Minox (pronunciation:Mee-nox, not Mai-nox, Min-nox) is a manufacturer of cameras, known especially for its subminiature camera.
The first product to carry the Minox name was a subminiature camera,
conceived in 1922, and finally invented and produced in 1936, by
Baltic German Walter Zapp. The Latvian factory VEF (Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika) manufactured the camera from 1937 to 1943. After World War II,
the camera was redesigned and production resumed in Germany in 1948.
Walter Zapp originally envisioned the Minox to be a camera for everyone
requiring only little photographic knowledge. Yet in part due to its
high manufacturing costs the Minox became more well known as a must-have
 From the start the Minox also gained wide notoriety as a spy camera.
Minox branched out into 35 mm film format and 110 film format
cameras in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Minox continues to operate
today, producing or branding optical and photographic equipment.
From 1936 to 1975 the history of the Minox brand is essentially that
of the Minox subminiature camera. From 1975 the Minox name also became
associated with other products, most notably the Minox 35 mm compact
cameras produced from 1975 until 2004.
Minox was acquired by Leica in 1996, but a management buyout in 25 August 2001 left Minox an independent company again
The Minox subminiature camera attracted the attention of intelligence
agencies in America, Britain and Germany, due to its small size and
macro focusing ability. There is at least one document in the public
record of 25 Minox cameras purchased by the US Office of Strategic Services intelligence organisation in 1942.
The close-focusing lens and small size of the camera made it perfect
for covert uses such as surveillance or document copying. The Minox was
used by both
Axis and Allied
intelligence agents during World War II. Later versions were used well
into the 1980s. The Soviet spy John A. Walker Jr., whose actions against
the US Navy cryptography programs represent some of the most
compromising intelligence actions against the United States during the
Cold War era, used a Minox C to photograph documents and ciphers.
An 18-inch (460 mm) measuring chain was provided with most Minox
subminiature cameras, which enabled easy copying of letter-sized
documents. The espionage use of the Minox has been portrayed in
Hollywood movies and TV shows, and some 1980s Minox advertising has
played up the "spy camera" story.