The Mighty Miniature Minox

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Mar 3, 2021.

  1. Last week I showed a couple of Minox 35 cameras in the "What camera are you using...?" thread, and I thought I'd post a few samples from the film I shot with the GT model. But first, a picture of the camera.

    Minox main.jpg

    The original Minox 35, the "EL" model, was introduced at Photokina 1974, and at that time was the smallest 35mm camera in production, a situation that remained until the release of the Minolta TC-1 in 1996. They were an enormously popular line of cameras, evolving through a range of fairly minor variations, each defined by a different coloured shutter button. The Russians produced a very nearly identical copy, the Kiev 35A, and over the years there have been several similar copycat cameras, mainly of the plastic point and shoot variety. This GT model was released in 1981, and improved upon the original EL by providing an electronic self timer and a "backlight button" that adjusted the exposure by one f-stop. Basically, the camera is an aperture priority automatic camera with no focusing aids. It has front-cell focusing and the user has to guesstimate the distances, though I suppose an accessory rangefinder could be fitted to the accessory shoe. However, that would spoil the charm of a tiny camera that shuts up and slips into one's pocket.

    Minox closed.jpg

    It has a bright viewfinder with the selected shutter speed displayed down one side, and the indicated speeds range from 1/30th to 1/500th in a step-less sequence. Apparently the camera is capable of producing very long time exposures and I've read reports from some owners who have used the cameras for night photography, with accurate exposures of several minutes. The film is advanced by two movements of a very short-throw little lever, and the electronics switch on when the camera is opened. The camera was designed to run on the defunct 5.6V PX27 mercury cell, but I've been using a 6V 4LR43 battery, making a 1.5 stop adjustment to the camera's ISO settings, and the exposures are accurate and consistent.

    At first glance the cameras look toy-like, but as soon as you handle one you realise there's some serious construction in your hands. They are manufactured from fiberglass-reinforced Makrolon, an enormously strong polymer material, with stainless steel in the interior, and they have a reassuring heft for such a tiny camera.

    Minox open.jpg

    And lastly, the lens. The 35mm f/2.8 Color-Minotar is a four-element three-group design and it's a fine performer, sharp at all apertures and with very little in the way of curvature or other distortions. It's as good as almost any other Tessar-type lens I have, and when I take a first peek at a freshly-developed film from a Minox there's always a sense of mild astonishment that such a diminutive camera can produce such a series of well-exposed, sharp and contrasty negatives. Below are some samples, all from one roll of Kentmere 100 developed in PMK Pyro.

    Beating the Birds

    Beating the Birds copy.jpg

    A Deville Kind of Day

    A Deville Kind of Day.jpg


    Early copy.jpg






    Detail copy.jpg

    Pete's Place

    Petes Place copy.jpg

    Country Power

    Country Power copy.jpg

    The Saddlery


  2. Great work with the Minox Rick. The substation is of interest to me as it's the kind of place I might have had to operate in, in another life.

    I had two Minox's, can't remember what flavour, but I never got around to putting films through. I think I was a little put off by the battery issue. In which direction was your ISO adjustment? I have used a Chinon Bellami which is very similar in size and concept, although it has barn doors which are opened by turning the film advance lever - and runs off two standard LR44's..

    One of mine came with its original box with a picture of a cigarette packet on it - I think a reference to the small size. I called it "The Fag Packet Camera".
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
  3. So nice. It's much more sophisticated than my belovéd Rollei 35, and you've done your usual outstanding work with it.

    I want one of these, but have decided not to buy any more cameras until I've shot the backlog of cameras I already have.

    I did get a Soviet version of this once, but it was one of the few USSR cameras that came dead on arrival.:oops:

    It must have been from the Brezhnev era?
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    My recollection is that there were three small 35mm cameras at the same time - the Minox, the Rollei 35 and a Petri Color 35. I was working in a camera shop at the time, and got to try them all, and all were excellent.
    James Bryant likes this.
  5. I remember a discussion here on Photonet that some of the makrolon was not completely opaque, enough so that all the film was fogged on some cameras. This discouraged me from ever buying one on Ebay But I made do with my Retina IIa.
    ] likes this.
  6. Thanks for the responses. John, I adjusted the ISO settings progressively by comparing the readings to a Lunasix, and ended up at about ISO 25 for the 100 ISO film. JDM, just buy one. I can speak from experience when I say that one never catches up with the backlog of cameras... Sandy, I never acquired the Rollei, mainly due to the skyrocketing price, but I did put the Petri Color 35 through it's paces, a few years ago:

    Not Quite a Masterpiece : the Petri Color 35
  7. SCL


    Your shots had great tonality...wish mine was there. I had a 35 Minox EL for about a year. I was pleased with the sharpness of pictures the lens produced. The thumbnail picture below of my condo was taken on an excrutingly bright day and I had Tri-X in the camera - click on it for full size to see how sharply the lens delivered.. Minox condo dbl exp 0006.jpg
    Julio Fernandez and James Bryant like this.
  8. Damn I want one.
  9. Talk about facilitators!
  10. The GT is a great camera. I bought a used one as a student in the early 90s which went on college trips, to night clubs etc and generally got completely abused until it died in around 2001.
  11. I have a white 35 AL, with white add-on flash, that i never ran film through... It was a gift, used. No defense, i know. My apologies.

    At that time (a few years after the first Minox 35) there also was the Olympus XA. I have used those a lot. Pretty obvious vignetting, but fairly sharp. Good meter. And they survived my jeanspockets on day long hikes.
  12. Never got a Minox, but if I find one at a good price I might. Been through some of the XA series: sold an "as-is" XA-4 (the one with a 28mm lens) that only worked occasionally. One XA and XA-2 went south, with both replaced with the same. With careful composition the vignetting of the XA can be made less noticeable, but I usually don't worry about it. From my experience it seems that the XA-2 seems to have a little less vignetting than the XA. But the ability to set apertures on the XA makes up for it. My two Rolleis (35S and B35) are my favorites for carrying in a jacket pocket.
    James Bryant likes this.
  13. For me the MInox 35 GT was the best compact 35mm. It was the only really small 35mm camera I actually enjoyed using compared to the heavy Rollei 35 ergonomic disaster, overpriced Contax T and T2, and awful Olympus XA. Sometimes the "advantage" of a rangefinder in a tiny camera turns out to not be an advantage. Never tried the Petri. The Contaxes had nice lenses but the Minox essentially did the same thing and was much lighter and its little leather ever ready case was wonderful. Ever since my Contax T2 lens refused to pop out I have been wary of cameras with automatically extending lenses.
  14. ph.


    praising the results is well deserved, however, despite its compactness and optical quality I found the electron-mechanics to be quite unreliable. My first one went back for reapairs ,but conced out again after the guarantee period finished. MY second one also had a shutter failure, so I switched to a Rollei 35 which still works as long as the meter battery does not run out, Not quite as lightweight and more fiddly to operate however..

  15. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I was given a Minox 35 ML with shutter issues a few years back, and though I liked its features, could never get it to work 100% reliably. To me, the Minox 35's were mainly worth it for the excellent lens; otherwise, they seem like somewhat finicky and delicate little cameras (the Kiev 35's even more so, though the Korsar lens is just as good, IMO).

    The Olympus XA was a great design, though having used two, find them a bit over-rated optically. They're also getting increasingly hard to find in good working condition at reasonable prices.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021

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