5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Minox B Subminiature Camera – By Wayne Pinney

“Did it make you feel like a Spy”? was Hamish’s response to my question regarding whether or not he was interested in a piece about the Minox B. Well, it does. But the fact of the matter is, in most cases, you can point the thing right at people and they do not even realize it is a camera….even when they see it: “What is that thing?”.

But the “miniature” does not stop at the camera itself. It goes on to include the film (three rolls of 36 exposure Minox film can be sliced and hand-rolled from one 36 exposure roll of 35mm film,) and the processing ( only 56 ML of of developer solution needed to fill the tiny Minox daylight developing tank.) So it not only makes you feel like a spy, it also makes you feel like you are Gulliver.

The vital statistics:

  • shutter speeds ranging from 1/2 to 1/1000 (B &T included.
  • zone focus 8” to infinity
  • 3.5 constant aperture 15mm Complan lens.

When new…. and the newest example is now 46 years old, the cameras included a very accurate, coupled, match-needle, selenium cell light meter that could be set from ASA 25 to 400. Miraculously, the meter on my camera works and is still reasonably accurate, but this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule for these old cameras.

As the aperture is a constant 3.5, adjustment of shutter speed (Max 1/1000,) is the only means of exposure control; for this reason, it is best to use film having an ISO of 100 or less if you intend to shoot outdoors……….Well, what I just said is not entirely true. There is one other means of adjusting exposure: fortunately the B does give some additional latitude in exposure control by virtue of a one stop ND filter- one of two ( *green and ND)- that are part of the camera and can be conveniently slide in front of the lens. The meter dial- should your meter actually work- is marked with a small dot to compensate for use of ND filter.

Carrying the camera is no more inconvenient than carrying a pocket knife. It is the camera you can “always have with you.” No kidding. In morning, as I fill my pockets with items I have left on the dresser the night before, the Minox B is always included; during the course of the day I sometimes forget it is there until my fingers touch it as I reach for my keys.

The photos below were taken on Delta 100 film and developed in a 1/50 Rodinal solution. While the Minox does not deliver a high resolution photograph, it does deliver a look that no other camera matches. I do carry the B with me at all times, even when I am carrying 35mm and/or other format equipment. In all cases, the Minox B gets the last shot. I love the unique look. I hope you do too.

*As I understand, all Minox B cameras include the ND filter. Minox began including the ND filter some time during production of the previous model, IIIs. So some IIIs model cameras include the ND filter, while others include only a red and green filter. For the person considering a try at use of Minox sub miniature cameras, the ND filter is a very important consideration.

My photo stream is at https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Doug
    November 23, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Can you buy film in this format? How do you slice it?

    • Reply
      Doug
      November 23, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      And what is the field of view? Looks 40mm ish 🙂

      • Reply
        Wayne
        December 1, 2017 at 11:36 am

        It is marked as a 15mm lens. You are correct, it does render an image that looks to be 40mm. I left the film gate frames in the included photos in order to illustrate the actual size/format of images. None of the images were cropped.

    • Reply
      Wayne
      December 1, 2017 at 11:34 am

      There are a couple styles of slitters. the cheapest, and most frequently avalable on Ebay, is a devise that consists of a small device with embedded razors. You simply assemble the the slitter around the 35mm film and then pull the film through the device. this process produces two long strips of Minox width film, and two strips that include the perforations of the 35mm film. You discard the perforations and cut the film strips to length for Minox. You then tightly wind the Minox film strips into a small roll and insert it into the storage chamber of the Minox cassette. This is easily done as the caps for the Minox cassette film chambers are easily removed and snapped back into place. You leave a short leader of film extending from the film storage chamber, tape the small take-up spool to the end of the leader, and then place the take-up spool- with film taped to it- into the take-up chamber of the cassette. The taping and assembly of the take-up spool/chamber is probably the most difficult part of the process; but, is made easy by the fact that it can be done in full daylight………..making sure that the film roll is safely installed and capped in the film storage chamber. Really, not very difficult. Just takes some practice.

