In 2004, my father travelled to Ukraine often enough to gather all sorts of cameras from thrift stores and garage sales. He ended up at the Kiev Arsenal and discovered a personal heaven. It is a concentration of the Soviet industry’s best products: Kiev cameras and lenses. He brought back a Kiev 35A (a Minox 35GT copy) from his first trip there. At that time, I vaguely knew what a Minox was, but the Kiev 35A really got my attention. I produced great pictures with that little plastic box— it had all the problems known to cameras: light leaks, wrong light meter calibration, flare, etc… One day, as I was starting believe this camera was cursed, the winder simply broke, leaving a wingless camera in one hand, the crank in the other. My eyes filled with tears and my conscience with guilt.
Years passed. Actually only two, and four more Kiev 35A broke down on me. The quality of the 5-elements MC Korsar lens made this unlucky experience even more frustrating. I then moved on, with 5 lifeless Kiev 35A bodies piled up on my desk, left there in morbid nostalgia more than in the hope of being fixed.
It was only years after — enough time to digest my frustration — that I decided to buy my first Minox 35GL for $30, then a second (Minox 35MB). It was still a fragile looking camera — the smallest 35mm in the world — but with a more slightly better construction than its predecessor. Both did not work when first I received them, I had hoped for great German quality but their malfunctions only confirmed that these models were also cursed. The first one only needed a battery case adaptation. It is still functioning today, with a small piece of paper holding four watch-sized batteries. The second one needed a closer attention, to adjust the shutter screws in order to correctly fire and re-arm. Done without too much sweat or too many tears.
I walked around with it the other weekend, when my sister and her boyfriend came to visit Paris. I am rather happy with the results, and turned out perfectly for the first post on my blog.
I read somewhere that if Cartier-Bresson started in the streets around 1980, he would have chosen to shoot with a Minox. His goal was to have a decent-quality compact camera, for weight and size purposes, but also to prevent his subjects from being afraid or intimidated by a professional camera. This is easily accomplished with the Minox. You might seem idiotic, clumsy, like a lost tourist, but you will never look like a photographer. I promise.
Minox 35MB. FP4+ Dev. Caffenol C-L