Scale Focus

A Minox 35 GT review – a true pocket camera – by Gaston W

Minox 35 GT

I met the Minox 35 GT about a year ago, and it has stayed in my pocket ever since. You read it right, in my pocket. This is certainly the smallest 35mm camera I’ve seen. The Minolta TC-1 takes the prize for smallest 35mm ever, but it’s worth more than 10 times the prize of the Minox 35 GT on Ebay. I’ll have to pass.

As a note, I do mainly street photography and urban landscapes. This review is from my personal experience and while I find it to be well suited to my needs, it is definitely not for every purpose.

The camera

The Minox 35 GT falls somewhere between the traditional point & shoot and a more fully featured compact. It’s no lomo/toy camera, and the picture quality is there to show it. There’s no surprises: you can be sure the exposure will be accurate, and with a bit of practice, your pictures will always be sharp. Sometimes however, I find myself a bit frustrated, wishing I had more controls in my hands.

People going places in Paris – Fuji Superia 400

For reference, the Minox 35 GT is smaller than any smartphone, and just a bit thicker than a roll of film. It’s perhaps not for everyone, but its size means I can always be ready to draw and shoot. You can use it with one hand, although the ergonomics are not the best for long periods of shooting. It’s light, it’s quiet, and most of all it’s unassuming. You’ll look more like a tourist than a reporter. There’s a reason this was made by Minox, known for their «spy» cameras. Unlike other Minox cameras though, it shoots regular ol’ 35mm, which means you have a full frame sensor in that sweet compact package.

The flip cover (Nokia phone, anyone?) protects and extends the lens when open. This contributes to its compactness, and serves as the on/off for the meter. I really like the feature, it’s super fast to shoot : no need to faff around with menus or buttons.

Quirks & perks

Now the Minox 35 GT has its quirks and perks, and that makes it unique in my eyes. It’s different from your standard point & shoot, as you have a manual aperture, and manual focus. To take the picture, you zone focus (guesstimate the distance), pick an aperture and the camera will let you know what shutter speed it picked for you. During the day, I will usually keep it focused around 4 meters at F11, so I can place my subject anywhere between 2 meters to infinity.

The Minox 35 GT lens is 35mm f/2.8, which is really standard for this type of camera, but it’s surprisingly sharp for its size. The color rendering is good, although I haven’t tested this in any scientific manner. The film, the light conditions, your scanner … all have their own impact on the rendering. The barrel has «color» written on it though, surely that must mean something? (It doesn’t.)

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Old lady in the fog in Saint Malo – Fuji Superia 400

The Minox 35 GT lens is very capable, and everyone I showed the pictures to was surprised it came from such a tiny piece of glass. The zone focusing is not bad once you get used to it. I do mainly street photography, and if you know where you want your subject to be, zone focusing is way faster. If you have fast film and chose a smaller aperture, you’re golden.

If you’re a portrait photographer or if you want to take close up shots, the Minox 35 GT is probably not the camera for you. The 35mm focal length is not great for portraits, and the zone focusing makes it hard to be accurate wide open or at close distances (plus it only focuses from 0.90 m).

It’s not easy to achieve perfect focus when you shoot at night, wide open. Besides, the automatic shutter speed won’t tell you how long the shutter will stay open for longer exposures. The small body is difficult to properly grip to do long handheld exposure. Hard, but not impossible. I tend to override the ISO settings to underexpose by a stop or two, hold my breath, and wish for the best. Usually it works out.

Glasgow at night – Ilford Delta 400

The batteries the Minox 35 GT takes are no longer produced, but that’s a topic discussed in a lot of depth elsewhere on the web. I just use a bit of tape and foil to convert regular old button cells. You can also buy an adapter if you prefer to be on the safe side.

Philosophy : why shoot with a compact camera ?

The main advantages of the Minox 35 GT is its size, the very decent lens, and the ability to shoot film. Sure, you could get cleaner shots with a big bulky camera, but are you going to carry a Pentax 67 to work every day? Where’s your Mamiya when aliens start invading? Some of the more cynical people might say everyone already has a camera in their pocket: their phone. My phone is really useful, but I don’t want my pictures to end up mixed between my grocery list and a meme. Besides, there’s something infinitely more satisfying about this quirky object that you can’t explain through words.