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    November 23, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Nice stuff… Makes you almost wish for the return of ‘good ole days’ of spy vs counterspy, Bond & all that romance. A cell phone camera just isn’t the same.
    Now, the techie question: Ilford still makes film for the Minox? Do you use the specialized developing reels to process the film?
    Anyway, thanks for the peek into the unique world of the camera. Now, if I can find my keys to my Aston Martin…

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    November 23, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Nice stuff… Makes you almost wish for the return of ‘good ole days’ of spy vs counterspy, Bond & all that romance. A cell phone camera just isn’t the same.

    Anyway, thanks for the peek into the unique world of the camera. Now, if I can find my keys to my Aston Martin…

  • Reply
    Terry B
    November 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    It’s really good to see images from this camera, one of which I added to my small number of 16mm still film cameras in my collection. It is fully working, including the meter, but I have never shot any film with it. I briefly dabbled with 16mm, a Mamiya 16 automatic, in the mid-1960’s, but even the larger negative size simply couldn’t compete on image quality. So, whilst a great deal of fun to use, never a practical proposition in an era when 35mm film was relatively inexpensive. And as I was never going to make it as a spy, there really was no point in honing my skills to get the best from the format, so I gave up! But then my main camera was a YashicaMat, so no wonder. :D)

    • Reply
      t martin
      September 2, 2018 at 3:46 am

      Terry B,
      I have a Mamiya 16 and need a cassette? Can you spare one?
      Terry M
      [email protected]

  • Reply
    Wayne
    December 1, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, you can still buy film for the camera. Blue Moon Camera and Machine, Seattle, Washington, USA does sell ASA 100 and 400, monochrome and B&W film for the camera. It is a bit pricey, but does include a reusable Minox Cassette.

    I posted something that is inaccurate in my write-up. The ND filter is 3.5 stop. When you slide the ND filter into place, the meter is automatically adjusted so that the needle indication compensates for the filter. The small black dot on the exposure dial is to be used with the green filter, which does not automatically effect the needle indication.

    The process of slitting and reloading the film is one of those things that seems cumbersome in description. In fact, once you have done it a few times, it is no more complex or difficult than rolling film into a reel for development. I am now at a point where I do the whole process in a dark bag. 24 exposure rolls of 35mm film are perfect size for the creation of 4 36 exposure Minox rolls. Once slitted, each strip is halved, lengthwise, to be brought to perfect length.

    One other thing about the camera that I find enjoyable is the fact that the “zone focus” aspect of it works pretty well for me. With other zone focus cameras I owne and used, e.g. Rollei 35, missing focus can be a pretty frequent event, and result in un-useable photo. The Minox seems to be pretty forgiving in this regard,

    • Reply
      Wayne
      December 1, 2017 at 11:58 am

      I, too, have, and continue to dabble in 16mm. I have the Minox 16 as well as a Kiev 30. I agree about the resolution. However, I believe that difference in resolution is the reason I find myself becoming more absorbed by sub-miniature format. The reduced resolution, and maybe some other things, seems to strip away much of the aspects of a photograph that generally lead to discussion on “quality” of image and force one to dwell more completely on the spirit and content of the image. I enjoy that. A while back, it struck me that HCB’s image of the man jumping across the puddle- possibly the most iconic film shot of all time- could have just as well been taken with a Minox………..Food for thought.

      • Reply
        Wayne
        December 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        that should have been “Minotla” 16 rather than “Minox” 16. to my knowledge, there is no Minox 16. Sorry. 🙂

  • Reply
    John P
    December 10, 2017 at 1:16 am

    So glad to see more people shooting these, one can only hope more of a come back happens. I had a Minox EC (not even a high end Minox) at a birthday party today and no sooner than I started shooting did several people want to know where they could get one.
    I am curious what the best scanner would be for the format, however, as even 110 dwarfs a Minox negative.

