Spycamera the Minox Story

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Review on Morris Moses & John Wade: Spycamera The Minox Story, 2nd edition.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), January 27, 2000


Morris Moses & John Wade's SPYCAMERA THE MINOX Story, 2nd edition was published in 1998 by Hove Collectors Book.

"Spycamera" is the most up todate account of the history of Minox camera, covering the complete line of Minox products, from 8x11mm (called 9.5mm in the book ), 35mm, 110, APS, autofocus, to binocular, microfiche etc.

Moses and Wade covered the history of Minox 8x11mm camera in great detail. Read together along with Hubert Heckmann's "Minox Variations in 8x11" helps to provide a fuller picture about the history of Minox camera. In some way these two books complements each other.

The coverage of Minox 35mm series camera is however rather sketchy, long on cosmetics, such as color of button, lettering etc. and very short on specification of each model, such as dimension, weight, shutter speed range, and battery types etc. But any how, it is the only book in English wich provides serial numbers range for Minox 35mm cameras.

Of particular interesting is the history of Minox Process Lab in USA.

It seems to me, this book emphasized the "dark side" of Minox, with stories of convicted spies.

The coverage of Minox 110S is too sketchy ( but more then Heckmann). Overall is one of must have book for Minoxer.

Available from MPL

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), January 27, 2000.

Martin -- I've used my Minox B since 1970 (when I was a counterintelligence agent in the US Army). The "spy" aspect of Minox may appear intriguing, but for any undercover agent subject to arrest, it's most suspicious-looking camera he can carry. Even the film cartridges would be incriminating. Please note that in the stories about agents who used Minox, most of these guys were caught, prosecuted and imprisoned.

The Minox 8x11 was advertised as a "Gentleman's camera". We all know that "gentlemen" don't read each other's mail ;-)

-- Jeff Polaski (polaski@acm.org), February 02, 2000.

Spycamera, by Morris Moses, in both 1st and 2nd editions is one of the best sources for the history of the camera and its development, while Heckmann's book is the best source for the technical history and detailed study of the Minox itself, though both overlap and are really complimentary. Moses' book, especially the second edition, has a few errors, One of which is a carryover from the first edition. The carryover is a photo on P.89 of a backwards printed black C model. It is a flopped negative and is repeated, on P. 95, in the 2nd edition. A similar error appears in the final "Stop the Press" section of edition 2, page 223, where a Minox CLX is also printed from a reversed negative. These are publishing errors. More glaringly, the Second Edition has a serious factual error in confusing, as one, what are actually two different Minox models. It is even more bizarre because the first edition accurately described one of these and provided a photo. This is the 1987 gold plated Minox Selection set (999 produced). The First Edition has an accurate description of it on P.95 and a color photo of it after P. 84. In the 2nd edition, this photo no longer appears. It is replaced by color photos of a newer and much more exclusive camera called the LX Gold, and its matching mate, the AX Gold, both being issued in 1995 with 250 of each made. The Minox Selection is an aluminum alloy shelled, satin (or brush) finished, gold plated camera, with black dials. It weighs the same as a normal LX. The LX Gold is a brilliantly polished gold plated brass shelled camera with checkered surface embossing (as is the AX Gold) and is considerably heavier than a normal LX. The description of the Minox Selection LX camera appears in the same text section of the 1st edition, but now on P.101. In Chapter 15, a new 2nd edition section, on P. 185, Moses, after already describing the Selection on p. 101, then inexplicably describes the same Selection camera under the LX Gold heading, with no mention at all of the 1995 camera that actually IS the LX Gold, and of which he now included several beautiful color photos. Did he not compare with the photos of the Selection set in his first edition? Moses seems not to realize he was mixing up two different cameras and describes them as one and the same. The actual model designations on the 1995 matched pair are LX Gold I and AX Gold II. and this designation appears on an engraved gold serial number plate in the usual LX oval serial number slot inside the film chamber. The backplates simply say LX or AX and have Walter Zapp's engraved signature on them. The Selection (which probably is a better name in German than it is in English!) has its name and serial number engraved on the backplate in fractional fashion 1XX/999, to show it is a limited run, and a blank in the normal LX serial number slot. The LX Gold and AX Gold serial numbers read LX-I-1XX and AX-II-1XX, and this appears on an engraved gold plate in the usual LX/AX serial number slot inside the film chamber, but these do not indicate the limited run of 250 on the cameras. As Moses was updating the book to specifically include these new additions, and had photos distinguishing each model, this is an incomprehensible error. Moses' coverage of the use of the Minox in espionage is, far from being dark, one of the best known uses of the camera. It cannot be denied that it was a workhorse of the Cold War, and while he describes many people who were caught, it wasn't the Minox that caught them. True, the Minoxes were used as evidence, but any camera would be so used if found in a spy's posession. It was forensics, not the simple possesion of the Minox, that proved espionage in these cases. Interestingly, the spies caught and described were those spying against the US. The ones spying for the US are not mentioned. Moses' book still has not uncovered most of the Minox spy uses which remain classified. It is now known, however, that one of the top US spies in Moscow, a highly placed Soviet Army Colonel, used a Minox A to photo documentation of Soviet nuclear missiles being placed in Cuba, and got the film to US intelligence sources. It was not by accident that a U-2 spyplane overflew these Cuban sights and got aerial photos for President Kennedy. It was a Minox that sent it there, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis showdown. It is a shame that this came to light after Moses' 2nd Edition. Maybe the Third Edition will come along....

-- Michael J. Vorrasi (MVorr99@aol.com), February 23, 2000.

Shortly after posting my comments on Spycamera, I learned by an e- mail received from a friend of his that Mr. Moses has been in ill health for the last three years, and that as a result, he had little involvement in the Second Edition. The 2nd edition updates (and any associated errors) I described are largely the responsibility of that edition's newly added co-author, John Wade, and Hove Books. I wish Mr. Moses well, and hope that his health improves.

-- Michael J. Vorrasi (MVorr99@aol.com), February 24, 2000.

Thanks Michael for your exellent review of Mose/Wade's book.

The discription on the errors is particularly interesting. The mirrored lack C seems to have excape notice by the author himself by the co-author, and probably by all readers who read the edition 1 and/or edition 2. When I check the book, I saw a black C, with its longish body, and three dials, never realized it is printed in reverse. Michael has unbelievable sharp eyes--- the story of the reversed Minox C, an interesting andecdote in Minox literature.

Spycamera is undoubltly the most comprehensive book on history of Minox, it took long years of research to prepare such a book.

I too wish Mr Moses speedy recovery-- for edition 3.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), February 25, 2000.

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