When I got the Minox 35 GT, I thought it would become a secondary, fun camera, but my favorite shots from this year were taken with it. There’s something a bit more honest about a picture you weren’t expecting to take, a moment that surprised you. For the clinical, tack sharp clean shots you can’t beat a medium format camera  with a tripod, but that’s clearly not the same shooting experience. A warning for the end: You will find yourself burning through film. This bad boy is surprisingly easy to get used to.

Paris metro – Ilford Delta 400

I’m Gaston, I like taking pictures at night and in places that time and eyes forgot. Banal things, extraordinary things, everything that’s part of daily life is interesting to me. You can check out my Instagram over here :  https://www.instagram.com/cigaregentique/

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40 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Paul
    January 11, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Nice review. Lovely cameras with, from my experience, shutters that are prone to dying from old age these days. A great pity.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 11:45 am

      Thanks ! I just had a problem with the shutter after writing the review actually. Waiting for new batteries, which might fix the problem, otherwise I’ve seen information online that seems to indicate some of the shutter issues can be fixed ?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Victor
    January 11, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Hi, Gaston,

    nice wrap-up indeed! Minox 35 is one of my favourite cameras ever, and I have a few 🙂
    Strangely enough, I’ve not shot a roll in BW on it (which is what I mostly shoot), but your pictures reminded me that I must! Absolutely love your BW shots. For me, scale focus is what limits my use of the camera: unlike you my shots wide open are mostly off-focus, guess I just have some distance guesstimate problem 🙂 For that reason, I tend to use Contax T more often than the Minox: essentially the same size and form-factor, but a bit heavier, which is compensated with better viewfinder (incl coupled RF), and a tad better lens (but not much). I don’t think Contax is worth 5x the price of the Minox though (I were gifted mine). When I do use the Minox indoors, my solution to shallow DOF is to close-up to f5.6 and use the TC-35 flash which you can tilt to bounce off-ceiling, but of course it’s the same size as the camera, so its a bit limiting… Does not work too well outdoors to. Anyway, considering the price (10-50 eur here in Germany), there’s no excuse not to have one!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Hey ! Thanks a lot ! Funny actually, I had never seen the contax T before, only the T2. Unfortunately these are way out of my price range, but they must be quite nice to shoot with ! I have a flash that goes with the Minox and is quite compact. It can’t be tilted though, but it remains pocketable. Worth looking into if you like to use a flash. 🙂
      For the guesstimating : I have practiced a little bit with my SLR. Trying to guess the distance before checking if it’s correct. Scale focus is not easy, especially at close distances, but it is quite quick.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Yair Sachs
    January 11, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    I just ran a 36 exp. film through my 35GL. I use Foma 200 ISO b/w film, self-loaded from bulk. This film is quite adequate for the price, but it is quite thin and brittle and requires some care in usage. And, just as mentioned in some blogs on this camera, I could not get through the entire 36 frames – advancing the film became increasingly difficult. I got by a few more frames by (carefully) applying the rewind crank for a tighter wrap of the film cartridge, and then the thing came to a stop, not before I could feel the perforations giving way.
    I rewound the film with the intention of reloading and using the remaining frames in a different camera. Or so I thought! I opened the back and to my chagrin, discovered the back of the film staring at me from the take up spool: The film had separated from the cartridge.
    What frames that were salvaged do bear out the quality of the lens & system.
    My strong recommendation is, use the Minox 35 GL with shorter films that 36 exp.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Hey ! Strangely I’ve not had this problem yet, but it could have something to do with different types of films. I do feel a resistance towards the end of the film but I always finish the whole 36/38 exposures. I ran some Tmax 400, Delta 400, Kentmere 400 and Superia 400 through it. Maybe these are more resilient film stocks ?
      Good luck ! I hope you can enjoy your Minox and make great pictures with it ! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    walker
    January 11, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Nice pics & cool camera. Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine lent me a Minox 35 ML and I’ve shot a couple of film rolls with it. It’s really tiny, even more compact than my Oly XA2.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks !
      Hope you liked the results. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Barry Reid
    January 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    The 35GT is my al time favourite P&S camera, once you are used to it’s quirks there’s nothing else like it, and very few sensibly priced alternatives have the option aperture priority exposure.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:14 pm

