5 frames with... Guest Photos

5 Frames with… #46: 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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10 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.

  • 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…

  • 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
    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. 🙂

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