    • Reply
      Terry B
      January 31, 2018 at 6:55 pm

      John,

      I doubt that you will find a domestic scanner that can do Minox, 16mm or 110 natively. Neither Canon nor Epson supplied film guides in these formats. But all is not lost. There is a guy in the US who has been making special 3D printed adapters, notably for Canon and Epson flatbed scanners. Since I purchased his APS film guide about 3 1/2 years ago, it looks like he has put his business on a more formal footing, and you can find him here:

      https://www.amazon.com/sp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfilled=&isCBA=&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&orderID=&seller=A3DSVQESWE9D5E&tab=&vasStoreID=

      • Reply
        Wayne
        April 17, 2018 at 9:40 am

        I use an Epson v800. Use the “negative guide area” setting after placing the negative strip directly on the scanner glass surface, emulsion down, and covered with a piece of “Museum Glass.” After the “preview” scan you use your mouse to indicate the area to be scanned and click “scan.” It is my experience that high resolution scans, i.e. at least 6400, work best. Furthermore, when scanning in this manner it seems to make a considerable difference in the scan result whether you do, or do not, include the film gate (black border around each image on the film strip) in the area to be scanned: if you do include film gate area, the scan will considerably darker, requiring increase in exposure setting when you manipulate it in LR or Photos.

  • Reply
    Martin
    April 17, 2018 at 6:16 am

    Hi Wayne!

    Thanks that is for the post. I had a couple more questions as I’m seriously consider getting a B (the batteries for the electronic versions seem difficult to come by).

    Do you have an example of the slitter on eBay? I’m struggling to find any for sale anywhere except Jimmy Li (who’s splitters looks great and I have a quote for, I just wanted to compare the market).

    Have you tried developing the film in e.g. a Paterson tank? I saw a YouTube video in German showing a mod for the reel – do you have any more information about home developing of the Minox film?

    Have you tried printing the negatives in an enlarger? Making a custom negative mask should be fine, but I am reading you need a short focal length lens (15-25mm) and possibly a recessed lens board for some enlargers. Do you know anything about this?

    Cheers!

    • Reply
      Wayne
      May 19, 2018 at 3:30 am

      Nikor made a stainless reel for Minox size film. They show up on Ebay occasionally and work very well. In fact, when compared with other methods described on internet- and I have tried them all- it is by far the best way to go. As far as the slitter goes, I do own the Jimmy Li slitter. Jimmy’s slitter is the best method from a price standpoint. In addition, Jimmy is the only supplier of such an item that allows you to just request and buy the slitter. I also own a slitter, purchased several months before I bought the Jimmy Li slitter, that allows you to simply drag film through the device. At the time I bought mine, off of Ebay, it cost about a third of what it now takes to purchase. The Jimmy Li slitter seems more refined and costs less than what is now being asked for the “drag-through” slitter. Either slitter works well.

      It is true that the old selenium cell meters wear out with time. Given the relatively low price of Minox B cameras, I now own three of them that I keep loaded with different films. Two of the cameras have meters that are pretty much spot on, while the third is a bit weak. As mentioned elsewhere, it is pretty much a matter of testing the meter, finding out what the under/over is, and compensating when you select shutter speed. Not mentioned in many places is the fact you can adjust the meter for film speeds outside of the ranges indicated on the ISO range scale on the camera. For example, under normal circumstances, when you are shooting 400 iso film, you set the iso arrow at 400 by rotating the shutter speed dial before you open the camera to load the new cassette of 400. You then open the camera, which physically separates the meter from the camera chassis, and load the film. Before you collapse the camera (allow meter to once again connect with camera) you rotate the shutter speed dial to 1/100. Following this procedure, the camera meter is synced with the shutter speed dial to give proper exposure for 400 film. Lets say that you find an old B with a meter is about one stop weak, you could simply use the meter setting procedure to tell the camera/meter- through meter adjustment- that you have 200 film loaded when you actually have 400 film loaded. The meter reading will then be one one stop weak/low for 200 film, but just right for the 400 film you have actually loaded into the camera.

