1930’s Spy Camera: The Minox Riga
Meet the Minox Riga, the first true, subminature spy camera that saw actual use for espionage throughout the WWII and the cold war.
Invented in 1936 by Walter Zapp, it was the first to use itty bitty 8x11mm film (a little smaller than your pinky’s fingernail), making it tiny enough to hide in the palm of your hand, but powerful enough to take high resolution photographs of your enemy’s top secret documents.
The Riga was a true marvel of design & miniaturization in it’s day, a time when even 35mm, then a newer format, was widely considered “super compact” in comparison to the 6×9 & 120mm type cameras people were more accustomed to. Holding it up to a normal sized camera then would be like comparing an iPod Shuffle to a vinyl record today. And boy is it a dream to hold. Small, heavy, and perfectly smooth. Later versions, made of aluminum instead of the original brushed steel, even included a built in light meter. Bond-worthy for sure.
Operating the camera
To make this thing go, simply pop in a film canister, pull the camera open to arm the shutter, and click. Advancing to the next photo is as easy as collapsing the camera, then reopening it in a shotgun-like fashion, making a strangely satisfying sound as the gears spin and click into place.
You can apparently still find these cameras in working order on eBay… that is, if you’ve got 1000 bucks laying around. Regardless, it’s a wonderful example of industrial design to feed your camera nostalgia.
24 Comments Leave A Comment
KYLE says:August 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm
Chris says:August 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm
So you got your hands on one? Were you able to get any pictures developed with it?
Cornelius says:August 10, 2013 at 3:38 am
My father has one of these. He was a master mariner in the merchant navy and back in the 60s was ordered to take photos of Russian ships on his travels across the North Atlantic. He was essentially a spy. Great little thing, I had no idea how much it is worth!
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Joe says:August 12, 2013 at 9:51 am
I’ve got one sitting in a drawer. It needs a good home.
Someone make me an offer.
Chris says:August 13, 2013 at 12:10 am
Great example of latvian design. Just like in northern countries – functionality is important.
Kevin says:August 16, 2013 at 10:44 am
Time-tested and simple!
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Pat says:October 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm
I picked up a Minox III for $45 from CL.
I did not have my glasses with me when I bought it.
It was heavy.
Got it home and I about died when I put my glasses on and saw Riga on it #11795.
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