Minox  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Minox Brand Overview

Minox logo

Founded: 1945 — Wetzlar, Allied-occupied Germany
  (modern day Germany)
Currently: Minox GmbH

Minox Brand History

Minox GmbH is a German brand founded at the end of World War II by Latvian-born inventor Walter Zapp to continue manufacturing the eponymous Minox subminiature “spy” camera. The Minox—a marvel of engineering that was designed to be “smaller than a cigar and weighing less than a cigarette lighter”—had originally been prototyped by Zapp in 1936 while employed by VEF (Valsts Elektrotehniska Fabrika or State Electrotechnical Factory) in his hometown of Riga two years before they put it into mass production. The Minox was a success on the world market but that didn’t stop Zapp from leaving just a few years later. The Third Reich had been putting a significant amount of pressure on him and tens of thousands of other ethnic Germans living in Estonia and Latvia to resettle in German territory, the reason for which became clear when Hitler broke his tenuous non-aggression pact with Stalin by suddenly invading of the Soviet Union.

As Zapp relocated to Berlin, production of the Minox spy camera carried on in Latvia and kept going until 1943 when the turmoil brought on by military occupation finally ground it to a halt. Just months after the end of the war in Europe, Walter Zapp founded Minox GmbH in the city of Wetzlar and worked on reviving his beloved subminiature camera. By 1948, the original steel-bodied Minox had been reworked in aluminum and production had finally resumed. Decades later in 1974, the company debuted the incredibly successful Minox 35 and wowed the world with what was billed to be the smallest full-frame 35mm camera ever made.

In 1996, fellow Wetzlar-based company Leica acquired Minox but management bought back a controlling interest in the company and made it independent again in 2001 before officially severing all ties with Leica in 2005. Minox finally ceased production of its famous spy camera in 2004 and expanded its portfolio of products. The company is currently offering a wide variety of products including miniature digital versions of the Leica M3 as well as binoculars, action cameras, and rifle scopes.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Minox cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 472-473.

“Milestones,” Minox GmbH, https://www.minox.com/en/about/meilensteine/

“Walter Zapp,” Minox GmbH, https://www.minox.com/en/about/walter-zapp/

“Minox break free from Leica,” Digital Photography Review, https://www.dpreview.com/articles/2859813980/minox-leica

“Minox,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minox

“VEF,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VEF

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