      It is kind of neat the flexibility you have with setting the meter on the B. As explained above, in loading fresh film into the camera, you normally set the camera meter by moving the shutter speed dial, while the camera is collaped, until until the ISO indicator arrow points to the speed of the film you intend to load. Once this is accomplished, you open the camera (separating the meter from physical contact with the camera chassis) load the film, and then before collapsing the camera, i.e. reconnecting the meter to the chassis, you move the shutter speed dial to 1/100. Once you have done this, and collapsed the camera, the meter and shutter speed dial are synced for the speed of film you selected. The ISO range dial would seem to indicate that the ISO range for camera is 25 through 400. However, you can go beyond these ranges, both lower and higher, by simply selecting shutter speeds above or below 1/100 before you collapse the camera. Say,in the example above, you have loaded 800 speed film into the camera. In the first step, before separating the meter from the chassis, you would, again, position the ISO pointer to 400 ( the highest setting available) and then separate the meter from the chassis, but since you are loading 800 film (one stop faster than 400) you would set the shutter speed dial to 1/200 instead of 1/100 before collapsing the camera. The meter and shutter speed dial would now be synced for the faster film.

  • Reply
    Adam
    May 19, 2018 at 3:17 am

    Martin: I used to shoot Minox and 16mm film quite a bit. I’d recommend not going in whole hog on every accessory for your Minox right off the bat. Shooting Minox is not for everybody, I feel like you have to have a desire to tinker to enjoy it. Submini was full of hacks and making concessions 20 years ago, and that is when film was practically the only photographic medium. I’m looking at getting back into submini and I’m glad I have the experience of doing it the hard way. I know which hacks work, which don’t and what I’m willing to spend money on to make life easier.

    First, one should note the old selenium cell meters are all aging and selenium cells degrade with light exposure. You’re unlikely to get a B with an accurate meter – it could happen, but be prepared to experiment to find how “off” your meter is, or spend the cash to have it refurbished.

    Developing tank: I used a capped and weighted 1/2″ PVC pipe inside a 1″ (I think) black/grey PVC pipe with caps. I simply spiralled the film emulsion side out down the smaller pipe and affixed it with rubber bands, then dropped that into the larger pipe which held the liquid. Developing had to be done in the dark, but I just measured out my chemicals beforehand, kept the workspace organized and used a watch with a lumed face to time the process, but turned it face down when film was exposed. The Minox tank is brilliant, and modified 35mm tanks work OK, but this worked out so well I would use my method to this very day, just because it was so cheap, so simple, so easy and used so little developer.

    My film slitter was a channel of wood the width of 35mm film. In the dark, I’d lay the film in the channel, put a protective ribbon of paper over the film. Then I had a a block that consisted of 4 pieces of wood that sandwiched 3 razor blades 9-ish mm apart and the width of the whole block was 35mm. You slid this along the film paper sandwich which slit the film to the right width. I’ve seen a Minox film slitter more in line with commercial options on Thingiverse you could have 3D printed as well. I have a 3D printer and will definitely use that, though if I didn’t I’d make another channel/ block configuration. The film slitters available are just so expensive.

    I just used my 35mm enlarger for printing Minox. The largest I could print was 5×7 and print times were long but that was fine for me. Negative carrier was just plastic from a bag that bulk film comes in with an appropriate rectangle cut out of it, placed on my regular 35mm carrier. You could get a short FL enlarger lens, and depending on the lens, you might need to get an offset lens board. I plan on using my DSLR and making a rig to scan negatives with it.

    Good luck! For me, most of the fun of submini is experimenting. Different films, different developers, making different equipment.

  • Reply
    Kingson Lee
    June 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    I have a Minox TLX that I bought some 20 years ago. I decided to use it again. I ordered Kodak Ektar ASA100 Color negatives from MS Hobbies in London. They can also scan the negatives into digital files.
    According to the TLX manual, the exposure time could be increased by adjusting to a lower ASA. So maybe you can try to adjust down to ASA 50 for your ASA 100 films to double exposure time. The ND filter can be used also if it is really bright out there. I will try that once I received the Kodak Ektar 100 negatives from MS Hobbies. I will put some pictures into “5 frames with a Minox TLX” later.

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