Steinheil created the first submini in 1839. Right on the heels of Daguerre, Steinheil's camera produced 8.5x11mm images on copper plates. The camera had a fixed-focus 20mm (f2.5) lens. What would someone do with images so small? At the time they were used for inserting tiny images into jewelry, but the camera was revolutionary since it had a very fast lens (for the time) and showed the feasiblity of making smaller images. At the time, images required VERY long exposures times and the advantages of the wider lens were immediate. The camera not only encouraged the development of faster lenses on all cameras, it encouraged the development of smaller cameras, which at the time were HUGE.
Dancer was responsible for developing the first microfilm. At the same time (1839), Dancer, a microscopist, caught the Daguerrotype "bug" and redesigned a camera for use with his medium -- the microscope. He could take pictures of tiny objects, but discovered that by inverting the process and placing the "film" where the microscope slide normally goes, he would end up with incredibly tiny pictures of life-sized scenes. So, in the same year that the Daguerrotype was developed, the first micro-films were achieved. At the time, they were used primarily as a novelty, since the pictures had to be viewed through a microscope, but this achievement would have long-lasting implications.
Niell was an innovative camera designer from Sweden. Some of his best work was with the British firm Houghton, which helped Niell create the Ticka, Midget and Ensignette camera models. These were all designed around the turn of the 19th century. Together, Niell and Houghton made small and disguised cameras an important segment of the world pf photography.
Serious development of subminiature cameras using narrow gauge film, dates back to the 1930's. Fritz Kaftanski of Berlin designed the first subminiature precision camera, the MINIFEX and launched it in 1932. Fritzs' camera used unperforated 16mm film in a roll film form. The picture size was 0.7 x 0.5 in (18 x 13mm). The camera was fitted with a rim-set compur shutter, looking very large in relation to the tiny body, and an f/3.5 Trioplan lens.
Responsible for introducing (1937) the first "real" submini -- for the masses -- the MINOX. The camera was so small that it did not need to be disguised, like other cameras of the time. It was also affordable enough so that many people could purchase one. It set a new standard for smallness in cameras. The quality of its pictures proved that small cameras could take excellent pictures -- and with todays film it is even more true. Often copied, but never outdone, new Minox equipment is still being sold today and cherished by its owners.
Joe Cooper was a man of many talents. Aside from his numerous "real" jobs,
such as professor of government and public administration at the American
University in Washigton, D.C., working for the U.S government, and being
a business and managemment consultant to various private industries, he found
time to further the cause of submini cameras. He wrote a plethora of
submini books, such as Ultraminiature Photography (considered by many to
be the submini Bible), the Minox Manual, the Mamiya-16 Camera Guide, Minolta-16
Camera Guide, and several other books for other formats. In addition,
he managed a very detailed monthly, editorial column in Modern Photography
on submini cameras from 1958 to 1962. He took submini hardware and
made it useable for the masses.
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