Minox 35: Size does not matter
When I was in high school, my father brought me a funny camera from his travels to Ukraine. It was a Kiev 35A, an almost perfect copy of the Minox 35 GT. It was manufactured by Arsenal in Kiev, along amazing lenses and copies; but this is a whole other article.
At that time, I did not know what a Minox 35 was, and couldn’t care less: I took many great photos with the Kiev. The camera was a perfect size, was easy to shoot, and the results were more than OK. I carried this tiny friend in my pocket for two years, and I truly loved it. I even made a website about it, since it did not seem to exist on the internet (remember, this was an eternity ago). But then, it stopped working, and I tried everything to revive my loyal friend. It cost around $5 in 2006, I then obtained another one and equally lead it to its death. That was it. I hid my sadness and moved on to more “serious” cameras.
The story was, however, far from being over. In 2015, I decided to purchase a real Minox 35. I missed the versatility and packability of my late Kiev 35. I fell in love with it as soon as I received it. So much that I bought another one for my girlfriend, who never used it – I used it instead. They are – were ? – still cheap cameras and the optics are outstanding for their size.
Minox, the original spy camera
To make it simple, when Minox came out with the Minox 35 in 1974, it was the smallest 35mm film camera in the world.
But it was not the first compact camera that Minox manufactured. The famous Minox spy camera from 1936 started the adventure. Using 110 film, totally silent, the insanely small camera could be easily hidden anywhere. It was manufactured for a long time in Riga, Latvia, and even though no spy agency stated they used their cameras – duh – the mystery behind it contributed to its success.
Minox 35 : for photo lover spies
As for the Minox 35, well, there is not much information about it. It was there to steal the world record for smallest camera from Rollei, and it did. But when photographers realized its size did not jeopardize ease of use nor optical quality, it became a decent success: the manufacturing only stopped in 1998.
This success is due to how simple it is to use. It is built in glass fibre reinforced plastic, making it super light. A drawbridge style lens cover protects the lens. The lens is a 35 mm focal length f/2.8 four-element, three-group Tessar-type Minotar/Minoxar lens. It is DAMN sharp, believe me. It exclusively works in aperture priority exposure mode and the focusing is 100% manual, you need to practice your distance estimation skills!
As for batteries, it uses PX27 type batteries, but I fit 4 widely available LR 43 type button batteries, rolled in paper and it does the trick.
Rebirth with an easy fix : Minox 35 shutter problem
But then, as I had a Minox 35 in my pocket at all time, it began to act up. As I was pulling the roll of film from the developing tank, I started to notice blank shots. At first, there were only a few, but the contamination went on. Even though I was trying to convince myself it must have come from the photographer – this is how bad my self esteem is – I had to face the terrible reality: I could not trust my camera. And a camera without trust is like an annoying uncle. Always nice and fun, but out of nowhere comes a non-politically correct take that embarasses you forever. You know what I’m talking about.
I started to avoid my uncle, uh, my camera and it got eventually stored away.
As I was looking for a compact and easy to use camera, my ageing brain suggested me the shameful Minox 35. I decided to stop whining and act. I then looked for a way to fix it. Found out this problem was actually a shutter misfire, and a lot of people complained about it. After trying several operations, I found THE solution, in this Flickr thread. Please read it if you have the same shutter problem.
Long story short, unscrewing the two screws circled in blue and sliding the whole bracket up or down will adjust the lever shutter. By doing so, you will make sure the lever goes to the end and actually triggers. You can then screw tightly, and voilà !
The shutter system will be different on Minox 35 MB, Minox 35 GT, or other Minox 35, but the lever bracket will work in a similar way. Since then, I had zero problems and the Minox is back in my pocket.
I did not fix my problematic uncle but I have a working camera. What about you?
Well, you got it by now: I highly recommend having one of these, even as a backup camera!
What about some pictures?
Photos taken with a Minox 35 MB, on various films (Kodak TMAX100 for the mountains ones, Rollei RPX100 for the others), processed in D-76 at 1+3 dilution, scanned with a Reflecta RPS10M