I am a big James Bond fan and love anything to do with spy gadgetry. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Leica owned Minox from 1996-2001 when 51% was bought out by management. A good excuse to write about the Minox (A,B,C) IIIs with 8mm x 11mm film subminiature camera for this blog.
Hard to believe the famous ‘spy camera’ was conceived as early as 1922 and actually invented by a Latvian German named Walter Zapp in 1936. But when James Bond (George Lazenby) used the Minox A IIIs (*) in “On Her Majesty’s Service”, it looked like the coup in camera inventions of 1969. The original had a parallax correcting viewfinder, coupled to a Cooke triplet type Minostigmat 15 mm f/3.5 lens. You could focus as close as 20 cm. Which meant it was great for photographing documents as well as general images.
The Minox became the camera of choice for intelligence agencies and spies around the world in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s because of its small size and macro focusing ability. There is a 1942 public record showing 25 Minox cameras purchased by the US Office of Strategic Services ( the intelligence agency at the time). It remained the state-of-the-art hi-tech ‘spy camera’ well into the 1980’s. It was so expensive, that it was considered a luxury gadget item.
You can read more about it at James Bond Lifestyle.
Or read about the history of the camera from the Minox Historical Society here.
The Minox Company continues to make a variety of camera and binoculars. You can check them out at the Minox website here.
(*) I think James Bond used the Minox B or possibly the C. The C replaced the B in 1969. Production of the film was made in 1968. I can’t seem to get the exact info through my research.