tochka-58M/S-252 type B camera (see below).
  
Tochka-58 (type A)

This version of the Tochka-58 was less suitable for taking inconspicious photographs, as it doesn't have a viewfinder. It was clearly meant for concealed use, e.g. for shooting photographs from behind a modified tie. For this reason the lens was at the top of the camera, rather than at the front like on the Minox. The camera would be carried vertically, in-line with the tie. The frame counter at the back shows how many shots are taken. It can be reset by rotating the wheel.


A mounting screw at the back can be used to affix the camera to the operator's clothing. The camera has two narrow rigs at the edges, allowing to slide it into some kind of frame. Normally there are two spring-loaded clips at the sides of the camera, used for locking it into place, but they are removed from the camera shown here. This was probably done to make it fit inside an alternative concealment. The camera can be opened by pushing the chain ring inwards. This gives access to the film compartment that accepts a standard Minox 20 exposure film cartridge.

Tochka-58 (type A) Other side of the Tochka-58 Close-up of the lens Shutter release button Shutter release (top) and wind-up knob (right) Exposure counter and shutter speed Mounting screw at the back Chain mount
Holding a Tochka-58 in one hand Operating the shutter release button Narrow mounting rig (left of the finger) Operating the shutter release button Opening the film compartment Opened film compartment Opened film compartment Using a Minox film cartridge
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Tochka-58 (type A)
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Other side of the Tochka-58
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Close-up of the lens
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Shutter release button
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Shutter release (top) and wind-up knob (right)
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Exposure counter and shutter speed
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Mounting screw at the back
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Chain mount
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Holding a Tochka-58 in one hand
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Operating the shutter release button
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Narrow mounting rig (left of the finger)
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Operating the shutter release button
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Opening the film compartment
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Opened film compartment
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Opened film compartment
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Using a Minox film cartridge

Tochka-58M
The image below shows the later Tochka-58M. Unlike the earlier 58 model, it is more suitable for inconspicious photography as it does have a viewfinder, in the form of a tiny hole at the back. The lens of the viewfinder is located just above the main lens.

The dial at the front allows the shutter speed to be set to 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and 1/500. The release button is at the rear (not visible in the image on the right). Unlike the earlier Tochka-58 it has a threaded ring that allows a remote release cable to be attached.

The camera is less suitable for use inside a concealment. It does't have a mounting screw at the back that was used to affix it to the operator's clothing. Furthermore it lacks the rigs at the sides, making it impossible to slot the camera into a mounting frame, like the 58.
  
Tochka-58M

The rigged button at the right is for winding-up the clockwork motor. At the back, an engraved arrow shows in which direction the knob should be turned. When fully wound, it can be used for an entire film (20 exposures). The small hole at the right half (above) is the exposure counter.


The camera can be opened by pushing the chain mount inwards. This releases a small lid at the rear that gives access to the film compartment. Like its predecessor, the Tochka-58, the camera accepts a standard Minox 20 exposure film cartridge. It was usually used with AgfaPan100 film [2]. The lens has a fixed aperture and a fixed focus. A later version of the Tochka-58M was equipped with a distance dial that could be set to 0.35, 0.50, 1 metre and infinity.

Tochka-58M Other side of the Tochka-58M Tochka-58M on its side Shutter release button Shutter speed setting dial Exposure counter Close-up of the lens Viewfinder
Tochka-58M fitting the palm of a hand Tochka-58M ready for use Winding up the camera Opening the case Open film compartment Film compartment Minox film cartridge mounted inside the Tochka-58M Tochka-58M with open film compartment and film cartridge
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Tochka-58M
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Other side of the Tochka-58M
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Tochka-58M on its side
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Shutter release button
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Shutter speed setting dial
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Exposure counter
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Close-up of the lens
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Viewfinder
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Tochka-58M fitting the palm of a hand
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Tochka-58M ready for use
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Winding up the camera
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Opening the case
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Open film compartment
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Film compartment
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Minox film cartridge mounted inside the Tochka-58M
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Tochka-58M with open film compartment and film cartridge

Film
The cameras were initially used with the plastic Minox film cartridges that contained AgfaPan100 black-and-white film, which was 135 micron thick. Alternatively, the cartridges were loaded with standard Soviet A-2 35 mm film that had a thickness of 150 micron and a sensitivity of 200 ASA (ISO). A special film slicer was available, to cut a standard 35 mm film into 9.5 mm wide strips.

Instead of the plastic Minox cartridges, the USSR produced compatible ones, made from a special alloy. It could hold 36 exposures (frames) of a standard A-2 film [2]. The introduction of Maylar as base for the film, even allowed 72 exposures on a single film. Special technical skills where required for loading the cartridges with Maylar.

The image on the right shows a developed set of Minox colour negatives that are being inspected with a Minox Loupe.
  
Using the loupe to view negatives inside Minox film folder

Models
As the Tochka-58 cameras were manufactured by the Special Workshop at the KMZ factory, they were intended for secret operations by the KGB and other secret services. As a result, the information that is publicly available about this camera is rather limited and often incomplete.

Although most websites talk about two different models: the 58 and the 58M (type a and type b), there were at least three different versions of the later 58M model: One with an exposure counter, one without an exposure counter and one with an adjustable focus lens (also without counter).

The image on the right shows four different Tochka-58 cameras in the collection of Detlev Vreisleben in Germany [6]. The leftmost one is the earlier 58 model. The rightmost three cameras are the different versions of the 58M model described above. Click for a better view.
  
Four Tochka-58 cameras in the collection of Detlev Vreisleben [6]. Photograph  Detlev Vreisleben. Reproduced here with kind permission from the author.

Apart from the obvious differences described above, there were some other (minor) changes in manufacturing over time. The rigs on the wind-up knob, for example, have changed between models and some mounting holes were moved to a different position. Furthermore, the film transport mechanism was improved over time, as the earlier versions sometimes caused the film to be damaged. Of the 58M models, only the version with the adjustable focus seems to have a threaded ring around the lens, intended for use with the modified tie-pin.

Names
Except for the serial number, the camera is usually unmarked. There is no reference to the manufacturer or the name of the camera. For this reason, the name Точка is often incorrectly written when transcribed into Latin characters. The following names have been spotted:

  • Tochka
  • Toycka
  • Toyka
  • Toychka 58-m
  • Toschka
  • Totschka
  • Totchka S-252
References
  1. H. Keith Melton, Ultimate spy
    ISBN: 0-7513-4791-4, 1996-2002. p. 75.

  2. G. Abramov, Soviet 'Minox' photocamera Tochka-58
    Website Photo History (Russian/English). Retrieved January 2013.

  3. USSR Photo.com, Tochka-58M/S-252 type a
    Website (English). Retrieved February 2013.

  4. USSR Photo.com, Tochka-58M/S-252 type b
    Website (English). Retrieved February 2013.

  5. John Wade, Cameras in Disguise
    ISBN 0-7478-0637-3. P. 31.

  6. Detlev Vreisleben, Photograph of four different Tochka-58 cameras
    Reproduced here with kind permission from the author.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 30 January 2013. Last changed: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 - 09:13 CET.
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