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Subminiature Cameras are any cameras which are unusually small.


According to the 1956 edition of "The Focal Encyclopaedia of Photography", the definition of subminiature camera was the "class of camera includes models which take film narrower than 35mm, such as perforated or unperforated 9.5 or 16 mm cine film.[1] Other references of the time defined subminiature as any camera from matchbox size to 4 x 2 x 1 inches. Later references distinguished between two types of subminiature cameras: any purpose-built cameras smaller than a typical 35mm SLR and any miniature copy of a larger camera (e.g. a working toy replica of a full-size camera).[2]

At the beginning of photography, a film formats of 9×12 cm or 4×5 in were considered normal, so the first cameras using 35mm film were called miniature cameras. As a result, cameras with a smaller format were called subminiature cameras. There was a huge variety of film formats, mainly based on 16mm and 9.5mm film. The most representative camera is the Minox 9.5mm. Until the digital era, film size was a common way of classifying subminiature cameras but today it has become more common to base the distinction purely on physical size or volume.

Some people consider the 18×24mm format (half-frame format) as subminiature. The real half film format was 17.5 mm, very popular after WWII in Japan. The leading camera type for that format was the Hit. The Hit cameras were copied by dozens of camera makers.

A common theme in the design of subminiature cameras is disguise and easy concealment. Many of these small cameras were designed for espionage work. The Minox is commonly called a spy camera.

Today, there continue to be subminiature digital cameras, such as the popular 808 Key Chain cameras which are design to look like a key fob. Other modern subminiature cameras are design to look like pens, lipstick containers, or cigarette lighters.



  1. The Focal Encyclopaedia of Photography, First Edition, October 1956
  2. Suminiature Cameras: General information

See Also