5 frames with...

5 frames with Minox B and HR50 -by Victor Doroshenko

I stumbled upon it in a local camera shop, lying among the used gear, so small and beautiful. I just can not resist the brushed aluminium flair, even if I had no hope to actually use the camera at the time. The tiny Minox B was born in cold war era, and is often associated with the spies, however, it was actually designed by Walter Zapp for ordinary people, to be their true and faithful companion.

The legend is that he just took a piece of wood and carved the body of a camera he thought will be small enough to carry everywhere, and then designed the actual thing with body just as small. As a result, it fits easily within the lighter pocket of your favourite jeans! However, it also has an extremely sharp lens, light meter built in, wide range of shutter speeds, focus from 20cm, built in ND and green filters, and a parallax corrected viewfinder.  All since 1958!

The 35 mm film would, of course, not fit such a thing, so it shoots minuscule 9x11mm frames on a spagetti-like film loaded into cassette with size of your fingernail. Hard to find nowadays, so that’s why I thought it will actually be a nice piece of decor, rather than a user camera. I were wrong! After some tinkering with the DIY film slitter, and first experiments loading the film into a cassette, I started to love the camera and the results it produces. Of course, the frame size is limiting in terms of film choice ( you really don’t want any grain here!), and hassle involved in slitting and reloading, but it is also liberating because you get 104 frames out a 36 frame roll plus some leftover film! This makes shooting Minox a cheap affair, actually!

For film, I settled on ADOX HR50 film with matched developer, which gives me ISO 25-100 depending on how I develop it, and could not be happier. This choice is driven by the fact that 35mm is most economically sliced in 9.2 + 16 mm strips, which fit Minox and 110 cameras respectively, and my Pentax 110 needs at least ISO 80 to live 🙂 This rules out ISO 25 films which might give you even better results with Minox, but makes things more economical and manageable as I can simultaneously develop films from both cameras using the same times. Also, the film has quite hard emulsion which is important as scratches can really be an issue with such small frames. Below are five frames selected from about 200 shot couple of weeks ago during my most recent vacations at box speed (ISO 50). Developed in HR dev for 13 minutes with 2 min interval agitation to tame the summer harsh light contrast, and scanned with Sony A7 and a slide-duplicator adapter.

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  • Avatar
    Kurt Ingham
    August 4, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Really well done! I see a lot of well-intentioned Minox pictures on the Interweb-but few show mastery of the complex skill set needed to get really outstanding results from that tiny negative

    • Avatar
      August 5, 2019 at 8:12 am

      I was actually surprised myself with the number of keepers I got from the trip: I had no experience whatsoever with ISO50 film before, and HR50 arrived just in time to allow slicing and loading of the cassettes. I had huge concerns taking the minox as a sole camera with me as iso50 + 3.5 lens pose quite a limitation in terms of light! Turned out it can be done 🙂

  • Avatar
    August 4, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Kurt nailed it in his comment, I can only second that! Esp. the two close-up portraits are truly amazing. Thanks for sharing this here.

    • Avatar
      August 5, 2019 at 9:13 am

      Thanks James, close-ups are a strong side of minox! Still, it’s a pity they did not do 30mm “tele” version as perspective distortion is on a strong side when dealing with kids portraits. Not saying one can not use it creatively though 🙂

  • Avatar
    Joe Van Cleave
    August 5, 2019 at 5:41 am

    Really love the last image, with the surveillance camera on the building to the left, works well with the whole Minox theme.

    • Avatar
      August 5, 2019 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Joe!
      Amazing thing is that I actually got quite many usable “street” shots from that trip! Always felt awkward with 50mm equivalent on the streets, but minox somehow changed that for me. The non-portraits here (and overall) are just “grab the camera from the jeans pocket (preset to hyper-focal and the last used shutter speed), unfold, aim, shoot” style, which is not what I normally do with other cameras! Definitively not with 50mm focal where even AF (D)SLRs can miss the focus easily in not taking care. In this sense, minox is the 50mm point-and-shoot many people dream of! Shall take EC on the next trip as well 🙂

  • Avatar
    August 5, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for this! Tgis is a total revelation for me. And the photos are superbly rendered!

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