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 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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/