Cipher Machines


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Spy Cameras

As cameras became miniaturized, they became popular items for the well-equipped spy. Some cameras were hidden, for instance as a pocket watch like the camera below. In my collection you will also see a Cold War Russian camera designed as a button of a coat so the interior of the button opened in sync with the camera shutter. The spy can take a picture with a shutter release in his pocket and even set the F-stop from his pocket.

Some cameras were simply made to be small, so they could be hidden in a cigarette pack or just go unnoticed in the spy's pocket. The Minox camera was an early model of a miniature, precision made camera that was very ergonomically designed. This camera was invented by Walter Zapp in 1936 and was made in Riga, Latvia. It was a popular spy camera during and after WW2 and was the camera used in some of the early James Bond movies.

When WW2 broke out, the OSS ordered some Minox cameras and confiscated others from prominent US citizens to be used in the war effort. These cameras were expensive, luxury items so the owners were usually prominent citizens. These cameras had a metal chain attached with convenient markers showing the distance to place documents at different F-stop settings.

During WW2, the Minox factory was taken over by Russia, then Germany, then Russia again. Pictured in my collection is a Minox model I and model III. This model I was made in Riga, Latvia during the German occupation in 1942-43 and was constructed of stainless steel. Hitler gave these cameras to his staff and war heroes in addition to the Nazi spies. 400 Minox cameras were found in his bunker when the war was over and were taken by US soldiers to bring home. The model III camera in my collection was made in Wetzlar, Germany in 1953 and constructed of aluminum.

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Spy Camera
See detailed pictures of the spy cameras.

Pictured is an Expo camera, designed to look like a pocket watch. This was sold from 1905-1939, during the time that pocket watches were routinely worn by well-dressed gentlemen. The top of the camera, which looks like the winding stem of a watch, can be removed. It has a lens inside and a picture can be taken through the stem. The triangular shaped attachment is only used to frame the picture to be taken, it is clipped onto the stem and can be added or removed surreptitiously.