      It is a bit quirky, but the size and price definitely make it forgivable. I honestly can’t complain about the pictures I get from it. Happy shooting ! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin Siegel
    January 11, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Fine review, Gaston!
    I’m a big fan for that type of cameras. From Olympus XAs over Voigtländer (Balda), Chinon Bellami to a Minox 35 GL.Also the next generation like the Olympus µ [mju:] but those tend to get heavy due to larger batteries.
    Thanks for sharing your insights!
    Martin

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 11, 2019 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks ! I’ve actually been wanting to try the original Olympus XA, but haven’t managed to find one at a reasonable price yet. 🙂
      What’s your experience of it ?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sixteen
    January 11, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Lovely lovely shots !!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:14 pm

      Cheers ! 🙂

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    January 11, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    “There’s something a bit more honest about a picture you weren’t expecting to take, a moment that surprised you.”
    Thank you for putting that thought in a clear, concise statement. I know that when it happens to me, it just makes my day. It’s what keeps me going as I snap away.
    The Minox is just too small for me. You make it work for you; you’ve mastered the machine. My compact camera is my Leica (film) CL. I can sling it over my shoulder and I barely know it’s there. Now that we’re in the clutches of a New England winter, I can slip it into an oversized pocket of a winter coat where it can be warm & cozy. I wish you continued good shooting.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      Cheers Daniel ! 🙂 Glad my words made sense.
      It is small for my hands and not very ergonomic but any other camera I have is just not practical to carry around everywhere.
      The Leica CL is a very appealing camera and I can imagine it must be a ton of fun to shoot ! Have fun shooting ! The winter months can be full of atmosphere.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Robert
    January 11, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve read about these Minox 35s a few times and I’ve always been kind of on and off about them, but I think you might have pushed me over the edge into actively seeking one out! Sounds like it would fit my shooting style very well!

    I wonder if you, or any of you other 35mmc-ers, are familiar with the 35 GT-E or GT-X? I know they use modern batteries by default, but curious if anyone has had experience shooting one and how the quality compares to an og 35 GT like this? If the only difference is the battery and the additional ISO settings, I’m thinking that might be the way to go?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      I’ve read somewhere they have an updated lens which focuses a tad bit closer, and they have a built in UV filter? I’ve found this picture taken with the GT-E of flickr, the result looks quite similar : https://tinyurl.com/y7wbuvsm
      Anything more recent is more likely to be in better working condition, so I’d say go for it ! If you don’t have to fiddle with the batteries that’s also a plus. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    ehpem
    January 11, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Great review and photos. Your comment about overexposing by a stop or two at night suggests that this is necessary for the light meter? My own shots from dusk seem underexposed, though I have not experimented very much with lower light. My go-to pocket cameras are the Olympus XA series and the mjuii. I have compared them to the Minox 35GT, and they are fractionally larger, but I would say equally capable though in slightly different ways. If anyone is interested in that comparison, it can be found here: https://burntembers.com/2017/11/26/testing-a-minox-35gt/

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Hey ! I’m sorry I wasn’t very clear. I actually underexpose at night, I think that’s visible in the pictures (quite dark and contrasty). It may work better with B&W than color. I do this to get a bit faster shutter speed to have stable shots, but I find the look suits night scenes quite well.
      I like your comparison ! I’ve been curious about the XA series for a while now. 🙂

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Ehpem
        January 13, 2019 at 4:52 am

        Thanks Gaston. Not your lack of clarity but my misreading – looks like with my camera I am getting the underexposure you are seeking without even trying. The XA series are excellent cameras, I’ve put dozens of rolls through the XA and XA2. I find the XA2 better for street – with zone focus set automatically to a good street distance it is very fast to shoot. And like the Minox very quiet.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Lilianna Elrod
    January 11, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I adore the little Minox 35’s.
    Love your images and the bit about surprise images.
    Everytime I take mine out, I find I prefer the images to whatever else I had with me.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks a lot ! I’m glad you liked them.
      It is a very neat little camera ! I’m always surprised by the images as well. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Claudio
    January 11, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Marvellous little devil. I love its contrasty lens especially.

