The original Minox, also called the Minox Riga, was made in Riga, Latvia, between 1937 and 1944.

The inventor was Walter Zapp who was born 1905 in Riga, Latvia. His family was split up during World War 1, but reunited in Estonia in 1921. He never received a higher education. As a youngster, he worked in the photographic trade where he was acquainted with the early Leicas. During the early part of the 1930s, an idea for a sub-miniature camera materialised. Assisted by friends and business associates, the design drawings for a completely original camera was finished by August 1935, called the Minox. A prototype was constructed and it was applied for patents. The lens was designed, assisted by Schott in Jena and Goertz in Berlin. A year later the Ur-Minox was ready assembled, the so-called Estonian prototype.

However, due to difficulties finding sufficient expertise and financial backing, production was contracted to the large Latvian radio factory, Valsts Electrotechniska Fabrika (VEF), in Riga. At this stage the 8×11mm image format was settled. Late 1936 Walter Zapp moved to Riga, and production tooling began early 1937, involving more than sixty individuals. The stainless steel outer shell was partly developed by specialists in Sheffield, England. Production began late 1937, but it was not until the spring of 1938 that commercial production began, initially at rate of about two cameras per day. Within a year, the production had tripled. Approximately 6000 cameras were made before the production was disturbed by Russian forces occupying Riga June 1940.

During the ensuing years of war, production was influenced by the occupying forces and eventually permanently ended. Riga was first briefly occupied by Russians early on, but from September 1941, it was under German control until the Russians once again entered in the spring of 1944. Cameras manufactured during the Russian occupation are engraved to that effect. About two-thirds of the total production was during the years of occupation. Sequential serial numbering is believed to have started at 1001 and ended at about 18 500 in early 1944.

Walter Zapp rescued his Estonian Ur-Minox and a VEF Riga Minox under chaotic circumstances in post war Europe. In Germany autumn 1945, he was eventually taken care of by the US administration. They were convinced of a future success for the Minox, and Minox GmbH Wetzlar was established. Post-war production of Minox II began in 1948 at serial number 20 000.


  • Lens: Minostigmat, F/3.5 15mm, 3 elements in 3 groups
  • Shutter speeds: 1/1000 - 1/2, B, T
  • Dimensions: 80.5 × 27.6 × 17.4 mm (3-1/8 × 1-1/8 × 5/8 inch)
  • Weight net: 132g (4.6 oz)
  • Body shell material: Stainless steel
  • Serial numbers: 1001-18 500


  • Moses, Morris and Wade, John. Spycamera — The Minox story. Hove Photo Books. 2nd edition, 2003. ISBN 1874707286.


Minox 8x11 Cameras
Riga | II | III | IIIS| B | C | BL | LX | EC | AX | TLX | CLX | MX