Mi­nox EC

Make like James Bond with this late Cold War minia­ture cam­era, read­ily avail­able on eBay

Amateur Photographer - - Tech Talk -

When you hear the name Mi­nox, you prob­a­bly think of the shady world of Cold War spy­ing, or the glam­orous es­capades of James Bond. In­deed, these su­perbly made minia­ture cam­eras were ex­ten­sively used by agents on both sides of the Iron Cur­tain. The first Mi­nox cam­eras were made in Riga, Latvia in the 1930s, but af­ter the Sec­ond World War the fac­tory re­opened in West Ger­many.

Late ar­rival at the ball

I’ve got a Mi­nox B, dat­ing from the 1960s. It’s a lit­tle marvel of me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing. It has a full range of shut­ter speeds, aper­tures and a built-in ex­po­sure me­ter. The Mi­nox EC is a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish al­to­gether.

Launched in 1981 it was very much a late ar­rival at the Cold War ball. Gone are all the man­ual fea­tures of its pre­de­ces­sors; in­stead, we are pre­sented with a fully au­to­matic cam­era with noth­ing, not even fo­cus­ing, for the user to set.

Other than its size and shape, it bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the com­pany’s ear­lier pre­ci­sion cam­eras, and is of lit­tle in­ter­est to a true Mi­nox en­thu­si­ast. The EC was on the mar­ket for 16 years, with more than 150,000 sold, and as a re­sult is pretty easy to come by. A quick look on eBay shows ‘buy it now’ prices from around £35, with sold list­ings some­times be­ing lower still. To put this in con­text, the com­mon late me­chan­i­cal mod­els, such as the Mi­nox B, tend to fetch £120.

The spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the EC are sim­i­lar to many con­sumer com­pacts of the era. The ex­po­sure sys­tem is fully au­to­matic and can cope with a wide range of light­ing con­di­tions. The 15mm lens has a fixed aper­ture of f/5.6 and is focus-free.

As far as I'm aware, no cam­era case was made for the Mi­nox EC. There re­ally wasn’t any need for one since when the cam­era is closed, all the con­trols, and the lens, are com­pletely cov­ered and pro­tected.

Living dan­ger­ously

Given the ex­tinc­tion of sev­eral lesser- used film for­mats in re­cent years, I was sur­prised to find that Mi­nox film is still avail­able to buy. I de­cided to go down the cheaper, and rather fid­dly, route of cut­ting 35mm film down to 9.2mm and reload­ing the car­tridges my­self.

The ad­van­tage of this is that you have a whole range of emul­sions to choose from. The very real down­side is that tin­ker­ing with ra­zor blades in the dark is a risky busi­ness and al­though the cuts I sus­tained have since healed, my first self-loaded film car­tridges were streaked with blood.

There’s not much point in hav­ing a spy cam­era and us­ing it for fam­ily snapshots, of course, so al­though I gen­er­ally fol­low the rules, I thought I’d live a lit­tle dan­ger­ously by tak­ing some sur­rep­ti­tious pho­tographs in places where cam­eras are most cer­tainly not al­lowed.

As a law-abid­ing con­form­ist, for me this was a trans­gres­sion akin to Theresa May run­ning through a corn­field, al­though in her case all she had to fear was the farmer’s wrath. In con­trast, I could have been swal­lowed by Damien Hirst’s pick­led shark!

‘ There’s no point hav­ing a spy cam­era and us­ing it for fam­ily snaps, so I took some sur­rep­ti­tious pho­tos…’

The Mi­nox EC is fully au­to­matic but a poor re­la­tion of its smarter sib­lings

What’s a spy cam­era for, if not to take sneaky shots of a pick­led shark?

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