    Just one word about adapting four button batteries: this overpowers its meter, which ends up underexposing between 1/3 and one and a half stops. With fresh batteries you should tweak the ISO dial so that you have your 35GT expose properly and you don’t lose detail in the shadows.

    Another thing I have learnt from experience is that some 36 exp. rolls (e.g. Gold/Ultramax) are too thick for this tiny camera. The advance lever will get stuck and you’ll risk tearing apart your film. Better stick to 24 exp. rolls to avoid any hassle.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 11, 2019 at 11:28 pm

      The thickness of the rolls is something I’ve never had a problem with, but i definitely can feel the film resisting towards the end of the rolls. Maybe I’ve been lucky. Concerning the meter, I shoot it at box speed, and sometimes even under-expose willingly ! I guess the alkaline cells lose their juice pretty fast. I’ve yet to find a perfect solution to this matter, but the exposures have never let me down (thanks in part to the large latitude of negative film). Cheers !

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dominique Pierre-Nina
    January 11, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Love the lady on the docks at Saint Malo, it’s a type of photograph you might find in one of Magnum’s new Photo artist.

    Great shot.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 11, 2019 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks ! That’s kind of too much of a compliment, but I’ll take it. 😀

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Wayne
    January 12, 2019 at 12:32 am

    I love these shots; but I had such bad luck with camera function (not working) that I gave up on the Minox 35s. I found I could get some satisfaction by buying one of the Color Minotar lenses Don Goldberg modifys for use on micro 4/3 digital mount. Great deal.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      I didn’t know this existed ! 🙂
      I’ve not had any bad luck with the minox until I wrote the review actually. I’m hoping it’s just the batteries though.
      There’s unfortunately not many alternatives at a reasonable price.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jon
    January 12, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    This was a well written review with good pictures. After having two of these fail catastrophically while traveling I would never touch one with a barge pole. The worst part is that when broken it sounds like the shutter is working. You don’t find out until you films come back blank. I’m convinced that there is no perfect pocket camera.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 12, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Ho no, that sounds like a very frustrating experience ! I’ve actually just had a problem with the shutter, but I’m hoping it’s not a big deal. I guess the smaller the camera, the more fragile the internals can get. But the experience is worth it to me.
      Keep shooting !

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Russ
    January 13, 2019 at 5:53 am

    I have and use the Ricoh FF-1, which is almost identical to the Minox 35. Both are very interesting cameras to shoot with. Did you “push” the film in the images in your blog?

    Thanks
    Russ

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      January 13, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      Hey ! Yes I pushed the B&W in development, and the night images are underexposed on top of that (hence the dark/contrasty look). For the color images I stuck to box speed. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bernhard
    January 15, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Nice shots with this cam. I adapted the lens from a defect Minox to E-Mount and C-Mount with interesting results.

    Bernhard

  • Reply
    5 Frames with the Voigtländer Vito C - By Nigel Haycock - 35mmc
    February 24, 2019 at 9:02 am

    […] under the guardianship of Rollei – a very similar camera under the Minox brand also exists ( Minox 35) which I understand shared the same […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nigel Haycock
    March 12, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Three of these on shop goodwill right now including two cases and one with the orig box; could be a good bargain for someone

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Adam
    April 2, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    So good to see the Minox being championed, so thank you, I love them , and the look they give, but like many small animals they have a short life spans. As you can see here:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/16900802350/in/photolist-mwssVB-rKt2HY

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      April 3, 2019 at 9:53 am

      Yes indeed I’ve heard they are prone to giving up, but the lens is fantastic and they are not overpriced yet (like many compacts with similar capabilities).
      I can see you’ve not had much luck with them ! :/

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Ian Johnston
    April 28, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    One of the nice things about the 35GT is that the shutter has no upper exposure length – or at least I have never discovered one. I have used it at night with exposures of several minutes, which it works out itself, very nicely. I think my record was 22 minutes.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Gaston
      April 28, 2019 at 8:29 pm

      Yuuup ! I hate it with some of the more recent point and shoots, when I discover that they have a limit of 1/30th or 1/60th of a second. it makes them totally useless at night ! I’ve never shot the minox on a tripod, but handheld up to 2/3 seconds.

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