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The Minnigraph is an early 35 mm camera, made by Benno Levy-Roth of Berlin in about 1915. McKeown states that it was the first European still camera to use cine film.[1] It makes what were later considered half-frame (18x24 mm) pictures, on film held in special cassettes. The body of the camera is metal with leather covering, and is broadly a long box with one rounded corner (at the top front, when the camera is held to take a horizontal picture).

McKeown lists the camera with either a 54 mm f/3.5 Minnigraph anastigmat or an f/3 Pentagraph Berlin lens.[1] It has a simple flap shutter behind the lens, marked only with 'O' and 'Z' (presumably 'Offen' and 'Zu'; open and shut). A diagram in the patents for the camera shows it with a bulb shutter-release attached;[2] the simple shutter was probably quite adequate with the film available at the time, especially if the camera were used indoors. There is a folding frame-finder on the right side (again, with the camera held to take a horizontal picture).

McKeown shows a photograph of the camera (an example sold at Westlicht) with a lamphouse accessory mounted at the rear, allowing it to be used as an enlarger.[1][3] The British Patent relating to the Minnigraph is oddly worded: it refers to a device for use with an ordinary kinematograph camera or projector, which renders it possible to produce a large number of photographs of small size on ordinary kinematograph film and to project these pictures at large size as the film is unrolled.[2] That is, the first claim of the patent is a part of the feed mechanism; the camera/projector thus improved is mentioned almost as an afterthought. The French, Swiss and Austrian patents are not worded in the same way, and make it clearer that the Minnigraph was intended to be both a camera and an enlarger/projector. This idea was also used by makers of later devices, including the Debrie Sept of about 1920, the Simons Sico of 1923 and the OMI Sunshine of about 1946. The Sico is very similar in design to the Minnigraph, though for a different image size and unperforated film, and probably a copy of it, at least in part.

The Patent claims include:

  • A film-feed mechanism (like that familiar in cine cameras) with moving pawls (teeth) on each side, that feed the film an equal distance each time, avoiding the difficulty arising from feeding the film by turning the uptake spool, which increases in diameter as the length of film on it increases.
  • A spring-loaded plunger at the top of the camera, which actuates the feed mechanism.
  • A container to receive the film as it is advanced, which is made from a yielding material such as spring steel, which guides the film into a roll without the need for a spool (somewhat like the later Agfa Rapid film cassettes, though the Minnigraph is not daylight-loading).
  • A window in the rear, allowing a lamphouse to be attached, in order to project the pictures for the purpose of copying them; that is, to convert the camera into an enlarger. The lamphouse, comprising a battery-powered electric lamp and condenser lens, is described.


Camera industry in Berlin
Agfa | Amigo | Astro Berlin | Bermpohl | Bopp | B+W | Foth | Goerz | Grass & Worff | Jacknau | Levy-Roth | Ernst Lorenz | Plasmat | Rudolph | Rothgiesser & Schlossmann | Rüdersdorf | Schulze & Billerbeck | Sida | Stegemann | Romain Talbot
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p621.
  2. 2.0 2.1 British Patent 5502 of 1914, Improvements to Kinematograph Apparatus, filed in March 1914 and granted July 1914 to Benno Levy-Roth, at Espacenet, the Patent search facility of the European Patent Office. Austrian Patent 69712, Photographische Apparat (photographic apparatus), filed February 1914 and granted March 1915, Swiss Patent 67770, also Photographische Apparat, filed February 1914 and granted January 1915, and French Patent 468932, Appareil Photographique, filed May 1914 and granted July 1914 (all three in the name of Levy-Roth GmbH), are the same.
  3. Minnigraph, the example pictured in McKeown with the lamphouse attachment, sold at the First Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 15 November 2002.